Wondering where to eat in Heraklion, Crete? Never fear! I’ve spent the last two weeks eating my way around Heraklion, and I’m happy to say that there are so many marvelous choices no matter your budget.
Crete is famous for its distinctive cuisine, which is related to traditional Greek food but has some unique dishes that make a trip here a culinary delight.
Since I’ve been enjoying the restaurant scene here so much, especially the tavernas, cafes, bakeries, and other independent eateries, here are my recommendations for the best Heraklion restaurants.
The Best Traditional Cretan Restaurants
Traditional Crete cuisine involves lots of lamp, local greens, fava beans, and enough Raki to make you regret your life decisions. It’s filling without being hearty, even though you’ll enjoy more potatoes and beans than you’ve consumed up to this point in your life.
It’s amazing, and I think when I finally settled in and started relishing Crete food is when I started viewing my time in Crete as more than just a gorgeous Mediterranean island escape. I’ve been learning about a unique culture that is both Greek and distinct from Greece, and nowhere is that more apparent than in their food.
So while here, don’t just stuff your face with gyros (though there’s definitely a time and place for that). Take time to enjoy a meal at a Cretan restaurant, and bypass the regular Greek dishes for local delights.
I was curious to give this restaurant a try since it boasts to serving only traditional Cretan food. Most of what they serve comes from their own farms or is carefully sourced to other small Cretan farmers. According to their website:
Our cuisine is based solely on traditional recipes, fresh ingredients from the Cretan soil and the principles of the Authentic Cretan Cuisine, a cuisine full of traditional tastes, aromas and ingredients, which dates back to prehistoric times and still continues to exist.
I found the service to be incredible, and they were relatively busy on a weekday lunch in mid-December. I would recommend booking a table ahead of time if you’re coming during high season or on a weekend night.
For my lunch, I enjoyed lamb in greens, a Cretan potato and egg salad, and kalitsounia (cheese pies). Their menu changes to suit the seasons since they use food from their own farms, so it will be different in the spring and summer.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the local wine with my meal and the complimentary raki afterward. It’s incredibly hard to eat a meal out in Heraklion without drinking raki, whether you order it or not.
If you only have one nice meal out in Crete, let it be here. You’ll learn more about the island’s culture and history through the flavors of the food than you thought possible.
Address: Kapetan Haralampi 6-8, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
Ligo Krasi Ligo Thalassa
This restaurant is located on the harbor, which would normally make me hesitant that it would be too touristy and overpriced. But it was always crowded with locals in the middle of December, which made me think that this must be more than just a tourist trap. And whoa, this place is so good!
Featuring a great mix of traditional Cretan food with some Greek mainstays, you can order snails (a Cretan specialty), dakos (akin to a Cretan version of bruschetta), or any number of traditional dishes.
The portions are gigantic (I left with enough food for two more meals). And after I was stuffed to the gills, they brought me an entire plate of loukoumades and the equivalent of six shots of raki, which I finished like a champ.
The best part? The prices here are pretty good. Maybe a tad higher for the location, but I really didn’t notice a difference between here and restaurants in other parts of the city.
Address: Lochagou Ioanni Marineli | Mitsotaki, Plateia 18 Agglon, Heraklion, Crete 71202
I passed by this place every day, and I was hesitant to try it. It’s right across from the Koules on the harbor, and it never had anyone in it. But eventually my desire to sit outside with the spectacular views got the best of me, and I went for it.
The view is one of the best in the city, and the staff was so incredibly nice! The calamari and tzatziki were good, but the fava was the best I had in Heraklion (and I had a lot of it!). The prices weren’t too high even though the location was out of this world, and they brought out complimentary raki and halva for dessert.
If you’re here in high season and this place is packed, then head elsewhere. But if you walk by and it’s quiet and easy to get a seat, then enjoy the view and order some fava!
Address: 25th Avgoustou, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
The Best Food Tour in Heraklion
If you want to get a whirlwind look at the best of Cretan cuisine through your tastebuds, the best thing you can do is sign up for a food tour in Heraklion.
This 4-hour tour explores all the best local Cretan dishes, stopping at 8 different locations far away from where the tourists mill about. You’ll try local cheeses, delicious bougatsa (a Greek breakfast pastry filled with custard), local Cretan wine, dakos, olives, and more — I don’t want to spoil it all! Pre-book your food tour online here, as it’s a small group tour and spots are limited.
