- Rhodes town - the first impression
- Rhodes historical background
- Our ten top sights of Rhodes Town
- The fortress wall
- The Grand Master's Palace of the Order of St. John
- The Church of Our Lady - Santa Maria del Borgo
- The Suleyman Pasha Mosque
- The Islamic Library
- The clock tower
- Ritterstrasse with the houses of the "tongues"
- Platia Athinas
- Platia Ippokratous
- The Mandraki Harbor
Rhodes, Greece's fourth largest island, offers its visitors many attractions and leisure activities. For a stopover with the cruise ship, we only recommend a visit to the historic old town of the island metropolis.
Rhodes town - the first impression
The pier for the cruise ships and the ferries is within walking distance of the historic city center. From the elevated position on board a cruise ship, passengers have unrestricted views of the old town, which is surrounded by mighty, high fortress walls. The new town extends beyond the walls on a hillside. Almost 50.000 people live in Rhodes City.
Rhodes City - the fortified old town
Rhodes historical background
After a few minutes' walk, visitors immerse themselves in the maze of streets of the picturesque old town. There is no longer any trace of the legendary colossus of Rhodes, a technical masterpiece of antiquity. The more than 30 meters high bronze statue fell victim to an earthquake about 60 years after it was erected.
However, the memory of the Order of St. John has remained. After the Pope granted the order the island of Rhodes as permanent property in 1307, the knights of the order began to fortify the island in order to defend it against Muslim attacks. The imposing walls, bulwarks and city gates still bear witness to the efforts of the Johanniter to make the city impregnable. The knights stayed on Rhodes for more than 200 years. When Ottoman troops conquered the island in 1523, the Johanniter left the island. The epochs of the Crusaders and the subsequent Ottomans created an extraordinary urban ensemble, which UNESCO declared a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Rhodes City - the city wall with the lake gate
Rhodes City - Suleyman Pasha Mosque
Our ten top sights of Rhodes Town
Although we consider the entire old town of Rhodes to be an unprecedented ensemble, we rate the following ten buildings, squares and monuments as particularly noteworthy.
The fortress wall
The Knights of St. John took over Rhodes after a long siege. The order established its headquarters in the city and subsequently expanded Rhodes into a fortress. A fortress wall more than four kilometers long with several imposing gates still surrounds the old town today. The wall was divided into eight sections and guarded by knights of the eight "tongues", meaning the regions of origin of the knights. Particularly eye-catching city gates are the sea gate at Kolona harbor and the Saint Athanasios gate on the opposite side of the fortress ring.
The Grand Master's Palace of the Order of St. John
The Palace of the Grand Masters was built in the 14th century. It served as a fort and as the official residence of the grandmasters elected for life. After the Ottomans took over Rhodes in the first half of the 16th century, the palace was used as a prison and warehouse for gunpowder. In 1856 there was an explosion in the powder chamber, which severely damaged the Grand Master's Palace and the surrounding buildings. The palace was restored under Italian rule between 1912 and 1943. However, the reconstruction was not to scale: the occupiers enlarged the palace to one and a half times its original size in order to create enough space for the island's commanding officer.
The Church of Our Lady - Santa Maria del Borgo
The Johanniter built the church in the 14th century as one of the first places of worship under their rule. During the Ottoman rule, the church was converted into a mosque. After heavy bombing during the Second World War, only parts of the building now bear witness to the former church.
Rhodes City - the Church of Our Lady
Rhodes City - the Church of Our Lady
The Suleyman Pasha Mosque
After the departure of the Hospitallers from Rhodes, Sultan Suleyman I had a mosque built in the north-western part of the old town in 1523. The current building complex was built at the beginning of the 19th century. The square building has ten domes. The minaret is of more recent origin.
Rhodes City - Domes of the Suleyman Pasha Mosque
Rhodes City - Minaret of the Suleyman Pasha Mosque
The Islamic Library
Opposite the mosque is the Turkish Hafiz Ahmed Agha Library, established in 1793. The library holds valuable books and manuscripts. The courtyard is decorated with mosaics on pebbles. The archive can be viewed on working days.
The clock tower
The clock tower towering over the old town on Orfeustraße was built under Turkish rule in 1851 on the remains of a tower from Byzantine times. The explosion of the powder depot in the Grand Master's Palace destroyed the previous tower. Reconstruction took place in the same year. The clock showed the island Greeks the Turkish time. Time-based rules as to when the city could be entered or left. The tower is open to visitors.
Rhodes City - the clock tower
Ritterstrasse with the houses of the "tongues"
Most of the “Tongues” hostels are located on the 200-meter-long Odos Ippoton, Ritterstrasse. The Order of St. John consisted of eight country teams, the "tongues". The English and Auvergne hostels are in other areas of the old town. The location of the German “tongue” remains unclear. The Grand Master's Palace is at the upper end of Ritterstrasse; the lower end meets Cleobulus Square.
The Order's New Hospital borders on Ritterstrasse. The building is currently used as an archaeological museum. At the time of the Crusaders, the hospital was one of the most modern and best-equipped facilities of its time. The hospital ward was 50 meters long and twelve meters wide.
Rhodes City - the Archaeological Museum
The Platia Athinas is located in the old town in the former Turkish quarter. On the small square there are two church ruins that are also worth seeing: the Basilica of St. Michael and the Church of Agios Spyridon. The central nave of the church has been preserved.
Rhodes Town - Platia Athinas
Rhodes Town - Platia Athinas
Hippocrates' Square is also in the center of the old town. The symbol of the square is the fountain of Hippocrates. An owl sits enthroned at the top of the fountain. Another symbol of the square is the castellan's palace, recognizable by the steep stairs on which tired tourists often rest.
The Mandraki Harbor
The Mandraki harbor is located next to the harbor basin for the ferries and cruise ships. The harbor entrance, the St. Nicholas fortress with the lighthouse and the windmills are attractive eye-catchers in the harbor area.
The port entrance
Two pillars, one on each side, mark the entrance to the harbor. The heraldic animals of Rhodes stand on the pillars: a stag and a hind. The sculptures are not of ancient origin; the Italian occupiers had the columns erected. According to legend, the Colossus of Rhodes stood above the port entrance in ancient times.
Rhodes town - access to Mandraki port
Rhodes city - deer and hind with Saint Nicholas fortress
The Saint Nicholas fortress
At the top of the pier of Mandraki Port, the St. Nicholas Fortress, built in the 15th century, rises up. The fort was part of the Johanniter defense system. The bastion has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. On the upper platform of the fortress stands the Agios Nikolaos lighthouse.
The flour mills
There are three restored windmills on the pier at Mandraki Harbor. Originally there were 14 mills in line there. They ground the grain that was landed in ships.
Rhodes Town - Flour mills on the pier of the Mandraki port
Depending on your interests, there is a lot more to see and do in Rhodes Town. Under One day in Rhodes let's describe our city tour. At the end of the day we discovered that many of the sights remained undiscovered.
Update May 2021