A Visit to the Delightful Old Town of Rhodes

In this destination guide we will visit the medieval old town of Rhodes (Rodos) in Greece.

A visit to Rhodes

The island of Rhodes is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Greece.

Although many people flock to one of the many tourist resorts on the island’s coastline to enjoy the sea and sun, an equal amount of holidaymakers visit Rhodes for its culture and history.

When it comes to culture and history, Rhodes Town is arguably the island’s biggest tourist draw, followed by the cute town of Lindos with its acropolis.

I arrived on the island by ferry from Halki and after I had checked into Rhodes hotel I was all set to explore around.

rhodes island ferry
The ferry from Halki is approaching the island of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
rhodes town hotels
From the western island port of Kamiros Skala, I took the bus into Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan

Old town fortifications

As my hotel was located in the north of the city centre, the Amboise Gate was the nearest point through which I could enter the old town of Rhodes.

Named after Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller Emery d’Amboise and located on the north-western side of the old town, it’s certainly the most impressive gate in my opinion.

The Amboise Gate actually exists out of three sets of gates and the defensive fortifications with chemins de ronde, towers and bastions are quite formidable.

In total there are 11 places (9 gates and 2 portals) giving access to the medieval old town and it’s certainly well-worth it to see a couple of them.

It’s also possible to walk inside the moat surrounding the old town walls.

rhodes island ferry
The d’Amboise Gate is the most impressive of all the old town gates of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
amboise gate rhodes fortifications
The moat has been turned into a park and there is a path running alongside the entire length of the fortifications. ©Paliparan
rhodes town fortifications
Walking between the defensive walls and fortifications. ©Paliparan
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Entering the old town through the d’Amboise Gate. ©Paliparan
medieval fortifications
Old town fortifications. ©Paliparan

Grandmaster’s Palace

Rhodes Town is famous for its medieval old town, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

In medieval times, Rhodes was the home base of the Knights Hospitaller, a Catholic military order that ended up on the Greek island after the fall of the Crusader states.

The Knights Hospitaller (full name: Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem) made a formidable bastion out of Rhodes Town.

Their headquarters was the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes, a castle at the far northern edge of the old town.

The castle – one of the few buildings in Greece built in Gothic style – now houses a museum.

Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
grand master palace rhodes
A look at the Grand Master’s Palace. ©Paliparan

Street of the Knights

One of the most famous streets of Rhodes Town runs from the Grand Master’s Palace down to the harbour.

This is the Street of the Knights of Rhodes, or simply called Ippoton in Greek.

The Street of the Knights of Rhodes is one of the best preserved medieval streets in Greece and perhaps all of Europe.

On this cobblestone street you can find several historic inns, with each one representing one of the countries from which the Knights Hospitaller originally came from.

At the end of the Street of the Knights you can find another interesting museum, namely the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.

medieval street
The streets of Rhodes seemed almost completely deserted. ©Paliparan
street of the knights
Street of the Knights. ©Paliparan
rhodes old town street of knights
The Street of the Knights in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
archaeological museum
Archaeological Museum of Rhodes. ©Paliparan

Emptiness

When I walked through the Street of the Knights it hit me just how empty the streets of Rhodes Town were during my visit.

There are normally masses of people strolling up and down this street, especially so when you visit at the height of summer.

However, just like my visit to Naxos Town earlier this trip, there was hardly a soul in sight in this medieval town either.

Personally I didn’t mind at all, as you don’t always get the opportunity to explore the delights of such a popular tourist destination without having to battle the crowds.

Through some side streets and alleys I made my way to the Suleiman Mosque, which was built after the Ottomans took control of Rhodes in 1523.

Besides the Crusaders and the Ottomans, also the Italians left their legacy behind during their occupation of Rhodes, while in earlier history the ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines all left their mark.

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The empty old town streets of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
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Ginger cat taking a nap in one of the alleys. ©Paliparan
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The maze-like streets of the old town. ©Paliparan
old town house
Old town houses. ©Paliparan
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Suleiman Mosque. ©Paliparan
suleiman mosque
A look over the Suleiman Mosque. ©Paliparan

Lunch

Even in the shopping streets and the more touristy old town restaurants there was hardly a soul to see.

