Exploring the Minoan palace of Knossos on Crete
To visit the Minoan Palace of Knossos is to travel to the depths of European history. The oldest civilisation in Europe, the oldest throne in Europe, the legends of King Minos and the Minotaur, and even artwork that continues to inspire today. The reasons to visit an archaeological site synonymous with Crete are so plentiful that it is a place that barely needs introducing.
What you witness is actually the second incarnation of the Minoan’s largest palace on Crete. The first was destroyed in an earthquake around 1700BC and replaced by a second, more elaborate palace (the Neopalatial period), coinciding with the peak of the Minoan civilisation.
The palace was sophisticated, with drainage systems and quarters sunk into the earth, and with luxurious houses rising up to five storeys in height and frescoes adorning walls. It is said to have resembled a labyrinth (hence the link to the Minotaur myth). Eventually, it too was struck down by an earthquake and abandoned in around 1600BC.
The site is big and sprawling (43,000m2), once containing 1,300 rooms connected with corridors around the main courtyard. So the best way of exploring it and understanding its secrets is with a licensed guide.
From the central courtyard, the Palace of Knossos stands ready to reveal its secrets.
A royal residence
To the east are the once-lavish royal quarters and workshops, and to the west the Propylon and Facade and the Little Palace. You’ll find the shrines, storerooms and banquet halls of the palace… and, of course, the all-important The Throne Room.
A window into everyday Minoan life
But it is in the details of everyday life that the palace tells perhaps its most revealing stories about the Minoans. Look out for the irrigation drains, terracotta pipes and cisterns for drinking water.
You’ll certainly visit the House of the Frescoes, to the northwest, adorned with artwork on the walls and the Villa of Dionysos, a private residence decorated with spending mosaics. And, of course, the bull-leaping fresco and that leaping dolphins, decorating the queen’s megaron – images that have become iconic of Knossos and Minoan culture.
Putting it all into context
Don’t forget to also visit the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion in the city to view other artefacts unearthed in the palace.
From Heraklion to Knossos
By car or taxi: Around 6km (15mins)
By bus: No.2 (‘Knossos’) near the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion
From Chania: By car or bus (KTEL): 142km
From Rethymnon: By car or bus (KTEL): 82km
- You can visit the Palace of Knossos at any time in the year, but you will enjoy it most in spring and autumn, when the weather is milder and there are fewer people.
- Seasonal opening times apply
If you visit in July and August, morning or late afternoon are best.
You can cover the palace in around 1hr30min, which is the length of most organised tours. Of course, if you want to go into more detail, you will need longer.
Tickets are €15 (reduced €8)
By booking a tour, you can also benefit by skipping entrance queues, which can be long in peak months.
- You will find all the basics (snacks & drinks, toilets) close to the entrance.
- There’s little shade and the palace is expansive so don’t forget your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen and bring a water bottle.
- Wear comfortable footwear.
- For visitors with disabilities, there are facilities including parking and toilets. Most of the site is accessible, but not all of it.
- You can book an organised tour of Knossos with Cretan Guides.
Plan your trip
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