Rhodes island, a picturesque location in the southeastern Aegean Sea, boasts a rich history that spans millennia. One of its crown jewels is the Rhodes Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a living testament to its storied past. Stepping into Rhodes Old Town is like stepping back in time, where medieval walls, cobblestone streets, and centuries-old architecture transport you to a bygone era. In this complete guide, I’ll explore everything you need to know for a memorable visit to this enchanting destination.
About Old Town Rhodes
Rhodes Old Town, often referred to as Medieval Rhodes, stands as a living testament to the rich history and remarkable architecture of the island of Rhodes, Greece. This enchanting destination is a window into a bygone era, where medieval walls, narrow cobblestone streets, and centuries-old buildings transport visitors back in time. Let’s embark on a journey through the captivating charm and history of Rhodes Old Town.
Historical Significance: Rhodes Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its origins date back to antiquity. However, its most prominent era began in the 14th century when the Knights of Saint John, a Christian military order, transformed the town into a formidable fortress. The knights fortified the city, constructing imposing walls, defensive moats, and a maze of narrow streets to protect it from invaders.
The Knights of Saint John: The Knights of Saint John, also known as the Hospitallers, used Rhodes as their base of operations during the Crusades. Their influence is evident in the architectural styles, fortifications, and the various inns along the famous Street of the Knights, each representing a different nationality within the order.
Tours of the Medieval City
Rhodes Old Town offers a wealth of history and culture to explore, and guided tours can enhance your experience by providing insight into its fascinating stories and landmarks. Here are some popular tours you can consider when visiting Rhodes Old Town:
Discover the contrasts between the modern New Town of Rhodes and the medieval culture and architecture of the Old Town on this guided tour.
£26 per person, 4 hour duration
Enjoy a private tour of the Grand Master’s Palace in Rhodes Old Town, entry ticket included. See the historical home of the leader of the Knights of St. John, now a UNESCO Heritage Site.
£73 per person, 1 hour duration
Discover the historic and scenic charms of the Greek city of Rhodes. Explore the New City, Old Town, and Acropolis area on 2 wheels while being captured by a professional photographer along the way.
£33 per person, 2 hour duration
Explore with a guided tour the Acropolis of Rhodes and the medieval Town. Learn about the History and the legend’s of the Colossus. Live the History with unreal experience of 9d cinema.
£30 per person, 4 hour duration
Images courtesy of GetYourGuide
Where to Stay in Rhodes Town
We stayed in the 5-star Hotel Mediterranean, which combines the benefit of proximity to Rhodes town, for those who seek to take advantage of the city life or explore the attractions of the Medieval town, with the comforts and services provided by a first class hotel on the beach front. Continuing the tradition of 55 years on attention to detail and personalised service, Hotel Mediterranean presents a distinctive experience of warm hospitality ideal for business or pleasure, all year round.
The sea view rooms are gorgeous, with a great balcony looking over the bay.
Image courtesy of Booking.com
The most convenient way to reach Rhodes is by air. Diagoras International Airport, located just 14 kilometers southwest of Rhodes Old Town, connects the island to major European cities. From the airport, you can take a taxi, bus, or rent a car to reach the Old Town.
Rhodes is also accessible by ferry from several Greek islands and the Turkish coast. The main ferry port is located in the town of Rhodes, a short drive from the Old Town. Ferries offer a scenic approach to the island.
When to Visit
The best time to visit Rhodes Old Town is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October). The weather is pleasant, and crowds are thinner than during the peak summer months. Winters are mild but may bring rain, so plan accordingly.
Things to do in Rhodes Old Town
The Medieval Walls
The medieval walls of Old Town Rhodes are a remarkable testament to the rich history of this ancient city. Constructed in the 14th century by the Knights of Saint John, these imposing fortifications encircle the heart of Rhodes, creating a sense of timelessness that transports visitors back to the Middle Ages. The walls are an exceptional example of medieval military architecture, with their formidable battlements, watchtowers, and a deep moat that once served as a formidable defense against invaders. As one wanders through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Old Town Rhodes, the towering walls loom above, casting a spell of historical grandeur that evokes the enduring spirit of the knights who once protected this vibrant island city. Today, the medieval walls of Old Town Rhodes stand as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserving the city’s captivating past for generations to come.