I had therefore little problems finding a good spot for lunch.

The moussaka and cold beer at the restaurant I chose – Mama Sofia – did hit the spot.

souvenir shops rhodes
Souvenir shops in Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
old town rhodes
Even the old town shopping streets were almost completely deserted. ©Paliparan
restaurants old town rhodes
Old town restaurants. ©Paliparan
moussaka beer
Enjoying some moussaka and a beer. ©Paliparan
cat greece
Feline company during lunch. ©Paliparan

Backstreets of Rhodes Town

After the tasty lunch, it was time to explore Rhodes Town a bit further.

In my opinion, the best about Rhodes Town are its backstreets.

When you walk away from the main thoroughfares and enter the backstreets, it almost seems like you enter a completely different world.

Wandering to the backstreets and alleys of Rhodes makes for the perfect opportunity to admire the medieval architecture and to soak up the charm of the city.

I especially loved the backstreets in the south-western corner of the old town – roughly the area between Saint George’s Bastion and Saint Athanasios Gate.

church saint george rhodes
Walking towards the Church of Saint George. ©Paliparan
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The Church of Saint George (Agios Georgios) in Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
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Decayed houses in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
backstreets rhodes town
The backstreets of Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
medieval town streets
It’s good fun to wander around aimlessly through the old town streets. ©Paliparan
rhodes town alley
Backstreet alleys of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
hamza bey mosque
Hamza Bey Mosque. ©Paliparan
backstreets
You get a whole different perspective of the city if you explore the backstreets. ©Paliparan
rhodes town alley
Parked scooters in one of the backstreets. ©Paliparan
backstreet shops rhodes town
Backstreet shops. ©Paliparan
bougainvillea rhodes town
It being Greece, you also encounter the occasional bougainvillea overhanging the streets in Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
cobblestone street
I just loved wandering around the cobblestoned streets of the old town. ©Paliparan
old town houses rhodes town
Gorgeous contrast between the white and yellow painted houses. ©Paliparan
arches
Ancient stone arches. ©Paliparan
old town street
Old town street. ©Paliparan
colourful door rhodes old town
Colourful door in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan

Coffee time

Once I reached the Saint Athanasios Gate in the south-western corner of the old town, it was time for another break.

Here you can find the Old Town Corner Bakery, which is a nice spot for a coffee and a pastry.

saint athanasios gate rhodes
Approaching the Saint Athanasios Gate. ©Paliparan
saint athanasios gate
Saint Athanasios Gate. ©Paliparan
saint athanasios gate rhodes old town
Walking through the Saint Athanasios Gate. ©Paliparan
freddo espresso greece
Enjoying a freddo espresso in front of the Saint Athanasios Gate. ©Paliparan
sleeping cat greece
Sleeping cat in front of a door. ©Paliparan

Old mosque

Once I had finished the iced coffee it was time to move on as there were still plenty of places left that I wanted to visit in the old town of Rhodes.

Another particularly nice area of the old town is leafy Dorieos Square.

The square is dominated by a large ficus tree, the decaying Recep Pasha Mosque and an old covered fountain.

It’s a wonderful place to sit down with a beer and to absorb the surroundings as almost all the outdoor terraces are shaded by the trees.

rhodes old town
Rhodes old town. ©Paliparan
greeks rhodes
Locals talking on the streets. ©Paliparan
street arches
Street with old stone arches. ©Paliparan
scooter greece
As cars cannot get into the old town, the locals often use scooters to travel. ©Paliparan
greek shop
Shop selling slippers, sandals and leatherware. ©Paliparan
old town shops
Old town shops. ©Paliparan
cat greece
Cute cat in one of the old town streets. ©Paliparan
dorieos square rhodes
Dorieos Square is dominated by a large ficus tree. ©Paliparan
dorieos square rhodes town
Leafy Dorieos Square is a great place to sit down for a drink or some food. ©Paliparan
greece rhodes beer
The sign “local draught beer 2.50 euro” certainly attracted my interest! ©Paliparan
recep pasha mosque rhodes town
Recep Pasha Mosque. ©Paliparan
fountain rhodes town
The old mosque fountain on the square. ©Paliparan
old fountain
Old fountain. ©Paliparan

High point

From Dorieos Square, I headed deeper into the old town towards the south-east, passing by the Ibrahim Pasha Mosque.

