We’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve been to beautiful Rhodes Town; the largest town on the Greek island of its namesake, Rhodes.
An easy day trip (or longer stay) by catamaran from Fethiye or Marmaris in southwest Turkey, the maze of narrow streets that make up the medieval city of the old town of Rhodes are an enchanting place to lose yourself for a while.
Whether you’re just in Rhodes Town for the day, or you’re making it your base for a few days, these pebbled and cobblestone streets within the medieval city walls have more than enough to keep you entertained.
Whatever type of traveller you are – explorer, shopper, foodie, history lover – it’s all here.
We love it!
And then there’s Rhodes new town with its harbour, beach and art deco architecture from when the island was under Italian rule.
Oh, and of course, there’s lots of shops, bars and eateries, too.
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands (and the second largest of the Greek islands) and Rhodes Town is the main administrative centre for the island.
You can easily spend a few nights in Rhodes Town without running out of things to do.
And it also makes a great base from which to get yourself a rental car and explore more of the island.
Exploring Rhodes Town – From Ancient To Modern
But, for this article, let’s focus on exploring Rhodes Town – the old and the new.
And the first question is: What sort of traveller are you?
If you’re the type of person who loves to visit and tick off as many sights as possible, then get yourself a good map.
Because there’s much to see!
In the streets of the medieval old town, your phone GPS can go a bit wobbly.
Unless you have mobile data, we recommend downloading maps in advance.
Or Don’t Prepare
And if you’re like us and you just like to mix and match and take all in at your own pace, well just enjoy wandering aimlessly.
There are so many shops, bars and local restaurants as well as all the sights to take in.
And we love these as much as we do the layers of history that make up today’s Rhodes Town.
So, bite-sized pieces for us.
We’ve visited many of these sights over the years, but not all of them.
We will do, eventually. All in good time…
Palace Of The Grand Master Of The Knights Of Rhodes
The Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes is perhaps the most famous site within the walls of the medieval town.
The palace has stood since the 14th Century and was, of course, built by the Knights of St. John.
What visitors see today is the result of a huge restoration and rebuilding project from when the island of Rhodes was under Italian occupation at the beginning of the 20th century.
Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini then used the palace as his holiday home.
There are over 20 rooms of the palace’s 158 rooms that are open to the public.
It is possible to save yourself a good chunk of money by purchasing a combination ticket.
The ticket is valid for 3 days and gives you access to the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights, the archaeological museum, the Church of Our Lady of the Castle and a decorative arts collection.
Street Of The Knights, Rhodes Old Town
The Street of the Knights begins outside the palace entrance and heads downhill.
This was the knights’ quarter and is wonderfully impressive.
An immaculately preserved medieval cobbled street, flanked either side by stone buildings.
Seven inns make up some of these buildings.
These were seven inns that represented the seven countries – and languages – from where the Knights of St. John (or Knights Hospitaller) originated.
They could spend time in these inns, relaxing, dining and conversing in their own languages.
Archaeological Museum Of Rhodes (Hospital Of The Knights)
And, once you reach the bottom of the Street of the Knights, you will come to the Archaeological Museum of Rhodes.
The museum is housed in what was the Hospital of the Knights.
Exhibits date from ancient Greek periods and also the medieval period during the time of the Knights of St. John and the Ottoman Turks.
Hippocrates Square (Ipokratous Square)
One of the main squares of Rhodes old town, Hippocrates Square is a hub of activity.
It’s a centre for restaurants, bars and souvenir shops.
And, for the aimless wanderer, is a place you’ll find yourself time and again.
Whilst it’s certainly not a case of ‘all roads lead to Hippocrates Square,’ your feet will lead you here, regardless.
If you arrive to Rhodes Town early morning from the port, this is a lovely peaceful time to be at Hippocrates Square.
Sit at one of the restaurants with seating overlooking the square and sip an ice cold Greek frappe.
Because it’s one of the first natural stopping places you come to when entering the old town from the tourist port, it’s a great spot to sit and plan what you’re going to do for the rest of the day.
Yes, it’s a very busy spot for tourists and tour groups arriving off the cruise ships.
But it’s also a place where locals gather on summer nights to sit on the 14th Century steps for drinks and chats.
People watchers; Hippocrates Square is the place for you.
Especially if you sit in one of the terrace restaurants with views of everyone milling about below!
Evreon Martyron (Square of Jewish Martyrs) – Jewish Quarter
A sea horse fountain in the centre of this square means lots of people also call this square, Sea Horse Square.
It comes with the territory, we guess, but this is an area of Rhodes Town where staff from the surrounding bars and restaurants will greet you and suggest drinks and food.
There’s usually a parrot in attendance, too to attract people’s attention.
If you do want drinks and food, happy days for the staff.
For those of you in Rhodes Town on a budget looking to fill yourself up, get yourself a gyros from Pita Nikos on the corner of the square.
