Heraklion

Koules (Greek: Κούλες) the Venetian castle in the harbour of Heraklion, landmark of the city

Heraklion (Greek Ηράκλειον, also transliterated as Heraklio, Iraklion or Irakleio) is the major city and capital of the largest Greek island, Crete. Its Archaeological Museum holds the remains of the 3000-year old Minoan civilization, which grew around the nearby legendary palace of Knossos (of Minotaur fame), as well as Byzantine churches and a well-preserved Venetian wall and fortress from the 15th century.

Understand

Heraklion (or Herakleion, Iraklio, Irakleion) is the capital of Crete and an industrialised city of around 155,000 residents. The modern city is densely populated and traffic-choked, at first overwhelming the visitor. However, in recent years, things have begun to change and efforts are being made to bring out the beauty of the city's rich cultural history. Strolling along the coastline, the city wall, or down a park can reveal various historical remains of potentially immense interest to the watchful eye. The knowledgeable visitor will be able to trace the past under the urban sprawl of the present. The core of the city is still enclosed and defined by the Venetian wall, which includes seven outjutting bastions. In the southernmost of these, the Martinengo Bastion, is the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis standing on a windswept hilltop with its moving inscription, "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free."

Climate

Heraklion has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry with clear skies. Dry hot days are often relieved by a system of seasonal breezes. Winters are mild with relatively little rain and rare frosts.

Get in

Located in the middle of the island, all roads lead to Heraklion. Heraklion has a busy harbour and very busy airport and usually is the starting point of travels to Crete and nearby islands.

By plane

There are daily flights from Athens airport and other major Greek cities by Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines. The recently established Athens Airways also connect Heraklion with Athens. During summer, Sky Express flies to several Aegean islands.

From April till early November charter airlines fly directly to Heraklion from many European airports.

By bus

Heraklion is connected with the rest of Crete by regular bus lines operated by two KTEL companies , . The coaches are modern, comfortable and air-conditioned. Fare is reasonable.

There are two bus stations in Heraklion:

By boat

There are ferries from:

By car

Hiring a car is easy, as long as you have your driving licence with you. Gas stations often close around 21:00, particularly in villages. Most petrol stations expect you to pay cash - they serve you, so you can choose for them to fill the tank or put in fuel to a cash value. On the National Highway, there are service stations, but they are often 50 km or so apart - make sure you fill up with fuel before bank holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open station. Also, remember that you need a written authorization of the car rental company to travel with the car in a ferry.

Get around

By bus

You can use public city bus network to get around Heraklion but you have to figure out the line to your destination. There are usually no routes or schedules posted at the bus stops. Buses do not stop at bus stops, unless you signal the driver by raising your arm. Orange ticket (A zone whole, B zone students) costs €1.10, blue ticket (B zone whole) costs €1.50, all tickets have a QR code, directing to Astiko KTEL website.

When you get on the bus, hold the bottom half of your ticket in your right hand. The bus driver will take the top half (side with number value of ticket) and the two of you will rip it in half. Tickets are available inside buses with increased prices (2 & 2.5 € respectively)

See

Landmarks

Museums and Galleries

2nd-century AD statue of Pan from Argyroupoli, Crete in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum

Do

Learn

Buy

Eat

Budget

Throughout most of the downtown, it is easy to find cheap tavernas (ταβερνα) offering full meals for under €20 for two people (eating alone in Crete would be a bizarre affair.) A strict budget can be met by sticking to the supermarkets which provide the usual array of fruits, vegetables and cheese for modest prices (€5/day is quite feasible.) Central cafes serve the local breakfast treat bougatsa, a local pastry with cottage cheese, served with honey, or cinnamon and sugar. Also available are the usual complement of pastry shops for standard meals such as spanakopita (spinach pie) and various cheap deserts.

Mid-range

Drink

Sleep

Budget

There are two hostels in Heraklion. Both are situated in the city centre, a 10-minute drive from the airport and a 5-minute drive from the port. One can go there by taxi. The taxi fare from the airport to the hostels at the city centre should cost less than €10, and from the port less than €6.

Mid range

Splurge

Connect

Free WiFi provided by municipality, and some cafes. 3G & 4G networks are also available

Stay safe

Road safety is wanting and generally the attitudes of all road users are poor and reckless. For pedestrians, there are haphazard pavements, usually entirely obstructed by parked cars and bikes, meaning the road itself has to be used by pedestrians. Other roads lack pavements. Road crossings for pedestrians do not seem to be recognized by motorists, making crossing difficult in busy roads. Drivers and bikers may even drive through junctions when the "green man" is indicating it is safe for pedestrians to cross. The bikers seem to be the worst, usually wearing no helmet and happily talking on a mobile phone or reading a text message while driving. Sometimes bikers ride on the pavements, and expect pedestrians to move out their way.

There are many stray cats and dogs in the city. The dogs can often be seen in small packs, and may bark and growl but do not attack if they are left alone.

Cope

Heraklion can seem traffic-choked, polluted and crowded with chain-smokers at times. A visit would not be advisable for those very sensitive to cigarette smoke (e.g. asthmatics), as smoke is everywhere.. Even no smoking rooms in hotels are likely to have the smell of cigarettes drift from the corridor or the window. Fortunately anywhere near the sea front there is a refreshing mild sea breeze.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, March 06, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.