The Best Cheap Greek Eats
While you definitely want to eat your share of local Cretan dishes, there are times when you just want to get a gyro and it doesn’t matter that you can get these all over Greece.
From what I can tell, locals eat their fair share of gyros as well, as most of these places were packed even in the offseason. Here are my favorites.
There’s a trio of cheap eats by the Lion’s Fountain, and I tried all of them. I found all three to be great, but Politia gets the edge because they have a cheese pepper dip that really put my gyro and fries over the top.
The gyro was so large I took it home and turned it into two meals. Absolute perfection!
Address: 98 Kallergon Square, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
Amongst the gyro and souvlaki places near Lion’s Fountain, Izmir Kebap comes in second in my book.
It’s absolutely scrumptious, and it leans more towards Turkish-inspired Greek food (hence the name). Portions are gigantic, and the service here was the best of any of the cheaps eats I went to.
Address: Agios Titou 2, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
Uncle Thymios (Μπαρμπα Θύμιος)
Even though I’m listing this place third, it was also excellent. I ordered fried halloumi (to die for), souvlaki (yum), and a freaking pork belly gyro. That’s right, a pork belly gyro. Absolutely amazing. The only reason I’m listing it third is that the cheese pepper sauce at Politia is phenomenal and the service at Izmir Kebap was just so good.
But really, if you’re looking for a cheap lunch near Lion’s Fountain, I can highly recommend any of these three places. Just head to the Loggia and pick the one that’s the least crowded. Unless you want a pork belly gyro, in which case come here immediately.
Address: 25is Avgoustou 96, Iraklio 712 02
I had this place on my list of must-try restaurants because it was always packed with locals whenever I walked by. And it’s no wonder, since the gyros are excellent but also the size of a human head.
It had so many fries on it that I ordered some tzatziki sauce and ate some of the fries as a side dish before tackling the main event. They also have bacon cheese fries (hint: they’re really, really good).
If you’re in a rush and you only have one day, stick to the places by the Lion’s Fountain. But if you have a few extra minutes, Hovoli is definitely worth the walk (and 100% local-approved).
Address: Plateia Daskalogianni 3-4, Heraklion, Crete 71203, Greece
Kalamaki Meat Bar
Another spot that was always full of locals in the off-season, the Kalamaki Meat Bar specializes in…grilled meat.
I went here twice, both times ordering wraps with grilled pork, tzatziki, onions, and tomatoes. Slightly different than a traditional gyro (though I honestly couldn’t really tell), they were scrumptious nonetheless. You can either eat at the tables outside or take it with you.
They also have a great selection of souvlakis and other meats on sticks. They really put the “meat” in “meat bar.”
Address: Anakreontos 93, Heraklion, Crete 71307, Greece
The Best Heraklion Cafes
Greek cafe and coffee culture is intricately tied to the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, but you don’t need to remind them of this sticky history to sit back and enjoy some Greek coffee. Whatever you do though, don’t call it Turkish!
Whether you’re looking for a place to kick back and get some work done, you want a great view to enjoy while you sip your latte, or you want to know where the locals go to enjoy their weekend cup of joe, here are my favorite Heraklion cafes.
Doukas Art Cafe
I did have coffee here once, but I far prefer this cafe as a great place to kick back and enjoy the unlimited wifi with a giant carafe of table wine. I came here every night for two and a half weeks, and I never tired of the spectacular old-school cafe atmosphere.
Whenever I ordered wine, they always gave me something to nibble with it. But I would also just order the pork chops or potato salad for dinner as well. I can sit here for six hours on one glass of wine, and they’d never say anything.
On weekend nights, the place gets hopping. They occasionally host musicians, and everyone always seems to be shouting enthusiastically at each other over the jazz.
Even though it’s owned by the people who run the hotel next door, I never saw other tourists here. This is the kind of cafe you retreat to when you’re ready to write your novel.
Address: Gerasimou Pardali 5, Heraklion, Crete 71201, Greece
Phyllo Sophies might just have the best location in the city that’s not on the water since it’s right next to the Lion’s Fountain. While it definitely has its share of tourists, I saw tons of locals eating here whenever I walked by. That’s what gave me the courage to go ahead and give it a try.
