Two days is about the ideal amount of time to spend in Heraklion in order to see the main highlights like Knossos and get a good feel for the city.
How long do you need to stay in Heraklion, Crete?
The city of Heraklion in Crete is the largest in the Greek island. As such, it’s an important access point for many travelers who will arrive at and depart from Crete.
Heraklion can be a good place to stay for the duration of your total time in Crete, especially if you want to see the attractions of eastern Crete.
However, if you only want to stay long enough to see the sights of the city and then continue traveling through Crete, you’ll need to decide how long you want to stay in Heraklion.
How long should I spend in Heraklion?
Having visited Heraklion perhaps a dozen times now, I feel that first time visitors to Crete who want to travel around the island should set aside two days/two nights to spend in Heraklion city.
Will you see everything in Heraklion city in two days? No, of course not. But, you won’t feel like you particularly missed out on anything either.
What can you do in Heraklion besides Knossos?
One of the must-see attractions in Heraklion is Knossos, a Bronze Age archaeological site that was once the center of Minoan civilization. But there are also plenty of other things to do and see in Heraklion no matter how long you decide to stay for.
Here are some suggestions:
- Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, one of the most important museums in Greece with a vast collection of Minoan artifacts.
- Take a stroll through the Old Town and explore its picturesque streets lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
- Walk along the Venetian Walls that surround the city and learn about their rich history.
- Visit Koules Fortress, a 16th-century fortress that was once used as a storage facility for gunpowder and later served as a prison.
- Drop by the Natural History Museum of Crete – I initially though this place was going to be quite kitsch, what with it's huge plastic dinosaurs outside. Turns out it was one of the more memorable places to go in Heraklion. A must if you are staying in Heraklion with kids.
- Go for a swim at Amoudara Beach, located just 5km from the city center.
- Taste traditional Cretan dishes such as dakos and bougatsa at one of the many cozy tavernas in Heraklion.
Why you might not want to stay too much longer in Heraklion
Basically, Heraklion is a big city. And, while the historic center and the highlights are all worth seeing, during the summer months it can be crowded, busy, and hot.
In addition, the city itself doesn't have great beaches. So if beach time is a priority during your Crete itinerary, you'd either need to make a day trip to one, or cut down on the time spent in Heraklion city and stay at a beach resort town like Rethymno instead.
Bottom line is that if you are not really a city person, staying just the one night in Heraklion with one and a half days of sightseeing will probably be the better call.
Related: Where to stay in Heraklion
People also ask questions such as:
How many days are enough in Heraklion?
Most visitors find that two full days of sightseeing in Heraklion is enough time to see the major attractions such as Knossos, the museums, and the historic old town section.
Is it worth staying in Heraklion?
It's definitely worth staying in Heraklion for at least one night if your Crete travel itinerary allows for it. There is plenty to see and do, and you'll get to experience a literal walk through history when visiting places like Knossos, the Venetian Fortress, and modern contemporary restaurants.
Is Heraklion better than Chania?
The general consensus is that Chania is prettier than Heraklion, although overall there is more to see and do in Heraklion. If possible, why not visit both on your vacation in Greece!
You might also want to read:
- Where is Crete?
- Best time to visit Crete
- Crete in October for autumn sun
- Transfers from Heraklion airport
- Heraklion Airport to Heraklion city center
- How to get from Chania to Heraklion
- Heraklion ferry port to Heraklion airport
- Rethymno vs Heraklion
Dave is a travel writer from the UK who's been living in and writing about Greece since 2015. As well as writing this travel guide on how long to stay in Heraklion, he's also written hundreds of other travel blog posts about the Greek islands and destinations in Greece. Follow Dave on social media for travel inspiration from Crete and beyond: