On its northern tip, the capital, Rhodes Town, lies within impressive medieval fortifications built by the Knights of St John, a military religious order who made it their power base from 1309 to 1522. It was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1522, hence the proud minarets that punctuate its skyline. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, its cobbled streets are crammed with boutique hotels, rustic tavernas and souvenir shops.
Cruise ships dock in the Commercial Port, just a 5-minute walk from the old town. The green, fertile island of Rhodes is one of the most developed tourist destinations in the Mediterranean.
In June 2011, a new state-of-the-art marina will open, to the east of Rhodes Town, featuring shops, cafes, restaurants, a spa and a landscaped promenade, as well as glittering yachts.
It’s a joy to wander through the pedestrian-only, cobbled streets of Rhodes Town’s old town, protected by 14th-century fortifications measuring 4km (2.5 miles) in length. The top attraction is the vast 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters, housing a museum tracing the island’s history. To reach it, walk up Ippoton Street, lined with ‘inns’, each one representing a different country from where the knights originated. Close by, the 15th-century Knight’s Hospital houses the Archaeological Museum, while the nearby Byzantine Museum displays religious icons and frescoes in the former cathedral.
Also take a look at the pink 16th-century Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent, built when Rhodes was controlled by the Ottomans. A short distance southwest of town, overlooking the sea, the Acropolis of Ancient Rhodes is home to the Temple of Apollo.
Many cruise companies also offer a half-day excursion by bus to Lindos, a whitewashed hillside village crowned by a medieval fortress and an ancient Greek temple.
• City Walls
• Ippoton Street (Street of the Knights)
• Palace of the Grand Masters
• Knight’s Hospital
• Byzantine Museum
• Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent
• Acropolis of ancient Rhodes
Rhodes Tourism Office
Makariou and Papagou, 85100 Rhodes Town, Greece
Tel: +30 224 104 4335.
The former bazaar area of Sokratous Street in Rhodes’s Old Town is the best place to shop for souvenirs, though you will also find some chic gift stores in Lindos. Typical mementoes include Turkish-inspired rugs, ceramics (decorated with a deer, the symbol of Rhodes), leather goods, furs (from Kastoria in northern Greece), and gold and silver jewellery. Local wines, olive oil and sponges are also good buys.
Greek cuisine is based on fresh, seasonal, Mediterranean ingredients, with the abundant use of olive oil. Popular main courses include simply prepared fresh seafood, plus charcoal-grilled meat and hearty stews.
When to go:
The Mediterranean cruise season runs from late April to late October. Peak season in Greece is July to August, when all the main destinations are very hot and very crowded. Try to visit in May/June or September/October to avoid the crowds and enjoy milder weather.
Rhodes Old Town.
1.6km (1 mile).
5 minutes walk.