Main Entrance, Palace of the Masters, Rhodes

Main Entrance, Palace of the Masters, Rhodes

Private Tour: Rhodes City Including The Old Town And Palace Of The Grand Masters

Get acquainted with the city of Rhodes on a 3.5-hour private tour, and discover Rhodes Old Town a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as modern sights around Mandraki Esplanade. With a private guide, learn about the citys history and the legacy left on the city by the Knights Crusaders, the soldiers who led a series of holy wars during the Middle Ages. See the striking city gates of Porte dAmboise, stroll down the Street of the Knights and tour the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes (entry own expense).

The highlights - what to see in the Old Town of Rhodes

The Palace of the Grand Master, reinstated by the Italians in 1940 after almost a century of abandonment (the building had been destroyed as a result of an explosion in a forgotten powder store in its basement, in 1856), stands out because of its imposing entrance and exquisitely well-preserved towers and battlements. The interiors of the buildings, decorated with priceless ornamental objects, are equally impressive.

The Archaeological Museum is housed in the Gothic building of the Great Hospital of the Knights and preserves masterpieces of art on Rhodes, finds from ancient lalysos and Kamiros and mosaic paintings from the city of Rhodes.

The Knight's Street, the imposing street that leads to the Palace of the Grand Master, keeps alive the accommodations of the "language" of the Order of Knights.

It is worth visiting the Panagia tou Kastrou, the Panagia tou Bourgkou, the clocktower, the synagogue and the mosques of the Suleyman and Recep Pasha.

The medieval city of Rhodes is one of the few remaining medieval cities in the world that is still inhabited and alive.

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My husband and I have been going to Rhodes for twenty five years. I have travelled extensively to many places! For me it is one of my favorite places. No matter how often I have been there I always see and find something that I missed the last time. I love the labyrinth of the old town with its cobbled streets, unique shops and restaurants, but most of all it is the magic of its history, you can almost feel the agony and ecstasy of times of old, at times I feel if you listen hard enough you can hear the Knights and feel and smell the battles that told place. It almost as if the stone walls hold the memories of all the blood that was split in the times of war and chaos. At the same time the beauty of it architecture takes you breath away, It is a very magical place and one that I hold dear to my heart and soul. I hope to return again one day before go too join the Knights in there forever sleep!

I hope to return to Rhodes to sample the wonderful atmosphere of the whole island. Poor health is preventing me at the moment but I hope that will improve.

The old town in Rhodes is amazing, everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime! The cobbled street are like mazes, however do not fear, you always find your way back. The small inns and shops are beautiful. There are plenty of places to eat and drink and also places just to rest and enjoy the atmosphere of this unique setting. It really is like a film set at times, with the expectation of knights of old appearing around the corners of the beautiful houses. Rather like Atlantis. At night the old town takes on a new romantic visage with quaint lights highlighting the architecture of those truly beautiful ornate buildings. Well worth the trip. If you have not yet been to Rhodes Town, you are sincerely missing out. It should be listed as one of the wonders of the world. Cannot wait to go back again.

When you enter Rhodes old town its like you enter a movie and you might expect some knight boomp at you. Great feeling! The best old town I have visited.

Went there 9 times in a 3 week holiday, going back again in october, amazig place by night and just as good by day, so much to see and do, greqat restuarants, shops and getting lost is fun too.

Rhodes town is one of the most gorgeous little places on earth but please visit out of season. It is horrendously hot and rammed with tourists during the summer.

simply the most beautiful place ive been to. Spent hours wandering the streets, hidden gems everywhere!

Our daughter married in Kolymbia in 2008 and we visited Rhodes Town (although the heat was horrendous in June!) and vowed to return in a cooler month which we did last May. It was perfect. Sunny and warm during the day with a litle breeze at night - perfect! Although May was quiet in the Old Town in the evening it was amazing to see the Street of the Knights at 9pm with no turists and only the dim street lights to show the way - it was like stepping back into the 15th Century. The people are so friendly - walking through the old town it was 'Welcome to Rhodes' 'Enjoy your holiday' from everyone with no pressure to buy and always a cheery welcome. These people know how to win the hearts of their visitors. We took a day trip by boat to Lindos - very hot on the sea and take care on the slippery paths in Lindos and beware of the donkeys who stroll back and forth from the acropolis at the edge of the cliffs! There is so much to do in Rhodes Town both in the old and the new with a new walk every day and evening. You'll love it! We are going again in May 2010 and can't wait. Enjoy!

