10 Top Things To Do in Heraklion, Crete

Wondering what to do in Heraklion, Crete? In this post, you’ll discover the top attractions, the best places to visit and the top things to do in Heraklion, a city often left out of travellers’ lists, but totally worth visiting.

Heraklion, the capital and the largest city on the island of Crete, attracts a large number of local and foreign tourists every year. And why not? After all, the city port reflects the influences of the past, controlled by different cultures and civilizations such as Moors, Venetians, and Ottomans.

Heraklion is packed full of history and is well known for its Greek landmarks. Apart from an awesome waterfront area, seaside restaurants, and bustling nightlife, the city boasts archaeological sites from the late Medieval and Renaissance periods too, offering visitors a spectacular array of exciting things to see and explore.

Check out  the top attractions in Heraklion and why it can’t stay out when planning your trip to Greece.

If you’re island hopping, see also the best things to do in Santorini, the beautiful attractions in Milos and a Greek islands cruise tip.

10 Top Things To Do in Heraklion

The Palace of Knossos – One of the Top Attractions in Heraklion

Built by the Minoan civilization, the Palace of Knossos is located around 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) from Heraklion city centre. The Palace, which dates back to as early as 2000 BC, is one of the major tourist attractions found on Crete.

Knossos Palace in Heraklion, Crete

The mythical Labyrinth of King Minos is designed remarkably well, and the monumental Palace carries a sophisticated architectural system that includes living areas, storage rooms, and ceremonial spaces with intricate decorations.

Highlights include the Corridor of Procession, Sacred Repositories, Throne Room, Prince of Lilies fresco, Bull Hunt fresco, and the Pillar Crypts.

How to reach: Board one of the buses (bus number 2) that departs around 3 – 5 times per hour from the Old Town for Knossos, depending on the time of year. You can also take a rented car to reach the Palace of Knossos. Take a licensed guided tour to maximize your visit. Entry is free for students, whilst adults can expect to pay from €15 for entry. If you want to skip the long lines, you can buy your ticket online here. Alternatively, you can get a combo ticket for Knossos Palace and the Archaeological Museum at a discounted price..

See Also: Transport from Athens Airport to the City

Historical Museum of Crete

If you want to learn more about the history of the incredible island, all you need to do is visit the Historical Museum of Crete, which showcases over a thousand years of Cretan history. 

The Museum was set up in 1953 and showcases stone carvings, ceramics, religious icons, textiles, and folk costumes from the Venetian, Byzantine, and Turkish periods. There is a special space devoted to the Cretan Resistance Movement.

Two paintings from the 16th century are the main highlights, and these include the Monastery of St. Catharine and the Baptism of Christ. Another attraction is the image of Mt. Sinai and St. Catharine’s Monastery.

How to reach: Located on Sofokli Venizelou Avenue, the Museum of Crete is easy to find and reach. One can simply walk to the Museum or jump on one of the sightseeing buses, or rent a bicycle or a car. The entrance fee is €5 for adults and €3 for seniors and students.

Explore The Old Town

It comes as no surprise that one of the best things to do in Heraklion is visiting its Old Town. You can easily spend the whole morning or a lazy afternoon strolling around the area.

Heraklion has grown around the Old Town, and you can enjoy a walk along the waterfront walkways on the scenic promenade admiring the fishing vessels and scenery. Enjoy great seafood at any of the restaurants located here.

The Old Town harbour is one of the must-see attractions in Heraklion

Among the best places to visit in Heraklion Old Town, one highlight is the Venetian fort of Koules which dates back to the 16th century. Look at the huge defensive walls that are partly demolished now and admire the aristocratic architecture.

How to reach: The Old Town is located within walking distance of the modern city centre. There are, of course, no charges to explore the area, and the visitors can enjoy a pleasant walk in the middle of Heraklion.

The Morosini Fountain – The Lions Square 

The Morosini Fountain which dates back to 1628 is among the top places to visit in Heraklion. It’s the ideal spot for those who want to experience local life and spend some relaxing time in the city.

Morosini Fountain on Lion’s Square

The lively area is located within the old centre of Heraklion, and the Fountain contains four lions with water gushing out from their mouths. The basin below features lobes and reliefs based on Greek mythology.

You can sit at the cafe tables around and enjoy the scene with a cup of coffee or simply explore the area and its shops.

