Rhodes Town

Early travelers described Rhodes as a town of two parts: a castle or high town (Collachium) and a lower area (Bourgo). Today Rhodes Town—sometimes referred to as Ródos Town—is still divided: the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site that incorporates the walled city, and the modern metropolis, or New Town, spreading away from the old fortifications.

The New Town is "new" only in relative terms—islanders began settling outside the walls of the Old Town with the arrival of the Turks in 1522. There is little here to hold the attention, however. Elli Beach is unconscionably crowded, and while the pedestrianized restaurant street of Nikiforou Mandilara is likeable and growing in reputation, the only other distractions are the last vestiges of Mussolini's plans to turn Rhodes into Italy's ultimate seaside retreat. The 1927-built Grande Albergo Delle Rose hotel, once a setting for the jet set, still lauds it over the eastern shore.

The Old Town is the real jewel of Rhodes, lined with Orthodox and Catholic churches, Turkish houses, and medieval public buildings. When the Knights of St. John arrived in 1309, they built over the original Byzantine fortifications and expanded heavily. What changes the Ottomans made were mostly obliterated by the arrival of Italians in 1912. Fascist Italy sought to align itself with the grandiosity of the Knights' achievements and set about zealously restoring and preserving their legacy during the 1930s. Walking its mostly car-less, cobbled streets today, there are few cities where you can see and feel the past quite so viscerally—though that's not as easily acheived during July and August when they fill to bursting point. Arrive later in the season (mid-Sept.–Oct.) and stay in the quieter southern corner of the old city for more peace.

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