Why the Medieval Old Town of Rhodes is a Must-See Attraction

Designated World Heritage status in 1988, Rhodes Old Town holds the crown as the oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe.

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The beautiful Greek island of Rhodes has lots of sandy beaches and well-known tourist spots but the medieval Old Town is one part of the island you shouldn’t miss. Shops, museums, restaurants and pristinely-preserved landmarks all lie within its mighty walls, and one of the quickest ways to get to its labyrinth of ancient streets is from Mandraki Harbor and the main city port. When it comes to exploring the Old Town, all of its attractions are walking distance from each other and the best way to take in its glorious sights is by foot.

 

If you’re planning on visiting Rhodes soon, here’s why the Old Town is an absolute must-visit during your time on the island.

 

Once you’re in the Old Town, you’ll find a warren of winding cobbled streets, including the Street of the Knights. Known for being one of the most complete and preserved medieval streets in not just Europe but the world, the Street of the Knights is lined by the inns and buildings where the knights of the Order of the Knights lived and spent their time. Seven nations and languages made the Knights of St John, and each of the inns is adorned with a crest that represents its nation. The Street of the Knights runs from the Archaeological Museum and ends near the Palace of the Grand Master.

Originally a Byzantine fortress that was converted in the 14th century by the Knights of St John, the Palace of the Grand Master is one of the most significant monuments within the walls of the Old Town. Although it managed to survive the siege of 1522 with minimal damage, a huge ammunition explosion destroyed the lower part of the palace in 1856. The turning point of the palace was in 1912 when the Italian’s occupied Rhodes and rebuilt it as a lavish residence for Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, and later Benito Mussolini.

 

When Rhodes was later unified with Greece, the palace was converted to a museum by the Greek government and is still open to the public today. Visitors can glimpse inside the private chambers of the Grand Master, get a closer look at the stunning ballroom and admire the floors that are decorated with mosaics brought over by the Italian’s from the excavations of Kos Island. The museum is also home to sculptures, antique furniture and paintings, and some of the rooms feature exhibitions that display the history of Rhodes from the early Christian period to the Turkish conquest.

 

For a birds-eye view of the Old Town, you’ll need to go to the medieval clock tower where you can climb to the top and take in the scenery whilst sipping on a drink from the bar. It’s a wonderful spot to rest your feet and experience superb views of both the city and the harbor. After visiting the clock tower, you can head to the Lady of the Castle Cathedral, otherwise known in Greek as Panagia tou Kastrou. The church was built in the late 11th century but was later converted into a three-aisled basilica with a transept when it was conquered by the Order of the Knights of St. John in 1309. Having gone through several incarnations, the Lady of the Castle Cathedral is one of the most interesting and photo-worthy structures in the Old Town.

Another must-do activity in the Old Town is a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. It sits at the foot of the Street of the Knights and can be found in the former hospital of the Knights of St John, built in the 15th century. The museum has an interior courtyard and outdoor garden and it houses an impressive collection of mosaics, pottery, jewelry, coins and ancient marble statues that have been found from the excavations of Rhodes and the surrounding islands. Hosting objects that date back to the Archaic, Roman, Mycenaean and Hellenistic periods, the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes also features funerary slabs of the Knights, several upstairs galleries and a bathing Aphrodite statue from the 1st century BC.

 

Once you’re done soaking up all the history of Rhodes Old Town, you can shop till you drop at the countless stalls and stores within the city’s walls. Sokratous Street is one of the main shopping streets of the town, with shops selling everything from leather goods and jewelry to souvenirs and local products. Sokratous Street ends at Ippokratous Square, a charming place with beautiful buildings and a historic fountain, all surrounded by shops, cafes and restaurants. There are also lots of pretty side streets and dead ends that are perfect if you want to stroll around undisturbed away from the main squares and shopping areas. And don’t panic if you get lost exploring the labyrinth of narrow alleyways and cobbled backstreets in the Old Town because there will always be a local around to guide you in the right direction.

 

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