If you’re looking for a city break with a difference, why not visit Heraklion, Crete? There’s something for everyone, especially families, from stunning archeological sites to beautiful markets and fantastic beaches. Your city break in Heraklion with kids is right around the corner!
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Where is Heraklion?
Also known as Iraklion or Candia, Heraklion capital of Crete, is an extremely popular tourist destination. It’s the fourth largest city in Greece, situated on the largest and most populated of the Greek islands.
Is Crete Child Friendly?
Your Heraklion city break will be perfect for your family, no matter what age your kids are! Crete is full of fantastic food and beautiful beaches, and that’s even before considering the many exciting things to do. Whether it’s the Heraklion market days or the amazing aquarium Heraklion Crete has to offer, your kids will be safe and excited the whole time!
8 Best Things to do in Heraklion with Kids
So now it’s time to plan your Heraklion city break! The city is bursting with things to do with kids, and I’ve listed some of my favourites with my own kids below from the market Heraklion is famous for and the best places to visit in Heraklion.
This is a fantastic trip not to be missed! You can spend the whole day meeting the many colourful fish that make up the Greek and Cretan seas.
Kids under four enter Cretaquarium free, while the fee for everyone else is just six euros. The aquarium has sixty tanks and more than 2,000 sea creatures! They offer guided tours, or you and the kids can roam freely. There are also a ton of interactive games.
#2 Palace of Knossos
Ancient history and culture are always exciting for people, but the best part about this place is that the kids will hear about fantastic mythology.
The Daedalus and Icarus story is one of the most famous in Greek mythology, and who doesn’t love hearing about the terrifying Minotaur and the victorious defeat
of the monster? Heraklion centre to Knossos is only a 12-minute drive. It’s a trip that’s one of the top things to do in Heraklion: guaranteed to be a-MAZE-ing.
Get started with this Knossos Place guided walking tour >>>
#3 Natural History Museum of Crete
Who doesn’t love a natural history museum? They’re one of the most popular tourist attractions globally, and the one in Crete is one that you definitely don’t want to miss! With temporary and permanent exhibits including dinosaurs, a living museum, an earthquake simulator, and a discovery centre specifically designed for kids under 15. There’s no doubt that it’s one of the best things to do in Heraklion!
#4 Georgiadis Park
This is an oasis right there in the city! It’s a beautiful area of greenery and quiet away from the hubbub of the Heraklion shopping district. Known as “the” park by the locals, it’s filled with huge open spaces for pets and kids who need to get out some energy while their parents’ people watch and enjoy the more natural side of Heraklion things to see. It’s also a location that hosts lots of festivals and cultural events, and there are plenty of kiosks and cafés to grab a bite to eat!
#5 Heraklion Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
With just one ticket, you and your family can have a personalised Heraklion sightseeing experience from the open top of a city tour bus! You get a free city map and an audio tour in several languages, including English. Best of all, the open bus Heraklion city tour allows you to get off at sites and board again whenever you feel like it. After all, why wonder when you can make your own Heraklion city tour?
#6 Koules Fortress / Rocca al Mare
This is a beautiful castle right on the sea, built by the Venetian rulers of Crete in the 13th century. It was initially a defensive fortress. Since then, it’s been a barracks, a prison, and more. Nowadays, it’s its own museum, still built into the original fortress structure – and what kid doesn’t love castles? It’s an unmissable part of any Heraklion city break.
#7 Minoan Theatre
This is an amazing outdoor cultural dance show with dancers and actors performing cultural activities from way back in the Minoan era!
This includes a (simulated) bullfight, cultural dances, rituals, and more. You can eat dinner (and mum and dad can have a glass of wine!) while you enjoy the show.
#8 Beach day!
Heraklion is a city on the sea right there on a beautiful Greek island. Of course, you want to take the chance to get your kids to the ocean! Sand and surf and ice cream – who wouldn’t enjoy such a perfect day?
If you’re wondering about Heraklion’s best beaches, I’ve included a list below. Just remember that it’s always better to leave the beach between 12 pm and 3 or 4 pm, as the sun gets too hot and the threat of sunburn isn’t worth it!
