Besides being the fourth largest city in Greece, Crete’s capital, and the birthplace of El Greco and Nikos Kazantzakis, Heraklion is much more than the eye can see. Behind its unattractive urban sprawl hides a diverse and bustling town thanks to the large number of university students living there.
Heraklion requires travelers to explore… and they will be rewarded. Byzantine churches, Turkish fountains, Venetian mansions, fishing huts, fortresses and narrow streets echoing the sounds of yesteryear host some of the island’s finest restaurants and tavernas, modern bars and trendy cafes. At Heraklion’s wide variety of shops you can also find the best Cretan products – straight form the producers including local cheeses, award-winning olive oil, rusks, wine and raki – to take home.
With a population of some 175,000, Heraklion literally never sleeps, The city’s best quality? The friendliness and warmth of its people.
Things to do on Heraklion
Wander around the old town – This is wanderlust in all its glory: let the town, Eleftherias and Lion squares, busy Handakos St and the tiny side streets carry you away.
Tour Koules Venetian Fortress on the harbour walls, built in the early 1500s, it was renovated last year and now hosts concerts and events all summer.
Visit the Archaeological Museum – a converted power station, the museum is considered to be one the finest in Europe featuring unique finds from Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros and Archanes, and of course, one of archeology’s most famed mysteries: the Phaistos Disc carrying a code which has yet to be deciphered.
Have fun at CretAquarium – Thalassocosmos with the kids. Besides being home to the institutes of Marine Biology & Genetics and Oceanography, the CretAquarium features over 2,500 sea creatures and offers audio descriptions in nine languages.
Visit the Natural History Museum on the sea front for insight into
Crete’s diverse flora and fauna.
Attend a service at Agios Titos Church – of striking beauty with 16th century Venetian touches and stained glass windows, it was later converted into a mosque and then rebuilt as Greek Orthodox church in 1925. Its courtyard is a favourite meeting place.
Be enchanted by the Palace of Knossos – a 20-25 minute ride from the center of Heraklion (by bus at the port), a visit to Knossos is a must. Why? Besides being Europe’s oldest known city, this Bronze Age archaeological site is home to myths and history including being the dwelling of King Minos, who got Daedalus to build the labyrinth to restrict the Minotaur.
How to get to Heraklion?
By air to Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport. Flight lasts about 40 minutes and the ride into the city by bus or taxi about 10-15 minutes (depending on the traffic).
By ferry. Detailed ferry schedules to Heraklio below.
What’s near Heraklion?
The cities of Rethymno and Agios Nikolaos. But if you’re willing to drive head South.
Heraklion port – airport
The port of Heraklion serves all ferries as well as cruise ships and sailboats. The marina offers all the necessary facilities including fuel, water supplies, parking and maintenance. Buses departing for the rest of Crete as well as for the site of Knossos are located within the port perimeter.
The relatively small Nikos Kazantzakis International Airport is one of the country’s busiest and located about 5km from the city center. Taxis and the bus stop are located outside the terminal building. Shuttle buses leave from the airport every few minutes.
Ferries to Heraklion / Athens to Heraklion / Heraklion ferry tickets
There are daily ferries from Athens, Piraeus port to Heraklio in Crete. The ferry routes to Heraklio are operated by large and modern conventional ferries. Ferries usually sail from Athens late evening. Heraklio is also connected with frequent ferry schedules to Santorini, Mykonos, Paros which allows good ferry connections with other popular islands.
Below is a detailed list of all 2017 ferry schedules from Athens to Heraklio:
Ferry schedules from Athens, Piraeus port to Heraklion:
Anek/Superfast from Athens, Piraeus port to Heraklion
- Until 31/05 daily except Saturdays at 21:00.
- From 01/06 until 30/09 daily at 21:00
- On Friday 14/04 at 10:00
Minoan Lines from Athens, Piraeus port to Heraklion
- Until 30/06 & from 01/09 until 24/12 & from 26/12 until 31/12 daily at 21:00.
- From 01/07 until 31/08 daily at 22:00.
- On 12/04 & 13/04 & 18/04 & 23/04 at 11:00.
- From 01/07 until 02/09 on Saturdays at 11:00.
- From 23/07 until 06/08 & from 20/08 until 27/08 on Sundays at 11:00.
- From 28/07 until 25/08 on Fridays at 11:00.
Aegeon Pelagos from Athens, Piraeus port to Heraklion
- Until 07/04 & from 21/04 until 09/06 every Friday at 18:00.
- On 13/04 Thursday at 17:00
All ferries from Athens to Heraklio can be booked online via danae.travel
You can read about the connection between Heraklio, Santorini and Mykonos here.
