Heraklion

Crete’s capital

Boasting a proud seafaring tradition as far back as 2000BC, attracting all manner of invaders over the centuries. Now, the only invaders are visitors drawn here for no fewer than four different (and fascinating) eras of history, a warm dry climate, and a city that knows its place in the world.

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Shopping

There are plenty of fashion outlets, both chains and small independents, along pedestrianised Dedálou, and a huge mall in the western suburb of Tálos, opposite the recommended Karnagio restaurant. For a contrasting experience, trawl the old bazaar along 1866 Street, with its mix of foodstuffs and ethnic souvenirs. Forgot to bring reading material from home? Planet (Hándakos 73) has a large stock of English-language titles. If you’ve developed a taste for Cretan music, there’s no better place to snag some CDs than Aerakis (Dedálou 37), including many of their own label.

Food & Drink

Worthwhile, locally patronised establishments are scattered across central Heraklion. Seafood, logically enough, is best found along the seafront; try Ippokambos (Sofoklí Venizélou 3) overlooking the Venetian port, for land snails (a Cretan speciality) as well, or Karnagio (Mínoös 3) in Tálos suburb, tops for scaly fish, cephalopods, and their own-label bottled wine. Giakoumis (Fotíou Theodosáki 8 and contiguous premises) in the central bazaar is the place for succulent lamb chops and excellent bulk wine. For a quick snack or breakfast in an atmospheric setting, it has to be Kirkor (Lion Fountain Square), serving widely esteemed bougátsa (custard pie), tyrópitta (cheese pie) and coffees since 1922, at a few tables opposite the Venetian fountain.

Events

Apókreas (Carnival)
February/March
Though now overtaken in reputation by Réthymno’s Carnival, Heraklion’s is equally venerable and recently has experienced a small upsurge, with masquers (including, some years, foreign invited troupes) parading and partying.

Sheep blessing, Asi Gonia
April
On 23 April – or Easter Monday if Easter falls later – takes place the major bash in this pastoral community, on the border between Réthymno and Haniá provinces. George is the patron of shepherds, who bring hundreds of their charges to the village church to be blessed, and then milked, with the milk given away to spectators.

Wine Festivals
July-August
Heraklion is the centre of Cretan wine production, and many hill villages put on wine festivals in the summer, with free tasting and various exhibits laid on. Two of the most organised are at Dafnés (first half of July) and Arhánes (mid-August).

Heraklion Festival
July-September
Municipally sponsored concerts, dance and drama are staged in atmospheric outdoor theatres tucked into corners of the medieval walls.

Houdetsi Festival
August
Famed musician Ross Daly and his Lavyrinth Musical Workshop are the driving forces behind this showcase of traditional music, food and art in this hill village 23km south of Heraklion.

Hotels

City-centre hotels in Heraklion lie mostly inside the medieval walls, plus a few just outside. Many are overpriced, or traffic-noisy, or both; happy exceptions include two boutique choices within walking distance of each other – Lato (Epimenídou 15), which got an annexe added and a facelift in 2011, while retaining its creative rooftop diner, and Marin Dream (Epimenídou 46), with a less outré colour scheme (sea views from certain rooms in both). The Galaxy (Dimokratías 75) outside the walls is the best value luxury choice, with a pool and wellness centre.

Essentials

  • Language

    Greek

  • Currency

    Euro

  • Time zone

    GMT +2 hour (GMT +3 hours in summer)

  • Flight time

    4h 15

  • Holiday type

    Beach, Summer sun, City break

Weather

  • 30/09/2014 -

    Patchy rain possible

    24°C max 21°C min
  • 01/10/2014 -

    Sunny skies

    25°C max 21°C min
  • 02/10/2014 -

    Sunny skies

    27°C max 21°C min
  • 03/10/2014 -

    Sunny skies

    27°C max 21°C min
  • 04/10/2014 -

    Partly cloudy skies

    26°C max 20°C min
  • 05/10/2014 -

    Partly cloudy skies

    25°C max 20°C min
  • 06/10/2014 -

    Patchy rain possible

    25°C max 20°C min
  • Jan
    15°C max 9°C min
  • Feb
    15°C max 9°C min
  • Mar
    15°C max 10°C min
  • Apr
    20°C max 12°C min
  • May
    23°C max 15°C min
  • Jun
    23°C max 19°C min
  • Jul
    22°C max 22°C min
  • Aug
    29°C max 22°C min
  • Sep
    26°C max 19°C min
  • Oct
    23°C max 17°C min
  • Nov
    20°C max 13°C min
  • Dec
    17°C max 10°C min