Best Heraklion Beaches
Between the sandy shores and the stunning turquoise waters, it’s hard to pick the best! These are my personal top three when travelling with my kids, but you can’t go wrong. If in doubt, check with your hotel or even with the locals. They’ll be happy to help!
This is one of the most popular beaches in Heraklion and for a good reason. It offers pebbled sections on the narrow shore, and the water is so clear that it’s a top choice for snorkelers and swimmers.
There are plenty of tavernas around for eating, too. It’s 20 minutes from the city centre by bus or car, and the bus costs around £1.50 to £3.
If you’re looking for something unique on your Heraklion city break, Matala is perfect. It’s a long strip of the bay with sand, sunbeds for hire, and a quirky little village nearby for souvenirs and delicious meals.
There’s a lifeguard on duty and a ton of water activities available. However, what makes Matala unique are the cliffs surrounding the beach and the old Roman caves open to exploring.
Komos is special in several ways. It’s the top choice for my nature-loving ten-year-old because in late August and through September, the lucky few can spot the rare and beautiful protected sea turtles that make their nests in the sand dunes. It’s one of the longest beaches on the island with the same lovely blue sea, and it’s a great choice if you’re looking for a quieter day at the beach.
When is the Best Time to visit Heraklion?
Heraklion is beautiful all year round, but of course, like anywhere else, there are times in the year that are ideal when visiting Heraklion with kids. For the best experience of Heraklion things to do, you and the family should plan your Heraklion city break in February or August.
Heraklion in February
February is a bit colder than prime tourist season, which comes with the upside of being much quieter and less crowded with tourists – a perfect chance to catch the Heraklion must see without the crowds and spend time in Heraklion city centre.
February is also the time for Carnival! Music, events, parties, parades, costumes, face painting, and a ton of free things to do in Heraklion make this a fantastic experience for families, not to be missed.
With average highs of 16 and lows of 9 celsius, you’re not going to be too chilly either!
Heraklion in August
August temperatures in Crete are the height of summer, so while they’re great, make sure you’re taking lots of breaks from the sun if you’re going to Heraklion with kids!
The temperatures range from 22 to a scorching 29 celsius, so it’s a brilliant time to find the best beaches near Heraklion city, check out some fantastic Heraklion boat trips, and experience a bunch of Heraklion activities.
August holds a lot of festivals, too, like the Houdetsi music festival and the panigiria fairs on August 15th.
How to Get to Heraklion, Crete
There are many ways to get to Heraklion by plane, ferry, car, or boat. The Heraklion Athens ferry from the Greek mainland takes about nine hours and costs around thirty-five euros, with two ferries a day from Piraeus port.
If you’d rather take the quick option and fly, The fastest flights to Heraklion from London take about 4.5 hours:
You can also opt for a cruise that stops in Heraklion, Cruises to create depart all over Europe are great for travelling to Heraklion with kids. View reviews on Cruise Critic.
Where to Stay in Heraklion with Kids
Heraklion, like Crete in general, is very family-friendly – there are very few places you can go wrong when staying in Heraklion with kids!
The best place to stay is generally in the city centre, but you can rarely go wrong anywhere in the city. The best part is that most Heraklion city hotels are near the Heraklion city beach and all the best things to do in Heraklion!
Budget: Atrion Hotel
This beautiful central hotel offers an airport shuttle right to the front door. Several rooms have sea views, and the city’s main museum is only a short walk away. Best of all, it’s extremely highly rated when visiting Heraklion with kids!
The Atrion Hotel offers free cots for children up to two years old and an extra bed upon request for a third child up to 12 years old for a slight extra cost.
Mid-Range: Metropole Urban Hotel
A luxury hotel for a mid-range price! It’s one of the best hotels in Heraklion city for families with kids, rated 9.7, and is right in the heart of the major city landmarks.
The connecting rooms come with baby gates, a private entrance, and other modern hotel conveniences.
There are wellness facilities on-site, and staff speak multiple languages, including English. Free cots are available on request, though no extra beds.
