Welcome to a bygone era… With its atmospheric cobbled streets and impressive architecture, stepping into the Old Town of Rhodes is perhaps the closest you’ll experience to time travel.
Ensconced behind monumental double walls and a deep moat lies the oldest continuously inhabited medieval town in Europe. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988, it’s a popular attraction for travellers keen to walk in the footsteps of medieval knights and soak up the history and ambiance of this mesmerising place.
As you approach the Old Town, the imposing walls are a thrill to behold. Initially built during the Byzantine period, the Knights of St John extended and reinforced them – and they remain one of the finest examples of medieval fortifications in the world.
Starting from the Palace of the Grand Master, you can walk much of the four kilometres of ramparts, exploring towers, gates and artillery firing posts en route.
Palace of the Grand Master
Once the headquarters of the Order of the Knights of St John, the Palace of the Grand Master is one of the most important medieval buildings in the world.
Badly damaged by an explosion under Ottoman rule, the Kastello was returned to its former glories by the Italians, and is today worth a visit for its majestic architecture alone. Head inside and you’ll be rewarded with elaborate mosaics and archaeological exhibits from Rhodes, against a setting dripping with medieval decoration.
Street of the Knights (Ippoton Street)
Running from the Palace of the Grand Master down to the Hospital of the Knights, the Street of the Knights is perhaps the most famous road on the island. Lined with stone buildings, Gothic arches and old lamps, the cobblestone street houses seven inns, one for each of the seven ‘tongues’ that made up the Order of the Knights of St John – England, France, Germany, Italy, Aragon, Auvergne and Provence. Each inn can be identified by its coat of arms as you walk along the street, imagining knights congregating here in times past.
Hospital of the Knights (Rhodes Archaeological Museum)
Located at the bottom of the Street of the Knights, the Hospital of the Knights is a Gothic masterpiece. Adorned with grandiose staircases and lofty vaulted ceilings, this spectacular building today houses the archaeological museum. Wander the impressive courtyard, herb-scented gardens and ancient sickbays, while perusing mosaics, funerary stele, marble statues and other artefacts from Rhodes and the Dodecanese islands, dating back to the Mycenaean period and beyond.
Roloi (Clock Tower)
From its vantage point in the highest part of the Old Town, the medieval clock tower, Roloi, offers commanding views of the city. This seventh century Byzantine tower was damaged in an explosion in 1856 and rebuilt with some Baroque influence. Climb the 53 steps to the viewing platform for magical views across the red roofs, domed mosques and beyond to the sparkling blue harbour.
Legacies from the time of Ottoman rule abound with several churches, including Our Lady of the Castle, converted into mosques following the conquest. But the most striking building from this period is the pink-hued Suleyman’s Mosque, located opposite Roloi. Although closed to the public, this beautiful medieval mosque is a landmark in the Old Town and adds another dimension to the mosaic of cultures and civilisations that called this city home.
With its maze-like streets, it’s easy to get lost in the Old Town and miss some of its main attractions. That’s why we recommend joining a Rhodes Old Town walking tour to get the most out of your visit. We offer several tour options combining an old town tour with a Rhodes food tour, Rhodes wine tour, and a full-day tour that includes a trip to Lindos.
To find out more or book your Rhodes private tour, contact Rhodes Experience today. We’re ready to help you plan your dream Rhodes experience.