Crete's largest city, Heraklion is a modern, densely populated place with a lively city centre and a nightlife, and evening-life, which buzzes. The best places to stay in Heraklion are ideal for exploring many of the island's highlights plus have easy access to a good selection of beaches.
Knossos is such a draw that Crete's main museums, the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, the Historical Museum of Crete and the Natural History Museum, are also located in Heraklion.
Heraklion isn't as beautiful as Chania or Rethymno - it's more of a modern city - but it still has some gorgeous sights, including the Venetian Fortress and 17th Century Loggia, once a Venetian style gentlemen's club, and now the town hall building.
The city walls and the church of Saint Titus are also worth a stroll around. The waterfront area is a more modern development, but the constant procession of ferries makes this a wonderful place to watch the world go by.
For many people the best places to stay in Heraklion are those with the easiest access to Knossos. These Minoan Palace ruins are supposedly the sight of the Labyrinth where the Minotaur lived.
As you'd expect they are maze like, a multi-storey complex with staircases inside and out and around 1300 rooms connected by long hallways and lit from above by light wells and great open courtyards. There's also an administration centre to the palace, and storage rooms and an aqueduct. And some spectacularly coloured frescos remain on the walls.
The region around Heraklion town is covered in rows of vines and olive groves, so it's picturesque countryside, and excellent for foodies too!
Heraklion, the region, spreads over some of Crete's most developed resorts, Malia and Hersonissos, known for their 24-hour beach party culture; and Anissaras, which isn't a town or a village, but a stretch of hilly coastline inhabited only by a few upmarket resorts and a few hotels and tourist apartments - Anissaras is one of the best places to stay in Heraklion - or surrounds - if you're looking for a quiet, sunny spot.
Anissaras is unusual on Crete for having very few tavernas - the high end hotels have laid everything on - but there are shops and a mini supermarket, and everything else you can imagine you might need you can find in more raucous Hersonissos which you can get to by a short stroll up the beach.
It might surprise you to hear that most of the beaches here are man-made, the rocky coastline is the natural state, but they fit in so well into the beautiful coves, with their protection for swimmers and sun loungers. Discovering these beautiful little gems is one of the highlights of a holiday in Anissaras
For those of you who want to be based in the island's capital, we'd recommend the following two options as the best places to stay in Heraklion:
Still not sure which to book? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Heraklion, or call, or email, one of our gurus for advice. Alternatively take a look at all our recommendations on Crete.
Great value and fabulously friendly, this recently refurbished hotel in an upmarket part of town has a huge freshwater pool and smooth-as-silk service.
One of the town's more modern designer hotels. Contemporary lines and trendy minimalist living areas. Spacious rooms and suites with balconies and sea views. Three good restaurants, gym, spa and meeting rooms. A modern choice.
Opulent resort of five hotels in one on a private peninsula. Highly discreet, with striking designs, each hotel different. Plenty of suites and private villas with pools. Seven restaurants. The resort is popular with wealthy Russians and others.