Treasures of Rhodes Old Town
Discover Rhodes' cultural life and history with everything from archaeological finds to modern art.
One of the best archaeological museums in Greece
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At the foot of Knights Street, in the magnificent former hospital of the Knights of St John, is one of the best archaeological museums in Greece. It houses finds from Rhodes (there were ancient cities at Ialysos, Lindos and Kameiros) and other islands in the Dodecanese chain, encompassing many centuries BC. Allow plenty of time to explore the upper rooms, containing some of the most ancient discoveries, as well as the gardens and the large, well-displayed mosaics. You can’t miss the lion statue with the head of a bull in its paws, standing on a mosaic from an Early Christian basilica in Karpathos; look out also for the Marine Aphrodite (Venus), probably from the fourth century BC.
Modern Greek Art Gallery and the old almshouse Syssitio
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179 Sokratous Street, Old Town; The contemporary art gallery of Rhodes is the largest such collection outside of Athens, spread across four separate locations in the old and new towns. One is open only from April to October and set in the fifteenth-century church of the Holy Apostles and later old almshouse compound or Syssitio at the top of Sokratous. With a pretty courtyard café, it runs temporary exhibitions from mostly contemporary Greek artists, kicking off summer 2018 with the engravings and sculptures of Dimitris Tsirogiannis.
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Centred around Socratous Street and Hippocratous Square and spreading in all directions, the Old Town’s streets have the feel of a bazaar during the summer months. Leather bags and sandals, olive wood kitchenware and freshly ground coffee vie for position with cheap mass-produced trinkets. On some quieter streets there are craftsmen’s workshops and galleries.
Palace of the Grand Masters and Knights Street
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In 1309, the crusading Knights Hospitaller (aka the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem) found a Byzantine fortress near the harbour on what had probably been the site of an ancient temple to the sun god Helios. On this auspicious spot – a strategic one too on the route to the Holy Land – they built the palace of their Grand Master. The street descending towards the sea became home to the inns that served the knights according to their mother tongue. Despite earthquakes and accidental explosions over the centuries, the fortified palace has always been repaired and was one of the residences of Mussolini during the occupation.
And when you're here, relax
After wandering and losing yourself in the atmosphere of the place, take the time to sit in the shade with something to sip or to eat. On street level and on rooftops, everywhere there are places to stop, refresh and drink in your surroundings. To relax, try Angela Castle near St Fanourios church, a house restored to feel like a private Rhodian home of days gone by. To people-watch, find a balcony table at Nefeli, overlooking buzzing Hippocratous Square. In the height of summer and on Saturday nights through the year, the Old Town is where locals go for their all night fashion parade and music. New places pop up every summer, but there’s usually a handful of chic venues near the old Hammam.
Text by Jennifer Barclay