I have visited Rhodes for over 25yrs and absolutily love the island. I have always found the people very friendly in fact have made many friends there, been invited to weddings barbeques ect. After 25yrs of visiting I still find new places to visit love roaming around the back streets of the old town. we always feel very safe no matter where we roam. over the years we have encouraged many people to visit the island and they are now regular visitors. There are so many great bars resturants that you can eat in a different place every night for weeks. We always like to stay near the old town so we can enjoy a stroll around shops at night enjoy the throng of people then sit with a drink people watching. In the day we either jump on a bus or a boat go down to Faliraki for the fantastic beachs, or find a secluded bay, I could go on about rhodes for ever.

This was nice, you have the old city and the new. What a contrast. It was nice walking through it, nobody bothered you, tryin to sell their goods. You can just wonder about and enjoy their way of life - wonderful.

I recently returned from a Greek island/Turkey vacation and Rhodes, Greece was without a doubt one of my favorite places. We drove around the island and saw some incredibly breathtaking views of cliffs dipping down into the blue Aegean Sea. Touring the Palace of the Grand Masters was equally picturesque, including many of the mosaics imported from Italy, specifically Medusa. Shopping was exquisite and it very pleasant to stroll through the Old Town. Can't wait to return!

Overview [ edit | edit source ]

The palace was built in the early 14th century by the Knights of Rhodes, who controlled Rhodes and some other Greek islands from 1309 to 1522, to house the Grand Master of the Order. After the island was captured by the Ottoman Empire, the palace was used as a command center and fortress.

Some parts of the palace were damaged by an ammunition explosion in 1856. When the Kingdom of Italy occupied Rhodes in 1912, the Italians restored it and made it a holiday residence for the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, and later for Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, whose name can still be seen on a large plaque near the entrance.

On 10 February 1947, the Treaty of Peace with Italy, one of the Paris Peace Treaties, determined that the recently-established Italian Republic would transfer the Dodecanese Islands to Greece. In 1948, Rhodes and the rest of the Dodecanese were transferred as previously agreed. The palace was then converted to a museum, and is today visited by the millions of tourists that visit Rhodes.

In 1988, when Greece held the rotating presidency of the European Economic Community (as the European Union was known back then), Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and the other leaders of the EEC had a famous party in the Palace.

Old City of Rhodes

The Old City of Rhodes with a current population of 6,000 inhabitants is surrounded by medieval walls with seven gates: Gate of the Naval Station, Gate of Agios Ioannis, Gate of Agia Ekaterini, Gate of the Apostle Paul, Gate of Amboise, Gate of Agios Athanassios and the Gate of the Port. To enter any of these gates is to enter another world. Now it happens to be a world of tourist shops, restaurants, cafes and museums, more like a Turkish bazaar than any Greek city, but anyone with imagination can't help but be touched by the history of the place where a handful of Knights were the last Christian holdouts in a part of the world that had become completely dominated by Muslims, in particular the Ottoman Turks.

When the city finally did fall after a siege that exhausted both defenders and besiegers the remaining Knights were offered safe passage and on January 1st of 1523 left Rhodes along with 5000 of the Christian inhabitants of the island who chose to leave rather than live under the Sultan. In the defense of the city 2000 Christians had died. The Turks had lost 50,000 trying to take it. This is not, however just an old town filled with ghosts of the past. The old city of Rhodes is a living, vibrant community with many homes and business, not all of them connected to tourism.

The Medieval City was divided into three parts: the northern part included the Acropolis of the Knights and the Palace of the Grand Master while the southern part include Hora, were the commoners lived. The Jewish Quarter is the third section and the least developed commercially in terms of tourism and is mostly residential, though the Hora is also residential mixed with bars, restaurants, cafes and shops.

As you enter the city either from the commercial harbor through the Gate of Navarhou or from the new town through the gate of Eleftherias you see the remains of the 3rd century temple of Aphrodite, and behind it is the Lodge of the Knights of Aiberne, built in 1507. Today the building houses the governor's office. Next to it is the Lodge of the Battalion of England and the first hospital of the Knights, which was built by the Grandmaster in 1440, which today is the Library of the Archaeological Society. The 'New' Hospital houses the town's Archaeological Museum which is impressive not only because of the large number of relics but because the building itself is so monumental and has been the Archaeological museum since 1916. Don't miss the beautiful Aphrodite of Rhodes (like I did) which is contained in a small room that I somehow didn't see. The problem with the old city is that after awhile you have seen so many antiquities that your mind goes numb and you wander around like you are in a daze. For that reason I suggest not trying to see it all at once and to plan your trip so you spend a little extra time in Rhodes than you would on an island with less to offer.

