Essential Knossos

Tour Creator

Oliver is a Cambridge-based writer and archaeologist. Completing a BA in Archaeology, he continued to postgraduate research specialising in Early Iron Age architecture. He has excavated in Greece and led…Read More Bio »

Crete

GPS-directed

Remote Tour Included

2hrs

1km

When excavations began at Knossos in 1900, few could have predicted the size of the palace that would be revealed; the maze of walls, buildings and walkways, so confusing and extensive that the excavator Sir Arthur Evans was convinced he had found the lair of the mythical minotaur, the beast of King Minos. Over a century later, the great palace at Knossos has slowly revealed its secrets to archaeologists as the centerpiece of one of the world’s most illustrious cultures, the Minoans.

There is so much to be celebrated at Knossos; brilliant frescoes of bejeweled priestesses, enigmatic statuettes of athletic bull leapers, and bright red columns supporting multi-story complexes that equate to ancient skyscrapers. However, whilst these are amongst the most enduring images of this fascinating civilization, much of what we see standing is the result of reconstructions and interpretations carried out by the excavator Arthur Evans and his team. Our tour will point out the palace’s most significant sights and tell the story of Knossos, including its controversial albeit colorful reconstructions.

Avoid the Crowds

Allows you to explore without having to be shoulder-to-shoulder in a large tour group

Expert-created Tour

Written by a Cambridge-based archaeologist, whose postgraduate (MRes) research has been devoted to Early Iron Age architecture

GPS Directions

Easy-to-follow GPS directions to get you from one point to the next on your tour

Highlights include:

The Throne Room, the Grand Staircase, and the Queen's Megaron

Remote Tour Included

As with all our tours, a remote tour is included that can be enjoyed from home

Itinerary

Essential Knossos

  1. Kouloures - The site of Knossos has been occupied since Neolithic times and is amongst the earliest places of human habitation on Crete. At this stop we will discover how the early palace developed and a new system of centralised administration.
  2. West Porch and Corridor of the Procession - Knossos is famous for its labyrinth layout. At this tour point we will introduce how the palace was entered and discover the procession fresco, one of many that would have welcomed visitors to the palace complex.
  3. South Propylaeum & the Magazines - Here we will further explore how the palace functioned and exactly what role its administration had in society, in particular, the gathering of produce and crops. What kind of people lived here and what kind of administration did they preside over?
  4. Public Apartments and Room of the Restored Frescos - We now go upstairs for the first time, to explore the first storey Piano Nobile, or ‘noble floor’. This is thought to be an area of grand reception rooms. In addition we will see the small exhibition space where we can see some replicas of the glorious frescoes uncovered alongside introducing one of the palace’s most fascinating rooms.
  5. The Central Court and Throne Room - Central courts existed at all Minoan palaces and there is little doubt they played host at times to large-scale events and gatherings. Arranged around it on the western flank were important shrines as well as the enigmatic Throne Room, which has been heavily restored by Sir Arthur Evans.
  6. Grand Staircase - If ever any proof was needed that the Minoans were capable architects then look no further than the Grand Staircase. Five flights of stairs connected the lower parts of the palace to the upper storeys, a marvel of ancient engineering.
  7. The Hall of the Double Axes - The curiously termed Hall of the Double Axes is amongst the most important at Knossos. This was where Evans believed he had found the residence of the King. As we will discover, however, this hall hold many secrets and its true purpose is still a matter of debate amongst scholars.
  8. The Queen’s Megaron - Following on from what Sir Arthur Evans believed to be the residence of the male ruler, he also thought he had found the residence of his female counterpart, hence the Queen’s Megaron. Again this is open to interpretation but nevertheless the world famous dolphin painting is a sight to behold and we will discuss in detail the intricate arrangement of rooms in this corner of the palace.
  9. The North Entrance Passage & West Bastion - Moving away from the supposed ‘royal’ areas of the palace we will be introduced here to further entrances and exits to the complex. The red columns that lie in front of the bull catcher relief painting is an enduring image of Knossos and we will explore its purpose and the accuracy of the restoration.
  10. The North West Lustral Area - This area provided yet another entrance to the palace but this time with a difference. What are the curious ‘lustral basins’ as Evans called them and why was one situated here at the entrance or exit to the palace complex?
  11. The Theatral Area & Royal Road - One of the most remarkable sights at Knossos is the intricacy of its raised routes and roads. Chief among them is the Royal Road, a nigh on four thousand year old thoroughfare that led straight to the curious ‘Theatral Area’. We will discuss what this rectangular ‘theatre’ could have been used for and reflect on the extraordinary set of remains we have discussed over the length of the tour.

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