The capital city of Crete, Heraklion is a fascinating fusion of ancient and modern. In recent years, walking around the city’s historic centre would’ve been almost impossible, due to the sheer volume of traffic passing through. Today, most of main historic areas have been pedestrianized, giving you the chance to soak up early Cretan architecture or go shopping in sleek, contemporary malls.
While you’re away on holiday, make sure you visit Liondaria. The name translates as ‘Lion Square’, in reference to the four stone lions that guard a beautiful fountain featuring detailed carvings and statues of sea-nymphs, mythical monsters, and other creatures from Greek legend. Liondaria is a hub for everyone and anyone: you’ll see impromptu business meetings being held in cafés, groups of locals arguing animatedly about this and that, and tourists just soaking up the scenery. There are plenty of places to grab a bite and don’t forget to try the bougastsas: a Greek pastry filled with vanilla cream.
Market Street is a must for bargain-hunters taking looking for all sorts of fresh produce. Here you’ll find fresh herbs, meat and fish, sold alongside clothing, honey, cheese and the local spirit, raki.
Whatever you’re looking from your time in the sun, this superb city is sure to deliver.
Things to do
While holidays to Heraklion feature the vibrant, buzzing city, its position close to the sea gives you plenty of opportunities for some lazy days on the beach. If you prefer city life, it really comes into its own after the sun goes down, when many of its ancient monuments are lit by night and the clubs and pubs fill the backstreets with the sounds of music and laughter. There’s a huge variety of restaurants to enjoy, from contemporary eateries, to traditional tavernas, serving genuine Cretan cuisine.
Food and drink
Heraklion has an array of eateries, from upbeat cafés in the main square to authentic tavernas down some of the narrow side streets, so be sure to savour the taste of the city’s delicacies such as the salads, pies and cheeses. As Heraklion has a number of wineries in the surrounding villages, you’ll be able to sample some of the local wines in the more traditional restaurants, which will compliment your meal perfectly. You’ll also be able to pick up some of these specialities from open-air markets. They’re the best place to hunt for souvenirs, where you can pick up wine, honey, dried herbs and tea and of course some of the famous olive oil.
The city comes alive after dark with plenty of lively places to choose from. The majority of Heraklion’s nightlife is found along the harbour where you’ll find trendy bars and clubs, with some hosting DJs in the summer months. Don’t forget the party resort of Malia is also close by if you want to experience its buzzing atmosphere and some of the legendary foam parties. If big nights out aren’t your thing, there are cosy tavernas playing live music dotted all around. You can also join in the celebrations of summer festivals with music, theatre and ballet performances taking place on dates throughout the year.