How much does it cost to travel from Athens to Heraklion / Heraklion ferry prices
Prices for 2017 ferries connecting Athens’ main port of Piraeus to Heraklio start at 37.50 euros per person in economy with ANEK / Superfast.
Indicative ferry prices from Athens, Piraeus to Heraklio per adult in economy:
- ANEK / Superfast: 38.00 euros per person
- Minoan Lines: 41.00 euros per person
- Aegeon Pelagos: 38.00 euros per person
All three ferry operators offer cabins. Prices start from 65.00 euros per bed.
How long is the ferry ride to Heraklio?
Travel times always depend on the vessel type, the number of stops and the weather conditions. Large conventional ferries are not affected by the weather too much.
Indicative travel times from Athens to Heraklio:
- The Minoan Lines Knossos Palace & Festos Palace take about 9 hours from Athens, Piraeus to Heraklio. Depart Athens at 21:00 and arrive in Heraklio at 06:00.
- The ANEK/Superfast Blue Horizon & Kriti II take about 9 hours and also depart Athens, Piraeus at 21:00 and arrive in Heraklio at 06:00.
- The Aegeon Pelagos Prevelis takes about 15 hours and 30 minutes but makes stops in Milos, Santorini and Anafi on its way to Heraklio.
Which other Greek island is Heraklion connected to?
From Heraklio, you can catch a ferry to the following islands (next to each island, you will find a price indication):
- Mykonos: 84.50 euro per person
- Anafi: 18.00 euro per person
- Ios: 68.30 euro per person
- Santorini: 28.00 euro per person on the slow ferry / 68.80 euro per person on the hydrofoils.
- Milos: 23.00 euro per person
- Rhodes: 29.00 euro per person
- Kassos: 20.00 euro per person
- Karpathos, Diafani port: 19.00 euro per person
- Karpathos: 19.00 euro per person
- Chalki: 22.00 euro per person
Athens ports with ferry departures to Heraklion
Ferries connecting Athens to Heraklion depart from the main port of Athens, Piraeus.
Information about Piraeus Port – Athens
How to reach the port of Piraeus:
Piraeus port is near Athens and can be reached by metro, train, bus and taxis both from the Athens city center and from Athens International Airport (AIA):
- From Athens International Airport: Take the express bus X96. It takes you directly to the port, its frequent, cheap and quite fast. It usually takes about 60-90 minutes. The cost is 5 euros / adult. Check the timetables on screens inside the airport. The X96 bus stop is just outside the arrivals level at the airport (check the signs). At the port, the bus stop is near Gate E6 (also close to the metro station). If you choose to take a taxi, it will cost you 50-60 euros and it will take you around 60 minutes.
- From the center of Athens: The best way to reach Piraeus port from the center of Athens is by metro / train. You can catch it from the Monastiraki or Omonia stations. It costs 1.40 euros and takes under 30 minutes. If you choose to take a taxi, it will cost you just under 30 euros and it will take you about 30 to 40 minutes. With heavy traffic it might take you up to an hour. If you prefer traveling by bus, there are two options:
- From Syntagma Square to Piraeus: Bus 040, Piraeus bus stop: Korai Square (close to the Municipal Theater) and then a 10-minute walk to Gate E9.
- From Omonia Square to Piraeus: Bus 049, Piraeus bus stop: Korai square (close to the Municipal Theater) and then a 10-minute walk to Gate E9.
We can arrange a private transfer for you from your hotel in Athens to Piraeus port or from the Athens International Airport to the port. You can also book online via danae.travel together with your ferry tickets.
Where or which gates do the ferries to Heraklion depart from at Piraeus port?
- Minoan Lines ferries to Heraklion depart from Gate E2
- ANEK/Superfast ferries to Heraklion depart from Gate E3
- Aegeon Pelagos ferries to Heraklion depart from gate E1
Note: There is a running port bus which connects departure gates.
Map of Piraeus port:
Heraklion Port Information
Heraklion port is the largest port in Crete. It separates to the old enetic port and the new port which serves passenger ferries and other large vessels.There are some travel agencies, shops, cafes and restaurants within or very close around the port. All ferries arrive and depart from piers I & II. Ferry tickets can be purchased from within the port.
Heraklion Port has good passenger facilities. There is a large terminus, where passengers can wait for their ferries with WiFi and locker areas for luggage. There are plenty of parking spaces available, both for short and long term parking. There are also areas specially designated for disabled customers.
There are frequent bus schedules to and from the center of Heraklion and other destinations around town. There are also buses to the airport and of course plenty of taxis.