Here, the streets go gradually uphill and from the southernmost fringes of the old town you therefore have some pretty views over the entire historic centre.

It is also possible here to climb and walk on the defensive walls for some more gorgeous views over the old town of Rhodes and its fortifications.

old town rhodes
Alley in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
mosque minaret
Restaurants with a mosque’s minaret as backdrop. ©Paliparan
warehouses
Old warehouses and workshops. ©Paliparan
fountain rhodes town
The old ablution fountain of the Ibrahim Pasha Mosque. ©Paliparan
old town rhodes café
Old town café. ©Paliparan
koen rhodes
Yours truly in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
street corner
Street corner. ©Paliparan
white bougainvillea rhodes town
White bougainvillea. ©Paliparan
rhodes old town view
View over the old town of Rhodes from the southern walls. ©Paliparan
defensive walls rhodes town
The defensive walls and fortifications of Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan

Jewish Quarter

Next up was a walk through the old Jewish Quarter of Rhodes Town, which is centred around lively Platia Evreon Martiron (Jewish Martyrs Square).

Besides the 16th century Kahal Shalom Synagogue – the only one on the island of Rhodes and the oldest in Greece – there are a couple of other interesting sights to visit in this part of town.

If you exit the old town through the Virgin Mary Gate and cross the street, you find yourself standing on Sachtouri Beach.

From this beach you have a good view over the Port of Rhodes and all the large passenger ferries departing to points throughout the Dodecanese, North Aegean Islands, Cyclades, Crete and Piraeus.

rhodes old houses balconies
Old houses with traditional balconies. ©Paliparan
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Greek flags proudly displayed in an old town street. ©Paliparan
rhodes town streetscape
Rhodes Town streetscape. ©Paliparan
winding street medieval town
Winding streets of the old town. ©Paliparan
ginger cat greece
Ginger cat roaming around the medieval town. ©Paliparan
platia evreon martiron rodos
Platia Evreon Martiron. ©Paliparan
sea horse fountain evreon martiron square rhodes old town
Sea horse fountain on Evreon Martiron square. ©Paliparan
rhodes shopping street
Rhodes shopping street. ©Paliparan
virgin mary gate rhodes old town
Virgin Mary Gate. ©Paliparan
sachtouri beach rhodes
Sachtouri Beach. ©Paliparan
blue star ferries rhodes
A Blue Star Ferries ship in the Port of Rhodes. ©Paliparan

Church of the Virgin Mary

Back in the Jewish Quarter, you also shouldn’t miss the ruins of the Church of the Virgin of the Burgh.

This 14th century Gothic church was once the most important one in Rhodes Town, although it was sadly destroyed during the Second World War and never rebuilt.

Today, only some side chapels and the three apses of the sanctuary are left standing, while the rest of the surface on which the church once stood has been turned into a public square.

church of virgin mary of the burgh
The ruins of the Church of the Virgin Mary of the Burgh. ©Paliparan
church of virgin mary of the burgh rhodes town
Church of the Virgin Mary of the Burgh. ©Paliparan

Market streets

The streets and squares to the west of the Jewish Quarter such as Sokatrous Street and Hippocrates Square are the busiest in Rhodes Town.

During the daytime the streets will be crowded with sightseeing and shopping tourists, while in the evening hours people flock to this part of the old town for people watching and grabbing a drink at one of the many cafés you can find here.

It’s certainly good fun to stroll through the street markets in this part of town.

There are also some noteworthy sights in this part of town such as the Castellania, a building which used to be a courthouse in medieval times but nowadays houses the city library.

castellania rhodes old town
The Castellania. ©Paliparan
ice cream
Enjoying an ice cream. ©Paliparan
market streets old town rhodes
Market streets of the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
rhodes town shops
Souvenir shops in Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
shopping street
Shopping street. ©Paliparan
old town rhodes shops
Shops in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
church of our lady of the castle
Square in front of the Church of Our Lady of the Castle. ©Paliparan
sokratous street rhodes town mosque of suleiman
Sokratous street with the Mosque of Suleiman in the far distance. ©Paliparan
sokratous street rhodes old town
Shops on Sokratous street. ©Paliparan
Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
Distant view over the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. ©Paliparan

Greek cats

One of the things I always like about Greece are the community cats strolling the streets, something which is also the case in Rhodes Town.

