Amazing Free Things to Do in Heraklion on Your Crete Vacation!

free things to do in heraklion - Heraklion, Crete Dolphins

So… vacation time is getting closer but you’re on a low budget?
The Tiny Book knows what you’re talking about!
Let’s try to keep those travel expenses contained with these great things you can do for free in Heraklion!


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Essentials for your Adventures in Crete!

Getting to Crete: Nothing like sailing from one island to the other. Check Ferryhopper to book your ferry tickets in advance.

Where to stay on the island: It’s always wise to compare, check both Booking.com and Hotels.com for the best accommodation deals.

Top-rated tours in Crete: If you’re a fan of our beaches, then don’t miss this Cruise to Balos or a Day Trip to Elafonisi. If you came to the island seeking adventure, then hike the Samaria Gorge. Finally, for those interested in Crete’s past and history, don’t miss a visit to Knossos Palace.

Want to see Crete better? Explore it on wheels! Personally, I use Discover Cars to go where my old jalopy won’t take me.

Show me the money! No, really, need cash? Wise is the best online money transfer service with a debit card accepted all over Greece.

Always have with you: A daypack for excursions, the Lonely Planet Guide, or my West Crete digital guide!

Where to Stay in Heraklion

GREECE - CRETE - HERAKLION - VENETIAN FORTRESS KOULES

If you’re coming to Heraklion to enjoy the best restaurants in town, the museums, and the thrilling lifestyle of the capital, the best thing to do is to book a place in the center, this way, it’ll be easy to walk everywhere without stressing about transport.

These are some of the places to stay in Heraklion that I recommend, prices for a small budget range between €20 for a bed in a shared room in a hostel to €45 for a small apartment. Mid-range hotels go from €50 to €80 per night. Upscale accommodation can be booked for more than €100 a night. I’ve also written a complete guide to the best hotels in Heraklion as well as a guide to the best holiday homes in Heraklion.

Small budget: You can spend the night in Heraklion without breaking the bank. When the budget is tight, I recommend either So Young Hostelor SunCity Apartments.

Mid-range accommodation: Spend a little more and enjoy the suites and the pool in Capsis Astoria Heraklion or Kastro Hotel.

Boutique places: For a more luxurious stay, check the beautiful premises of Galaxy Iraklio Hotel or go full eco in Olive Green Hotel.

Heraklion on a Budget: Free Things to Do in Heraklion, Crete

Port of Heraklion, fishing nets.

No matter whether you are on a strict budget or not, it’s always great to save a few bucks, isn’t it?  The city of Heraklion has so many things to offer and — believe me — some of them will not cost you a cent!

In this article, I’ve gathered some of the best things to do in Heraklion for free, or for a very small fee. Doing any of these things will help you learn more about the city and enjoy the best of it without spending a fortune!

Visit the Churches and the Cathedrals

Greece - Crete - Heraklion - Agios Titos
Agios Titos, center of Heraklion, Crete

One of the best ways to learn about Heraklion’s heritage is through a visit to some of the churches, monasteries, and cathedrals that you’ll find in the region.

Spend some time admiring the beautiful interiors and the precious masterpieces sheltered inside some of Heraklion’s religious buildings.

Detail architecture Saint Mark Basilica Heraklion Crete
The columns at the portico of St. Mark’s Basilica, Heraklion.

One of the places you should definitely visit is Saint Mark’s Basilica. This impossing Venetian building currently houses the Municipal Art Gallery of Crete and offers both permanent and temporary exhibitions of famous Cretan artists. 

You can spend up to 2 hours enjoying the works of great masters that captured the scenes of everyday Cretan life, as well as landscapes, religious events, and much more. The entrance to the building is free of charge.

Agios Minas, Heraklion.

Don’t overlook the Cathedral of Agios Minas, the largest and most important cathedral in the city. It features amazing mosaics, astonishing murals, and golden chandeliers that won’t let you indifferent!

Last, but not least, take some time to explore the Church of Agios Titos. The place was first built as a mosque in the 19th century, which explains its unusual form for an Orthodox church. 