The most beautiful and interesting part of the Old City for me is the street of Knights, the most important street of the medieval town. The street is completely restored or preserved beautifully, and is lined by the buildings where the holy warriors spent their time in prayer or military practice though it is hard to imagine this going on simultaneously unless you have ever visited the West Campus residence halls of Duke University. The Street of the Knights stretches from the New Hospital-Archaeological Museum to the Grandmaster's Palace where the Lodge of the Battalion of France, one of the most beautiful buildings on the island, stands. Next to it stands the chapel of the same name with the beautiful statue of Virgin Mary and the holy infant. The nearby church of Agios Dimitrios is built upon the ruins of the ancient temple of Dionysus.

The Palace of the Grandmaster is the single most impressive site in Rhodes if not all of the Dodekanese Islands and the interior is no less awe-inspiring than the formidable outer walls. Within the enormous castle are relics from the medieval period as well as ancient sculptures and beautiful 1st century floor mosaics which were brought to Rhodes from the island of Kos. For the people of Kos I would be surprised if this is not their version of the Elgin Marbles and as that island's fortunes fall there may be a movement for their return. A walk through the castle will take about an hour and will bring you through several thousand years of history. There is a medieval snack bar that makes decent coffee and has pastries and sandwiches which is a good meeting place for people who go through museums at different speeds. (I was there for an hour before my wife showed up).

If you want a birds-eye view of the city go to the clock tower where for 4 euros you can climb to the top and trade in your ticket for a drink at the bar when you come down. This building, like many of the buildings in the Old Town is owned by a Turk and the Greek who rents it financed the restoration himself. Rhodes, which was not a part of Greece when the exchange of population between Greeks and Turks took place after the Asia Minor Disaster and fall of Smyrna in 1922 (It became part of Greece in 1948 after having been Italian since it's capture in 1912. Because of this there are many Turkish people living in the old city, though they are considered Greeks of the Muslim Faith rather than Turks. In fact the population exchange was done by religion and not ethnicity so there are also Greeks in Turkey because at the time of the exchange they were Muslim.

Orffeos Street is a wide road with tourist shops and restaurants near the Gate of Saint Anthony, the Grand Master Palace and the Suleiman Mosque which connects with Socratous street, another main shopping street of the old town. This becomes Aristotelous street when you get to Ippokratous Square which seems to be the commercial center of the town. Aristolelous leads to the Jewish district and the square of the Hebrew Martyrs, the 15th Century Byzantine church of Agia Triada, and Panagia Horas, the largest church in Rhodes. When Suleiman the Magnificent finally took the city they kicked the Greeks out and only the Turks and Jews could live within the city walls. If I had been able to kick the tourists out of the square I could have taken a photo of the monument.

The Turkish Baths on Platia Arionos alternates days for men and women. If you want to experience the pleasures of a real Turkish hamam without going to Turkey then this is one of the few places in Greece you can do it. I happened to come on the woman's day and didn't need a bath the following day since I had taken a great shower at the hotel. If you are thinking Saint Marks Baths, as in NYC, they are not like that, nor are they like the mineral baths of Lesvos.

The Old City of Rhodes, which incidentally is a World Heritage Site, is in my opinion after the Acropolis of Athens and the Volcano of Santorini, the most impressive place in Greece. To wander through the medieval city, whether it is with crowds of tourists or in the off-season when they are gone, is one of life's treasures and I can't imagine someone visiting here and not wanting to return. The old city is closed to automobile traffic though the occasional motorbike manages to get through and there are automobiles in some areas, though the narrow streets and cobblestones make the going slow and pedestrians are safe. The main streets and thoroughfares are full of shops and restaurants but the back streets are mostly residences, particularly in the Jewish Quarter where life goes on as if nothing is going on a few blocks away where giant cruise ships unload their passengers for a day of shopping and sightseeing.

