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The oldest city in Europe is said to be the ancient Minoan city of Knossos. Not only is it said to be Europe's oldest city, but it is also the largest Bronze Age archeological site in Crete. Next time in Crete, take the time to explore the island beyond the beaches and coastal attractions and see its mythological and ancient history.

Visiting the city of Knossos is one of the essential attractions of an itinerary for Crete. Crete was a major civilization long before the Greeks, and it is a place that combines some of Europe's best history with some of the most stunning beaches.


Knossos The Great Minoan City

The name "Knossos" is from ancient Greek references to the city but is not necessarily what the Minoans called the city.

Knossos predates the Greeks and the Minoan civilization. But Knossos also predates the Minoans; it was settled as early as the Neolithic period. Knossos came into its own during the Minoan civilization.

The Minoan civilization began around 3500 BC and lasted until around 1100 BC. It was based on the island of Crete and some other Aegean Islands - including the island of Santorini, where one can find the ancient volcanic ash-covered city of Akrotiri.

  • Minoans: Europe's First Advanced Civilization
  • Date: 3500 BC to 1500-1100 BC (Declined From C. 1450 BC)
  • Peak Population: Around 18,000 People

The Minoans are considered the first advanced civilization in Europe that developed sophisticated art, writing systems, and trade networks. During the First Palace Period, by around 2000 BC, the city reached an impressive size of up to 18,000 inhabitants. The palace of Knossos became the political and ceremonial center of their civilization.

The central attraction of Knossos is the palace of Knossos; it was abandoned at the end of the Late Bronze Age for unknown reasons.

Related: Crete Vs Cyprus: Which Is The Best Eastern Mediterranean Island?

Planning A Visit To Knossos

Crete is the home of Europe's first advanced civilization and its oldest city, so everyone really ought to see it when visiting Crete. Crete deserves a reputation for much more than its famous beaches and high-end hotels.

  • Location: Near The North Coast Of Crete

The archeological site is open every day, with the exact opening hours varying throughout the year.

  • Winter Hours: 8.30 am to 5.00 pm (Nov 1 to March 31)
  • Summer Hours: 8.00 am to 6.00-8.00 pm
  • Admission Fee: 15 Euros ($16)

A pro tip is to avoid visiting the site between 10.00 am, and 1.00 pm as this is when there are the most crowds, and it's the heat of the day.

If visiting Knossos, it is also very much worth visiting the museum of Heraklion afterward. There are combined tickets for 20 Euros per person to visit both Knossos and the museum of Heraklion.

Take A Guided Tour Of Knossos

There are plenty of guided private and public tours with a licensed professional guide for Knossos. For those who would like a private tour, Visitknossos.com has a selection of private tours. The price of the tours does not include admission to the site.

Standard Private Tour:

  • Cost: 170 Euros ($175)
  • Duration: 1.5 Hours
  • Participants: Max 5
  • Includes: Professional Licensed Guide Or an Archeologist Guide

Visitors can also have an extended tour of the archeological site for a deeper dive. The extended tour lasts 2 hours 10 minutes and costs 230 Euros. On this tour, one will visit the palace of the legendary King Minos and take the time to hear about the fascinating details of the palace. One will see the Minoan art and frescoes, learn about their culture and hierarchy, and more.

For these tours, meet the guide at the entrance of Knossos. The tours are available year-round and are offered during all the opening hours of the archeological site.

Related: These Islands Offer The Most Affordable Greece Vacations

Have A Knossos & Heraklion Combo Tour

Another option is to combine the guided tour of Knossos with a walking tour of Heraklion. On the walking tour, guests will get a taste of the real Crete and experience tasting local delicacies and local products. This tour takes visitors away from the tourist traps and explores the real experience of Crete.

The tour meets opposite the main entrance to the archeological museum of Heraklion. The tour is very different from the tour of Knossos; this part will be a Heraklion city tour and food tour.

Highlights of the tour include:

  • The Monuments of Venetian and Medieval Heraklion
  • The Lion Fountain
  • The Loggia
  • The St. Titus Cathedral

Crete may have the oldest city in Europe, but it is still a living island with a rich culture and cuisine to explore.