They claim to have invented the famous Cretan dish the bougasta, a pastry made from phyllo dough and cheese. I enjoyed this with a cup of thick, delicious Greek coffee while taking in the beautiful view.
Address: Plateia Liontarion 33 | Plateia Eleftheriou Venizelou 33, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
I know I’m in the Greek world as soon as I set eyes on a Coffee Island. I have spent the equivalent of days inside these places, everywhere from Cyprus to Athens to Rhodes. So I was completely delighted to spot a Coffee Island near my hotel in Heraklion.
This one doesn’t have seating, so you can’t work from here. But you can enjoy the fabulous iced coffee with real cream,
Address: Plateia Liontarion 33 | Plateia Eleftheriou Venizelou 33, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
Unfortunately, this place was being renovated while I was in town, so I didn’t get to enjoy their coffee. However, I’d be remiss not to list this place, as it was the most Instagrammable cafe I saw in Heraklion.
Simply charming as hell, right? And since it’s across the street from the square next to St. Minas’s, you will easily walk by if you know to look out for it.
Address: Archontopoulon 14, Iraklio 712 01, Greece
Full disclosure: I didn’t love this place. However, I ordered wrong. I got the pizza, which was meh, and I wrote it off as not worth it.
However, both weekends I was here, this place was full of locals enjoying coffee with towers of breakfast pastries and sweets. So come for coffee and brunch, don’t order the pizza, and enjoy it the way the locals do.
Address: Chandakos 51, Heraklion, Crete 712 02, Greece
My Favorite Heraklion Bakeries & Dessert Spots
It’s impossible to be anywhere in Greece without passing by bakeries so delicious-looking that your mouth starts watering on the spot. Something little-appreciated by the outside world is how banging Greek dessert culture is, and Heraklion is no exception to this rule.
While there are many (many, many, many) Heraklion bakeries that look fantastic, I found myself drawn repeatedly back to the same ones. Just know that while I highly recommend these two places (after extensive research), you really can’t go wrong in a Greek bakery or dessert spot. Just don’t leave Crete without satisfying your sweet tooth.
Somehow I managed to come to To Paradosiako one hundred million times without stopping to take a photo inside. That’s how addictive their cherry pies, apple pies, baklava, and eclairs are. When I say that I’ve eaten ten mini cherry pies and three mini apple pies in twelve days, understand that this is no exaggeration.
The best part? You can get five cherry pies for less than seven Euros. Need proof? I’ll send you my credit card receipts.
They technically sell food other than desserts, like sandwiches, but the main event is the shelves bursting with delicious baked goods, pies, cakes, etc.
Address: Kalokairinou, Heraklion, Crete 71202, Greece
Imagine being a tourist in Europe and not needing something served in a cone? If you’re looking for a gelato fix, Da Vinci is the perfect place. Located near Lion’s Square across from the Venetian Loggia, they serve gelato and other amazing dessert concoctions at very fair prices.
They have a few locations across Greece, so you can also try them in Rhodes, Athens, Mykonos, and even Cyprus. They’re worth every penny (and every calorie). This time I got pistachio gelato in a waffle cone and took it across the street to enjoy in the loggia.
Address: 25is Avgoustou, Heraklion, Crete 712 02, Greece
Don’t Travel to Crete without Travel Insurance
Finally, make sure you always travel to Crete with a valid travel insurance policy. While Heraklion is a very safe place to travel these days, you want to make sure you have your possessions covered if they’re stolen and your medical bills covered if you get sick or injured. This is especially true if you plan on doing any water sports like snorkeling, diving, or boating.
For travel insurance, I use World Nomads. I’ve been a happy customer of theirs for almost three years, and I’ve never had an issue when making a claim. I’m happy to refer them to anyone I meet.
Have you eaten at any Heraklion restaurants that you want to recommend, or are you researching where to eat in Heraklion for an upcoming trip? Leave any Heraklion tips and questions below!
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Stephanie has been living in and traveling around the Balkans for the past three years. She’s written for National Geographic Online, appeared on CNN Arabic and in the New York Times, and ridden more Balkan buses than is good for a person.