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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
Heraklion: Island City Break
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:
- Lato Hotel is a modern option, with exceptionally lovely views of the sea and the Venetian fortress. As well as having clean, simple modern lines, this hotel also has three decent restaurants and a gym and spa. And it's reasonably priced!
- The Galaxy Hotel has recently undergone a full refurb and is now comes highly recommended with a huge swimming pool and superb service.
Out of Heraklion Town
- Amirandes is all about designer luxury, but to suit the sunny beach setting the decor of this large hotel is colourfully opulent. If you only have time for a short break and you want sun and a resort hotel you don't have to leave, which is close to the airport, this is ideal. There are five restaurants, all offering different cuisine, of course, and a spa which offers all kinds of treatments, including Ayurvedic.
Something Special in Heraklion
- Out of the Blue Capsis Elite is actually a collection of five hotels, all perched together on one private peninsula. Each hotel has very different style and decor, from traditional to uber modern to quirky. This is a good choice if you're looking for privacy, plus there are seven restaurants and facilities galore.
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.
Best Hotels in Heraklion
Galaxy Hotel 127 rooms from $88Heraklion, 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.Architectural - Avant garde architecture contrasting with ancient HeraklionSights nearby - The ancient city centre is a short walk awaySwimming Pool - Huge freshwater swimming pool - the largest in HeraklionLocal markets - Good for local colour.
Lato Hotel 79 rooms from $89Heraklion
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.Views - Wonderful views over the Venetian fortress and Cretan SeaSights nearby - Located in the heart of Heraklion Old TownSpa - Within the wellness centre.Diving - Outsource locally.
Out of the Blue Capsis Elite 490 rooms from $207Heraklion, Crete
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.Families - With Capsis Minoan Amusement Park, playground and supervised pool the kids stay happy and everybody gets a holiday!Beach Life - Set on its private peninsula in Agia Pelagia, with access to three beaches and a huge array of watersports.ElegantFishing - Fly fishing equipment and lessons are avialble.Recommended by - Kiwi Collection