If it’s not Chania, then it’s Heraklion which you’ll be first introduced to as the gateway to Crete, certainly as far as it goes with the activities you’d want to get lost in, on your visit. 5,000 years of history are contained in this ancient, diverse seaside city. It’s an experience unto itself, just stepping out into the city limits, as this major urban centre seems to have preserved every step along its evolution in some or other way.
Heraklion is indeed the capital of Crete, with a plethora of world-famous attractions to enjoy.
There’s no time to waste if you’re only going to be doing Heraklion for a single day. Normally this is either the first day, as you arrive from your international departure point, or some visitors choose to do it on the last day, or the day before leaving to go back home. I’d recommend setting the day of arrival aside, just so that you can protect yourself against the possibility of some unavoidable changes to your itinerary, which is not uncommon. You don’t want to fly out with the regret of not having given the island’s capital the time and attention it deserves!
Sort out your car rental in Heraklion with Rental Center Crete so that you can have the freedom to roam around at your own pace. If you’re going to have the car in your possession for a couple to a few days, you can always come back to the capital, but it’s best to book the car in advance.
Getting back to some of the recommendations for things to do in Heraklion, approach everything with the general view that you want to explore the history of the seaside city and life as it exists today. Find a good spot to park and take a walk to absorb sights which include the likes of Armeria (next to Saint Titus), the Agios Titos church (in the square), the City Hall (Loggia) with its charmingly beautiful arcades and many metopes. There’s plenty more see and get lost in, in the vicinity, including Eleftherias Square, where the Prefacture of Heraklion and the Law Courts are housed.
Hit the Venetian Harbour for a grand view out to sea from the Koules Fotress (Castello Del Molo or Rocca al Mare).
Take note of the physical meeting point of the past and present of the city as you walk along the old city walls.
Get lost in the Knossos labyrinth, which you’ll probably want to start driving to enjoy, as it’s 5km from Heraklion.
Get up-close-and-personal with the mystical creatures of the sea, at the Cretaquarium: the wonders of the sea, with its 60 tanks containing 1.7 million litres of seawater.
Grab a bite to eat from one or more of the many tavernas, cafes and restaurants, naturally serving authentic Cretan cuisine.
If you need a bit of a timeout, take your pick form beaches such as Ammoudara, Tobruk, Red Hani, or The Arena.
That’s more than enough to enjoy in just one day and come away with the fully authentic Cretan experience.