Our hotels in Heraklion

Heraklion is an age-old gateway between the glittering Aegean Sea and the legendary island of Crete, a port city nestled in a sweeping gulf of azure waters.
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What to do in Heraklion

This ancient hub awaits you to reveal its medieval fortifications, Ottoman fountains and museums as well as the landscapes of spectacular hills and golden sands that surround the city. Europe's history cannot be told without reference to Heraklion. The Cretan capital neighbours what remains of the continent's most ancient city, Knossos, and it's been the arena of successive civilisations down the centuries, going from Minoan to Roman rule, from Arab to Byzantine control, from Venetian to Ottoman power, before becoming today's major Greek port. Step into Heraklion's story to be part of a rich tale stretching back through the ages. We offer a sumptuous city-centre hotel as a base from which to explore Heraklion, the remarkable countryside surrounding it, and indeed the whole island of Crete. Unwind in our 4-star haven in the heart of this immemorial port.

Eating and Drinking in Heraklion

When planning your stay in Heraklion, you won't be short of things to do. The list of possible activities in and around the city is endless. Whether you intend to laze on sun-kissed beaches, enjoy a road trip inland or go on exciting excursions to Crete's fascinating archaeological sites, you'll never be at a loss during your time in Heraklion. If you're visiting Crete for the guarantee of warm sun combined with mild, refreshing sea, you'll be spoilt for choice when picking a beach on which to lounge all day. The island's coastline is peppered with a delightful variety of golden crescents to suit any taste, ranging from secluded, rocky coves to vast strips of white sand that merge seamlessly with shallow crystal-clear water. Many beaches lie at the foot of awe-inspiring terrain rising up from the sea, beckoning you to explore tree-clad hills and undulating scrubland. Heraklion is no exception to this fine array of sandy spots. The best option nearest your hotel in Heraklion is the spacious Amoudara beach, just 6 kilometres west of the city. This long sand belt flanks the breathtaking Gulf of Heraklion and is handily connected to the city via a local bus service in around 40 minutes; it offers loungers, parasols, restaurants, play areas and water sports. For another way to make the most of Heraklion's sparkling sea, why not enjoy a boat trip? Many tour agencies offer cruises that set sail from Heraklion's harbour and include stops for you to swim and snorkel leisurely in inviting waters. From your yacht, admire the gulf or the uninhabited island of Dia nearby and enjoy a mesmerising sunset. For a more intimate experience of the Cretan coast, head to one of the splendid beach clubs dotted along the island's northern shoreline, all within driving distance from Heraklion. These exclusive spots include private cabanas, sublime swimming pools, trendy bars and excellent restaurants. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, take a three-hour drive to the Gramvousa Peninsula – Crete's north-western tip – to bask in a stunning corner of paradise: Balos Lagoon. You'll be charmed by this dreamlike expanse of shallow turquoise water enclosed by white, pristine sandbanks. Yet no stay in Heraklion would be complete without discovering the fascinating cultural heritage of the city and its surroundings. Go right back to the early Bronze Age and Heraklion stands out as the cradle of Minoan civilisation. The Minoans, who were based on Crete, formed Europe's first advanced civilisation. The site of present-day Heraklion was the port of Knossos, the Minoan world's beating heart and considered Europe's oldest city. Head down to what remains of Knossos, just 6 kilometres south-east of Heraklion – a 30-minute bus ride gets you there from Heraklion's city centre – and marvel at the captivating relics of Crete's largest archaeological site. The ruins feature an ancient palace complex associated with the fabled labyrinth of the Minotaur myth. Admire the old courtyards, columns and frescoes of this monumental edifice dating back to 1,900 BC. In Heraklion, broaden your knowledge of Minoan civilisation further by visiting the wonderful Heraklion Archaeological Museum. This important institution is the world reference in Minoan art and displays a unique collection of spellbinding frescoes, vases, jewellery, tools and figurines as well as the famous Phaistos Disc – the earliest example we have of Minoan script. Back on the streets of Heraklion, fast-forward to the city's Venetian era. The Republic of Venice bought Crete in 1204 and remnants of Venetian power are the most striking features of the city's rich past. Be sure to visit Heraklion's most emblematic landmark: Koules Fortress. This impressive stronghold was built by the Venetians in the 16th century and dominates the old port. Then, in the heart of Heraklion, admire another token of this era – the elegant Venetian Loggia, considered Crete's finest Venetian monument and now housing Heraklion's city hall. Don't miss the mighty Venetian Walls, which still demarcate the old town. Enjoy an enthralling walk with great city views along the top of this historic fortification, which spans more than 4 kilometres and is punctuated by old bastions and gates. Lastly, take a stroll around the monumental fountains dotted around Heraklion's old town. The beautiful Morosini Fountain is the best-known one, built under the Venetians in 1628 and featuring lion statues and 8 lobes embossed with maritime scenes.

Hotels in Heraklion

The best restaurants for sampling typical Cretan cuisine are the tavernas – small traditional Greek eating places – that abound in Heraklion's old town. Savour local delicacies, which include fried snails (chochlioi boubouristi) and fennel pie (marathópita). Unsurprisingly, seafood features heavily on the menus of this Mediterranean island. The most common fish eaten are mullet, swordfish and mackerel, always served with lemon juice or olive oil. Octopus in red wine and tomato sauce (ktapódi krasáto) is another popular Cretan seafood dish. The old town of Heraklion is also full of stylish bars, where you can sip a glass of the island's local tipple – tsikoudia, a pomace brandy of Cretan origin, which you might also be offered as an after-dinner digestif in a Heraklion taverna. Wine lovers will be interested to know that vineyard-covered Crete has a 4,000-year history of outstanding winemaking dating back to the Minoans; local whites include Vidiano and Thrapsathiri, with favoured Cretan reds including Kotsifali and Mandilari. Don't leave Heraklion without tasting one of these fine vintages from Crete's excellent wineries.

Getting to Heraklion

Whether you're coming to Crete for family holidays or you'd like a romantic getaway, our 4-star ibis Styles hotel, ideally located in central Heraklion, is your best option when planning where to stay. The hotel offers a full range of amenities and includes a first-rate restaurant and a relaxing bar. Let our friendly staff take care of you as you venture into an exciting world of fascinating history, beautiful seascapes and delightfully warm weather.

When to go to Heraklion

From Heraklion International Airport, your transport options for getting into the heart of Heraklion are taxi, car or bus – the airport includes taxi ranks and car-rental agencies, while public buses regularly depart from the airport too, whisking passengers into central Heraklion in 20 minutes.

The best period to visit Heraklion depends entirely on what you'd like to do there. If it's sun, sea and sand you're looking for in particular, then go in the summer when temperatures easily reach 30°C each day – which makes the water all the more enticing. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to avoid searing heat or you'd like to explore Crete's intriguing cultural heritage more than anything else, then late autumn or spring would be the ideal periods for your stay in Heraklion. Winter can also be a nice option if you want to escape cold weather back home.