Located on the Eastern coast of the island of Crete, this gorgeous seaside city makes a great choice for a holiday to Greece. Whilst there are plenty of things to do in Agios Nikolaos, Crete it still manages to feel authentic and peaceful. Kids will absolutely love its city beaches and parents can enjoy long lazy lunches at one of the many excellent restaurants. Agios Nikolaos is home to some great shops, an inland lake and plenty of fantastic accommodation.
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List of Contents
- 1 Things to do in Agios Nikolaos, Crete
- 2 Day trips from Agios Nikolaos Crete
- 3 Where to stay in Agios Nikolaos
- 4 Restaurants in Agios Nikolaos Crete
- 5 How to pronounce Agios Nikolaos
- 6 How to get to Agios Nikolaos
Things to do in Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Agios Nikolaos Crete beaches
A day at the beach is the most popular activity for families in Crete and the town of Agios Nikolaos has plenty to choose from. These are a couple of my favourites:
Kitroplateia Beach is the most central beach in town and is a combination of pebble and sand. It isn’t huge but is bordered by restaurants, hotels and cafes. There are showers for washing off the sand and shallow waves perfect for jumping. The beach is quite close and open to the road so be sure to keep an eye on any kids prone to running off!
Almyros Beach is my favourite beach in town. It’s a large stretch of sand with all the amenities you need for a whole day at the beach. We can spend hours here playing in the waves and although there are plenty of restaurants lining the sand we prefer to bring a picnic full of treats for the local bakeries in town. The water is fairly shallow making it a good option with little kids and the warm water is perfect for a swim. It should take around 20 minutes to walk to Almyros from the lake in the centre of town.
Lunch at Lake Voulismeni
My top recommendation for lunch is one of the charming restaurants at Lake Voulismeni. And take a stroll around the Lake according to legend this is where greek goddesses Athena and Artemis would come to bathe. Red rock and lush vegetation surrounds one side of the lake with bars and restaurants on the other. The Lake is connected to the sea through a narrow canal at its Easternmost point.
This is also a good place to visit after dark, it has a vibrant atmosphere and feels like a very sheltered spot. It’s popular with locals and tourists.
Pause for coffee in the port
The small port in Agios Nikolaos is another bustling part of town perfect for people watching. take a seat at one of the many pavement cafes and enjoy the atmosphere. The port is just down the road from Lake Voulismeni, at a lazy stroll it will only take a few minutes.
Indulge in a spot of Agios Nikolaos Shopping
You will be able to find everything you need to buy in Agios Nikolaos itself. Many of the main shopping areas are pedestrianised so you can window shop to your hearts content. You will be able to find traditional Crete souvenirs such as leather goods and olives but also high end clothes stores and even art galleries. You’ll find the most expensive shops surrounding the port area hoping to cash in on the cruise ship visitors.
Visit the Museums
Whilst not jam packed with contemporary museums and galleries, Agios Nikolaos has a few sweet historical museums to pop into if you’re caught in the rain or fancy a few hours indoors escaping the sun. They’re mainly focussed on the areas history and local legends.
The Archeological Museum is one of the most popular in the whole of Crete. It’s home to hugely significant archeological finds from all over Eastern Crete. These date from the early Neolithic period, all the way to the Roman times including the oldest bronze and gold work found on Crete. The Folklore Museum is also well worth a visit and feels a lot more relaxed. It is packed full of art from the area, traditional textiles, furniture, religious artefacts and local craftsmanship. You’ll find the folklore museum right next to the tourist board office. It’s free for kids to visit the museum.
Wander the harbour
I love the harbour area in Agios Nikolaos, it’s full of local restaurants, friendly bars and independent stores. It’s probably the busiest part of town with tourists leaving their cruise ships for a stroll around town.
Check out the street art
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy some free art all over Agios Nikolaos. You’ll find the stunning Horn of Almathea and the Abduction of Europa down by the sea front and pretty much every last one of the many steps are beautifully painted. Wander the city and discover your favourites.
Agios Nikolaos Market
The open air Wednesday street market provides more opportunity to pick up reasonably priced souvenirs such as jars of honey, feta and olive oil. It’s also the best place to get your fresh produce if you’re self catering. You’ll find the market on the small road leading up the hill away from the lake.
Explore the churches
Agios Nikolaos is home to some beautiful churches. The Byzantine Cathedral of Agia Triad is located in town and is home to some absolutely stunning frescoes inside. A little out of town is church of Panagia Kera, which dates back to the 13th century. Inside you’ll find some of the oldest byzantine frescoes on the island.
Read next: Ultimate Guide to Crete with kids
Day trips from Agios Nikolaos Crete
Once you tire of the city itself you’ll find there are some fantastic day trips from Agios Nikolaos. It’s best to have a hire car if you want to explore further a field but if you don’t fancy driving you’ll be able to book on to plenty of organised tours.
If you still fancy a beach day after having your fill of the brilliant beaches in Agios Nikolaos then head to Voulisma beach which is only a 10 minute drive away. Sometimes known as Golden beach this is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Home to vibrant blue water and white sand this beach has everything you need for a day by the sea. You’ll find several bars and restaurants and is just 500 metres from Istro, a charming Greek village. During peak times Voulisma can get pretty busy but you can normally find some space to park up for the day.
Explore some nearby villages
One of my favourite things to do on holiday is take a slow mooch around towns and villages, stopping wherever charms me and soaking up the atmosphere. The East of Crete is a fantastic place to do this and it is packed full of places to stop off.
