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Visitors Guide to the Palace of Knossos

The Palace of Knossos in Crete is one of Greece’s largest and most important archaeological sites, and its history goes back to the 7th millenium BC. It was the political, religious, and commercial center of the Minoan civilization. When visiting Crete, it simply cannot be missed because of its architecture, murals, and unique historical significance. 

History of the Palace of Knossos

The Palace of Knossos was inhabited for several thousand years, starting in the 7th millenium BC. It existed until 1375 BC, which was the end of the Minoan civilization. Knossos (the city where the palace was located) is considered Europe’s oldest known city. 

 

The palace is made of many parts. On the east side, there were the royal apartments, a sanctuary, and the Queen’s Apartment. The throne room was found on the north side of the sacred apartments, with an entrance from the main courtyard. It was said to be designed by Daedalus, the most famous inventor of the time. Once a visitor entered, it was said to be a maze inside, and it was almost impossible to leave.

Mythology and the Palace of Knossos

Some say that the Minoan Palace of Knossos is the same palace mentioned in the Minotaur story of Greek mythology. In the story, a prince named Theseus from Athens sailed to Crete and fought a creature called Minotaur. Zeus is also associated with the area around Knossos and the island of Crete in general, since he was raised in the Psiloritis mountains and was the island’s first ruler. 

 

The story of Icarus from Greek mythology is also set at the Palace of Knossos. Supposedly, according to the myth, Minos punished Daedalus and his son Icarus, locking them in the labrynth. However, they later escaped with Daedalus’s wings, which he made from candle and bird feathers. We all know how the story ends though, with Icarus flying too close to the sun, and then drowning in the sea (which is now called the Icarus sea).

One of the most incredible facts about the Palace of Knossos is that only about 3% has been excavated. Most of the excavations today focus on the highest levels of Minoan society. There may be other parts of the palace complex which were for the common people of the time — the everyday citizens of the Minoan civilization.

Other Minoan Sites in Crete

Phaistos

One other popular Minoan site in Crete is Phaistos, which also has a well-preserved palace from the second millennium BCE. There are beautiful frescoes and stonework inside, and an inviting courtyard. 

 

Gortyn

Next, Gortyn city in Messara valley is the home of an ancient Roman theater, a basilica, and palace ruins from Hellenistic times. One notable artifact here is the Law Code of Gortyn, which is a set of ancient laws inscribed in a massive stone wall. 

 

Malia

Finally, Malia is a Minoan settlement on the northern coast of the island of Crete. The ruins are found close to the town with the same name, and it includes a network of streets and courtyards. Its most famous stonework is a depiction of a ceremony with bulls. When you are done visiting Malia’s ruins, you can also relax at the nearby beach. 

Malia Beach

Where to Stay When Visiting the Palace of Knossos?

The closest city to Knossos is Heraklion, which is the capital city of the island of Crete and is on the north side of the island. It is an ideal base for exploring the north side of Crete and it is typically most busy in the summer. Heraklion features Venetian and Ottoman sites, many museums, and plenty of beaches closeby. Some highlights in the old town are the harbor, lighthouse, and of course the Cretan hospitality. Knossos is about ten minutes away by car. 

Heraklion, Crete

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