10 "must-do" in Heraklion
Heraklion, the heart of Crete
Heraklion is the largest city in Crete and therefore considered its capital. You will find an international airport, universities and the biggest hospitals on the island. Heraklion is not a real tourist attraction as most of the travelers stay only 1-2 nights and continue. It is a proper Greek city, to be exact the 4th largest. A lot of people from all over Greece but also from other countries live here. Due to its size, mix of cultures, young and foreign inhabitants you will be able to experience a real Greek city. It’s worth staying for a bit longer if you manage to gather some valuable local information on the city. With this blogpost I am doing my very best to offer you 10 reasons to stay!
For a period of 500 years Heraklion was occupied by the Venetian empire. One of their remnants are the Venetian City Walls that cover Heraklion’s city center. There are three points to enter the area outside the walls (Venetian Portal Almighty, Bethlehem Gate & Jesus Gate). You have the opportunity to walk up the walls and enjoy the view over Heraklion. One good spot to do so is right at Nikos Kazantzakis’ graveyard, a famous Greek writer. This viewpoint is close to the entrance “Bethlehem Gate”. From there you are able to walk along the walls and end up at seaside, enjoying the amazing view over the aegean sea and the beautiful sunset.
When traveling to Crete it is a must to try 3 things: CHEESE, OIL & HERBS! Crete is famous for local, handmade cheese. Ask for Anthotyro, Kefalotyri and Graviera. Enjoy the great taste of sheep and goat cheese. The island is covered with olive trees. Therefore you will find plenty of opportunities to try real authentic olive oil, right from the producer! Another well-known and exceptional product are the Cretan herbs, around 120 of these only found on this island. Either try at a cafe or go to a shop and get yourself some very healthy Diktamo, Faskomilo and Malotira.
Another Venetian remnant is the “Loggia”. A unique architecture right in city center. Today, in this building you will find Heraklion’s city hall. Have a look at the amazing Venetian architecture, walk to the inner courtyard and take a look up. The building’s style is covered with architectural details. Sometimes in the evenings you will meet Heraklion’s youngsters breakdancing at the Loggia. Enjoy a multicultural spot!
Go to a cafe and try a mocha. In the menu it will be presented as “Greek coffee”. The mocha is one of the remnants of the Ottoman empire, having invaded Crete in around 1700. It is a non-filtered coffee, usually made on a gas cooker. The mocha is strong in flavor. Locals are convinced that the mocha helps digestion. Another feature, there is an activity mostly older ladies have been practicing for over hundreds of years: coffee cup future telling! Places where you can have your coffee cup read are called “kafemantio”.
As a security the Venetian’s have built the Koules Fortress. It is located right at seaside. If you are interested in entering the fortress you have to pay a very small fee. For a nice walk in Heraklion, pass by Koules Fortress and walk along the pathway that is built on the sea. It’s length counts to almost 3km. On your left side you will see a small wall. Climb up and enjoy the magical view.
In every proper city you will find a good amount of artists, some more visible and others more underground. Some of Heraklion’s underground artists graced the city with their most beautiful and unique pieces. Walk along Heraklion’s street and spot some art. For sharing, go to Instagram and use #firsttimeisawsusie
If you want to visit the local fish market go to seaside. Right at Koules Fortress, on your left hand you will see the fishermen and fish stalls, mostly in the morning hours. If you are into fish and seafood, the best place to try some local goodies is “Ippokampos”, right at seaside!
Rebetiko is a famous Greek music genre played with instruments called “Bouzouki”. Its first appearance dates back to the first decades of the 20th century. “Rebetes”, as the musicians are called, sang about societies no-go’s: sex, drugs and alcohol. It is Greece’s Rock’n’Roll! When traveling to Crete you must visit a taverna (Greek style restaurant) that holds Rebetika live music events. There is plenty in Heraklion. You will find a few on Milatou Street, right in city center, e.g. “Tavernaki o Magos”, o Tempelis” and “Tazediko Tavern”. Do not forget to drink some Raki!
Walk around the city as much as you can. You can also go to more remote areas. People are very friendly and welcoming in Greece. The more you get out main city center, the better things you will be able to discover. The city has a lot of Street Art to offer. Another options is to visit my Alternative Walking Tour called “Meet & Cheese”., every Tuesday and Thursday. I will show you the best pieces and tell you all about Heraklion’s secret pleasures: food, drinks and music!
Greece is not just all about Tzatziki and Souvlaki. The local cuisine is diverse, healthy and has a lot of vegetarian options. Try Stuffed Peppers, Imam and Fasolakia. Experience the mix taste of mediterranean and oriental dishes. Also, join my walking tour called “Meet & Cheese” to have access to a Secret List of Heraklion’s top food choices, and find out the very best spot only locals go to, you will not be able to find online!