Heraklion area Holidays
At a glance
Take advantage of happy hour on Malia Beach
Brave the kamikaze slide at Watercity
Explore the Bronze Age ruins at the Palace of Knossos
Destinations in Heraklion Area
Top things to See and Do in Heraklion area
The full spectrum of sands
Heraklion has a comprehensive catalogue of beaches. There are busy bands of sand with the full list of facilities, like Hersonissos Port Beach. There are rugged island bays, like the one on Dia. And there are bar-backed beaches, like Malia Central Beach, which attract the 18 to 30s crowd.
The big beach
Malia tots up 6 kilometres’ worth of beaches. The one that gets the most lip-service, however, is Malia Central Beach. It’s 600 metres long and topped with sunloungers and parasols. Visitors come here for the watersports and the beach bars that line the sand.
The secret beach
St George’s Beach isn’t exactly a secret – if it was, you wouldn’t be able to catch a boat here from Heraklion harbour – but it does fly below the radar of most tourists. This rugged bay is on the uninhabited island of Dia, 12 miles off the mainland. A handful of sunloungers have recently been added to the sand, but apart from these, the trappings of tourism are few and far between.
For souvenir shopping that won’t break the bank, head to Eleftheriou Venizelou Street in Hersonissos. The gift shops here sell everything from Crete-branded candles and shot glasses to ceramics and t-shirts, and prices start at just a few euros. For something a bit more traditional, try Heraklion’s open-air market on Odos 1866 Street. It’s open every day except Sunday, and the stalls are stacked with the likes of thyme honey, pumice stones and olive oil.
Quite a few high street brands put in an appearance in the Heraklion area. On Daidalou Street in Heraklion town, you’ll find stores like Zara and Benetton. On Malia Beach Road, meanwhile, you’ve got shops selling brands like Nike and Puma. Make-your-own t-shirt places are also popular in Malia.
As a rule, visitors don’t come to the Heraklion area to shop. If you can’t get through your holiday without a shopping splurge, though, you’ll find the shops of several Greek fashion designers in Liberty Square in Heraklion. Alternatively, check out the jewellery shops on Malia Beach Road in Malia and El Venizelou Street in Hersonissos.
There are plenty of restaurants along Hersonissos’ waterfront. If you want a more authentic Greek experience, however, try Koutouloufari village, a couple of kilometres away. Head for A Minoti Street and you can’t go far wrong. Stalis, 4 kilometres east of Malia, is another good choice for traditional tavernas. The restaurants along Beach Road and Grammatikaki Street specialise in classics like stifado and kleftico.
You can set the midnight oil on fire in Malia. Malia Beach Road is fenced in by bars, karaoke joints, and clubs. Drinks are served in all shapes and sizes – from fish bowls to yard glasses – and the foam parties and bar crawls carry on until sunrise. In Hersonissos, meanwhile, nights begin in the bars of 25 Martious Street and end in the nightclubs of Agias Paraskevis Street.
Different parts of Crete put a different twist on the onion pie. In Heraklion, it’s made by mixing mashed potatoes with onion, before frying the mixture in eggs and flour. In other parts of the island it’s enveloped by a pastry casing, and sometimes looks a bit like quiche.
This dish was born of Crete’s love affair with courgettes. It’s made by mashing courgettes, flour, eggs and other vegetables together, shaping them into patties, and frying them. They’re usually served fresh-from-the-pan as part of a warm mezze platter.
You might think ostrich would stick out like a sore thumb on a traditional Greek menu, but over the past decade or so it’s become commonplace on certain Heraklion area menus. It’s all because of the ostrich farm, which has been set up outside Kokini Hani, a few miles from Heraklion. The meat is usually served up as souvalaki or steak.
Paximadia is a traditional Greek bread. It’s pretty hard when it comes out of the oven, and needs to be softened up with a splash of water and olive oil before serving. Its taste comes into its own when it’s topped with tomatoes, oregano, olives and cheese, and served as the bedrock of a Greek salad.
If you only learn one Greek word while you’re in Greece, make it ‘yamas’. It means ‘cheers’, and you’ll need to use it every time you’re given a shot of tsikoudia. This clear, grape-based spirit is often served compliments-of-the-house in traditional restaurants.