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Ηράκλειο (Heraklion)

Heraklion is the capital of Crete, It is densely populated but most of it doesn’t seem like being very attractive to tourists. Of course, the opposite is the truth. Once you realise it, you will find many typical greek things which you won’t find on the usual tourist spots. For your safety, we need to tell you which quarters you should avoid - the Albanian quarter is really not the safest place to spend your time. If you need to pass though one of those narrow streets all you need is to say hi in greek and everyone will be nice to you.

The traffic in Heraklion is quite hectic and free parking spaces are not typical, that is why you should consider traveling to Heraklion by bus. However, if you need a car, park it in the parking lot near the archaeological museum (Arkhanes Archaeological Museum), which is close to the Elaftería town square. You can also use the underground parking near the roundabout at the port. The parking near the museum costs about 5 euros for the whole day, the one near the port we do not know. You can also try your luck in the small streets of Heraklion which are used as a massive car park.

The port at Heraklion is the main port of Crete, that is why it stretches all the way around the island. It is divided into the industrial port, which is quite far away from the centre of Heraklion, the transport port which can be the starting pint for all of your trips in Greece either on mainland or at sea and last but not least the “fancy” port with many private boats and yachts which you can spend your day looking at or you can buy fresh fish from the fishermen there.

The most interesting and most beautiful place in Heraklion according to us is the historical center, the pier and the old town walls. The historic center of Heraklion is very tourist-oriented so here you will find plenty of souvenir shops, taverns, shops with frozen yogurt and many other places. If you want to walk around the center, it is best to start at the roundabout at the pier and walk along the wide boulevard leading up to the Lion square, a square in the center of which stands a fountain with stone lions. From there it is good to go left towards the square Elafteria, which is an important place for transport and the most typical meeting place.

The pier is very long, because it protects against huge waves throughout the harbor. It is wide enough and the Greeks use it for riding a bike and jogging, but is also ideal for a walk after a good dinner. At the beginning of this pier is a fortress which is the typical picture of Heraklion. It was built in the 16th century and served to defend the port for centuries. The city walls have been covered with new houses so they are not too touristy, however, it is still a monumental building that impressed us. The best view of it is from one city bus lines that lead from one side of town to the other.

In Heraklion you will also find a large number of museums. One worth seeing is the Archaeological Museum, which is located near the square Elaftería (35.339275 N, 25.137232 E), whose collection is very extensive. This is probably due to the fact that the history of Crete goes much further back than the entire history of Greece. They've simply more to dig up. The Natural Museum (Natural History Museum of Crete) is also very interesting and it is located on the coast near the port (35.341923 N, 25.126639 E). In the summer of 2013 they added a bonus - a traveling exhibition of archaeological excavations dinosaurs. An interesting part of it is also an earthquake and tsunami simulator in the lower floor of the museum.

You will spend a long time choosing a tavern in Heraklion. Of course we tried them all, so it's silly to say that this is simply the best, but we can give you a few tips. If you want to eat, have a glass of wine, sit in the Greek atmosphere, avoid Amoudara. Amoudara was once a renowned tourist part of Heraklion, today tare only a few old hotels and the beach, dominated by Albanians. However, the main road leading to Amoudara is still dotted with tavernas purely for tourists, where the staff is very pleasant to you and they try to make you drink so much raki for free that you have the feeling that due to the fact that they gave you so much raki and gave you free dessert, the presented astronomical bill is actually adequate. It is not. If you choose a small tavern in the center, the negotiation is much nicer and fairer. We have good experience with Firi Firi Tavern, which is located near the square Elaftería.

A cheaper alternative for food in Heraklion are fastfoods near Lions Square. There you can try different types of typical gyrospita - e.g. grilled feta cheese in a pita right in the centre of the square. Our favourite in Heraklion is a pasta fastfood near the bus stop on Lions Square. You will find it if you turn right after the Lions Square and keep on going for the next 200m. You can pick from many different types of pasta with a lot of parmesan.

Nightlife in Heraklion is very diverse, in the night you can sit in the taverns in the city, on the docks at Lions Square or Elaftería, but if you're looking for club entertainment, usually you need to know where you are going. Clubs are in the smaller narrower streets and usually more side by side. We can recommend the party clubs Room, Plastelina, Rolling Stones and Desire. The pleasant atmosphere with good raki and taverns like Alla Alla, Palio Coffee and Notio Selas. All of these clubs are located around the Lions Square. A detailed description of the way to these clubs would be unnecessarily complicated, it is easier to ask for directions in the center of Heraklion, most Greeks will answer to basic English.

35.342155 N, 25.138851 E