I have to admit that the Greek capital doesn’t look attractive on first sight. When the rest of Europe was going through renaissance, Greece was occupied by the Turks. Unlike other European capitals, there are no wide avenues and perfectly aligned blocks with big squares and elaborate gardens. Centuries of building without urban planning have led to an anarchic pattern which is irreversible I’m afraid, but also a part of its character.
Walking through the city of Rhodes is like peeling off layers of history. With its cobbled streets, tales of knights hospitaller and grand masters and its hundreds of little restaurants and shops, it’s just as great for a day of sightseeing than for just strolling around the old town. We chose to do a bit of both and it was perfect.
Having booked our trip to Rhodes only 4 days before departure, after a last-minute craving for some sun, there was no time for lots of preparations. We just picked up a map at the hotel but soon understood the only right way to discover the maze of picturesque alleys was to get lost in them. To stop rushing and just wander around, taking in every little detail. So that’s what we did.
The old town is surrounded by high medieval walls and a – now dry – moat. Walking through it from Liberty Gate towards St Anthony’s gate, we start to discover the architectural richness and charm of the town.
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We tour five lively castle cities of Greece that date back to different historical periods and are found in areas of particular tourist interest.
Koroni: Perhaps it is the highlight of the southern Peloponnese. In Koroni, the tone is set by the castle that is located on the hill and by the large pedestrian walkway of the harbor with the fishing boats. Beautiful old mansions and stairways with challenging rises and descents – as the town is built amphitheatrically- give an island feel. Going up to the castle – one of the few that are still inhabited – requires a car or a lot of energy to climb the steps. But once you get to the top, you will take a walk along the cobbled streets that will take you back in time, and you won’t get enough of the great sea view.
Monemvasia: The medieval walls of Monemvasia surround one of the best-preserved and bustling castle cities in Greece, which attracts visitors from every part of the world all year round. Dozens of churches, mansions of wealthy merchants, hammam and winding cobbled streets are kept in an excellent condition, preserving the atmosphere of this historic town intact. No cars are allowed inside the castle, a fact the boosts the medieval atmosphere.
Rhodes: Always atmospheric and lively, Rhodes composes a rare mosaic of ancient, medieval, Byzantine, Ottoman and Italian monuments. Its castle, in fact, is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe and a monument of UNESCO. The town’s most iconic street is undoubtedly the Street of the Knights, which features many historical sites. Take a break from your walk and have a coffee on Aristotelous Street and Ippocratous Square, the favourite meeting points of the locals.
Ioannina: The Castle of Ioannina –something like a town within a town- was built in 528 BC and is the most ancient Byzantine castle in Greece. This bustling castle town, with the numerous famous buildings that bear witness to the history of the place, attracts crowds of visitors and locals who want to take a walk and relax. Be sure to stroll along the lakeshore – or go on a bicycle ride, if you feel like it. Check out the Silversmithing Museum that opened recently inside the castle and is considered the new cultural jewel of the city.
Chania: Chania is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Greece: a crossroad of cultures, flavors, and history that combines both mountainous and seaside landscapes and has a busy nightlife. The marvelous Venetian harbor of Chania is considered one of the most beautiful spots in the city. But the medieval fortress of Itzedin that has been scheduled as a historical monument and was built in 1872 steals the show.
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