Iraklion (pop. 132,000) is Crete’s capital and primary port. The chic locals live life in the fast lane, which translates into an urban brusqueness unique among the cities of Crete and the most diverse nightlife on the island. Iraklion’s main attraction after Knossos (552) is the superb Archaeological Museum, off PI. Eleftherias. By appropriating major finds from all over the island, the museum has amassed a comprehensive record of the Neolithic and Minoan stages of Cretan history. (Open M noon-7pm, Tu-Su 8am-7pm. ‚6, students ‚3. EU students free.) A maze of streets between Plateia Venizelou and Plateia Eleftherias houses Iraklion’s night spots; visit Korai for classy cafes or D. Boufor for posh clubs.
From Terminal A, between the old city walls and the harbor, buses leave for Agios Nikolaos (lV4hr. 20 per day, ‚5). Buses leave across from Terminal A for Hania (3hr. 17 per day, ‚11) and Rethymno (lVSihr. 17 per day, ‚6). The tourist police are on Dikeosinis 10. (2810 283 190. Open daily 7am-10pm.) Gallery Games Net, Korai 14, has Internet access. ( 2810 282 804. ‚3 per hr.) Rent a Room Hellas O, Handakos 24, two blocks from El Greco Park, has large dorm rooms and a spectacular view. (2810 288 851. Dorms ‚9; doubles ‚25; triples ‚36.) The open-air market near PI. Venizelou has stalls piled high with fruit, vegetables, cheeses, and meats. (Open M, W and Sa 8am-2pm, Tu and Th-F 8am-2pm and 5-9pm.) Prassein Aloga , Handakos 21, serves fresh Mediterranean dishes in its tree-lined courtyard. (Entrees ‚6-10. Open M-Sa noon-midnight). Postal Code: 71001.
PI DAYTRIP FROM IRAKLION: KNOSSOS. At Knossos (Kvcoocoi;), the most famous archaeological site in Crete, excavations have revealed the remains of the largest and most complicated of Crete’s Minoan palaces. Sir Arthur Evans, who financed and supervised the excavations, eventually restored large parts of the palace in Knossos; his work often crossed the line from preservation to artistic interpretation, but the site is nonetheless impressive. (Open in summer daily 8am- 7pm; off-season 8am-5pm. ‚6, students ‚3; In off-season, Su free.) To reach Knossos from Iraklion, take bus #2 from Augustou 25 (‚1).
Crete’s many conquerors Venetians, Ottomans, and even Nazis have had a profound effect in Rethymno (pop. 25,000). Arabic inscriptions adorn the walls of the narrow streets, minarets highlight the skyline, and the 16th-century Venetian Fortezza stands watch over the harbor. Bring a picnic and explore the fortress ruins. (Open M- Th and Sa-Su 8:30am-7pm. ‚2.90.) Cloistered beaches, steep gorges, and stunning hikes await in the nearby town of Plakias. (4 buses from Rethymno per day, ‚3.30). The Rethymno-Hania bus station ( 28310 22 212) is south of the fortress on the water, with service to Hania (lhr. 16 per day, ‚5.60) and Iraklion (1 ‘ahr. 17 per day, ‚6). Climb the stairs behind the bus station, turn left on Ig. Gavriil, which becomes Koun- touriotou, and turn left on Varda Kallergi to reach the waterfront and the tourist office, on EL Venizelou. ( 28310 29 148. Open M-F 9am-2pm.) To get from the station to the friendly Youth Hostel , Tombazi 4145, walk down Ig. Gavriil, take the first left at PI. Martiron; Tombazi is the first right. ( 28310 22 848. Breakfast ‚1.70. Internet ‚1 per 15min. Reception 8am-noon and 5-9pm. Dorms ‚7.) Postal Code: 74100.