September 2005BOOK EXCERPT
Rhodes Old Town Walking Tour
A massive wall, completed in the 1500s, encloses the Old Town of Rhodes.
Excerpt from National Geographic Traveler: Greece guidebook by Mike Gerrard
Photograph by Mark Weiss

The Old Town of Rhodes may be a World Heritage site, but many visitors see only the few main streets lined with souvenir shops that are no different from anywhere else in Greece. Yet there are many fine monuments and quiet backstreets, not to mention the stunning fortifications of the Old Town. The following short walk leads you to them.

*Bolded names and numbers in the text below correspond with our map of this walking tour.

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Begin at either side of the entrance to Mandraki harbor (1), the narrow channel where it is said that one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the great Colossus of Rhodes statue, once stood, a leg on each side.

Walk along the harbor front with the town on your right and the walls of the Old Town ahead of you. Cross the busy street at the first traffic lights and carry on walking in the same direction, under trees and past kiosks, to reach the Eleftherias Gate (2). The name means "Liberty" to commemorate the Greek independence from Turkish rule. Pass through the imposing walls, which date back to 1330 and in places are 40 feet (12 meters) thick.

Walk straight ahead along Apellou, passing on your left the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite and on your right the Decorative Arts Museum and, opposite it, the Byzantine Museum. Immediately after the Decorative Arts Museum turn right onto Ippoton, otherwise known as the Street of the Knights (3). Built in the 14th century, the cobble-paved street is lined on either side with the Inns of the Knights of St. John, once used as eating clubs and temporary residences for visiting dignitaries. Architectural details on each facade reflect its respective country. On your right as you walk up the street are the Inns of Italy and France, and on the left is the Inn of Spain. The inns today house offices and foreign embassies.

At the top of the street on your right is the entrance to the Palace of the Grand Masters (4), from where the 19 Grand Masters of the Order of the Knights of St. John ran the affairs of the order. The original 14th-century palace was destroyed in an accidental explosion in 1856. What you see now is a faithful reconstruction carried out by the Italian rulers of Rhodes in the 1930s as a summer home for dictator Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), who never actually stayed there. It is well worth visiting for the wonderful central courtyard and the fine mosaic floors.

Carry on past the palace to the very end of Ippoton and turn left along Orfeos, past the souvenir shops, cafés, and restaurants. Where the road swings around to the left, look for the 1523 Mosque of Suleiman, opposite the Turkish Library. Turn right after the library, down Ippodamou. At the far end of Ippodamou follow the road left, and at the first intersection turn right. This takes you outside the town walls. Go through the Agiou Athanasiou Gate (5), turn left along the main road, and take the next left back into the Old Town through the Koskinou, or Gate of St. John (6). Turn left at the first T-junction and follow Pithagora, which takes you to Plateia Ippokratous, where there are several excellent cafés.

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