The capital of Crete is of course tourist central, with flights rumbling in from across Europe. So there’s a lively after-dark scene catering for hedonistic young holidaymakers and laid-back older couples alike. If you want trad-Greek-taverna-style watering holes you’ll find atmospheric spots on every corner – and in between. If you want to mingle with modern Cretans and savour the city’s finest bars beyond the tourist haunts, you might need a steer. That’s where we come in – our list of the best bars in Heraklion will speed you to the most coveted oases in the city.
This chic, cavernous space spills out onto a large, balmy terrace: a modern bar furnished with rope and wicker decor in caramel hues. Its mixologists mean business. Far from your usual piña colada holiday fare, this is where you can get a whisky soda laced with popcorn, or a vodka swizzle featuring avocado and black pepper. Dressed-up couples on dates and suited after-work types meet here to unwind over mellow, clubby music. But holidaymakers will adore it too.
Swish espresso bar and brunch place by day, this black-upholstered hipster cafe and leafy roof terrace is an effortlessly stylish setting for a pre-dinner drink. Sip Aperol spritzes among the city’s cool young creatives; or perhaps a glass of wine (the owners have a huge selection of Greek-produced bottles). Get chatting to the staff and baristas downstairs and you’ll probably leave with a bag or two of coffee beans. Non-drinkers will love the expertly whipped frappes.
The name of this high-ceilinged, industrial space translates as “ice factory”. It’s certainly cool, with glasses dangling downward from a black-lacquered metal bar. But there’s nothing frosty about the welcome, as brunchers or after-work drinkers flow in for poached eggs, burgers – and later – ice-packed mojitos and sangrias. The crowd here is mostly young-professional locals, so aim to rub shoulders – and make the most of the tourist-free atmosphere for an evening.
Heraklion’s only speakeasy has interiors much cooler than its name suggests. After entering – a code is required – you descend the black-painted staircase to discover exposed-stone walls, teal-and-grey cushioned seating, marbled tables and bold, tropical-print wallpaper. All in all a colourful setting that feels more contemporary than the competition. Hail one of the handsome barmen for an expertly mixed martini or Manhattan. Peckish? You can have dinner here, too.
“Let’s dance!” suggests a Bowie-inspired lightning flash of neon art at this edgy cocktail bar, where tasselled vintage lamps hang above a glass counter filled with old cassette tapes. Alternative-music fans come here for the great playlist and regular DJ sets, enjoying the pop-art-sticker decorations and arty knick knacks as much as the beats. Try their potent take on tiki rum cocktail the Zombie – but maybe just the one.
Here’s a petite, under-the-radar watering hole in the bar quarter around Milatou Street. It’s a quirky affair, with classic art muralled on its walls and bird-boxes mounted here and there. Live music bands and singers often appear, playing upbeat rock and folk, and you’re more likely to see people sipping wines and beers than complex cocktails. There’s a bohemian, Parisian wine-bar feel at first glance. But the young crowd of twentysomethings and students in jeans and logo T-shirts is pure 21st-century Greece.
This convivial scarlet-painted cafe spills out onto the pavement – it’s all tables of smokers and drinkers – serving unusual creations garnished with plenty of fruit and herbs. Drinks come in milk bottles or shell-shaped glass dishes, maybe topped with whipped egg-white foam and knocked up by enthusiastic, chatty staff. Try the Greek-yoghurt-infused piña coladas. Just passing by? You can get Negronis to go, among other options, neatly poured into sealed glass flasks.
Gear up for your night out by spending the day discovering the best things to do in and around Heraklion and sampling delicious local cuisine in the best restaurants in the city, as chosen by local chef Stefanos Laverenidis. Not got your hotel yet? Browse the best hotels in Heraklion, or treat yourself to the ultimate luxury elsewhere in Crete, now bookable through Culture Trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
This article is an update of one originally by Evangelos Tsirmpas.
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