Palace of the Grand Master
Situated within the medieval Old Town, this magnificent palace was originally built in the 14th century as the residence of the Grand Master of the Knights of Saint John. The palace is a breathtaking fusion of Gothic, Renaissance, and Ottoman architectural styles, showcasing the remarkable craftsmanship of its time. Its interior is equally captivating, with opulent chambers adorned with intricate frescoes, elegant marble floors, and stunning mosaics. The palace houses a museum that offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of Rhodes.
The Archaeological Museum in Rhodes is a captivating treasure trove of ancient history, housing an impressive collection of artefacts that offer a glimpse into the island’s rich past. Located in the heart of the city, the museum’s exhibits span a wide range of periods, from the prehistoric to the Hellenistic era, and are thoughtfully curated to provide visitors with a comprehensive understanding of Rhodes’ cultural evolution. From intricate pottery and statues to finely crafted jewellery and mosaics, the museum’s displays bring to life the island’s artistic, social, and technological advancements throughout the ages. One of its most iconic pieces is the famed statue of the Aphrodite of Rhodes, a masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.
Good to know
Tickets: €6 per adult/€3 reduced price
Open daily 08.30 – 15.30 in winter, 08:00 – 20:00 in summer
Street of the Knights
The Street of the Knights in Rhodes is a captivating cobblestone thoroughfare that winds its way through the heart of the city’s medieval Old Town. Originally known as the “Collachium,” this historic avenue was once the main artery of the Knights of Saint John’s headquarters. Lined with majestic, centuries-old buildings that once served as inns for the knights, the facades of these structures still bear the crests and coats of arms of the knights who resided there.
Hippocrates Square in Rhodes is a charming and historic focal point in the heart of the island’s capital, Rhodes Town. Named after the renowned ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, this lively square pays homage to the island’s rich heritage. The square features a bronze statue of Hippocrates, surrounded by inviting cafés, restaurants, and shops. It’s a bustling gathering place for both locals and tourists, where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, try some Greek delicacies, or simply relax and people-watch while admiring the elegant neoclassical architecture that frames the square. As day turns into night, the square comes alive with a vibrant atmosphere, making it an ideal starting point for exploring the enchanting Old Town of Rhodes, which is just a stone’s throw away.
Dining and Cuisine
Dining in Rhodes Old Town is a culinary journey through history, where the rich tapestry of Mediterranean flavours and Greek cuisine unfolds in charming, historical settings. Here are three restaurant recommendations that offer exceptional dining experiences:
- Tamam: Nestled within a beautifully restored Ottoman building, Tamam exudes a cozy and inviting atmosphere. The menu combines traditional Greek dishes with a modern twist, featuring fresh seafood, local ingredients, and a wide array of meze (small plates).
- Marco Polo Café & Restaurant: Situated in a historic building overlooking the picturesque St. John’s Gate, Marco Polo offers a blend of Italian and Greek cuisines in a stylish, atmospheric setting. The restaurant’s rooftop terrace provides stunning views of the medieval town and the sea, making it a superb choice for a romantic dinner.
- Socratous Garden: Located in a charming courtyard with lush greenery, Socratous Garden offers a tranquil escape from the bustling streets of the Old Town. This family-run restaurant specialises in traditional Greek cuisine, serving up dishes like moussaka, stuffed vine leaves, and grilled meats. The serene and inviting setting, combined with friendly service, creates a relaxed atmosphere ideal for trying authentic Greek flavors.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a colossal ancient statue that once stood as a symbol of grandeur and artistic prowess on the island of Rhodes. Crafted by the renowned sculptor Chares of Lindos, this massive bronze statue of the sun god Helios was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is believed to have stood at the entrance to the harbour of Rhodes between the two fallow deer, spanning the city’s two harbour walls with its legs, creating an awe-inspiring gateway for incoming ships. Unfortunately, the Colossus of Rhodes was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC, and its remnants were eventually sold for scrap. Today, there are no visible remains of the statue in Rhodes. However, the legacy of the Colossus endures in the island’s rich history and culture, and you can learn more about this iconic monument in various museums and historical sites across the island.
Rhodes Old Town is a historical treasure trove that will captivate travellers of all interests. From its medieval fortifications to its vibrant streets, this destination offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With this complete guide in hand, you’re well-equipped to embark on an unforgettable journey through the enchanting streets of Rhodes Old Town. Enjoy your visit to this timeless gem!