Top of Lindos Acropolis
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Rhodes, the largest of Greece's 12 Dodecanese islands, lies in the midst of the Aegean and is its most important urban area. Rhodes is the name of the main town as well as the island and actually consists of three different cities: ancient, medieval and modern. For visitors, the main attraction is Rhodes' fabulous walled Old Town, Europe's largest inhabited medieval city.
Sadly, its modern inhabitants tend to litter the place with burger bars, shops and stalls selling largely indistinguishable tourist tat -- but don't let that put you off.
Look beyond the racks of garish pareos, plastic busts of Zeus and hideous fur coats, and you'll find 1,000 years of history packed between the city's sturdy walls, in the shape of magnificent palaces, narrow, atmospheric passageways and handsome squares.
The history of Rhodes' Old Town is fascinating. Divided into three quarters -- the Knights', the Turkish and the Jewish -- it contains the island's entire chequered history. Enter via St Catherine's Gate and head right to discover the Avenue of the Knights, a magnificent medieval thoroughfare which houses the immense, 14th-century Palace of the Grand Masters. This was partially destroyed by a gunpowder explosion in 1856 and reconstructed in grand style by the Italians (Mussolini -- always prone to delusions of grandeur, planned to use it as a holiday home!). It's now a museum, containing fine antique furniture, sculptures and mosaics.
In this area you'll also find the 14th-century hospital of the Knights of St. John, which now houses the archeological museum. Nearby is the Museum of Decorative Arts -- worth a look if time allows, as is the pink-domed, 16th-century Mosque of Suleyman and the Byzantine Museum, housed in an 11th-century church.
And those are just some of the treasures in Rhodes' Old Town. It is definitely worth investing in a good guidebook if you really want to get the most out of this fabulous place, but it's just as pleasurable simply to wander through its winding streets, enjoy the fountains in its pretty squares, and have a relaxing lunch with a view at a terraced restaurant.
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Other Eastern Mediterranean Cruise Ports:
Athens • Bari • Bodrum • Corfu • Crete • Dubrovnik • Gythion • Haifa • Istanbul • Izmir • Jerusalem (Ashdod) • Katakolon • Kotor • Kusadasi • Limassol • Mykonos • Rhodes • Santorini • Split • Varna • Venice • Volos • Zadar
Greek -- but English is widely spoken.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Euro. This island is the number one tourism destination in the Dodecanese and they certainly don't want you to run out of cash -- so you'll find plenty of banks, bureaux de change and ATM machines.
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock at the Commercial Port to the east of the Old Town, which is only a few minutes' walk away.
Don't bother with Rhodes' "New Town" -- it's a horrorfest of high rise hotels -- unless you need a bus, a bank or a taxi.
Rhodes' Old Town is easily explored on foot, but wear comfortable shoes. The closest gate to the Commercial Harbour is St Catherine's, while New Gate or Arsenal Gate are closest to Mandraki.
Watch Out For
Uneven pavements and cobblestones. Also beware of the heat, which can catch you unawares as you're browsing.
Handmade lace, excellent leather goods, colorful pottery from Lindos and bowls carved from olive wood.
Exploring the aforementioned three areas of the Old Town and its historic sites. We love the magnificent fountain in Plateia Evreon (to the right as you enter St Catherine's Gate), which features bronze sea horses.
Shopper alert! For the best deals --and the most fun -- head for Soukratos, which runs parallel to the Avenue of the Knights. It's home to a Turkish Bazaar selling rugs, ceramics, jewelery and bric-a-brac. Here, the stallholders will happily haggle with you in the best Turkish tradition.
Been There, Done That
Lindos, once the most important town on the island, is now a National Historic Monument. Its acropolis sits some 116 meters above sea level. Below is a sandy (albeit crowded) crescent-shaped beach that's bordered by alfresco restaurants, and beautiful 17th-century whitewashed houses are scattered haphazardly up the hillside. Here it's worth taking a look at the lovely 18th-century frescoes in the Church of Agia Panagia, which dates from the 15th century. You can also walk up the steep steps to the acropolis -- you can hire a donkey to take you part of the way, and it's worth the effort for one of the best views in Greece and the chance to explore the tiny Temple of Athena, which dates from the fourth century B.C. Lindos is about 55 kilometers from Rhodes and is reachable by bus or taxi.
The "tourist cancer" of nasty fast food joints has, sadly, spread in Rhodes, but there are still some pleasant nooks in the Old Town where you can sample Greek dishes (look upwards and you'll spot some pretty outdoor terraces, or walk inside and see if the place is one of those with tables out in a quiet back garden). Be warned, though -- eating in Greece is not as cheap as it once was.
Most ships offer a three- to four-hour City Tour, comprising a lap around the new parts of Rhodes and a guided walking tour of the Old Town. It's great if you enjoy following like ducks behind a babbling guide with a raised umbrella, but, frankly, you're better off following our guide and doing the Old Town at your own pace.
Excursions to Lindos take four to five hours, a good two hours of which will be taken up driving there and back -- though it does show you island's stunning northeast coast. On arrival, you'll typically get a (steep!) walking tour up to the Acropolis and castle, followed by free time to cool off with a swim and lunch.
Staying in Touch
There is one Internet Cafe in the Jewish Quarter of Rhodes' Old Town, the CosmoNet-Internet Cafe on Jewish Square. Price per hour is six euros.
For More Information
On the Web: www.greektourism.com
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Europe
The Independent Traveler Message Boards: Greece
Images of narrow street and Koskinou courtesy of the Greek National Tourism Organization.