The walls of the city were a work in progress for the 200 years the Knights ruled the island. Severely damaged in the first siege they were rebuilt bigger and stronger by Grande Master d'Aubusson after the siege of 1480. The walls are 12 meters thick and the moat more than 21 meters wide. The length of the walls is about four kilometers and each section was defended by one of the Langues or tongues which corresponded to the languages spoken where the particular group of knights came from. The Langues were England, Germany, France, Auvergne, Provence, Italy, Castille-Aragon. The leader of each tongue reported to the Grande Master. The entire area outside the walls is a green park of shade trees and flowers and the moats now have green grass and paths through them instead of water. A couple times a week there is a tour of the city walls and fortifications. But leaving through any of the gates and walking around the old city will give you an idea of just how impressive and formidable it was to the Turkish soldiers trying to take it.

There are two ways to approach exploring the old city. You can wander around aimlessly and stumble upon its treasures and figure out what you saw later or you can invest in a map. Having done the first I recommend the second. Much of the stuff I saw I had to figure out what it was by finding it on a map and reading about it long after I had left the island. There are a couple hotels in the old city though getting a taxi to take you to the door is difficult because of the narrow streets. There are a number of good restaurants and more than enough fast-food places.

The Colossus of Rhodes

One of the 7 wonders of the world, the bronze statue built by Chares of Lindos called the Colossus to commemorate the Rhodian triumph after the siege of Dimitrious the Besieger in 305, using the money they made by selling the siege equipment he left behind to pay for the material and labor which took 12 years to complete. Though the most popular image of the 31 meter tall statue is straddled across the entrance of the harbor with the ships passing beneath it, it is more probable that it stood on dry land somewhere close to where the Grande Master Palace is now. Regardless of where it stood, it did not stand there long because 66 years after it was built it fell in the earthquake of 266 BC. Fearing it was cursed they never rebuilt it but the statue lay where it fell for eight centuries. When the Arabs captured Rhodes in 653 AD they sold it to a Jewish merchant who they say needed 900 camels to take it away. But for those of us who missed it there are plans to rebuild it so stay tuned.

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Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes - Greece

At the highest point of the Castle, stands The Palace of the Grand Masters. It has been a fortress, an administration center for the Knights Hospitaller, and a Palace for the Grand Masters. In the 20th century, it was a holiday residence for the King of Italy and later for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. It has been damaged by earthquake (1481) and an ammunition explosion (1856) and rebuilt several times.

It had very imposing dimensions (80 x 75 meters - 262 x 240 foot) and defensive fortifications. It was so strong that during the siege of 1522 it suffered little damage. The main entrance is in the south facade, flanked by two imposing towers. The west facade is pierced by a gate, in front of which rises a tall, square tower, probably the work of the Grand Master Pierre d’Aubusson (1476-1503). On the site where the palace stands “Castello” the “Lower Acropolis” of ancient Rhodes once stood. This is also where the acropolis of the Rhodians of the Byzantine period stood (7th century).

Defensive Fortifications of the Grand Master Palace Defensive Fortifications of the Grand Master Palace

The arrangement of the palace around the central courtyard with the apartments on the first floor and the storerooms on the ground floor show the Byzantine influences at work. During the early years of their occupation, the Turks used it as a prison and then left it to crumble. The palace was completely destroyed by the great explosion at the church of St. John in 1856. When the Kingdom of Italy occupied Rhodes in 1912, the Italians rebuilt the palace as a holiday residence for Victor Emmanuel III of Italy , and later for Benito Mussolini. Its floors are decorated with marvelous mosaics of the Hellenistic and Roman period which were brought in from Kos Island.

The statues in the inner courtyard of the palace are also from the Hellenistic and Roman period. There are indications that under its foundations lies the famous ancient temple of Helios with Its lavish decoration.


The history of this grand palace dates back to the end of the 7 th century when it was constructed as a fortress during the Byzantine period. Later, when the Knights of St. John established themselves on Rhodes, the structure was modified and converted into the residence for the Grand Master of the Knights. The palace remained in this function from the early 14 th century until about 1522 when the Siege of Rhodes by the Ottomans successfully expelled the Knights from the island. The Knights moved on to establish themselves on the island of Malta while the Ottomans secured their grip on the Eastern Mediterranean.

