The Best Bars in Heraklion, Crete

Heraklion comes alive at night, and theres plenty of places to spend your evening
Heraklion comes alive at night, and there's plenty of places to spend your evening | © Hackenberg-Photo-Cologne / Alamy Stock Photo
Alice Snowsill

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.

1. Xalavro Cocktail Bar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Cocktails

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.

2. The Bitters Bar

Bar, Greek, Coffee

Morosini fountain, Lions Square, Eleftheriou Venizelou, Heraklion, Crete island, Greece
© Peter Forsberg / Alamy Stock Photo
Close to the “Lions fountain” in Eleftheriou Venizelou Square, you’ll find this DJ-soundtracked, Prohibition-inspired bar – at this bottle-lined boudoir, with its small outdoor patio, you’ll get tiny bowls of nibbles with your cocktails. Serving brunch by day, after dark it shakes up its own spins on Mai Tais, Zombies and Spritzes – pepped up with an appropriate amount of chocolate, orange or Elemakule bitters. Too “out there” for you? The staff are schooled in the classics, too.

3. Opus

Bar, Restaurant, Wine Bar, Wine, Mediterranean, Greek

Welcome to a cosy, wood-beamed wine bar close to Theotokopoulos Park – and settle into butter-soft leather sofas on the romantic pergola-topped patio strung with fairy lights. You can choose from rack upon rack of vintages Greek and international, ordering a cheese platter or bruschetta selection to go with your drink (ask the staff for their recommendations). It’s in an atmospheric alley not far from top city restaurant Peskesi, so head here for a pre-dinner aperitif.

4. Think Tank

Bar, Cafe, Wine Bar, Greek

Aperol Spritz Cocktail. Alcoholic beverage based on table with ice cubes and oranges.
© beatrice preve / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

5. Dish Bar

Bar, Restaurant, Greek, European, Contemporary, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub

Facing a pretty square and the ornate facade of Saint-Titos Church, this pavement cafe does food with flair – but it’s just as suitable for drinks, served in its lilac, suede-trimmed cocktail bar. Try the Tom’s Temptation – a hit of passionfruit, caramel, lime and cocoa that’s more dessert than nightcap. Look out, too, for theme nights such as 90s dance parties and wine tastings. These aren’t the cheapest pours in town, but Dish Bar scores 10/10 for upmarket atmosphere.

6. Pagopoieion

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Contemporary

Sangria with fruit, ice and mint in glass.
Nadia Borovenko / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

7. Wets & Drys Days and Nights

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Contemporary

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.

8. Stone Project Cocktail Bar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Cocktails

Zombie Cocktail with Rum, garnished with lime. Cold sweet summer fruit red alcohol cocktail, refreshing drink on wooden table, copy space.
© Oksana Bratanova / Alamy Stock Photo

“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.

9. Cuckoo Bar

Bar, Wine Bar, Wine

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.

10. Swing Thing

Bar, Greek

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.

This article is an update of one originally by Evangelos Tsirmpas.

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