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Heraklion

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Travel Guide Europe Greece Crete Heraklion

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Introduction

Iraklion

Iraklion

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Heraklion is the capital of the Greek island of Crete. It is the largest city on the island and the 4th biggest in Greece with around 150,000 inhabitants in the city proper. The city is located in the central north of Crete. Its Archaeological Museum holds the remains of the 4000-year old Minoan civilization, which centred around the nearby palace of Knossos, with its Minotaur legend. The city has several Byzantine churches and a well-preserved Venetian wall and harbour fortress from the 15th century.

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Sights and Activities

The must-see sights are the Archaeological Museum downtown, and the Palace of Knossos 5 kilometres south. Their combined ticket is the best buy. Take a stroll along the city’s Venetian wall (Greek: Τείχη). It’s 4.5 kilometres long, with seven bastions jutting out. On the southernmost of these, the Martinengo Bastion, is the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis with its moving inscription, "I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free." From the wall head towards the harbour, taking in the Historical Museum, which picks up the story where the Archaeological Museum leaves off. The Koules or fortress stands over the inner harbour but the mole continues for almost 2 kilometres, with views back over the city and the ferry port. You don’t need to enter the Koules to go on the mole, but you may need to dash where the waves are breaking at its base.

  • Heraklion Archaeological Museum, 2 Xanthoudidou St, ☎ +30 2810 224630, +30 2810 280370, fax: +30 2810 332610. summer daily 8 am to 8 pm; winter Mon 11 am to 5 pm, Tues-Sun 8 am to 3 pm. Houses the most important and representative finds from Minoan civilisation and excavations across the island of Crete. Highlights include statues of the Snake Goddess, the Bull-Leaping Fresco, the Phaistos Disk, and Minoan seals and jewellery. Also includes a number of finds from Classical Greek and Roman periods. €10 full, €5 concessions; combined with Knossos €16 & €8.
  • Palace of Knossos (take bus 2 to the end of the line), ☎ +30 2810 231940, +30 2810 226470, +30 2810 226092, +30 2810 224630, e-mail: protocol@kgepka.culture.gr. daily, summer 08.00-18.00, winter 08.00-15.00. If you see just one ruin on Crete, see Knossos (in Greek it’s Κνωσός, stress is on the second syllable). The site is fairly compact, and much of it is accessible with restricted mobility. But 30 minutes will do it. Full €10, concessions €5; combined with Archaeological Museum €16 & €8.

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Weather

Heraklion has a Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters and hot dry summers. In summer, daily highs are mostly around the 30 °C to 35 °C mark with warm nights of around 20 °C. Winters are mostly around 15 °C during the day though sometimes hit well over 20 °C as well. Nights are above zero and rain is common during the months of December to February.

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Getting There

By Plane

Heraklion International Airport (HER) has many flights. Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways mainly serve the British market, while Hamburg International Airlines, TuiFly, Air Berlin and Condor serve the German market. Easyjet has flights to/from Berlin, London and Manchester. Eurocypria has many flights as well including to Polish cities like Poznan, Krakow and Warsaw.
Other destinations include Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv, Malta, Paris, Prague, Brussels, Tallinn, Geneva, Amsterdam, Belgrade, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Yekaterinburg and many Greek Islands and of course Athens and Thessaloniki.

By Bus

There are two bus stations in Heraklion:

  • Bus station A (just east of city walls near the ferry port), ☎ +30 2810-245020. The main inter-city station, with buses west to Rethymno and Chania, and east to the airport, Malia, Agios Nikolaos and Iarapetra. edit
  • Bus station B (at the Chania Gate (Chanioporta) at the western edge of old city), ☎ +30 2810-255965. For buses south to Zaros, Matala and Phaestos

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. Fares are reasonable. The main inter-city buses run hourly.

By Boat

The principal ferry route is from Piraeus, the port for Athens. These ferries mostly sail overnight, leaving in each direction around 9:00pm to dock next morning at 6:00am. Heraklion ferry terminal is near the KTEL bus station just east of town centre. The operators are Minoan Lines, Anek Lines and Superfast Ferries

Other routes are:

  • To Thessaloniki and Dodecanese by G.A. Ferries
  • To the Cyclades by G.A. Ferries, Sea Jets and Hellenic Seaways.
  • To Santorini by Anek, Seajets and Hellenic, links above.

Most ferries take vehicles and run year-round – trucking is an important part of their business, especially since so many people nowadays fly. But frequency is much reduced in winter, so for island-hopping you may find you have to double back via Piraeus.

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Getting Around

By Car

First think whether you really need a car for your trip. Traffic in Heraklion is bad and parking is worse. You can see the main central sights on foot, and take the bus for Knossos, Rethymno and Chania.

