09:00 – Beach, Please!
Start your day with a swim at Ammos Beach on the south side of the city. Nearby Kimzu Sea Lounge (Tel. (+30) 28410.905.44) is a lovely and lively all-day café bar where you can enjoy your morning coffee with a view of the beach.
12:00 – Select your Souvenirs
Make your way to Roussou Koundourou Street and to Mesostrati (Tel. (+30) 28410.271.15), a grocery store and pastry workshop that sells a wide selection of traditional products, including graviera cheese, apaki ham, wine from local grape varieties (Vidiano, Plyto, Thrapsathiri) and homemade goat’s milk ice cream, as well as sweets like kaltsounia (sweet cheese pies), xerotigana (a customary wedding treat) and myzithropita (pies made with xinomyzithra cheese, olive oil and raki), served fresh and warm.
Then head for the highly touristic 28 Oktovriou (28th October) Street. Among the dozens of shops selling items like fridge magnets, flip-flops and beach shirts, you’ll find good local products that truly make the best souvenirs: natural olive oil soaps, loofah sponges, extra virgin olive oil from Sitia and organic cosmetics made with Cretan herbs.
14:00 – Lunch with the locals
For a midday meal, choose a less touristic restaurant, such as Zygos (Tel. (+30) 28410.820.09). Located on the shores of Lake Voulismeni, it serves a range of well-executed Mediterranean dishes, including pork filet with sage, and skioufichta (a local pasta) made from carob flour. If you’re ordering cocktails, try the Kill the Devil (with Zacapa rum) or the Mogin (with gin and masticha liqueur).
17:00 – Stroll around
Put on your hat, grab a bottle of water and take a stroll around Voulismeni Lake, a lively spot with small shops that is especially interesting in the summer, thanks to the tourists who bring so much life to the area.
Walk all the way to Kitroplateia, a square named after the citron fruit that was once a commercial staple here, to view two intriguing statues inspired by mythological stories related to Crete. One depicts the Horn of Amalthea, the horn of the she-goat that was Zeus’ foster mother; the other is of the Abduction of Europa, further along near the port.
19:00 – Art everywhere
The Minos Beach Art Hotel (Tel. (+30) 28410.223.45) hosts an exhibition of modern art that begins in its seaside garden and continues below the waves. If you’d like to see the underwater part, there’s a dive center that can arrange that for you; ask at the hotel.
Across the bay, there’s a Byzantine church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, after whom the town was named. You can get the key from the front desk of the hotel Minos Palace (Tel. (+30) 28410.238.01), right next door, after presenting identification.
21:00 – Night out
Dinner is at Olous (Tel. (+30) 28410.224.14), the latest arrival on the Aghios Nikolaos food scene, which serves interesting dishes like kakavia (fish stew) with ouzo and saffron, shi drum with cracked wheat, or gamopilafo, a traditional rice dish.
You can end the day with a glass of wine on the veranda of Chez Georges (Tel. (+30) 28410.261.30), which has a view of the lake, or with a refreshing Not Another Mojito (rum, lime, strawberry flavoring and mint) at the cocktail bar Bajamar (Tel. (+30) 697.336.6035), a livelier proposition on the pedestrian street above the port that plays house, funk and soul music.