Rhodes Town dates back to 408 BC and is located on the northern end of the Dodecanese’s Rhodes Island. The town is a wonderful blend of modern and ancient with two distinctive halves – the Old Town and the New Town. This is what makes it considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. What follows next is information about the Old and the New town as well as a list of the best places to visit in Rhodes town.
If you are planning to travel to Rhodes island, use this guide as visiting Rhodes town is definitely one of the best things to do in Rhodes island.
The medieval and UNESCO-listed Old Town is nestled at the heart of the modern city while still remaining completely separate, all made possible by the double set of towering walls with minarets and domes at the top. Inside, you can let yourself get lost and wander in the maze of squares and narrow cobbled streets. Medieval buildings reminiscent of castles, houses, mosques, fountains, quiet squares, transport the visitor to another time.
The Greeks, followed by the Knights of St. John, then the Ottoman Turks, followed by the Italians and back to the Greece again held Rhodes through the many centuries. This resulted to a unique architecture that is a magnificent combination of everything, ranging from Italian, to Ottoman, to Classical.
Approximately 2,500 residents live and 7,500 work in this well-preserved city. It is the focal point of interest of all visitors of the island and offers the best services in the sectors of trade, food and entertainment.
The Knights of St. John is a Catholic religious military order that dedicated themselves to put a stop on the spread of the Islamic religion and tended to the poor and sick. The order was responsible for the construction of the imposing hospital from 1440 to 1489. With a gorgeous courtyard garden filled with scented herbs on the front, the edifice serves as the home of the archeological museum of the city. This is where you can see displays of the archeological site finds from all over the island, such as urns, marble statues, stunning mosaics, and funerary stele.
There is also a naked girl’s white marble figure as she crouches and runs her fingers through her hair. This figure, popularly called the Aphrodite of Rhodes, dates back to first century BC.
The cobbled Street of the Knights runs from Hospital of the Knights to Palace of the Grand Masters, lined with Gothic arches and stone buildings and it has retained the appearance that it used to have during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is where the Inns’ of the knights were located. The order was categorized into 7 tongues namely Aragon, Auvergne, England, Italy, Germany, Provence, and France. Each of these has its very own “Inn” and this is where the members dined and convened. The quarters of the various nationalities of the Knights of St. John are located on the pebble paved Avenue of Knights.
At the beginning of the Avenue at Museum Square is where the Knights’ Hospital is located, which currently houses the Archeological Museum. Just across is the Church of the Panagia tou Kastrou (11th century AD), which in Byzantine times operated as the Metropolitan Church of Orthodox Christians and later, when the Knights captured Rhodes, it operated as a Catholic Church. At the end of the Avenue of Knights, at Kleovoulos Square, rises the magnificent Palace of the Grand Master. Walking down the street is one of the must things to do in Rhodes town for sure.
The Palace of the Grand Master perched on top of Street of the Knights is a gigantic stronghold with a triple circuit of walls defending it sitting in Old Town’s highest point. This was erected on the location of the older Byzantine fortress (7th century AD) and was constructed by Knights Hospitaller or Knights of St. John (at the beginning of the 14th century), the Catholic military order that was the ruler of island from years 1309 to 1522.
Situated on the square plan that centers on a massive internal courtyard, the building fell into bad shape after the knights departed. Also, in 1856 it was partly destroyed by an explosion. However, the Italians built it again during the 1930s to serve as the holiday residence for King Emmanuel III then later on for Mussolini, the Fascist dictator. This whimsical structure with crenellated ramparts and towers, antiques, antiquities, and pebble mosaic floors has more than 150 rooms, 20 of which are open for the tourists. The ground floor houses two large permanent exhibits. The first floor houses the collection from the Byzantine Museum. The Palace of the Grand Master is considered as one of the most important monuments of the Knight ‘s order. Certainly one of the must places to visit in Rhodes town.
The Roloi Clock Tower, originally built during the end of 7th century in the medieval old town is Rhodes’ most popular attraction. This Byzantine structure has gone through several rebirths ever since it was first built. An explosion in 1856 damaged it and it was rebuilt afterwards with Baroque touches. However, the best thing that you can do is climbing to the tower’s top where you can take in Rhodes’ panoramic views below. Late afternoon or early morning is the best time to visit here.
Massive walls enclose the city and around the walls are gates dating back to the Knights’ Period. A walk along these impressive walls gives one the opportunity to assess this inconceivable for that time fortification work of the Medieval city and to also enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of the old and new city of Rhodes. The perfectly preserved Medieval Moat hosts the Melina Merkouri theatre where many cultural events are held in the summer.
