Heraklion Festivals & Cultural Events

The religious panigiria and cultural events are an integral part of the local culture. Particularly in the summer, the villages of Heraklion hold many festivities, which contribute to preserving local customs and traditions.
You can find information about festivals in Heraklion below:

Religious feasts & festivals

August 15th
This date is one of the most important days in Orthodox Christianity, honoring the Dormition of the Virgin Mary. As such, panigiria are held in almost every village in the country, including those of Heraklion. These are mostly held around churches dedicated to Mary and are the height of religious and cultural celebrations throughout the year for many villages.

August 25th
This is the feast of Agios Titos (Saint Titus), an early Christian missionary and one of the first Greeks to have converted to Christianity. Titus was ordained as the first bishop of Crete by the Apostle Paul, where he appointed presbyters in every city. He died in Gortyn in 96 CE and is considered the patron saint of Crete. The church of Agios Titos is found in the city of Heraklion, near the center of the Old Town. His relics, consisting of his skull, are venerated here.

November 11th
The feast of Agios Minas (Saint Menas), the patron saint of Heraklion. Minas was a martyr who was killed at age 24, with his gravesite in Egypt (Abu Mena) once considered to have had healing powers. Menas bears the patronage of Heraklion since Easter 1826, when it is said he appeared to Ottoman soldiers preparing to massacre the town, preventing them from carrying out their intentions. In 1941, a German bomb is said to have fallen on the church of St. Menas without exploding. This church is the largest on Crete and can be found near the center of the Old Town, next to an older, smaller church consecrated to St. Menas, and the unexploded bomb is displayed in the courtyard.

Cultural events

Matala Beach Festival
Held at Matala Beach, this annual music festival dating back to 2013 is held during the summer, usually in June. The beach was an internationally acclaimed hippy hotspot in the 1960s and 1970s, with many world-famous musicians spending their days here. The Festival attempts to recreate the feel of those days with a large camping area and a line-up consisting of pop, rap, rock, and even ska artists.

At the end of Apokries, just before Lent, many cities in Greece host carnivals. These are usually one- to two-week-long festivities, with street parties and vibrant costumes. Kastrini Apokria is the carnival held in Heraklion, which features treasure hunts through the Old Town, as well as a parade on a Sunday, which starts at 18 Agglon Square outside the old Venetian Port and ends at Eleftherias Square. The precise dates vary each year, as the celebrations depend on the date of Easter, but are generally held between late February and early March.

Every year, the Agios Mironas Cultural Association holds a two-week-long festival in honor of its patron saint, Saint Myron. Titled “Rafkeia” after the village’s ancient name, Rafkos, the celebrations begin in late July and peak on the 8th of August, which is Saint Myron’s feast.
The festival includes a variety of events, including art exhibitions, 1-kilometre and 5-kilometre races, theatre plays, guided tours of the ancient ruins, and even talks by the faculty of the University of Crete, before coming to a head on August 7th and 8th, when the central square of Agios Mironas plays hosts to Cretan glentia.

Tsikoudia Festival
October and November are when Crete’s signature spirit, tsikoudia, is distilled. To honor this centuries-old tradition, the “Lazaros and Manolis Chnaris” Folklore Society organizes an annual festival at Heraklion’s Karavolas Park, right on the city’s promenade. 
The festival, held on the first Sunday of October, focuses on the rakokazano still placed at the park, around which Cretan traditions and dances unfurl under live music, while traditional snacks and desserts are prepared and enjoyed, all in eager anticipation for the distillment and consumption of the year’s first batches of tsikoudia.