The capital city of Crete, known as Heraklion, has plenty of buildings and artifacts that are thousands of years old, but the area has been given a modern makeover in recent years that has made it a wildly popular vacation destination. The excellent museums and cultural festivals, wonderful dining options, and easy access to several of the other Aegean Islands mean that there's something for everyone here. Visit the grand architecture and vast beaches of Karteros, the strip of museums and art attractions along Xanthoudidou Street, or watch the beautiful sunsets from the harbor.
While you're in Heraklion, be sure to make time for some of these other must-see attractions and destinations:
- Minoan Palace of Knossos: Built over 9,000 years ago, this palace is the most important and best-known complex throughout the island of Crete.
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum: Many ancient artifacts can be found at this museum that hosts finds from Minoan civilization and from excavations throughout the island.
- Nikos Kazantzakis Museum: This museum is dedicated entirely to the island's most prominent intellectual figure.
- Meidani Square: Head to the open market here to buy fresh local produce, herbs and spices, and even natural remedies.
- Go horseback riding: Enjoy an unforgettable experience of riding along the beach of Karteros.
- Amoudara: The main beach area in Heraklion consists of a three-kilometer strip of sandy beach, plenty of bars and cafes, and even an open-air theater.
While well-known artists and musicians visit Heraklion throughout the year for live performances and gallery exhibits, the island hosts one of its biggest events every summer. Be sure to check out the Heraklion Summer Arts Festival, held from June to September, which features traditional dance performances, recreations of ancient Greek plays, and the sculptures and paintings of some of the most popular artists in Greece.
With so many things to do, the prospect of seeing all the sights can be daunting for some travelers. Luckily, Heraklion has an excellent bus system that will get you anywhere you'd like to go in the area. There are also multiple ferries and catamarans that offer rides to nearby areas for a pleasant day trip. The historic town of Rethymno, the village of Matala, and the picturesque mountain views of Samaria Gorge are all accessible by car or ferry within two hours.
A vacation rental is the preferred option for those staying in Heraklion. Choose a condo with spacious rooms and all the creature comforts of home, or opt for a villa within walking distance of the great restaurants and bars in the city. Whatever you're looking for in a vacation, there's a home that will help make your stay here everything you're looking for.
As featured in USA TODAY and recommended by Travel + Leisure in its annual Villa Guide:
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