Things to know and ideas for your own excursion in the capital of Crete
- Regular berth: Pier IV / V (commercial port)
- Regular berth: Pier I (ferry port)
- Regular berth: Pier II (ferry port)
- Port shuttle: free of charge to the Cruise Terminal
- Taxis: usually available at the Cruise Terminal
- Buses: well-developed bus network
- Rental car*: Sixt, in the Cruise Terminal
- Rental car*: Hertz, 25is Avgousto 34
- Rental car*: Avis, at the ferry port
- Rental car*: budget, at the ferry port
- Post office: Pl. Daskalogianni
- Tourist information: in the Cruise Terminal and at Nikiforou Foka Square (Lions Square)
- Banks and ATMs: occasionally found in the old town
- Cruise Ship Berths
Crete is the largest island in Greece and also the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. The capital Heraklion is located in the north and is often called Iraklion or Iraklio. There are usually a total of three berths for cruise ships at Pier IV / V in the commercial area of the extensive port facilities, which, by the way, may not be crossed on foot.
From there, free shuttle buses run to the Cruise Terminal,theso-called Passenger Station, which is located at Pier II and is also responsible for ferry traffic. In the building you will find a tourist information stand, lockers for luggage, free Wi-Fi, small shops, a coffee bar, a Sixt car rental* and a taxi rank in front of the door.
For smaller cruise ships, additional berths are also provided if required at Pier I and Pier II, which are normally used by the ferries. In these cases, the Cruise Terminal is within easy walking distance and therefore no shuttle buses are provided there.
- Old Town
From the port, a yellow line painted on the ground, but partly very faded, leads to the centre of the city, which is difficult to miss even without a marker. The old town of Heraklion is a good 15-minute walk from the cruise terminal, or about 800 metres, and invites you to explore it on your own. For example, you can take one of the four different walking tours suggested by the city administration, which take you past the most important sights.
In addition to numerous sights, the centre of Heraklion is also home to a large number of cafés, bars, restaurants and, of course, boutiques and shops of various kinds. The streets 25is Avgousto, which are home to many souvenir shops and cafés, and Dedalou with shops and boutiques of international brands, have been declared pedestrian zones. Some of these can also be found on Dikeosinis and Leof. Kalokerinou.
After a cruise ship arrives, there are usually plenty of taxis available at the cruise terminal. Most of them are painted silver - silver-grey and have a taxi sign on the roof. In the city area of Heraklion, the rides are charged by taximeter. For more distant destinations and round trips, however, fixed prices apply for up to four people and per vehicle. In any case, it is not a disadvantage to clarify the expected costs with the driver before starting the journey.
- City Bus Lines
The blue and white city buses of Urban KTEL of Iraklion S.A (Iraklio Urban Buses) operate in Heraklion and the surrounding area. They operate on 20 routes and daily between 06:00-23:00. The city is divided into two zones, in which you can travel with single tickets, which in turn are valid for one journey. If you use a ticket in zone A (city area), you have to pay 1.20 euros, and if you use a ticket in zone B (surrounding area, e.g. to Knossos), you have to pay 1.70 euros. The tickets are available at ticket machines, kiosks and from the driver on the bus, but here for an extra 50 cents each.
- Long-Distance Bus Lines
Between the harbour and the old town, there is a fairly large bus station where most of the city and intercity buses meet. KTEL Heraklio - Lasithi S.A. operates the mostly green and air-conditioned intercity buses that connect towns all over the island. Tickets are available at the local ticket office. If you get on the bus on the way, ideally after the desired bus has been stopped by hand signal, you simply pay the amount due to the driver or the cashier travelling with you. The fare is based on the number of kilometres travelled and ranges from 1.80 to 15.10 euros per person, depending on the line and distance. Children under 6 years of age are transported free of charge.
- Sightseeing Tour
There are two operators with their Hop On Hop Off buses on the streets of Heraklion. The yellow bus of Athens Open Tour, labelled "Heraklion Open Tour", runs daily and hourly, between 09:30-17:30, for a 60-minute round trip with 8 stops, passing the most important sights of the city. There is barrier-free access to the bus and the ticket, valid for 48 hours, costs 20 euros per person. It includes a city map and headphones that can be used to listen to explanations in several languages. There is also a choice of German and English.
