The Palace of Knossos is one of the most popular places to visit in Crete. Continuously inhabited for over 7000 years, it became the heart of Minoan civilisation. Here are some tips for visiting Knossos, and how to make the most of your time there.
The Palace of Knossos
The archaeological site of Knossos is located about 5kms outside of Heraklion, the capital of Crete. Continuously inhabited from 7000 BC to the Roman times, it is most well known for its Minoan palace. This is a place where myth, legend, and historical fact have become intermingled. Was the palace of Knossos home of King Minos? How much truth is there in the legend of the labyrinth? Could the labyrinth in fact have been the palace of Knossos itself?
Myth and Legend in Knossos
The site is so large and confusing, there might actually be an element of truth in that last statement! I have learned over the years that you shouldn't discount myths and legends. There is always an element of truth hidden in there somewhere. Certainly the site is strongly associated with several key symbols, such as bulls and double-headed axes. Was there really a Minotaur? I think the people of ancient Knossos might have had a festival similar to the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. There is a famous Minoan frescoe which might back my theory up.
I suppose this is why I like exploring ancient sites such as the Palace of Knossos. It is a chance for the imagination to take over, as I picture what life might have been like over 4000 years ago. You will probably need a little imagination too, as the site is sprawls away in all directions!
Sir Arthur Evans
Arguably, another person also used their imagination a little too much during their time at Knossos. This was Sir Arthur Evans, who was responsible for the majority of excavations and restorations carried out during the early 1900's. Whilst he preserved and brought to light many aspects of Minoan civilisation, his methods and practices were not of the same standard as they are today.
The resulting concrete restorations with their bright colours are certainly iconic, but I wonder how ‘real' they are. They are also a source of controversy for many archaeologists. If you have visited the site, leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts!
Tips For Visiting Knossos
You will want to brush up on your ancient Greek mythology, in particular the legends associated with King Minos and the Labyrinth. (I recommend trying to get hold of a copy of this book if you can – The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. I have many different books about Greek mythology, and this is my favourite).
Pick your time of year well – Take your time, and enjoy the site in pleasant temperatures during the spring and autumn months.
Pick your time of day well – My key tip for visiting Knossos, is to go early. The tour buses tend to arrive at around 9.00 am, so if you can get there before then, you will have an hour of peace. The second best option is to go later on, when the tours have all left. Note – Opening hours vary depending on the time of year. The summer opening hours are between 08.00 and 20.00.
Tours of Knossos
Organised Tour – There are endless options for organised tours to the palace of Knossos. Most hotels in northern Crete will have information on tours which will include the site, and the museum in Heraklion. The advantage of taking a tour, is that you don't need to worry about transport, and a knowledgeable guide will show you around the site. Take a look here for tours of Knossos.
Independent Tour – You can reach Knossos by public transport, taxi, or your own vehicle. There is lots of space to park near the site itself. This way, you can spend as long as you want at the site, and not feel rushed by a tour guide. There are plenty of informative boards to read as you walk around. You can also over-hear the odd tour guide if you are smart enough!
Buy a combined ticket – You can now buy a combined ticket which covers entrance to Knossos as well as the museum in Heraklion. I will write about the museum in a later article, but this is another place you HAVE to visit.
Allow at least two hours to see the site.
Take water, a hat, and sunblock.
Visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum – OK, so this museum is not on the site itself. Visiting it is essential if you want to get a better understanding of the Palace of Knossos though. You will need to allow at least another 2 hours to visit the museum, and I will go into more detail about this in another article.
Stay in Heraklion – The capital of the island is the best place to stay when visiting the Palace of Knossos. Check out these places to stay in Heraklion.
More Articles About Crete
As well as visiting the Palace of Knossos, you might also like to choose some of these other things to do in Crete. If you are planning to spend longer on the island, why not try a road trip around Crete?