By Saul Schwartz
The Palace of Knossos is the top site to see on Crete and the most visited tourist attraction. This was our chance to view the remains of a Bronze Age people from about 4.000 years ago. These people had an astonishingly high level of civilization and ruled large parts of the Aegean from the capital in Knossos. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Mediterranean.
In northern Crete, there is a very good highway from Chania to Knossos. Driving is on the right side of the highway like in most European countries. The two hour trip was scenic and signage was very good. We stopped for a short packed lunch at one of the many gas stations that had lunch rooms. Along the way, we had plenty of water views and went up and down mountains of the north central coast.
Use guides for an enlightening experience
The entry fee for Knossos was 8€ per adult (15€ in high season). Travel guides are available at the entry gate. We paid 15 Euros per person for an English language tour guide. The guide fees are negotiable and depend upon the size of the group. We had four in our group.
As signage is limited, our guide greatly enhanced our experience. He added significant details beyond the signage. He pointed out the domestic quarters for the king and queen, residences for officials and priests, homes for the common folk, treasuries, store rooms and courtyards. We really enjoyed the perspective of our local guide who took the position that these peoples were the first Greeks.
Europe’s oldest city
Europe’s oldest city dates to around 2.000 B.C. This Bronze Age archaeological site includes the remains of several palaces. The site was unearthed by Briton Arthur Evans in the early 20th century. At Knossos, we saw a series of colorful reconstructed frescoes, including the north entrance with a charging bull, the south portico with cup bearers and an exquisite dolphin fresco. Throughout Knossos we saw a series of storage jars and a very advanced water management system. The final destruction of the city took place around 1.450 B.C., apparently due to earthquakes or fires.
The reconstruction of the site is somewhat controversial. Although the reconstruction brings the palace to life, it is hard to know what portions are original and which are reconstructed as replicas without a knowledgeable guide. The reconstructions helped us visualize what the palaces might have looked like at the peak of their glory.
Many of the original pieces were transported to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, a short distance away, and also included in the ticket.
Most US travellers arrive in Crete by air from Athens, while visitors from Europe usually have direct flights to Crete. Our flight on Olympic Air from Athens into Chania Airport took less than one hour. The planes were comfortable and the prices were reasonable.
- Knossos’ official Tourism website
- Crete’s official Tourism website
- Knossos on Heraklion’s official Tourism Website
About Saul Schwartz
Saul lives in Alexandria, Virginia and has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 1984. He loves to travel throughout Europe with his wife and family and particularly enjoys interacting with local residents and learning about life in their city and country.
He has visited Berlin for one week, cruised on the Romantic Danube, wrote a 1-week city guide for London, roamed the ancient architecture of Rome and much more! Check out all Saul’s contributions.