Alternatively, the red buses of Open Bus City Tour with the inscription "Sights of Heraklion", are on the road on two different rounds. Here daily in the time from 09:15 to 16:30. The route of the shorter Red Tour is quite like the yellow buses of the other provider. A complete round has 11 stops and also takes 60 minutes. With 105 minutes of travel time and 18 stops, the Blue Route tour is a little more extensive. The required tickets are valid for both routes, as well as for 24 hours, and cost 15 euros per person. The red buses also come with headphones and a city map. There is also wheelchair access and a multilingual audio guide.
Both providers make a stop at the cruise port and normally, depending on the route, a bus can be expected to arrive at the respective stop every 45 to 60 minutes.
- Koules Fortress
Situated directly on the Venetian harbour, the Koules fortress (Rocca al Mare) once protected the ships in the harbour and also the city itself from enemy attacks. The walls, which are up to 9 metres thick, have been restored and were built in the 16th century by the Venetians, who, among other things, were responsible for the construction of the mighty city wall, which can now be walked along for around 5 kilometres. A total of 26 rooms are spread over two floors, which were used in the meantime as a warehouse, barracks, and prison.
Today, a museum on the history of the fortress is housed inside, where changing special exhibitions are also presented. From the roof of the fortress there is a beautiful panoramic view of the sea, the city, and the port. It is open Wednesday to Monday from 08:00-18:00, as well as in summer until 20:00. The last entry is possible up to 20 minutes before closing time and on Tuesday is generally closed. For a visit, 4 euros per person are to be paid.
- Kotsanas Museum
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Palazzo d'Ittar was built on Epimenidou Street, which runs south to the Venetian harbour. Today, it bears the house number 18 and houses a manageable museum that is well worth seeing. The Kotsanas Museum of Ancient Greek Technology focuses on the achievements of the ancient Greeks and displays around 100 technical models, some of which are fully functional. Explanations are available in Greek and English. In addition to the interesting exhibition, there is also a café and a souvenir shop on the available area of around 460 square metres. Visits are possible daily during the summer months from 10:00-18:00, and in winter from 09:00-17:00. Children between the ages of 6 and 17 pay 4 euros each and people over the age of 18 pay 6 euros.
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Just a few hundred metres from the Kotsanas Museum, you will find one of the most important and oldest museums in Greece. The premises of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum were built between 1935 and 1958 on the site of the Venetian monastery of Saint Francis, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1856. Some of the foundation walls of the former complex are now part of the exhibition and can thus also be visited. The numerous exhibits come from the island's excavation sites and can be assigned to the epochs of Crete's past, covering a period from the Neolithic Age to Roman times. Particularly noteworthy is the extensive collection on the Minoan culture. In addition to the permanent exhibition, special exhibitions are also presented here from time to time.
The barrier-free building is open daily from 08:00-20:00. On Tuesdays only from 10:00 am. Adults pay 12 euros and children 6 euros for admission. From November to the end of March, a general admission fee of 6 euros applies. There is also a combined ticket available for 20 euros per person, which is valid for the Heraklion Archaeological Museum and Knossos. It should be noted that the use of mobile phones is prohibited in the exhibition areas of the museum.
- Loggia and Lion Fountain
The Venetian Loggia on 25is Avgoustou (25th August Street) in the old town is worth a visit. Built between 1626 and 1628 on the foundations of a previous building, it was the most important public building in the city from the time of its completion and served for a long time as the official meeting place of the upper classes. Today it is used by the city administration as the city hall and is one of the most elegant architectural monuments from the Venetian period.
Responsible for the construction was Francesco Morosini, who also ensured the completion of a fountain of the same name in 1628. This is decorated with mythical statues and can be found a little further south on the square Platia Venizelou. As a rule, it is often called a lion fountain. Since the loggia is used by the authorities as an administrative building, it can only be visited partially, but also free of charge.
- Historical Museum
On the street Leof. Sofokli Venizelou 27 is located the Historical Museum of Crete. It was first opened in 1953 and deals with the history of Crete from the 4th century. The extensive exhibition is spread over two floors with over 20 rooms in the neoclassical building and presents the exhibits with bilingual explanations in Greek and English. During a tour, further information can be called up via a multilingual audio guide, which can also german and English. From the terrace of the in-house café, you get a beautiful view of the sea or a lot of shade in the southern outdoor area. In addition, the integrated museum shop offers a large selection of various souvenirs.
Open daily except Tuesdays, 10:00-17:00. On weekends, the museum opens one hour later and is closed on Tuesdays. From November to March, the opening hours are shortened to 10:00-15:30. Admission is 5 euros per person. Pupils, students, and senior citizens pay the reduced rate of 3 euros on presentation of proof, and children up to the age of 12 can visit the museum free of charge. You can plan about two hours for a visit.
