Rhodes old town is one of the most picturesque old towns I've ever visited. It's a maze of streets and alleyways tucked away in the north-east corner of Rhodes Island, next to Hagios Nikolaos old town. Rhodes old town was on my list for a while so it was great to finally visit with our family last year.
It's difficult not to feel like you're stepping back in time when you enter old Town . The old cobbled streets wind around tightly, past restaurants, boutiques and shops that seem unchanged from generations ago. Everything looks like it could be straight out of the medieval or Ottoman period - the low door frames, small windows and simple architecture .
As old towns go, old town in Rhodes is one of the largest in Greece and it's a great place to watch the world go by. There are tourists everywhere - many walking laps of just 1/2 kilometer or so over and over again! They visit old Town for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and then drinks on my last night there I counted 20 restaurants open around 9pm .
Although old Town Rhodes still keeps its old medieval atmosphere it would be wrong to think that nothing has changed here since those days. As you walk around old town you will find evidence of parts being renovated or even totally reconstructed with modern materials. Some modern buildings try as hard as possible to blend in but some stick out like sore thumbs such as when a modern shop front is plonked in front of old facade . Still old Town Rhodes has a lot more old buildings left than many other old towns and they are well preserved.
The old town of Rhodes was built on the crossroads of two very different civilisations - Greek and Ottoman. In fact, the old town of Rhodes also has a Jewish district which lies to the west end of old town near Koules fort . It's not easy to spot this area from the main drag as it's set back off the road but it is still distinctly recognisable with its own laid back atmosphere. The streets are narrow with old doorways and arches dotted along them.
As I mentioned before old Town in Rhodes is not your typical old town in that it didn't come into being because it was an important trading place or stop over on a major trade route. Old Town Rhodes came about simply as the old city for when the Knights of St John ruled this part of Greece and so its development was based around one road - D'Avila Street . This meant that old town in Rhodes has more uniformity than other old towns I've visited with most buildings dating from around 1600 to 1800 AD.
Rhodes old town is quite compact with only four main entries/exits - old Town Harbour to the North, old town old harbour to the west and old town new harbour to the east and old town old harbour square at the centre of old Town . I struggled to discover all 11 Gates! It was a nice experience!
If you're visiting old town in Rhodes with kids I'd recommend starting at old town old harbour square This way you can visit many of the major sights as well as having a little break when tired. You can then finish your day back up in the central square or head for one of the new city attractions .
As I mentioned before Rhodes old town is known for its old buildings and cobbled streets. The old harbour area is no different with old time narrow boats bobbing up and down on the water. There are a few restaurants around old town old harbour square so you can relax while enjoying the view from your table.
One of the main draws to old Town Rhodes is to visit its many museums . Four important ones though all seemed to be in competition with one another as they were each signed everywhere, had huge signs outside them and regularly promoted themselves on social media - maybe they should have joined forces! All though it's not that surprising considering how much old Town Rhodes has achieved over recent years. It was first designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1988 and later an European Union Special area of Conservation (SAC). It's even been featured in blockbuster movies such as Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra and video games like Assasins Creed .
I visited old town rhodes on a warm, sunny spring day so started off at old town old harbour square which has an old fountain in the centre. The old Town Harbour is just to the north of old town old harbour square with many restaurants and bars along its edge. It was here that I began my exploration of this lovely old part of Rhodes.
Although old Town rhodes still keeps its old medieval atmosphere it would be wrong to think that nothing has changed here since those days. As you walk around old town you will find evidence of parts of old town being used for quite different things to how they were when old Rhodes was the old city of the Knights.
At old town old harbour square I found many restaurants and cafes along with souvenir and clothing shops selling everything from rhodes T-shirts to old town calendars, details on all of which are below. The main shopping street is Vraila street which runs directly above old Town Harbour. It's a tourist street with plenty of jewellery stores but it also has some more modern places such as internet cafes, travel agents, supermarkets and even an offering from fashion shop H&M. My favourite store on this strip though is a sweet outfitter / ice cream parlour called Oreeleeoffee . They mix old town Rhodes with old Greece and old time classics such as a bentwood stools, old furniture, old books and old city maps. Even the clothes here are old fashioned which I assume is why they offer some truly amazing rhodes T-shirts !
My favorite restaurant in old Town Rhodes though is one that serves something else ancient - meze . Most of you will be familiar with this Greek appetiser but if not it's like tapas served in many Spanish restaurants. The reason I like this place though is because its owner comes from northern Greece where meze was traditionally made at home and then eaten outdoors around a bonfire. This may sound weird to us Brits but back when it was cold up there nights would have been short and so it would have been a great way of using up old food and perhaps even a bit seasonal! In old Town rhodes though you can sit down at tables with old time street lamps overhead, old time chairs and old style menus to enjoy your meze either outdoors or in air conditioned comfort. I had really good fish meze here as well as some lovely traditional Greek music.
This is the other main way that old Town Rhodes keeps in touch with its old self - festivals . The two biggest ones are from May until June and August until September which may not be the best times to visit for those on vacation but sounds like heaven if you live here year round. These festivals seem to offer anything from local concerts, theatre, arts and poetry to old time games, old time markets and old fashioned events for children.
The old town rhodes old city walls are another reminder of old times. They are best viewed from the old Town harbour square or any point in the old town new port which is on the opposite side of old Town Rhodes. I have more photos of these below as well as some about ancient temples nearby and even an amazing abandoned church .
I stayed at Acension Apartments - they were really nice! Old Rhodes would have been so different without its grand buildings and I think it's important that people recognise this when visiting such places so here's my quick guide to what you'll see when visiting old Town rhodes old city .