You can start from the Palace of the Grand Master and stroll around one of the world’s best examples of medieval ramparts. Originally constructed during the Byzantine era, the knights extended and reinforced them during 14th to 16th centuries because of their obsessive fear of being attacked by the enemies. With a length of 4 kilometers and thickness of 12 meters in parts, these include sturdy bastions, imposing towers, artillery firing posts, a dry moat, and a few magnificent gates.
Constructed in the 1522 in the same year that the city was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, this mosque with its white and pink colors and elegant minaret served as a commemoration of the conquest of the island by Süleyman I. During that time, Süleyman the Magnificent, the Sultan, was one of the most influential leaders of the world, growing the empire further to North Africa and Europe in the era that was later on recognized as the Golden Age of the Ottomans. With the ruling of the Turks, many of the churches in Rhodes were turned into mosques.
The cross streets at Suleyman Mosque lead to churches, such as the Church of Agios Fanourios (13th century church with murals). As well as squares such as Dorieos Square with the Retzep Mosque and Arionos Square with the Turkish Baths (built in the 16th century), which are of special interest. Along Sokratous street you can find lovely gift shops, many traditional shops and some cafes and restaurants. Socratous street ends at the popular lppokratous square near the Marine Gate, the largest and most impressive gate of the Knight’s era, dominated by the Knight’s Building of Kastellania. Next Aristotelous Street leads to the Square of the Jewish Martyrs, the centre of the old Jewish Quarter, which is where the “Admiralty”, the Jewish Synagogue, the Panagia tou Bourgou and the Knight’s Guesthouse of Agia Ekaterini are located.
The so-called New Town, found outside the walls, was where the local Greeks originally settled after they were banished by the Ottoman Turks from the medieval center during 1522. But, its current appearance came to existence during the 1930s when the Mussolini-led Italians constructed Art Deco administrative buildings that overlook the Mandraki Harbor that include the post office, town hall, aquarium, theater, and covered market.
Between the island’s northern tip and the Mandraki Harbor are the string of the narrow sandy beaches with umbrellas for hire and sunbeds.
Dating from the founding of the city in 408 BC, a long breakwater lined with three derelict windmills protects the old Mandraki Harbor and on the northern tip, you can find the 15th century Fort St. Nicholas. Two stone columns with bronze figures of a doe and a stag on the top flank the harbor’s entrance. Deer serves as Rhodes’ heraldic symbol and continue to be depicted on the ceramics of the area such as tiles, plates, and ashtrays sold as souvenirs.
In the bygone times, it is said that the mythological Colossus of Rhodes, the enormous 3rd century statue of the personification of the sun and handsome Greek god Helios, straddled the harbor’s entrance where the deer currently stands guard. These days, excursion boats and yachts that offer day boat trips to the nearby islands of Halki and Symi and to the Turkish coast’s Marmaris use the Mandraki Harbor.
Eli Beach is the main beach of the town that attracts large crowds during summer season. But, the best thing here is that the clear blue waters of the beach generally remain warm enough for a swim through the month of October. Pebbles cover most of the beach so lying or walking on it can be quite rocky. Don’t worry though, as there are umbrellas and loungers available for rent during the season. It is also important to know that the water in the area tends to get deep really fast so this might be the best choice for young kids. There is also a set up diving platform for leaping off right offshore. The vicinity also has good snorkeling.
One of the must places to visit in Rhodes town is definitely the Acropolis of Rhodes. Preserved in the ruins of the ancient acropolis are a lot of important antiquities. The restored ancient Stadium of Diagoras and the small marble theater which today hosts musical and theatrical performances. On the hilltop dominates the Acropolis of the ancient city of Rhodes and the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. There is no entrance fee as the site is open for everyone.
Also one of the coolest places to visit in Rhodes town is Rodini park. The park is just 3 km from the city of Rhodes and you can easily find it as it is along the Rhodes-Lindos main road.
Rodini park is distinguished for its rich and divers flora and the rare plants. You will also meet some friendly ducks and lots of peacocks around as well as the rare ghizani fish! The park has a refreshment stand and the entrance is free.
It is situated at the northern tip of the island. It was built by the Italians in 1936, initiating its activities in 1937. Since 1963 it has been operating as an an aquarium under the name Hydrobiological Station of Rhodes and functions as a research center in the Mediterranean.
The Hydrobiological Station of Rhodes has an open water circulation system, which provides natural living conditions for a wide range of Meditteranean specimens such as turtles, numerous fishes, octopuses, clams, reefs, sea flowers or other interesting sea organisms.