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Crete as we Live it

Survival Guide

So you're here in Heraklion, and you can’t wait to explore the city, the whereabouts, the whole island. We collected all the useful information for you, all the answers to your questions about "how" and "what", as we are sure that you have better things to do during your visit than being "lost in translation"

When to go

Heraklion is a vivid city throughout the year. Of course, summer season is the best time to visit for most tourists who like some sun and sea with their holidays! The city is relatively quiet and deserted during the first 15 days of August (dekapentaugoustos), the time when most local people take their vacation. The best time to visit Crete in general is spring/early summer (April-June) and autumn (September-October) when it’s not too hot, not too cold and nature is at its best!  If you are interested in culture, take a look at our agenda.

Weather to go

It’s never too cold in Heraklion, although in the past couple of years winter was especially harsh for our standards! Normally, cold weather doesn’t last for long (coldest months are January and February). March and April are usually pleasant and in May the weather is already warm enough to hit the beach!  The summer heat slowly fades out in about October. So, as you can imagine there are no many limitations weather wise when you are trying to decide when to come!

Smoking rules

In Heraklion, as it is the case all over Greece, the non-smoking law lasted for about a month until it was disappeared like....smoke! The dominant smoking crowd smokes (again) freely in almost every bar, cafeteria and restaurant. Sometimes instead of an ashtray you may get an empty peanut bowl, as officially the non-smoking law also prohibits... ashtrays! So, they have to follow at least some sections of the law! However, many family restaurants (or the more elegant ones) do not encourage smoking, but still it is up to the owner or the customers.

* The only official non-smoking cafeteria in the city is Biskoto (Μπισκότο). 

Cycling in the city


The city centre is easy to walk and distances are small. However, Herakliotians are (unfortunately) pathologically in love with their cars and most even use them for the short distances and some insist on finding parking right outside the place they are going! The good thing is that this car-loving culture has started to change and nowadays you see more and more people cycling instead of driving in the city. If you cycle in the city though, beware of crazy drivers and expect the unexpected!

Where to cycle

The creation of bicycle lanes is a funny story in Heraklion (you can laugh or cry with this video showing the "bike lane" in Knossou Street:

On the main road of the portside the bicycle lane stretches for several kilometers (from the central bike station to the region of Alikarnassos more or less). However, as you will realize, the person who designed this lane obviously doesn’t cycle! Despite the bad design, the bike lane by the seaside offers a pleasant ride, as is the route from Koule fortress to the lighthouse. An “alternative” bike ride would be on the Venetian walls (note that some parts are a bit difficult) although the route is "disrupted" near the Gate of Bethlehem. Then, you can either carry the bike for a few meters and continue or exit to the main road.

As you will have to cross main streets several times, be careful as drivers here are not kidding!

Free bikes – Municipality of Heraklion

The Municipality of Heraklion has recently founded a “free bikes” service for locals and visitors. If you don’t have your own bike, you can borrow one for two hours (or longer, if there is not much demand on this day) by filling in a form and showing an identity card. For the time being “free bikes” are stationed at the area of Karavolas (across the commercial centre TALOS by the seaside) and in Kenourgia Porta (New Gate, Evans Street) in one of the small shops in the arcade. In Karavola station you can borrow a bike only on weekends from about 10.30 in the morning until dawn. In the station of Kenourgia Porta you can borrow a bike at the same days and hours when shops are open (Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9.00 to 14.00 and Tuesday, Thursday Friday also from 17.30 to 20.00). Time and days of availability are subject to change. In the summer season the service is available for longer hours.

* Bikes for children are only available at the station of Karavola. In Kenourgia Porta the bikes are of better quality.


The closer you are in the city centre the harder it is to find a place to park (legally)! However, there are several private and public parking lots in the centre. The public ones are cheaper, although price differences are not that dramatic.

Public Parking lots

Lahanagora (across the Museum of Natural History)
Open 24 hours a day
Pricing: €2 for the first two hours & from then on €0,50 per hour

Cultural & Conference Center of Heraklion (near Kommeno Mpenteni Gate)

The parking is located within the establishments of the Cultural center, right behind it.

Open from 7.00 to 22.30. Sunday closed.

Pricing: €1,5 for the whole day (probably the cheapest parking in town!)

Cyprus Square (Kenourgia Porta, New Gate)
Opening hours: weekdays from 07.00 to 23.00, Saturday from 07.00 to 15.00, Sunday closed.
Pricing: €3 
* The parking is located in the trench of the Venetian Walls

Eleftherias  Square (Freedom Square)
Opening hours: weekdays 07.00 – 23.00, Saturday 07.00 – 15.00, Sunday closed
Pricing: €4

Gate of Agios Georgios
Opening hours: weekdays 07.00 – 23.00, Saturday 07.00 – 15.00, Sunday closed
Pricing: €4

Vigla (up the Venetian walls from the road between Georgiadis Street and the parking of Eleftherias Square)
Opening hours: weekdays 07.00 – 23.00, Saturday 07.00 – 15.00, Sunday closed
Pricing: €3

Plastira Street
Opening hours: weekdays 07.00 – 23.00, Saturday 07.00 – 15.00, Sunday closed
Pricing: €3

Opening hours: weekdays 16.00 -24.00, weekends 08.00 – 24.00
Pricing: €2

TALOS Commercial Center (across it)
Opening hours: weekdays 16.00 -24.00, weekends 08.00 – 24.00
Pricing: €2



The urban bus network is not exactly the easiest to comprehend. The good news is that there are frequent buses for the lines of tourist interest (to and from the airport, port and Knossos). As for these electronic boards over the bus stations that are supposed to inform you when the next bus is coming, we suggest you view them more as.... street art installation rather than a reliable source of information!