As I was away on a longer trip and missing my own cats at home, I made sure I stopped a few times to pet some of the sweeties.

cats old town rhodes greece
Cats lazing in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
cat bench
Chilling with one of the cats on a bench. ©Paliparan
ginger cat greece
Affectionate ginger cat. ©Paliparan
cat medieval old town rhodes
Cat guarding a medieval entrance gate. ©Paliparan
clowder of cats
Clowder of cats. ©Paliparan
cats
Cute black-and-white cats lazing on a medieval wall. ©Paliparan

Mandraki harbour

As my walk through the old town of Rhodes came to an end, there was one major sight left to visit.

I’m talking about Mandraki Harbour, which has been the port of Rhodes since ancient times.

Although the larger ships and ferries now depart from the new port directly towards the east of Mandraki Harbour, yachts and smaller excursion boats still anchor at Mandraki.

Mandraki Harbour is home to some of the most famous landmarks of Rhodes as well, such as the windmills, Saint Nicholas Fortress, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.

However, Mandraki Harbour is most famous as the place where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood.

The Colossus of Rhodes – a statue depicting the sun god Helios – was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Although it is commonly believed that the 33-metre-high statue straddled the harbour’s entrance, this is actually a myth that took root in medieval times.

The statue was completed in the year 282 BC but collapsed in an earthquake in 226 BC.

A deer statue now stands on the place where the mighty Colossus of Rhodes once stood.

port of rhodes bank of greece
Bank of Greece in the Port of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
mandraki harbour
Walking on the quays of Mandraki Harbour. ©Paliparan
mandraki harbour rhodes windmills
The windmills of Mandraki Harbour. ©Paliparan
saint nicholas fortress rhodes
Saint Nicholas Fortress. ©Paliparan
Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos
Church of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. ©Paliparan
colossus of rhodes
Monument of a deer at the place where once the Colossus of Rhodes stood. ©Paliparan
old town rhodes
Looking back over the old town of Rhodes and the Grand Master’s Palace from Mandraki Harbour. ©Paliparan
fishermen greece mandraki harbour
Fishermen in Mandraki Harbour. ©Paliparan
governor's palace
Governor’s Palace with World War II monument. ©Paliparan
rhodes governor's palace
Rhodes Governor’s Palace. ©Paliparan

Sunset

As the sun was almost setting, I decided to walk towards the west coast hoping to catch some beautiful sunset views.

Rhodes Town is located on the far northern tip of the island, so walking from the east side of town (where you will find the medieval old town) to the west side is just a matter of minutes.

I walked to Akti Miaouli Beach, which together with the more sheltered Elli Beach is the most popular beach in Rhodes Town proper.

When I arrived on the pebble beach the sunset colours were already stunning.

I sat down for a good 30 minutes to admire the sunset and twilight colours over the Aegean Sea before heading back into Rhodes Town.

It then suddenly hit me that during the last weeks in Greece I haven’t eaten a single souvlaki yet – so I immediately decided that I should get one for dinner.

In the end, I bought two souvlaki from one of the neighbourhood takeaway restaurants and walked back to the beach to eat them.

akti miaouli beach rhodes town
Akti Miaouli Beach. ©Paliparan
akti miaouli beach
Pebbly Akti Miaouli Beach. ©Paliparan
sunset rhodes town akti miaouli beach
Sunset as seen from Akti Miaouli Beach. ©Paliparan
rhodes town sunset
Rhodes Town sunset. ©Paliparan
aegean sea sunset
Sun setting in the Aegean Sea. ©Paliparan
rhodes town sunset
The gorgeous sunset at the end of my day in Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
akti miaouli beach twilight rhodes town
Twilight colours over Akti Miaouli Beach. ©Paliparan
twilight sea
Twilight. ©Paliparan
coastal road rhodes
Beautiful twilight colours over the coastal road. ©Paliparan
souvlaki
Enjoying a yummy souvlaki. ©Paliparan

Rhodes Town at night

When you are staying in Rhodes, it’s also a must to visit the old town in the evening or at night.

