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Crete‘s main port of entry deserves much more than a drive through en route to your resort. This city in Greece is a must-see for a day or three, with its mighty Koules Fortress and its atmospheric Venetian harbour. While the sights are many, and the Palace of Knossos – the home of the mythic Minotaur – could demand several hours, Heraklion is a place for relaxing also. Laze over iced coffees at sunny waterfront cafés and toast the end of each day with cold white wine. When it’s time for bed, here are the best places to stay in Heraklion.
Founded in 1920, the GDM Megaron is among Crete’s most historic hotels. Grand and elegant, it has entertained locals and holidaymakers for decades, which is no surprise, given the standard of service and the impressive atmosphere of the place. Rooms, classically furnished, have either sea or city views and aromatic Greek-made bath potions by Korres. The bar on the fifth floor reveals some of the best views of the city – order a drink and take in the sumptuous Venetian architecture all around, with the darkening evening Aegean waters beyond.
Less than half an hour by car from Heraklion, the one-of-a-kind Amirandes Grecotel Exclusive Resort raises the bar for hotel luxury in Crete. You’ll get to experience best of Greek hospitality amid lavish surroundings. Guest rooms are calm and classic – stealing the limelight is the enormous infinity pool that sweeps past elegant stone buildings towards the sea. There’s a spa with treatments that borrow from traditional Cretan techniques, and about a dozen places to eat and drink, including Italian, Cretan and Asian resaurants. One evening make sure you dine taverna-style at the hotel’s farm, Agreco, in Rethymno; nothing on your holiday will be as exhilarating as an evening of traditional Cretan food, drink and music.
Clean-lined, corporate-look rooms – there are 127, some with a pool view – help make Galaxy Hotel Iraklio a favourite among young and urban travellers: it’s a sophisticated, stylish destination just beyond the heart of Heraklion. The blank, white, Bauhaus-informed building takes the attention from its neighbours – a look-at-me affair that belies that discreet care and attention of its staff, who go to great lengths to create the atmosphere. The location is a major draw, within walking distance of the Archaeological Museum, Bembo Fountain, Kornarou Square and public gardens. Just make sure you eat your fill of the decadent breakfast before you set forth.
Looking for an intimate base close to, rather than in, Heraklion? Villa Omikron is your place. An easy 25-minute drive from Heraklion, it is, in fact, a clutch of four luxury villas that can be rented together or separately. You’ll get to enjoy a spacious outdoor pool, DIY barbecue nights and views of the sparkling Aegean. Behind earthy, natural walls, interiors are crisp and clean, some of the best of Crete’s beaches are on your doorstep and if you’ve got wheels, from here it’s easy to explore the whole island.
Right in the heart of Heraklion, this is a departure for a Greek-island hotel. No whitewash or rustic stone facades, the exterior is a big-city light show of fiery illuminations – a huge box-like affair illuminated by bands of red such as you might expect in Barcelona. The vibrant outside bigs up the ecological ethos at Olive Green: sustainability through solar energy. Technology allows guests to control air conditioning and heating to avoid waste. Recycling is key. Behind the cool-and-trendy forward-thinking, though, all is warm and friendly: you’ll eat and drink at lively 626 All Day Lounge & City Garden, from pancakes and croissants first thing, via al fresco pasta dinners, to wine and charcuterie plates, late into the night.
Alice Snowsill contributed additional reporting to this article.