How to visit Knossos Crete

Knossos Crete, one of the most important archeological sites of ancient Greece and the one-time capital of Minoan Crete, is conveniently located just outside Heraklion. You will fight for room between crowds from bus tours here, but if you go early, you should be able to beat the heat and the worst of the lines. You can hire a guide right on-site, or you can opt for an audio guide, when available. You’ll want one or the other to make heads or tails of this sprawling palace ruins, the home of the most important of Crete’s kings: King Menos, son of Zeus and Europa.

This marks the spot of the center of Minoan civilization, and should be a must do on any trip to Crete. You’ll want to devote half a day to the site and the museum (more on that in a moment). Knossos’ heyday lasted a whopping two thousand years, until the 5th century AD. The first excavation of the site was conducted in 1878 by Minos Kalokerinos of Herakleion. This was followed by the long-term excavations 1900-1913 and 1922-1930) of the Englishman Sir Arthur Evans, who uncovered virtually the entire palace.

The palace has extensive buildings, workshops, and even an advanced water and sewage system. You can see the remains of a maze of rooms, clay pipes snaking through the ground, an innovative early air-conditioning system, and the oldest road in Europe, at the end of which animal sacrifices were once performed. The ancient theater hosted religious ceremonies, and reconstructions of frescos adorn the walls of the king and queen’s quarters. You can see the king’s actual wooden throne (though be warned, the line can get long, so don’t save this for last) and look out at the expanse of olive trees and countryside.

After seeing the ruins, you’ll want to see the rest of the actual artifacts excavated from the inside (aside from the throne which remains at the site). The Heraklion Archaeological Museum is located about 15 minutes away by car, and is regarded as one of Europe”s most important museums.

The most important collection is the treasures of Minoan civilization, which includes jugs, jewelry, frescos, and religious and everyday objects from Knossos. The address is Xanthoudidou 2, 71202 Heraklion.

You can find street-side dining (sit-down or to-go) in the square adjacent to the museum, and some souvenir-quality shopping.

Want to know the most epic place to stay on Crete, for a luxury vacation? Read on!