- Natural History Museum
About 450 metres further west and also on the coastal road Leof. Sofokli Venizelou, is the Natural History Museum of Crete. It was opened in 1980 in the spacious and renovated premises of a former power station. Here the visitor is presented with numerous interesting exhibits from the fields of zoology, botany, anthropology, palaeontology and mineralogy. Highlights include faithful replicas of dinosaurs and an intensive earthquake simulator.
The museum's extensive exhibition is one of the largest on the island, is barrier-free and is open Monday to Friday from 09:00-17:00, Saturday and Sunday from 10:00-18:00, and in summer until 21:00. Last admission is possible until 30 minutes before closing time. Admission is 9 euros per person. Children and young people between the ages of 4 and 18, as well as people over the age of 65, pay 5.50 euros. During the winter months, there is a reduced entrance fee of 7.50 euros, or 4.50 euros for children and pensioners. Children under the age of 4 are always admitted free of charge.
- Beach Ammoudara
In the western part of the city, the long Ammoudara Beach begins at the Pankritio Stadium. It stretches for several kilometres and has fine to coarse-grained sand with occasional pebbles. The water depth increases quite quickly and there is often a stiff breeze here. At several sections of the beach, sunbeds and parasols are available for rent. In most cases, these belong to a hotel complex or a beach bar. In addition, there are often showers and changing rooms, as well as various water sports facilities.
Ammoudara Beach is about 4.1 kilometres away from the cruise terminal, for which you can plan around 10 minutes of travel time by taxi or rental car*. A walk is possible, but takes at least 45 minutes in each direction due to the distance. Alternatively, you can also use one of the sightseeing buses* to get there. In any case, you should have a filled water bottle* with you.
A popular and well-known archaeological site is located in the south of the city, on a small hill called Kefala. Here lie the remains of the palace of Knossos. King Minos built his centre of power around 1600 BC on an area of 20,000 square metres, with a wide variety of two- and three-storey buildings, which in turn housed a total of around 1200 rooms. Used until 1370 BC, the site increasingly fell into disrepair and was finally forgotten. The first excavations began in 1878 and were later continued from 1900 by the Englishman Sir Arthur Evans. During the excavation, he created several reconstructions, some of which were controversial.
In the entrance area of the excavation site, a vivid 3D model of the original site provides a good overview of the former buildings. You have to pay 15 euros for a visit, or 8 euros per person for a reduced price. Combined tickets are available for 20 euros and are valid not only for the Knossos excavation site but also for the exhibition rooms of the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion, where, among other things, finds from Knossos are presented. The museum is open daily from 08:00-20:00, or in winter until 15:00. German-language guided tours* are offered on site from time to time. For more planning security, you can also book these online in advance. Knossos is about 5.8 kilometres from the cruise port in Heraklion. This distance takes about 15 minutes by rental car*. A large number of free parking spaces are available on site.
- Karteros Beach
If you don't mind the noise of planes taking off and landing, you can relax on the sand of Karteros Beach. But it is not very loud. The beach borders directly on the airport grounds, but the runway is a few hundred metres away. The fine sandy to pebbly beach stretches over a length of about two kilometres and is very popular with the locals. Thus, many visitors can be expected on weekends and holidays.
The entrance to the water is shallow and has larger stones in some places. The use of beach/swimming shoes* is not a disadvantage there. A few beach bars can be found in the immediate vicinity and a fair price of two euros was recently charged for the daily use of a sun lounger. Karteros Beach is about 6.1 kilometres away from the cruise ship berths and can be reached by taxi or rental car* in 10 to 15 minutes.
- Watercity Water Park
To the east of Heraklion is a fairly extensive water park. Equipped with a variety of slides, children's pool, wave pool, restaurants, bars and a boutique, Watercity Waterpark Crete is a popular destination during the summer season. The activities in the area are classified according to age and size. For example, small children under 90 centimetres tall only have access to slides and pools marked Level 1. Children between 90 centimetres and 1.40 metres can also use Level 2 attractions and those taller than 1.40 metres can also use Level 3.
The admission price of 27 euros includes the use of the sun loungers and umbrellas. People under 1.40 metres pay 18.50 euros and children under 90 centimetres tall are admitted free of charge, although children under 13 must generally be accompanied by an adult. A locker can be rented at the boutique for 4 euros. From the beginning of May to mid-October, the facility is open daily from 10:00-18:00.