How to reach: Enjoy the Morosini Fountain for free, and you can simply walk towards the area on foot. The central location is just a 10-minute walk from the main bus station and easily accessible on foot.

See Also: Where to Stay in Samos

Venetian Loggia – A Mannerist Monument on St Titus’ Square

The Venetian Loggia Mannerist monument belongs to the 17th century and is located on the square of Saint Titus in the middle of Heraklion Town. This imposing building was the key political and commercial centre of the city, and the aristocrats, Lords, and Shires met there to discuss financial and commercial matters.

The typical Venetian construction has been renovated and functions today as the meeting point for the Municipal Council’s weekly meetings.

This interesting rectangular building is just as intriguing both inside and out. The lower floors follow the Doric style, while the upper floors reflect the Ionian style.

How to reach: You can easily walk to the building and explore its courtyard-like area. Although the main building is closed to visitors, one can have a look around the arcade and the ground floor.

Cathedral of St. Minas – One of the Best Places to Visit in Heraklion

St. Minas Cathedral is the largest church in Crete and in fact, one of the largest in Greece.  This impressive building that dates back to the 19th century is dedicated to Saint Menas, the patron saint of Heraklion. The Cathedral was designed by the famous architect Athanasios Mousis.

St Minas Church

The Cathedral of St. Minas has a capacity of 8,000 and is world-famous for its elaborate religious iconography. Enjoy looking at the beautifully decorated interior walls, the Byzantine-style frescoes, and the magnificent chandelier. Other highlights include Christ Pantocrator and bible episodes.

How to reach: St. Minas Cathedral is just minutes away from the Morosini Fountain. Entry to the Cathedral is free, and one can also visit the Saint Catherine church which is located next to the Cathedral.

The Koules Fortress- An Impressive 16th-Century Fortress 

Koules Fortress is a very popular Heraklion attraction. You can easily spot it because of its prominent location and impressive architecture. The Venetian fortress with its beautifully restored interior offers an imposing sight, and from here, one can enjoy some awesome views of the sea and the city.

Koules Fortress

Koules Fortress has walls about eight meters thick and was built to last. There are cannons, piles of amphorae, hundreds of cannonballs, and stone carvings in the vaulted passageways below.

How to reach: Take a scenic walk from the shoreline to reach the entrance of the Koules Fortress. The entry to the fortress will cost you €2. It is best to explore the fortress with a guided tour.

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion is looked upon as one of the most important museums in the city. There are more than 27 different galleries that cover more than five thousand years of history here.

The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

Learn about the Neolithic period to the Roman times based on the artefacts and the findings from the archaeological sites of Phaistos and Knossos. Other highlights include the Phaistos Disk, a fired clay disk believe to date back as far as 1600 BC, and the 3,500-year ancient frescoes from Knossos.

How to reach: This world-class Museum is located in the eastern part of the old town. Take a guided tour of the Museum and book ahead to avoid those long queues. Book your ticket for the museum here or a combo including Knossos Palace.


One of the major aquariums in Europe, it is a must to make space for the CreteAquarium on your itinerary. Here you will get to see and understand all about the Mediterranean marine life. 

There are more than two thousand sea creatures in the aquarium which boasts 200 different species. You will come across sea turtles, stingrays, jellyfish, scorpionfish, and many more. The exhibits are well presented, maintained, and are definitely worth paying a visit to.

How to reach: Located at a short distance from Heraklion city centre, Cretaquarium can be easily reached by bus, taxi, or car. Go ahead and support the educational and wildlife rescue programs of the amazing aquarium. Buy your adult skip-the-queue ticket here. Admission is free for children up to 4 years.

Discover The Beaches at Heraklion

Of course, Greece is known for its exquisite beaches and gleaming Agean waters and Crete is no exception!

You are sure to find some of the best beaches in Crete just outside Heraklion. Good options include Komos Beach, Ayia Pelagia, Star Beach, Agiofarago Beach, Gefyri Beach, and Malia Beach.

After all the exciting sightseeing attractions are ticked off this list, why not relax and unwind at any of these beautiful Cretan beaches!

Which of these attractions and things to do in Heraklion is your top pic?

About the Author: Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo and The Avid Campers, moved to sunny Lisbon over 5 years ago. With an absolute love of Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way. 



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