Explore the medieval heart of the Greek island of Rhodes with this self-guided walking tour of Rhodes Old Town, featuring palaces, museums, squares and viewpoints – map and directions included.
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With its medieval palaces and gates, cobbled streets and thick stone ramparts, visiting Rhodes Old Town in Greece is like taking a trip back through time. This UNESCO World Heritage site owes much of its character to the Knights of St John. Also known as the Knights Hospitaller, this Catholic military order occupied Rhodes from 1309–1523.
During that time they transformed the city into a walled stronghold, and it’s kept a lots of its original medieval character. Today Rhodes Town is a popular day trip destination, whether as a cruise stop or if you’re staying in one of Rhodes’ beach resorts.
Much of the Old Town is pedestrianised (apart from a few scooters) which makes it perfect to explore on foot. So join us on a walking tour of Rhodes Old Town, taking you through its historic highlights including museums, mosques, viewpoints and windmills.
Self-guided walking tour of Rhodes Old Town
Start your Rhodes Town walking tour at the Liberty (Eleftherias) Gate, one of 11 gates which surround the fortified Old Town. If you’re coming from the cruise ship terminal, it’s around a 12-minute walk following the road west along the edge of the harbour.
Pass through the gate and walk along Apellou past the Municipal Art Gallery. Opposite, behind the taxi stop, you can see the ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite. This was built in the third century BC and dedicated to the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
Just past the temple is Argyrokastro Square, a pretty cobbled square with a stone fountain made from an old baptismal font in the centre. Overlooking the square is the former Arsenal of the Knights of St John – now home to the Decorative Arts Collection of Rhodes.
Inside the museum there’s a mixture of different forms of folk art from the 16th–20th centuries, including embroidery, woodcarvings, furniture and ceramics. If you want to take a look around, you can get a combined ticket for €10 which also covers the Palace of the Grand Master and Archaeological Museum, both of which we visit later in the walk.
Carry on along Apellou. On your right you’ll see the Street of the Knights, but walk past the turning to visit the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes first.
Archaeological Museum of Rhodes
Rhodes’ Archaeological Museum is located inside the impressive 15th-century former Knights’ Hospital. It showcases 7000 years worth of treasures collected from across Rhodes and other Dodecanese islands. The main building is set around a courtyard with galleries on different levels displaying pottery amphora, vases and statues.
But that’s just the start – there are also gardens, courtyards and annexes to explore, with displays including coins, jewellery and tombstones. Some of the highlights are a first-century marble statue of Aphrodite bathing and the wall-mounted mosaics.
Entry to the museum costs €6, or you can get a combined ticket for €10 which also includes entry to the Palace of the Grand Master and the Decorative Arts Collection of Rhodes.
Once you’ve finished in the museum, retrace your steps back to the Street of the Knights (Odós Ippotón), turn left and walk up the street.
Street of the Knights
The Street of the Knights was where the Knights of St John once lived, and follows part of an old road between the port and Acropolis of Rhodes. The knights were organised into seven ‘tongues’, depending on where they came from – England, Germany, Italy, France, Provence, Auvergne and Aragon – and each guarded a different section of the city walls.
Each tongue had its own inn, and as you walk up the street you can still see the emblems and inscriptions carved onto the façades which were used to identify them. The most ornate and impressive is the Auberge de France. It’s now used as an office by the French consulate, but is sometimes open to the public for events or exhibitions.
When you reach the top of the street, the Palace of the Grand Master is on your right.
Palace of the Grand Master
With its tall stone towers, the Gothic Palace of the Grand Master dominates the skyline of Rhodes Old Town. It was built in the 14th century as an administrative centre and the residence of the Grand Master, who was in charge of the Knights of St John.
The palace was heavily damaged by an explosion in the 19th century and later restored by the Italians who occupied the island at the time. Only a fraction of its 158 rooms are open to the public, but the restored halls upstairs display furniture, tapestries, frescoes and mosaics. And there are two museums on the history of Rhodes downstairs.
Entry to the palace costs €6, or you can get a combined ticket for €10 which also includes entry to the Archaeological Museum and Decorative Arts Collection of Rhodes. You can also prebook skip-the-line tickets* (with or without audio guide) to avoid queuing.
After visiting the palace, turn left at the end of the Street of the Knights and walk down Orpheus as far as the Roloi Clock Tower (there are some clean public toilets on your left just before you reach the tower entrance, which cost €0.50).
Roloi Clock Tower
Despite not looking very tall from outside, the Roloi Clock Tower is the highest point in the Old Town. The bottom of the tower dates from the 7th century but the top was rebuilt in the 1850s after being damaged. To get to the top you climb up a steep wooden staircase of 53 steps which takes you to a small, low-ceilinged room with windows on each side.
There are great views over the nearby Palace of the Grand Master, Mosque of Suleiman and the city walls, as well as out across the Old Town to the harbour. Entry to the tower costs €5, which also includes a drink in their terrace café afterwards.
Mosque of Suleiman
Next to the clock tower is the Mosque of Suleiman. The Ottomans captured Rhodes Town from the Knights of St John after the Siege of Rhodes in 1522. This was the first mosque they built, which is named after Sultan Suleiman I who led the invasion.
Over the years it’s been repaired and rebuilt after earthquakes and explosions. And although it’s not open to the public, you get a good view of the dome and minaret from the top of the clock tower. You can also take a look inside Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library opposite the mosque, which displays copies of Arabic manuscripts and maps.
Continue walking along Orpheus, which becomes Ippodamou. When you reach a junction at the end of the street, turn right towards Saint Athanasios Gate.
Gate of Saint Athanasios
The Gate of Saint Athanasios (Saint Anthony’s Gate) is another entrance to the Old Town built by the Knights. The victorious Ottoman troops marched through this gate after seizing the city. But they then closed it up to stop other invaders, and it was only reopened by the Italians in 1922 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest.