Splashing Out: GDM Megaron, Historical Monument Hotel
GDM Megaron is a five-star hotel near all the best Heraklion activities and places to visit. It overlooks the port and offers fine dining, a rooftop pool, and a health club. It’s also right in the middle of the industrial and shopping district, meaning that you’ll never run out of things to do.
The rooms come with breakfast which is very highly rated. Cots can also be requested for a fee.
How to Get Around Heraklion, Greece
For Heraklion Airport to city centre travel, the trip takes just ten minutes by car or taxi and 25 minutes by public bus. The cost is only around four euros for the bus! View transfers for your dates here.
There are three main bus stations in the city and plenty of buses between them. In general, the local bus service is well-organised and reaches all the city’s main points for a low price.
If you’d instead take a taxi, that’s an option too!
Plenty of tourists also take advantage of car rental or motorcycle rentals abundant in the city to keep abreast of the views.
Heraklion Itinerary for Families
Whenever the kids and I visit Crete, we always stop for at least a day or two in Heraklion before exploring the rest of the island. This is a little snapshot of our last trip with my ten-year-old and my six-year-old. We can’t wait to go back! After all, if you’re looking for the best things to do in Crete, Heraklion has it all.
One Day in Heraklion
Morning: We spent the morning on the beach, as swimming in the sea was the top priority for my kids! We arrived early at Matala Beach and stayed until around 12 when the sun started getting too hot. While my son splashed around in the sea with his dad, I took my daughter to explore the caves after an hour of swimming.
Afternoon: After a traditional Greek lunchtime nap, we spent the afternoon exploring the shopping district before heading to dinner at the Minoan theatre. I’ve been many times, and I’m still totally wowed by the dancers!
2 Days in Heraklion
Morning: We headed early on the city bus tour to the Palace of Knossos Heraklion’s gem. My daughter was in the middle of a mythology project at school, so she lapped up the tour guide’s stories as he talked about the Minotaur and the adventures of the Greek heroes! Every time we go, we learn something new.
Afternoon: We spent the first few hours of the afternoon unwinding in Georgiadis Park, then hopped back on the bus for a guided tour of the city. It gave the little one a chance to nap and my daughter an opportunity to ask a million questions, which the helpful tour guide was more than happy to answer as we got to soak in the sights of the beautiful city.
Other Amazing Places to Visit in Crete
There are plenty of things to do near Heraklion if you stay in the city. The number of Crete tours from Heraklion make it a perfect place for first-time visitors to Crete to spend their whole holiday! Some of the best day trips from Heraklion include:
This is a beautiful coastal town to the east of the city. The tourist town has a stunning lake, a tiny island off the beaches, plenty of cultural events, and an old Venetian fortress, amongst many other attractions.
Agios Nikolaos to Heraklion is about a one hour journey by car, charter coach, or private transport while taking a public bus will take up to two hours.
This other major city in Crete isn’t to be missed! It’s a stunning city that blends old and new together, offering plenty of things to do for a one or two day visit from Heraklion-based tourists and historical sightseeing. It is a more modern event that my kids love is the Minoans World 3D Museum & 9D Cinema!
There’s also a school museum, an art gallery, and much more. Chania to Heraklion is a three-hour public bus journey or two hours by car, shuttle, or taxi.
The truly Greek feel of Rethymno makes it worth a day trip. This traditional town has cobbled pathways, mediaeval fortresses, Ottoman relics, and in general, an excellent balance between ancient and modern life.
On one side of the city, you’ll feel swept back in time, while on the other, you’re in the modern age. Don’t forget to try the local Cretan cuisine! You can go straight from Heraklion Airport to Rethymno in about an hour (or two hours by public bus).
From Heraklion city, the travel time is a bit less, from just under an hour to an hour and forty-five minutes.
This unique national park is not to be missed. It’s a world biosphere reserve set in a 16km gorge with species of flowers and animals you won’t find anywhere else – not to mention the breathtaking views of the cliffs themselves. It can be a bit of a challenging walk for young kids, so I recommend it for older family adventurers – and try to avoid the peak summer months! However, there are plenty of tours to make it a bit easier. It’s a three-hour drive or four-hour bus from Heraklion city centre. Tour buses also leave directly from hotels in Heraklion.