Bus routes are divided in two zones, A and B. The first includes all the bus routes within the city while the second includes the suburbs and nearby destinations. The airport is part of Zone A for practical reasons. If you want to take a swim in the nearest beach, you can take the bus line for AMNISSOS (Zone B) from the station in Elefterias Square, across the Archaeological Museum. The zones are useful to you in order to buy the right ticket and we suggest you name your destination when you are buying it, just to make sure you have the right one. Tickets are sold in designated kiosks near the bus station and in some peripteros (kiosks selling cigarettes, chips, gums, ect), usually the ones near the bus stations.  When you are taking a bus from the airport, most pass by the centre with some exceptions, so we suggest you let the driver or stationer know your destination to make sure you are on the right bus.

In Crete you give your ticket to the driver and he rips it in half (you keep the other half!), which means the ticket is valid for only one route. Lately they have placed machines in the buses so this archaic method is abolished, but so far this has not happened and these machines are just another bus art installation!

B ZONE: BLUE: €1,50

B ZONE: BLACK: €0,75

STUDENT (one way)
A ZONE: GREEN: €0,80


Getting a taxi in Heraklion is not that expensive compared to other European cities –and they are found in abundance. The main taxi stations are in Eleftherias Square, Kornarou Square, Dikaiosinis Street (near Lions Square) and in other squares of the city. The minimum charge is €3,40 and most routes in the city are a bit over this price (€4-5, depends on the traffic, of course). The route from the airport to the center will cost you about €10 or even less.

Other extra charges are:
+ €2.60 from and to the airport
+ €1.07 from the port
+ €1.07 from the central bus station (KTEL)
+ €1.92 when you call up a taxi
+ €3.40 to set an appointment with a taxi
+ €0.40 per suitcase

Regular Bus Service of Crete (KTEL – ΚΤΕΛ)

It is a bit of a challenge to describe in a few lines the situation of the Cretan bus services. We could describe an intriguing story of hostilities among the two private companies (Minoan and Anek lines, that also own the ferries to Athens) but it is sufficient to say that since the bus service of Crete was privatized and claimed by these two companies a small “game of thrones” went on between them for years! As we write this, they have signed a "truce", so your transportation will be less complicated. Hopefully the "war" isn't starting again soon!

Overall there is a good bus connection between the main cities of Crete and main tourist destinations. Some other destinations are poorly connected, so ask for a bus schedule from the main bus station to start planning your routes.


The KTEL website has all destinations and routes posted but it is always a good idea to call the bus station and confirm. Unfortunately most villages and beaches are not sufficiently connected with the main cities so if you want to explore the island beyond the main tourist destinations we suggest you rent a car! It is also possible to hitchhike although not always convenient.


We suggest you buy your tickets in the main bus station, when this is possible, otherwise you can always buy your ticket on the bus. If you plan on returning you can ask for an open return ticket and get a discount. Ask for how many days the return ticket is valid.

KTEL Chania – Rethymno (www.bus-service-crete-ktel.com)

Chania: 28210 93052, 28210 93306
Rethymno: 28310 22212, 28310 022785
Heraklion: 2810 221765

KTEL Heraklion – Lasithi (www.ktelherlas.gr)

Tel: 2810.246530

LGBT culture

Heraklion is a big city but still a “closed” society – although more open compared to other Cretan towns. There are several gay-friendly bars in the center, but as far as we know there is no exclusive gay bar. Nobody is going to hurt you, but unless you want to get lots of weird looks it is better to avoid demonstrating your affection in public places. When out of the cities though, and especially in mountainous villages, it is better to “forget” you are gay for a while, as these are traditional and conservative societies.

Children in the city

The city doesn’t have many parks and playgrounds for kids, but still the city walls and the portside are nice places to take your kids and play. The recreational area at Karavolas (across the commercial center TALOS) next to the sea is great for kids and many families spend their Sundays there. There is a playground, lots of free space, bicycles for free, and even exercise machines (!) for adults.  Another cute and quiet playground is in Vigla square, near Vitouri Gate and one of the entrances up the city walls. Nearby there is also Georgiadis Park where there is also a playground and a cafeteria where parents can enjoy a coffee or drink while kids play around. Finally, another popular place for families is Oasis, right out the entrance of Nikos Kazantzakis Theatre, with a playground and cafeteria for parents.

Raki treats!

You go to a tavern, order your meal, and when you are finished a small karaf of raki lands on your table along with some fruit and/or some sort of dessert. With only a few exceptions, most taverns and mezze shops of the city (and the island in general) offer this final touch to your meal for free! So don’t rush to inform the waiter that you didn’t order this, just enjoy!

Drinking water

The first instruction one should give to visitors is: " don't drink water from the tap"! Not that it will kill you, but tap water in Heraklion is not considered drinkable. Locals buy bottled water for their house and you should follow their example! 

Stray animals

The image of stray animals in the city is probably shocking to most visitors. However, most are neutered and vaccinated by the animal welfare society and have a relatively good life in the streets as most people love them. Most are known to citizens with names and some have even become legends, such as Apostolis, a big fat dog with a character, who was recently “forced” to... diet by the animal welfare because his fans fed him junk food all the time!

However, life is not always rosy for stray animals, so if you want to take a pet back home you can contact the animal welfare of Heraklion:

Tel. 6972 443422

Free Internet

You will find free wi-fi (theoretically) at the central squares of the city (Eleftherias, Kornarou, Daskalogianni and Lions Square), in the area around Loggia and the port. However, we have noticed that the public network is not always functioning properly. You can also have limited free access to the internet in Polikentro, the cafeteria of the municipality (Androgeo & Korai Street) and its branch in Lahanagora (across the Museum of Natural History). There are also many cafeterias in the center offering free wi-fi to their customers.