Watercity Water Park is about 15 kilometres from the cruise port in Heraklion, which takes about 20 minutes each way. Free parking is available on site for rental cars*. In summer, the paved paths can get very hot from the sun and are hardly passable barefoot. Bathing slippers* are very helpful.
Only about 15 minutes by car, or 6.5 kilometres away, you will find a respectable aquarium that was established on the initiative of the Greek Marine Research Centre. The CretAquarium Thalassokosmos is located in a renovated building complex of the former US base Gournes and deals with the biodiversity of the eastern Mediterranean. On an area of about 2600 square metres, more than 60 filled basins can be discovered, which have a total volume of 1,700,000 litres of salt water and house around 2000 living creatures from 200 species.
The aquarium is open daily from 09:30-19:00 in summer and shortened to 16:00 during the winter months from November to the end of March. Admission in summer is 10 euros per person. A reduced entrance fee of 6 euros is also available for children aged 5-17, students, trainees, people over 65 and during the low season. An audio guide is available at the ticket office for 3 euros, and a café provides refreshments for visitors. The aquarium is a good 19 kilometres from the cruise ship's berth in Heraklion. This distance takes about 25 minutes by taxi or rental car*. Free parking is available on site.
- Dinosaur Park
Those travelling with children and visiting the CretAquarium can also make a detour to the Dinosaur Park 1.5 kilometres away. The Park was originally opened in 2013, also in the former US base Gournes, and presented 30 life-size and partly movable dinosaur species. The move to the current site took place back in 2014. A souvenir shop and the Dino Snack Bar with playground were integrated. New species and sections were also added. Today, the area spreads over about 16,000 square metres and shows more than 50 dinosaurs in a well-kept environment. The museum is open daily except Tuesdays from 10:00-18:00. Tuesday is a day of rest. Admission is 10 euros for people over 12 and 8 euros for children from 3 to 12. Children under 3 years of age are admitted free of charge.
- Excursion Portals and Excursion Providers
Through the tour and excursion providers GetYourGuide*, Meine Landausflüge* and Viator*, you can book various excursions, activities, tours, tickets and entrance fees in Heraklion, which are often offered at much lower prices than comparable excursions by the shipping companies. Thus, if you book in time, you can realise a variety of excursions on your own.
A small pre-selection of shipping company independent excursion offers
for, in and around Iraklion,
can be found under Excursions on your own.
- Cruises and Special Offers
If you haven't booked a Mediterranean cruise yet, but would like to get to know Heraklion personally and go on excursions on your own, you will find great offers with the major cruise operators in the German-speaking world. Aida*, Costa* and Tui Cruises - Mein Schiff* offer charming itineraries with their modern cruise ships, along with other interesting destinations. Book your next dream holiday directly with your favourite cruise line at fair conditions.
All ocean and river cruises can also be booked conveniently and inexpensively online with the cruise specialist Kreuzfahrten-Zentrale Astoria*. You can choose from a wide range of daily offers from various shipping companies. These include AIDA Cruises, Carnival, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and TUI Cruises. The popular special offers are also attractive, with which you can travel particularly cheaply and possibly also get a great bargain.
- Opening hours of the museums: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Opening hours of the post office: Monday to Friday from 07:30-14:30
- Opening hours of the banks: Monday to Friday from 08:00-14:00
- Opening hours of the tourist information in the city: Monday to Friday from 08:30-14:30
- Opening hours of the shops: Monday to Saturday from 09:00-20:00
- Country code: +30
- Taxi Heraklion: Tel. +30 695 517 1473 (Crete Cab)
- Taxi Heraklion: Tel. +30 281 400 3084 (Heraklion Taxi)
- Taxi Heraklion: Tel. +30 281 021 0102 (Heraklion Taxi)
- General emergency call: Tel. 112
- Police: Tel. 100
- Emergency doctor: Tel. 166
- Fire Brigade: Tel. 199
- Vaccination recommendation: Tropical Institute Greece
- Security instructions: Federal Foreign Office Greece
- Buses: City buses (en)
- Buses: Long-distance buses (en)
- Buses: Long-distance bus fares
- Buses: Long-distance bus timetables
- City map: Heraklion Map
- Climate table: Heraklio Climate
- Port occupancy: Cruise ships in Heraklion
- Port occupancy: Heraklion, Registered berths
- Webcam: Koules and the Marina of Heraklion
- Reiseführer: Crete*
- Official language: Greek
- National currency: Euro, 1 EUR = 100 Cents
More port information on popular cruise destinations in the Mediterranean