20 minutes drive for the centre of Agios Nikolaos is stunning Elounda. This is where you’ll find all the high end luxurious resorts Crete is famous for, a vibrant atmosphere and gorgeous beaches. Make sure you check out the old stone windmills lining the shore and stop off at the charming harbour for lunch.
If you fancy heading into the mountains try Krista Village which is just 10km from Agios Nikolaos. It’s full of narrow lanes and charming buildings and is famous for its weaving and embroidery industry. Making it the ideal place to pick up some souvenirs.
Or for picture postcard seaside charm drive around half an hour North to Sissi. A gorgeous village with rocky beaches, heaps of restaurants and hiking trails. Check out my guide to Sissi, Crete for more.
Heraklion and Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace is one of the most important archeological sites in Greece. These ruins were once home to the King and his legendary Minotaur, it is believed to be the oldest city in the whole of Europe. Whilst you’re there be sure to visit the ancient city of Heraklion and its stunning Venetian Harbour. The drive to Knossos from Agios Nikolaos should take around an hour.
Boat trips from Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Agios Nikolaos is a great starting point for a boat trip with it’s easy to access harbour and plethora of destinations.
Agios Nikolaos Spinalonga ferry
If you’ve read Victoria Hislop’s recent bestseller “The Island” you’ll know all about Spinalonga Island. This is a fascinating place to visit being a former leper colony steeped in history. You can hop on a boat at the harbour, tour the Mirabello, swim in Kolokitha Bay and visit the island. Pre book your trip to Spinalonga Island on Get Your Guide to secure your spot.
Semi Submarine Cruise
A semi submarine cruise is a real bucket list activity to tick off during your holiday in Agios Nikolaos. These underwater boat trips last around an hour and a half with part of the tour underwater checking out the colourful marine life of the bay and the rest above deck soaking in the view. If you’re very lucky you may even spot dolphins and sea turtles. Make sure you book this semi submarine cruise from Agios Nikolaos well in advance.
Elounda Bay Cruise
If you’re into amazing views, snorkelling and sunbathing then a tour from Agios Nikolaos to Elounda bay is an absolute must. These last around half a day and are perfect for spotting deserted beaches to perhaps visit later. Have a look at this tour to Elounda on Get Your Guide to book a time that works for you.
Where to stay in Agios Nikolaos
If you’re looking for luxury then you cant go wrong with the St. Nicolas Bay Resort. Located under 1 km from Agios Nikolaos with its own private stretch of sand this five star hotel is an absolute treat. It’s perfect for families with large rooms and indulgent villas. It has sumptuous spa, two pools and five restaurants.
For cosy indulgence check out the Casa Porto located right on the seafront in the harbour. This modern, adults only boutique hotel offers amazing views from its rooftop terrace and even hot tubs in some of the rooms.
For somewhere slightly less extravagant but oozing with Greek Charm try the Bellevue Suites. Located around half a mile from the city centre. These are serviced apartments so you’ll have all the facilities you need to cook breakfast and prepare picnics. These are always great options when you’re traveling with picky kids.
Restaurants in Agios Nikolaos Crete
Having chosen to spend your holidays in Crete I’m sure you’re going to want to try some delicious Greek food. It absolutely is amazing and Agios Nikolaos is a great place to get get started. It is home to some excellent restaurant, some expensive and upscale and some more homely, family run Greek Tavernas. Order local and seasonal as much as you possibly can, seafood in Agios Nikolaos is always excellent, as is the honey and olive oil.
My favourite places for food are down by the harbour overlooking the sea or at one of the restaurants surrounding Lake Voulismeni. Pop into Karnagio by the Lake for expertly prepared local dishes or to BLE Katsarolakia by the harbour for their little terrace which offer fabulous views.
How to pronounce Agios Nikolaos
If you’re staying in Agios Nikolaos or want to visit for a day trip you’re going to need to know how to pronounce it for taxi drivers or in case you need directions. Try saying eye-yoss nikor-lowse which should be understood by most people.
How to get to Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos is located on the North East Coast of Crete. If you’re flying into Crete you’ll either land in Chania or Heraklion – Heraklion is your best choice for Agios Nikolaos. If you are comfortable driving then hiring a car is by far the easiest way to get to Agios Nikolaos and means you can explore the rest of Crete at your leisure during your stay. I recommend pre booking your car as soon as possible to secure the best deal.
Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos
If you are traveling from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos by car the route will take around an hour just follow the A90 which is the National Road pretty much the whole way.
Taxi Heraklion Agios Nikolaos
If you want to take a taxi Heraklion – Agios Nikolaos shouldn’t cost you too much, I would budget around €75. Or you can prebook your Transfer from Holiday Taxis which will save you money versus jumping in a taxi at the airport.
Bus Heraklion Agios Nikolaos
The bus is by far the cheapest way to get from Heraklion to Agios Nikolaos. You’ll get on the bus at the main bus stop in Heraklion town which is right next to the port. There are buses every couple of hours and should cost you less that €10. Expect the route to take around 2 hours.
Chania to Agios Nikolaos
You may also fly into the beautiful city of Chania to the North of the Island. Chania itself is well worth exploring so if your holiday does start there I recommend scheduling in a few days to explore Chania. Once you’re ready to head to Agios Nikolaos you have a few options. It’s around a three hour drive door to door but there are plenty of great places to stop along the way. A taxi will cost you around £120. Again your cheapest option will be by bus. You’ll need to change in Heraklion. This option will take you most of the day and will cost about €25.
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