One of the best gyros we’ve had. And great value!
If you’re neither hungry nor thirsty, be sure to resist the urge to rush through this area of Rhodes old town as it also holds significance – it is the Square of Jewish Martyrs.
It’s not immediately obvious. But if you glance to the green area, under the trees, you’ll see a black obelisk memorial to the Jews of Rhodes and the nearby island of Kos who lost their lives during the Holocaust.
Take the main side street (Dosiadou) that runs perpendicular to the square and you will be able to visit the 16th century Kahal Shalom Synagogue.
This also houses the Jewish Museum of Rhodes which is open for visits in the summer months.
You can find out more information about the Jewish quarter and the Jewish community of Rhodes via their website.
Sokratous Street (Socrates Street)
Socrates Street is the main shopping street of Rhodes old town.
The wide, pedestrianised medieval street climbs steadily uphill and is watched over by the commanding presence of the rose-pink plaster-covered Süleymaniye Mosque (Mosque of Suleiman).
Don’t worry about the hill!
This is the street of Rhodes Town where you will be stopping constantly to browse handmade Rhodes sandals, Greek cotton and linen clothing, artisan jewellery, artwork…
And if you get thirsty, be sure to drop into the Mevlana Shisha Bar.
Housed in a 14th Century building, the bar has apparently been in the family for over 200 years.
You can get shisha (nargile to those of us in Turkey), çay, Turkish coffee or a cold beer and other drinks.
The traditional Rhodes black and white pebble mosaic floor is spectacular – and sloped.
Who doesn’t love a cold beer and game of tavla (backgammon) on a sloping pebble floor?
A great historic place to while away a bit of time.
Mosque Of Suleiman
The Mosque of Suleiman, at the top of Socrates Street brings us into the 16th Century.
This was when the Ottomans conquered Rhodes and the Knights of St. John took themselves off to the Mediterranean island of Malta.
The mosque was built in honour of Süleyman the Magnificent – the Sultan who conquered the island.
And whilst it is certainly nowhere near the scale and grandeur of its namesake mosque in Istanbul, it’s a great view whilst climbing the slope of Socrates Street.
The mosque is closed to visitors, sadly. We’d love to see it open, one day.
Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library
Close to the mosque is the Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library, founded in 1793.
Housing almost 1,300 manuscripts, there is a Quran dating from 1540 and a history of the Ottoman Turkish siege of the city in 1522.
You can visit the entrance room of the library where you can view manuscripts and carvings that depict the Ottoman history of the island.
Church Of The Virgin Mary Of The Burgh
Built by the Knights Hospitaller, only the remains of this 14th Century gothic church are still standing after it was heavily damaged during the Second World War.
Although this isn’t a substantial site, it’s still a striking feature of Rhodes Old Town and many people stop to photograph it.
Escape the main road traffic and crowds of Rhodes Town by passing through the gates that take you through the medieval moat.
As you walk between the colossal medieval walls of the castle and the fortifications of Rhodes, you can enjoy the beautiful gardens, passing through historic gates and tunnels of the fortification walls.
Unlike other castle moats, this one was never filled with water.
Temple Of Aphrodite
The Temple of Aphrodite takes us away from the Middle Ages and way back to the ancient Greeks.
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of beauty and love. And this temple, which was dedicated to her, was built in the 3rd Century BC.
As with so many ancient sites around the world, this is one where you need to use lots of imagination to picture the temple in its full glory.
The statue of Aphrodite that was thought to be the cult statue of the temple is in the archaeological museum.
For us, this is where we come into our own.
Just having a wander is one of the best things you can do in Rhodes Town.
The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It is one huge living, breathing open air museum.
Explore the pebble-floored narrow side streets with their stone archways, climbing bougainvillea and medieval buildings.
These streets are the perfect place to find souvenir shops selling handmade jewellery and other goods.
And look out for small bars and tavernas around here.
Our favourite meal in the old town was in such a taverna.
These are also the residential areas of the old town.
And, while you’re wandering, you can follow the coastline to the west and exit the old city walls to explore the more modern part of Rhodes Town, too.
The Mandraki Harbour area is the place to come to for daily boat trips along the coast to places like Lindos.
And to make the short hop across to the neighbouring Greek island of Symi.
Colossus Of Rhodes
This is where you can also views the famous windmills of Rhodes Town.
And, of course, it is also the site of one of the Seven Wonders Of The Ancient World: The Colossus of Rhodes.
The Colossus of Rhodes was a huge 33 metre high bronze statue of the sun god Hellios. It was erected in 280 BC.
It’s thought the statue stood astride the entrance to the harbour.
The Colossus of Rhodes was toppled by an earthquake in around 225 BC.
These days, the entrance is marked by two deer; the emblem of the island of Rhodes.
Temple Of The Ascension
Standing on the pedestriansed area by the harbour is the Church of Evangelismos (or Temple of the Ascension).