Jump ahead to the 19 th century when Rhodes was still part of the Turkish Empire and disaster, unfortunately, struck the palace. By this time the building was already in a severe state of disrepair but in 1856 a huge gunpowder explosion ripped through the palace causing extensive damage. Ammunition was being stored in the basement of the adjacent Church of St. John and was ignited by a lightning strike.

The Palace of the Grand Master

For the next fifty years or so the castle remained in ruins. The turning point in the history of this once Grand Palace took place in 1912 when Italy took control of Rhodes from the Ottoman Empire during the Italo-Turkish War. With the Italians now in control of the island of Rhodes they set about in the 1930s to restore the palace to its former grand state. Using the original drawings of the building the Italians returned the Palace of the Grand Master to it once lofty and grandiose condition. With the work complete the building became the vacation residence of the likes of King Victor Emmanuel III and Benito Mussolini.

By the end of World War II, the fate of Rhodes would once again change and the island was reunited with Greece in 1947. Today, Rhodes is no longer wondering what its future will hold as the island has settled into a popular Greek tourist destination. There is no denying that Rhodes has seen its fair share of conflict over the years and visitors today will have the opportunity to see glimpses of its storied past. The Medieval Old Town of Rhodes was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 and no visit to Rhodes would be complete without walking the cobblestone paths of this medieval town.

The Roman Emperors in the palace courtyard.

Rhodes Museums: Municipal Art gallery

This gallery is located in the old town of Rhodes in Symi square. Entering the old town through the Freedom gate (Eleftherias gate), you’ll find it situated in one of the first buildings to your right. Distance: 15-20 min walk from the cruise ship dock .

This gallery has on display a nice collection of some of the most famous Greek painters of the 20th Century.They continuously rotate the artworks from a total of approximately 700 to always have a selection of about 100 on display for public viewing.

It is open everyday (not Sundays) 8 am – 2 pm. Admission is free.

Main Entrance, Palace of the Masters, Rhodes - History

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The Old Town of Rhodes may be a World Heritage site, but many visitors see only the few main streets lined with souvenir shops that are no different from anywhere else in Greece. Yet there are many fine monuments and quiet backstreets, not to mention the stunning fortifications of the Old Town. The following short walk leads you to them.

*Bolded names and numbers in the text below correspond with our map of this walking tour.

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Begin at either side of the entrance to Mandraki harbor (1), the narrow channel where it is said that one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the great Colossus of Rhodes statue, once stood, a leg on each side.

Walk along the harbor front with the town on your right and the walls of the Old Town ahead of you. Cross the busy street at the first traffic lights and carry on walking in the same direction, under trees and past kiosks, to reach the Eleftherias Gate (2). The name means "Liberty" to commemorate the Greek independence from Turkish rule. Pass through the imposing walls, which date back to 1330 and in places are 40 feet (12 meters) thick.

Walk straight ahead along Apellou, passing on your left the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite and on your right the Decorative Arts Museum and, opposite it, the Byzantine Museum. Immediately after the Decorative Arts Museum turn right onto Ippoton, otherwise known as the Street of the Knights (3). Built in the 14th century, the cobble-paved street is lined on either side with the Inns of the Knights of St. John, once used as eating clubs and temporary residences for visiting dignitaries. Architectural details on each facade reflect its respective country. On your right as you walk up the street are the Inns of Italy and France, and on the left is the Inn of Spain. The inns today house offices and foreign embassies.

At the top of the street on your right is the entrance to the Palace of the Grand Masters (4), from where the 19 Grand Masters of the Order of the Knights of St. John ran the affairs of the order. The original 14th-century palace was destroyed in an accidental explosion in 1856. What you see now is a faithful reconstruction carried out by the Italian rulers of Rhodes in the 1930s as a summer home for dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who never actually stayed there. It is well worth visiting for the wonderful central courtyard and the fine mosaic floors.

Carry on past the palace to the very end of Ippoton and turn left along Orfeos, past the souvenir shops, cafés, and restaurants. Where the road swings around to the left, look for the 1523 Mosque of Suleiman, opposite the Turkish Library. Turn right after the library, down Ippodamou. At the far end of Ippodamou follow the road left, and at the first intersection turn right. This takes you outside the town walls. Go through the Agiou Athanasiou Gate (5), turn left along the main road, and take the next left back into the Old Town through the Koskinou, or Gate of St. John (6). Turn left at the first T-junction and follow Pithagora, which takes you to Plateia Ippokratous, where there are several excellent cafés.

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