If you walk through the gate you get a good view of the imposing walls and moat around the city – more than enough to put off most prospective invaders. The moat (which was never filled with water) is now a park with walking paths running through it.
Backtrack to the junction with Ippodamou, but this time go straight on until you reach the next junction. Then turn right and walk along Omirou, a scenic cobbled street with arches over it which is lined with shops, until you get to the Minos Roof Garden Café.
Minos Roof Garden Café
If you fancy stopping for a drink, the Minos Roof Garden Café has some of the best views around. This shaded roof terrace on top of the Minos guest house serves drinks and simple food. But its the views which are the main attraction – across the rooftops to the Palace of the Grand Master, over mosque domes, a nearby windmill and out to sea.
Just past the café, turn left and walk along Sofokleos until you reach a junction, then turn right along Egeos, following this as it runs to the east. Partway along it dog-legs slightly to the right and turns into Minoos, which leads into the Square of the Jewish Martyrs.
Square of the Jewish Martyrs
The Square of the Jewish Martyrs (Plateia Evreon Martyron) is the heart of Rhodes Town’s Jewish Quarter. At the start of the 20th century, 5000 Jews lived in the city. But many left in the 1930s and 1673 were deported to Auschwitz during WWII. Only 151 survived the Holocaust and most later emigrated, leaving only a few Jews in Rhodes today.
There’s a black marble Holocaust Memorial in the centre of the square dedicated to Jews from Rhodes and Kos who lost their lives. You can also see the Sea Horse Fountain in the square, which is a replica of an original destroyed by bombing in WWII.
If you want to find out more about the history of the Jewish Quarter, walk across the square and turn right down Dosiadou to Rhodes Jewish Museum.
Rhodes Jewish Museum
The Rhodes Jewish Museum is located inside the former women’s prayer room at the Kahal Shalom Synagogue. The synagogue was built in 1577. It’s the oldest synagogue in Greece and the last of Rhodes Town’s original six synagogues that’s still in use.
The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Rhodes’ Jewish population. There’s lots of information about their traditional way of life, religious rituals and the Ladino language they spoke, which derived from old Spanish, as well as a section on the Holocaust showing how the community was destroyed. Entry to the museum costs €6.
From the museum, retrace your steps to the Square of the Jewish Martyrs, then cross the square to the opposite corner near the Sea Horse Fountain and walk down Aristotelous, following the street as far as Hippocrates Square.
Bustling Hippocrates Square sits at the end of Socrates street, which runs uphill back towards the Mosque of Suleiman. The square is surrounded by cafés, bars, restaurants and shops and is a popular spot in the evenings (though it’s very touristy so if you’re looking for somewhere to eat or drink you’ll usually find better options a bit further away).
The fountain in the centre of the square and a stone staircase are all that’s left of the original Castellania, a former courthouse built by the Knights of St John in the 14th century. And if you climb up the stairs you get a great view out over the square.
At the bottom of the Castellania stairs, turn right and then turn right again and walk through the Sea Gate (also known as the Marine Gate). This gate was built in 1478 and was the main entrance into Rhodes Old Town from the harbour.
After passing through the gate, cross the road and turn left, walking along the water’s edge. When the road curves to the left, go straight on through the archway, past St Paul’s Gate and on along the edge of Mandraki Harbour towards the three windmills.
Windmills of Mandraki
The three Windmills of Mandraki along the breakwater of Mandraki Harbour were built for the Knights of St John in the 14th century to grind grain after it was unloaded from ships in the harbour. It’s thought there were originally up to 18 mills but only three are left, which have been renovated and make a great spot for photos at sunrise or sunset.
Just beyond the windmills is St Nicholas Fortress, which was built to guard the harbour from invaders on the site of an old chapel dedicated to St Nicholas. It started off as just a tower with the bastion added later on and a lighthouse on top after that.
Finally, end your self-guided walking tour of Rhodes Old Town by walking on to the end of the breakwater where you’ll see a doe statue on top of a pillar.
Two columns with bronze statues of deer on top sit on either side of the entrance to Mandraki Harbour – a doe on this side of the harbour and a stag opposite. They depict local Rhodian Deer (Dama Dama) which are the symbol of the island. They’re said to have been brought to the island by the Crusaders but have probably lived here much longer.
The statues mark the point where the legendary Colossus of Rhodes – a giant 33-metre-tall statue of the Greek sun god Helios – is thought to have stood. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World but was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC.
From the statue, you retrace your steps down to the end of the breakwater and you’ll be back at the Liberty Gate. If you want to finish off your walk with a drink, the Auvergne Cafe Bar Restaurant opposite Argyrokastro Square has a pretty, secluded garden. Or it’s around 20 minutes’ walk from the doe statue to the cruise terminal.
Self-guided Rhodes Old Town walking tour map
If you’d like to do this walking tour of Rhodes Old Town yourself, click on the map below for directions through Google maps. The route is 3.5km (1.9 miles) and takes 45 minutes to walk straight through, but allow a couple of hours to include stops along the way.
Where to stay in Rhodes Old Town
The Ancient Knights Luxury Suites* are inside a medieval building built by the Knights of St John, in a quiet side street off Socrates street (around the corner from a couple of great restaurants – Dafni and Marco Polo). They have lots of character with stone walls and wooden beams combined with contemporary décor, and a central courtyard.
Or Kókkini Porta Rossa* is another historic property, built around 1340, this time close to the city walls and St John’s Gate. Their six rooms – named after the Greek, Jewish and Turkish families who once lived there – are decorated with antiques and cosy rugs, and there’s a courtyard garden for breakfast and complimentary evening drinks.