Rhodes’ medieval citadel is one of the best preserved ones in Europe and earned its place on the Unesco heritage list. We can thank the Knights Hospitallers for much of what Rhodes looks like now. They moved to the island in the 14th century and left their mark in the approximately 200 years that they were there. After some Ottoman attacks the knights decided to build heavy fortifications, which you can still see today. However in the the 16th century the Ottomans won after all and added some oriental flavor to the town. Visiting Rhodes Town now, you can see elements from different times in the small streets within the city wall.
If you enter the old town from the coast, you walk through the impressive Knight’s street towards the even more impressive palace of the grand master. At the hottest time of the day, tourists were using the small strip of shade to make their way up to the palace. As you walk up you may find small details in the buildings, like pictures on tiles or shields in the stones. The street used to have different inns belonging to the knights, with each one catering to a group of knights from a different country. The symbols and decorations you see give hints to which country used to be housed there.
At the end of the street you’ll find the entrance to the grandmaster’s palace. It is very impressive and looks exactly like what you’d expected from a medieval castle. It’s basically the model kids use when they try to build sand castles on the beach. Unfortunately some long forgotten gun powder in the basement exploded in 1856 and destroyed a big part of the building. About 100 years later the Italians swooped in and brought back the glory to this fantastic building. But the Italians wanted more. To add some glamour to the medieval walls, they went looking for decorations and found it in the ancient mosaics of Kos. They took dozens of mosaics off the island and shipped it to Rhodes, where they now adorn the floors of the old grandmaster’s palace.
And this is exactly why it’s worth visiting inside the grandmaster’s palace. First you walk up a big staircase to the first floor and then you can continue all around the building, with some nice views of the inner courtyard too. The mosaics are very well preserved, depicting warriors, medusa, fish and intricate patterns. To us it was a very unexpected find that we thoroughly enjoyed. Some of the other old buildings house more museums, like the archeological museum, but we decided not to visit it. Instead we wandered through the small streets, finding hidden squares, mosques and small restaurants.
The old town is pretty quiet during the day, but comes to live when all the tourists return from there day trips and afternoons on the beach. I think it’s worth going for a walk during the day since it really feels like a different town alltogether. The old moat is another place to explore. Because it was incredibly hot we didn’t walk all the way around, but even in the small stretch we did, we found great views of the city walls, many old canon balls and even a very small entrance into the old town. The wide moat is an interesting park to walk or run through and offers a quiet alternative to the bustling streets of the old town at night.