Both the colours and the atmosphere are completely different at night.

Many of the old town landmarks are beautifully illuminated at night, which makes another walk through the medieval centre already worthwhile.

However, the biggest reason to visit the old town of Rhodes at night is the vibe, as in the late evening hours dozens of people stroll through the city streets.

It’s a great opportunity for people watching, a late dinner or some drinks at one of the many old town bars.

d'amboise gate rhodes
D’Amboise Gate at night. ©Paliparan
old town gate
Entering the old town for a late evening walk. ©Paliparan
roloi clock tower rhodes town
The medieval Roloi Clock Tower at night. ©Paliparan
suleiman mosque rhodes
Suleiman Mosque. ©Paliparan
rhodes shopping street night
The shopping streets were bustling with activity as well in the evening. ©Paliparan
rhodes backstreet
Rhodes backstreet in the dark. ©Paliparan
old town rhodes night walk
Night walk through the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
greek cat
Another friendly Greek cat. ©Paliparan
rhodes old town night
Old town streets at night. ©Paliparan
rhodes old town bars
Bars in the old town of Rhodes. ©Paliparan
shopping street
Shopping street. ©Paliparan
hippocrates square rhodes town
Lively Hippocrates Square. ©Paliparan
hippocrates square fountain
Hippocrates Square fountain. ©Paliparan
queue ice cream shop
Small queue in front of an ice cream shop. ©Paliparan
night walk rhodes town
Night walk through Rhodes Town. ©Paliparan
greece cat
Another cute old town cat. ©Paliparan

Conclusion

Rhodes Town is one of the most beautiful and interesting places in all of Greece to visit thanks to its extremely well-preserved medieval core.

The old town centre of Rhodes is a delightful place to wander around aimlessly.

As you walk further away from the main thoroughfares, the atmosphere and surroundings really become something special.

The ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Ottomans and Italians all left their legacy behind in Rhodes Town and the mixture between these styles is absolutely intriguing.

There are tons of interesting sights to visit in the old town of Rhodes, although this lively city is as much about enjoying the good Greek life in one of the many cafés, bars and restaurants.

I was extremely lucky to visit Rhodes Town at a moment (summer of 2020) when there were almost no other tourists around in Greece, although even at peak holiday times the city makes for a rewarding destination.

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘A Dodecanese Dream: Summer Island Hopping in Greece‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Back in the Skies – My First International Flight in the Age of Corona
2. Review: Kimon Hotel, Athens, Greece
3. Exploring Plaka: Through the Winding Streets of the Old Town of Athens
4. Climbing up the Acropolis: Visiting Athens’ Most Famous Sight
5. Review: Skyserv Melina Merkouri Lounge Athens Airport
6. Review: Sky Express Athens to Naxos (ATR 42)
7. Review: Studios Zafiri, Naxos Town, Greece
8. Naxos Town: The Gorgeous Historic Heart of the Cyclades
9. Review: Blue Star Ferries Naxos to Astypalaia
10. Review: Belvedere Studios, Astypalaia Town, Greece
11. Astypalea Town: The Unknown Crown Jewel of the Aegean Sea
12. Astypalea Island Guide: Exploring the Butterfly of the Aegean
13. On a Night Boat in Greece – Astypalea to Kastellorizo With Blue Star Ferries
14. Review: Traditional Apartments Alexandra, Kastellorizo, Greece
15. Kastellorizo: A Look Around Greece’s Easternmost Island
16. Hiking on Kastellorizo: Two Sunset Hikes Detailed
17. Review: Olympic Air (Dash 8-100) Kastellorizo to Rhodes
18. Guide: How to Travel From Rhodes to Halki by Ferry
19. Review: Dorothea Apartments, Halki, Greece
20. Halki Town: Eating, Swimming & Relaxing in Beautiful Emborios
21. A Hike to Horio: Exploring Halki’s Old Abandoned Capital
22. Guide: The Best Beaches on the Island of Halki
23. Review: Hermes Hotel, Rhodes Town, Greece
24. A Visit to the Delightful Old Town of Rhodes (current chapter)

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

koen paliparan rhodes rodos

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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