Why Rhodes Town is the underrated city break you didn’t know you needed

By Jaymi McCann

22 February 2024 | Updated 23 February 20246 min read

Skyline view of Rhodes Old Town in Greece

Think of Rhodes and you’ll probably conjure up images of sparkling Mediterranean waters, miles of sandy coastline and picture-perfect Greek sunsets – and you wouldn’t be far off. But this ancient island is so much more than sun and sand.

Millions travel to Rhodes each year seeking a fly-and-flop holiday, and while a week spent lying on the sand is the stuff of dreams for some, a do-nothing getaway isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

But even if you’re the latter, don’t write off this Dodecanese paradise too quickly. The island's capital, Rhodes Town, proves there is plenty to do for even the most determined city breaker.

Here's how to enjoy Rhodes from a totally new perspective.

Discover hundreds of years of history

Rhodes Town has an impressive claim: it’s the oldest inhabited medieval city in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that.

It owes much of its appearance to the Knights of Saint John, who spent a lot of time gallivanting about in this part of the Med during the 14th century, but the town actually dates back to the 5th century BC when the ancient Greeks first settled here.

The Ottomans took over in 1522, restoring the walled city’s fortifications and developing the lower Old Town into a labyrinth of alleyways with historic buildings, public baths and mosques around every corner.

Marvel at beautiful architecture

For map-free wanderers, this incredible heritage makes Rhodes Town a dream. Get lost in its maze of streets and discover an incredible mishmash of architectural styles.

In the upper town, the Palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Rhodes, the Great Hospital and the Street of the Knights are like something from Game of Thrones. The Old Town's walls were also vital in securing the city and making it the powerful base it once was. You can walk atop the entire loop of the town wall, but at 4km long and in the blazing sunshine it is important to remember sun cream and water.

You’ll also find the 15th-century Fortress of St Nicholas in the harbour alongside three picturesque windmills from the same era. The Mosques of Suleiman and Ibrahim Pasha, the Roloi Clock Tower, and the Panagia tou Kastrou and Panagia tou Bourgou churches also shouldn't be missed.

Explore ancient Greek ruins

It wouldn’t be a trip to Greece without a few ruins, would it? Within Rhodes Town itself there is the Ruins of St John Of The Collachio, and a short walk from the centre is the Temple of Athena Polias and Zeus Polieus, part of the 3rd century BC Acropolis of Rhodes, which is open to the public to walk around freely. Here you can also explore the Odeon – an impressive, reconstructed amphitheatre – and a 210m-long stadium once used for athletic events.

A day trip to Lindos is a great add-on for an extended city break, as it’s where you’ll find the world-famous Acropolis, which is home to the ruins of the goddess Athena Lindia, and temples from the 4th century BC.

Mooch around fascinating museums

Rhodes Town may already feel like an open-air museum, but if you want to learn a little more (or simply get out of the midday sun) then there are plenty of indoor attractions to choose from.

The Archaeological Museum of Rhodes, situated in the former Medieval Hospital of the Knights, is a must see if you want to read into the island's incredible history. The Aquarium or Rhodes is great for little ones, while at the Rhodes Museum of Ancient Greek Technology by Kotsanas you’ll find fascinating ancient inventions well ahead of their time.

Sunbathe on pretty beaches

Just because you're in the city doesn't mean you can't enjoy some beach time! Elli Beach sits at the northern tip of the island and is one of Rhodes’ best beaches. Pick your side – one’s sandy, the other pebbly – and enjoy the beautiful panoramic views out to the Turkish coast.

You can also grab a sunbed at Paralia Ixia beach, which stretches along the western side of Rhodes Town, making it perfect for catching the sunset. Blustery conditions mean it has a good surfing and windsurfing scene.

Visit the markets and shop ‘til you drop

Meander through the maze of markets in the lower Old Town to discover some of Rhodes' best produce, whether that’s foodstuffs like freshly baked bread, marmalades or melekounia, a local sweet made of sesame and honey, or souvenirs like locally made leather goods, handmade gold jewellery, ceramics or glassware.

You'll find fashion boutiques, bookstores and jewellers around the modern Cyprus Square. The Vintage Wine store stocks locally made Greek wine, while La Magia and Oh Deer.Me are favourites for handmade gifts. Getting lost down one of the town's 200 lanes is the best way to look out for something unusual.

Refuel with delicious Greek feasts

From lightly fried seafood to roasted meats, Greece is a foodie paradise – and Rhodes is no different. With its access to amazing produce like Greek honey, olive oil, and wine, you are sure to taste something delicious. Foodies will love the family-owned Marco Polo Mansion, which mixes Greek and Italian influences, as well as the Greek tapas tasting menu at Piatakia.

Traditional tavernas can be found all over the Old Town, serving your classic souvlakia and moussakas. Street food is also available if you're on a budget or just fancy a snack, and Dromos Street Food is a local favourite.

Enjoy sundowners with a view

You don't have to go to Faliraki if you want to keep the party going after dark. Bar Street has some of the rowdiest clubs and nightspots reside – think shots and loud music – but if you're after something more refined, Minos Roof Garden and Rooftop Rhodes are both perfect spots to take in the sunset over a city or sea view.

Ronda Beach Bar is popular with Rhodians and visitors alike, while The Last Butler prides itself on innovative and exciting cocktails. The staff at Benessere Wine Bistro, which sits by the harbour, can advise you on a local glass of something lovely, but wine fans will also maybe want to get out of the centre and try Winery Anastasia Triantafillou, where you can taste the local varietals among the vines.

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