Right opposite the church, there is a big square where locals usually gather, behind the building, there’s a lovely garden ideal for a short break during a hot sunny day.

If you’re in the mood to explore more about Crete’s religious architecture, drive west all the way to the nearby village of Fodele, (about 30 minutes from the center of town) to admire a great example of Byzantine art. The village of Fodele no only hosts the gorgeous Byzantine church of the Panagia, but in the same area, you can also visit the museum dedicated to the work of the Cretan painter, El Greco.

Are you a night owl?
>>Discover more things to do in Heraklion at night<<

Discover Heraklion Following Your Own Path

Best things to do in Heraklion at Night
The arsenals, Heraklion.

You can easily call Heraklion an open-air museum. And you don’t need to pay anything to visit some of its most famous landmarks. 

Relax by the iconic Morosini Fountain and discover all the nearby streets with great examples of Venetian and Ottoman Architecture.

Walk along 25th of August street to visit the Venetian Loggia, a building that has been perfectly restored to showcase its past glory. You can also visit some of the areas inside to check where the offices of nobles used once upon a time. 

GREECE-CRETE-HERAKLION-LOGGIA
The Loggia, Heraklion.

Take some time while wandering around to pass by Bembo Fountain and the statue of Erotokritos. Climb the Venetian City Wall and enjoy a peaceful stroll admiring the scenic vistas of Heraklion and the Sea of Crete. Climb all the way up to the tomb of the famous local writer Nikos Kazantzakis or take some pictures of the peculiar arches and stoas around the area.

Of course, you cannot miss a walk along the Venetian Harbor and admire the ancient fortress Rocca a Mare Fortress, the remains of Neoria Vecchia, the arsenals, and the Lighthouse at the edge of the Marina.

Heraklion Free Walking Tour

If you wish to get more details about the history and culture of the city, then you should definitely join this Free Walking Tour organized by local guide Akrivi.

The tour takes place each Tuesday and Thursday during the summer season and lasts 2 hours, from 4 to 6 pm.

The guide will take you to the most important historical landmarks as well as to the not-so-popular ones. 

This is a unique opportunity to learn about the interesting and inspiring stories of the city’s past and present. The tour is completely free, and you will also access some areas without any fee. Get in touch with them via mail: [email protected]

Looking for more free things to do in Heraklion?
>>This guide has plenty of them!<<

Eat Your Way Through the Farmer’s Market

Heraklion Market.

Visiting a farmers market is a perfect opportunity to feel the local atmosphere. Check the wide selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade cheese, wine, olives, and much more. 

The entrance is free but I can’t guarantee that you won’t spend some Euros there! It’s really difficult to resist the temptation of buying at least some of all that deliciousness.

But here is a tip: Ask to try the food. You will be surprised but is a common practice to try everything even if eventually you won’t buy anything. And believe me, after such a sumptuous sampling session can easily finish up with a full belly.

The Market is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 am to 3 pm.

Check ferry tickets to Greece here!

One more tip: if you decided to shop, it’s always better to visit about an hour before the closing time, that way you’ll get ridiculously low prices for the same products.

Not an extra dime to spend?
>>Discover the beaches in Heraklion<<

Visit the Archeological Museum and Knossos for Free!

GREECE - CRETE - HERAKLION - ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM

Yes, you read it right! These two major landmarks in Heraklion can be visited for free on specific dates. Here is the list, check if you’re visiting the city on those days or plan accordingly!

  • 6 March (in memory of Melina Mercouri)
  • 18 April (Monuments Day)
  • 18 May (Museums Day)
  • The last weekend of September(European Heritage Days)
  • 28 October (National Holiday in Greece)
  • Every first Sunday of the month between November 1st and March 31st

Carefully check your schedule… maybe you’ll be lucky to plan your visit on one of these days.

Discover the Villages in the Region (One of the Most Interesting Things to Do in Heraklion!)

GREECE - CRETE - PISKOPIANO VILLAGE
Piskopiano, Hersonissos, Crete.

Nothing better than embarking on a road trip and discover the picturesque villages near Heraklion. This is an unforgettable experience to witness everyday Cretan life and feel like a local.

