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Rhodes > the old town is simply stunning December 26, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece Islands Aegean.
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There are even plans for a new seven-star hotel in Faliraki.

Stay in the gorgeous Old Town with its ultra-stylish boutique hotels and the island’s best restaurants and you’ll think you are on a different planet. Rhodes used to be one of the poshest places in Greece, and inside the Old Town walls it still is, with smart jewellers and leather wear boutiques. Every time I visit, I discover new nooks and corners in its labyrinth of lanes and alleys, and there are plenty of sights to see.

The big attraction is the spectacular Palace of the Grand Masters, built for the leaders of the Knights of St John in the 15th Century and lavishly restored in the 1920s by the Italians, who snatched Rhodes from the Turks in 1912, and were allowed to keep it after the First World War, until it became Greek again after World War II.

Nearby, the domed Mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent is the most splendid relic of nearly 400 years of Turkish rule. Next to it, the 19th Century clocktower has the best view of the Old Town, though you need a good head for heights to climb up rickety stairs to the top.

Another Ottoman relic is the Hammam, a huge Turkish baths with cavernous steam rooms and plunge pools that’s still used by locals, just bring your own towel and soap.

The Archaeological Museum, in one of the lodges of the Knights of St John, is worth a look for its collection of graceful carvings and ceramics from the ancient cities of the island.

The Old Town’s only drawback is that none of its charming hotels has a pool, but for a quick dip in summer you can make do with tiny, surprisingly clean beach by the harbour, where you can also watch the yachts and ferries come and go. Or take a 10-minute walk along Plateia Eleftherias, the harbour esplanade, to discover a mile-long sweep of sandy beach and clear blue water, complete with loungers, sunbeds, and stalls selling ice cream and ice cold beer.

For huge pools and all the trimmings you want from a real luxury resort, you need to look outside town. But you don’t have to look all that far to find the Aldemar Paradise Royal Mare, a huge complex with everything you could want for a family holiday, eight pools, including an enormous saltwater pool, a heated indoor pool and kids’ pools, one with an 80-metre water slide, a private beach with heaps of watersports, and four tennis courts. There’s a big choice of bars and restaurants, and if you take the all-inclusive option you can use them all. The rooms are big and comfortable too, but book early for a room with a sea view.

Lots of my fellow guests never left the hotel, but if you do get itchy feet there’s plenty to see and do around the island. If you want to do it yourself, car rental is cheap, taxis are plentiful and there’s a good bus network. Or climb aboard an organised tour. Lindos, a much-hyped white village about 35 miles from Rhodes Town, is as pretty as it is claimed to be.

It’s also a real tourist trap, with dozens of overpriced souvenir shops and cafes, but at least the view from the hilltop above the village, where yet another castle of the Knights encloses the ruins of the ancient city of Lindos, is worth the hike.

The famous Valley of the Butterflies is another point to explore. But know that the butterflies are only there from June to August.

If you have surf-mad teens, drive out to Prasonissi, at the western tip of Rhodes, a huge double crescent of windswept beach that is perfect for windsurfing and kite-boarding, you can rent windsurf boards by the day. Scuba diving is popular too, several professional outfits, run by British dive teachers, offer learn-to-dive courses in Rhodes’ calm, novice-friendly waters.

Best of all, Rhodes is open for business longer than most Greek islands, the main town is big enough to work well for a short break even through the winter.

WHERE TO STAY  >
Cava d’Oro
(22410 36980 or log on to www.cavadoro.com) is next to the medieval city walls, just a few minutes walk from the ferry dock. Bedrooms have stone walls, arched ceilings and are pret tily decorated. Tiny breakfast-bar-terrace to the rear. 

Camelot (22410 36980, www.camelothotel.gr) is a pension in a medieval building a short walk from the Old Town’s busy main squares. Choice of simple double or triple room with en-suite WC and shower or twin room with separate toilet and shower. Pretty pebbled inner cour tyard, lavish breakfasts and very attractive surroundings. 

Fashion Hotel Nikos Takis (22410 70773 www.nikostakishotel.com) is a fabulous new hotel in the Old Town, owned by two of Greece’s best known fashion designers. Great location next to the palace of the Grand Masters. Suites with four poster beds, carved wooden furniture, embroidered silk soft furnishings and luxury bathrooms, views over the rooftops and ramparts of the Old Town. 

Aldemar Paradise Royal Mare (www.aldemarhotels.com) is a huge all-inclusive resort (6km from town) with greatfamily facilities, animation and entertainment. 

WHERE TO EAT > 
Alexis, 18, Socratous stree
t (22410 29347 – booking advisable) is one of the best restaurants in Greece, specialising in fabulous seafood in the heart of the Old Town. Photos of celebrities who have dined here since it opened in 1957 adorn the walls. Fresh fish perfectly grilled, good wines, and choice of tables and a sunny terrace. 

Alexis Four Seasons, 33, Aristotelous street (22410 70522) is a bit less formal and cheaper than its big brother, with an equally good seafood menu and tables in a pretty courtyard shaded by vines. 

Meltemi, Akti Koundourioti (just turn up) is a family-run restaurant with a terrace which looks out over a mile of beach. The sea is just five steps away if you fancy a pre-lunch dip. Uncomplicated menu with good choice of hot and cold appetizers, grills and fish dishes.

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