Hiring a car is easy with the usual documentation (a standard UK or EU driving licence is fine.) Get prior permission in writing from the rental company if you plan to take the car away on a ferry.

Petrol 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. Fill up before public holidays and Sundays when you may have more difficulty finding an open station.

Lots of taxi ranks in all the main locations, downtown and at the airport & ferry port. Usually they’re looking for trade and will spot you before you spot them.

By Public Transport

In and around Heraklion, use the public city buses. The main bus stops have routes and schedules posted, lcd displays for the next buses, and ticket machines, which are cheaper than buying aboard the bus. Small stops may have none of these, so consider buying two tickets, keeping one for your return. At bus stops, signal the driver by raising your arm. Orange ticket (A zone whole, B zone students) costs €1.10, blue ticket (B zone whole) costs €1.70, 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 driver will take the top half (side with ticket price) and the two of you will rip it in half. Tickets are available inside buses but cost more (2€ Zone A, 2.50€ Zone B).

  • Line 1 goes to the airport
  • Line 2 goes to Knossos
  • Line 7 goes to Amnissos
  • Line 8 goes to FORTH (Foundation for Research & Technology Hellas)
  • Line 12 goes to TEI (Technologiko Ekpedeftiko Idrima Kritis)

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Eat

Throughout the city centre, it is easy to find cheap tavernas (ταβερνα) offering full meals for under €20 for two people. 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.

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Drink

  • Raki, also known as Tsikoudia, is the trademark of Cretan day and night life, a strong clear drink similar to Grappa in Italy or Orujo in Spain. It is made from the 'must' of grape skins and twigs after the local production of the white wine. It doesn't taste like aniseed, as opposed to the Turkish raki. Most raki is standard spirit strength of 40% or 80 o proof, but some are much stronger. It's often served in small glasses after dinner with a plate of fruit or other dessert.
  • Cretan Wine - Try the distinctive Cretan wine, produced in the island for at least 4,000 years. Labels: Sitia, Peza Union. The Cretans themselves drink so called 'open' wine, straight out of the barrel, like fresh white wine, and the sometimes very old dark rusty red wine, a bit like port. Typical Cretan wine varieties are Marouvas and Kotsifali (both red wines).

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Learn

The University of Crete is the leading higher education institution on the island of Crete. The University was established in 1973 and operates under the supervision of the State. The seat of the University is in Rethymno, with Heraklion hosting the School of Sciences and Engineering and that of Health Sciences.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet access is widely available throughout the country. Almost all hotels provide internet access, either free or paid. Local coffee shops usually offer free Wi-Fi access, as many other public places do. Feel free to ask for the password, if the network is locked. Internet cafes however tend to be expensive, about €1.5-2 per hour.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The cheapest way to call someone abroad is to use a pre-paid calling card and call from a land line anywhere (also from your hotel room). Pre-paid calling cards are sold in many shops and kiosks. The calling card is not much more than a phone number and a pin code, which you dial prior to dialling the usual phone number. If you want to call internationally, ask for an international calling card. For one euro you can call for about 45 minutes, so buy a card in the cheapest value (which is about €3). Calling someone for half an hour is cheaper than sending one email from an internet café. Cards expire usually 90 days after first use. You can also use this pre-paid calling card at public phone boxes, which are widely available.

Mobile phones are prevalent in Greek's communication, and if you need to talk with your co-travellers it is advised that you buy a local prepaid plan instead of using roaming, as it is far cheaper. There are at least three mobile carriers, Cosmote, Wind and Vodafone all of which require by law presenting some form of identification in order to activate your prepaid plan. Choose whichever has better reception in your area, keeping in mind that GSM 900, GSM 1800 and UMTS 2100 bands are supported. Data usage is cheap, costing about €3 per 100 MB. Ask the mobile carrier for more information.

Post

Hellenic Post is the Greek postal service. On their website you find more information about options to send letters, postcards and parcels and there is a search function regarding post offices and post boxes. It also has information on services like paying bills, transferring money, financial products etc. Greek post codes are five digits long and are usually written as follows; 123 45. The first three digits are used to identify the city, municipality or prefecture, for example the digits between 100 and 180 relate to the city of Athens. The last two digits identify a street or part of a street. Most post offices are open Monday to Friday from 07:30-14:00, although the largers ones usually have longer opening hours. For sending packages, you can also use international courier services like DHL, UPS or TNT.

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Accommodation in Heraklion

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Heraklion searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Heraklion and areas nearby.

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This is version 18. Last edited at 3:36 on Aug 2, 17 by sleepBot. 34 articles link to this page.

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