Whilst it’s an imposing presence, we would have walked on by if we hadn’t noticed a couple of people going inside.
Curiosity got the better of us. And we’re glad it did!
According to the information provided at the church entrance, this is the Cathedral Temple of the Holy Metropolis of Rhodes.
And this is where all the formal religious ceremonies take place.
It was built in 1929 as a Catholic church during Italian rule and was dedicated to St. John.
When the Dodecanese became Greek in 1947, the church was converted into an Orthodox church and dedicated to the Annunciation of St. Mary.
Later, the services of famous Greek artist and writer, Fotis Kontoglou, were utilised.
Between 1951 to 1961, he and his assistants painted the stunning frescoes you see today.
We’re transported to the Byzantine era once more!
Vistors can enter the church and venture just beyond the main entrance area.
Here, you can take photos, reflect, light a candle and make donations.
Art Deco Architecture
If you love art deco architecture, the newer part of Rhodes Town, around the Mandraki harbour area is where you will marvel at all before you.
Various public buildings are in this area. And all are fantastic examples of the style.
An art deco white building across the road from the harbour has a series of arches which house tavernas and patisseries selling Greek pastries and sweet treats, as well as other meals.
And, just next to here, is Rhodes Town’s famous Aktaion Cafe which has been here since 1946.
A wonderfully-ornate interior and oodles of outside seating from where you can watch the world go by for a while.
For us, this was the best place for Greek frappe when we stayed in Rhodes Town.
Elli Beach, Rhodes Town
If you’re a sucker for beautiful beaches then, just a short walk from Mandraki Harbour is Elli Beach.
Framing the northernmost tip of the island, the beach has lots of modern amenities like toilets and showers, beach bars and tavernas.
And, of course, sun loungers and umbrellas.
Beach vendors wander around, too, so no need to leave your sun lounger for a drink if you’re having a lazy day.
This area is where the large hotels of Rhodes Town are situated; some of them lining the coast, overlooking the beach.
Some hotels have private areas of the beach for guests but there are lots of public areas, too.
Tip: Families with children, be aware that the seabed drops very quickly here.
Rhodes Town – Panoramic Views
And, finally, let us take you back to the old town for some fabulous views from on high.
First of all, a shout out for Minos Pension & Roof Garden Cafe.
This is where we stayed when we had a short break to Rhodes.
Whether you are staying here or not, the roof garden cafe is open to the public.
Do make the effort to wander up the stairs to here.
It’s arguably the best place (perhaps after Roloi Tower) for panoramic views over the old city, the Aegean Sea and the cruise ship port.
Alternatively, it’s possible to pay a fee to visit Roloi Clock Tower where you can climb the steep steps to enjoy the view.
The fee includes a drink to enjoy in the garden below.
We haven’t been to the top of the tower. But many reviews say the climb is steep, so bear that in mind if your mobility isn’t the best.
Rhodes Town – FAQs
We hope our article shows you that you absolutely should NOT miss out on Rhodes Town.
So many layers of history to dip into as well as quality shopping, eating, drinking and stunning natural scenery.
Rhodes Town also makes a great base for exploring the rest of the island.
Head to the bus station in the new town to take the bus to popular spots.
Alternatively, rent a car for a day or two.
For nightlife, whilst it hasn’t got the reputation of some of the island’s resorts, Rhodes Town has a variety of nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
Lots of quiet areas to chill in a traditional taverna or take yourself off to party.
Rhodes Town has more than enough room to cater for all tastes.
And if you like a flutter, check out Rhodes Casino – another fabulous art deco building in the new town.
It’s very easy too wander around both the old town and the new town area on foot.
If you want a tour of the town on wheels, there are Rhodes city tours via hop on hop buses. These also have wheelchair access.
This tour also takes in the Acropolis of Rhodes which is out of town, along the west coast.
The million dollar question!
You can really enjoy just one day in Rhodes Town as many day trippers from cruise ships and Turkey do throughout the summer.
If you’re a slow traveller, however, and want to really delve into all that Rhodes Town has to offer, we would say 5-6 days or longer.
We spent 4 days there on our most recent visit and there’s still lots for us to see and experience.
Rhodes International Airport (Diagoras International Airport) is the island’s airport.
It’s a 14 kilometre journey from the airport to Rhodes Town.
We booked the Tilos Travel catamaran which sails daily from Fethiye. Book a day in advance.
Book online, direct at the office, or book with one of the travel agents in the Fethiye area. There might be a small commission to pay if you book via an agent but your fee may include a transfer to the port in Fethiye.
In high season for 2022, the price for adults is 55 Euros same day return or 65 Euros open return. Children 0-6 years old pay 5 Euros. Children 6-12 pay 40 Euros for same day return and 59 Euros for open return.
You can find out more about the journey in our article about the Fethiye to Rhodes ferry service.