Heraklion gives you city and island life in one. Grab a coffee and go to a Renaissance exhibition, wander to beaches and prehistoric palaces, or sample Cretan food and raki in the centre of town. Here are the best things to do in and around Heraklion.
The Palace of Knossos is world-renowned and it’s easy to see why. Legend links it with King Minos and the myth of the minotaur. It is over a thousand years older than the Parthenon, stretching well into the 2nd millennium BCE and its labyrinthine sprawl speaks to the imagination. Though its writing is still to a great extent shrouded in mystery, Minoan civilisation speaks through its archaeology and its vast cryptic palaces. The site was excavated by British archaeologist Arthur Evans in the early 20th century, where he painted and built on top of the ruins, bringing them alive while also arguably undermining their authenticity.
Tylissos is an excellent accompaniment to Knossos. Seen by experts as a fine example of Minoan elite architecture, it sits only an hour away from Heraklion, so visiting the two in one day is easily done. This well-preserved site, untampered with and off the beaten track, sits nestled in a little town surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.
The village of Acharnes is as picturesque as they come. Wander around the traditional tavernas, peek around the churches, say hello to the village elders sipping coffee and climb Mount Juktas for some phenomenal views of the surrounding area.
Douloufakis Winery is a family business just outside Heraklion, established in 1930. With several prizes to its name, this spot offers tours and tasting sessions. Enjoy a guided tour of the facilities, the vineyard, learn about Cretan grapes and say a sweet farewell to Heraklion.