What to Do in Heraklion in a Day
When you only have less than 24 hours to spare in Heraklion, and you want to make the best of your visit, here are some of the things you can do to have a memorable experience. Assuming you are a first-time visitor rushing to another destination, you will want to see at least some of the city’s most prominent attractions.
Top Tourist Attractions to See in Heraklion in a Day
1. Koules Fortress (Rocca a Mare)
The imposing Venetian fortress safeguarding the Old Harbor of Heraklion is in excellent condition and hosts a museum displaying the history of the edifice and the city of Candia (Heraklion). You’ll get to see sculptures, underground water tanks, pottery, shipwrecks, and all kinds of documents showcasing how the role of the fortress in the history of the city. Climb to the rooftop for a spellbinding view of the city. Visit the official website for opening hours and additional information regarding COVID-19 safety measures.
2. Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Crete’s most cherished treasures are on display at the Heraklion Archeological Museum (St. Chatzidaki 1). It showcases the most fascinating artifacts found on the island from the Neolithic period (7000 BC) to Roman times (3rd cent. AD). Come early to avoid the crowds and plan your visit accordingly. There are 27 exhibit rooms to visit, so schedule at least an hour and a half. You will find Minoan frescoes and the Minoan Civilization collections, along with a splendid sculpture collection on the ground floor. The first floor of the museum is dedicated to the role of Crete in the Ancient Greek world. Ruins of the Venetian Monastery of St Francis adorn the museum’s garden.
3. Lions Square with Morosini Fountain
Make your way to the central Eleftheriou Venizelou Square, colloquially known as the Lions Square, as an artesian fountain featuring four lions dominates its center. Built in 1628, the fountain takes its name from Francesco Morosini, who was the Governor of Crete at the time. The fountain is a major meeting point for locals and tourists alike in the city. You could visit several fashion shops from here or have a cup of coffee and a bougatsa (Cretan custard pie with phyllo dough) at Phyllo Sophies or Kirkór. Lions Square is a great starting point for exploring the city center. Allow yourself to get lost on its narrow streets and discover the charming boutiques flanking them on both sides. From the square, you could also stroll down the pedestrian 25th of August Street past the Basilica of St. Mark, Venetian Loggia, and Church of St. Titus to admire some of Heraklion’s most beautiful Neoclassical buildings. You can end your stroll in a fish taverna for a hearty lunch.
4. Grand Venetian Walls
A stroll along the Grand Venetian Walls of the city will give you insight into Candia’s glory past. These walls were part of the fortifications of Heraklion during the Venetian rule and remain largely intact. A walk along these relics of the past will lead you to another point of interest: the tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of the celebrated literary masterpiece “Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas,” which inspired the 1964 feature film Zorba the Greek. You can end your afternoon here waiting for the sunset and enjoy breathtaking views of the city.
5. Bar Streets
At night, you will want to find the hotspots of the old center: find Kagiampi and Gramvousis, the liveliest bar streets of Heraklion, where the party lasts all night. Several bars, tavernas, and ouzeris keep patrons busy – some with down-to-earth mezzedes and affordable drinks, others with fine wines and creative cocktails. Hot summer nights are best spent outside, and these streets offer the ideal setting to do so.
These are some suggestions to spend a day in Heraklion. But don’t be afraid to get lost in the city and you will discover even more treasures.