Take these places into account when planning a road trip:

Archanes

Archanes is a village located on the slope of a green hill offering scenic views of the surrounding areas. The pretty settlement boasts narrow paved streets, flowered hidden yards, and neoclassical buildings with lovely balconies.

Harakas 

This charming village is hidden in the mountains overlooking the green plains and valley. Tranquil and relaxed, Harakas is perfect to escape from the bustling city.

Archanes.

Agioi Deka 

Check this picturesque village is located in the green Messara plain. It features colorful stone houses as well as a small church with some delicate and refined wooden iconostasis.

Fodele

One of my favorite places in Crete, Fodele is a small village with a traditional square and evergreen orange groves all over the area. The village is cut in half by a mountain river populated by ducks and geese.

Get in Touch with Nature: Go Hiking

Want to get familiar with Heraklion’s beautiful nature? Then hiking is the perfect way to do that. There are a lot of hiking trails, from easiest to hardest, that will add some bright memories to your vacation. 

Almiros Gorge 

Just outside Heraklion, you can find the trail of moderate difficulty, ideal for an afternoon walk. Hidden under the shadow of ancient planes and wild olive trees, the gorge has three waterfalls almost visible almost when you reach the end of the path. At the entrance of the gorge, you will find the small church of Agios Ioannis Farangitis.

Kounaviano Gorge

This is a very pleasant and easy hiking trail located 15 km from the center of Heraklion. The path is marked and easy to follow. In the area, you’ll bump into lovely wooden bridges, old windmills, fruit gardens, and few small waterfalls. If you want to cross all the gorge, the hike can last around 2 hours. The entrance to the gorge starts in the area of Peza.

Kounouviano (Courtesy Tripadvisor).

Astraciano Trail

This is a pretty short path not far from Archanes, with all of its charm set on the so-called Cave of the Fairies. The area features a beautiful lake surrounded by rocky walls with engraved silhouettes of fairies and other magical creatures.

Agia Anastasia Gorge

Why not check this small but very picturesque gorge not far from Heraklion? The gorge is named after the cavernous chapel of Agia Anastasia in the same area. Here, the water leaking from the roof of the cave is considered to have healing properties and to work miracles.

Always check with locals to learn about events and festivals that might be going on at the time of your visit. They can be cheap and valid entertainment ways to have fun in Crete, especially in summer!


Want to discover Crete on a budget? I can help!
Get in touch or leave me a message in the comments below!


Travel Plans for Crete?
More Resources to Organize Your Trip!

Start by heading right to my tips to plan a trip to Crete for in-depth details you need to know about Greece. You can also check my post to better know what to pack for a trip to the island or read this info to visit Crete with children!

Get in touch if you need extra help to plan your trip. If you want to tour West Crete, check my guide. Want more? Join my Private Facebook Group to connect with like-minded travelers who love Crete as much as you do!

Make Sure You’ve Got Everything For a Hassle-Free Vacation!

I never move around the islands without my Osprey backpack, a sturdy but light travel partner I just love. For short trips, I carry this little crossbody bag. If I drive, I pack my Nikon D7200 and a good travel guide: Lonely Planet’s Best of Greece & the Greek Islands.

When it comes to plane tickets, compare prices with a powerful search engine. However, nothing beats traveling by sea in Greece. With Ferry Hopper, you can book in advance at the lowest price.

For accommodation, I personally use Booking.com. Traveling to remote places is easier with Discover Cars. Other times, I join organized tours with GetYourGuide, which features anything from cooking lessons to airport transfer!

Are you coming to Crete any time soon?

Get in touch and let me know!

Read more:

Blooming Island: Best Things to Do in Crete in Spring
The Best Beaches in Heraklion, Crete
Comfy and Convenient Rental Homes in Heraklion, Crete
21 of the Best Restaurants in Rethymnon, Crete
Top tours, day trips, and excursions from Heraklion

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Great free things to do in Heraklion, Crete

About the author of this blog:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. Here, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in the summer, translating, and working as a tech advisor.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published two travel guides about Greece, and drunk more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.


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