How to Spend 1 Day in Heraklion
The capital of Crete, Heraklion (also known as Iraklio) offers ancient Minoan ruins, a historic harbor, and a vibrant food, wine, and nightlife scene—all in a package that feels more authentic than many of the island’s resort towns. Here’s how to check out the highlights in just one day.
Morning: Minoan Magic
Even if you’re not normally one for ruins, make an exception for the Palace of Knossos, the 4,000-year-old palace complex that gave us the legend of the Minotaur and his labyrinth. Especially in high season, a skip-the-line ticket or a tour with skip-the-line access is well worth the extra money. Next, head back into Heraklion and learn about the Minoan civilization that built Knossos—and palaces across Crete—at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the nation’s top museums. Finally, take in the city’s essential sights, perhaps from an open-top bus. Don’t miss the 16th-century Koules Fortress and the mighty Venetian Walls.
Afternoon: Food Frenzy
Every part of Greece offers its own unique and delicious cuisine, and Crete is no exception. Soak up the atmosphere at one of Heraklion’s vibrant markets, including the island’s largest fish market. Sample local delights such as bougatsa, a breakfast treat made with flaky phyllo pastry, cheese, rusks, olives, and olive oil. Don’t miss the chance to savor a glass or two of local wine, from the wineries around the city: vilana white and Romeiko red are two of the island’s signatures. Or, try a cooking class, perhaps with a professional chef or a local family.
Night: Dinner Dancing
With just one day in Heraklion, don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in Cretan culture at a folklore show. Soak up the ancient rhythms of traditional instruments such as the lyre and the lute. Feast on dishes from local lamb to spring greens or spinach pie as you listen to heartfelt folk songs. Then let yourself be swept away as costumed performers break into dances as lively as anything you'd see at a Greek wedding. Get into the spirit with local wines and tsipouro, Crete’s answer to Italy’s grappa brandy.