Archaeological Sites . Museums . Cultural Monuments Heraklion area

Minoan Palace of Knossos – Crete’s most famous building

The Minoan Palace of Knossos – Crete’s most famous building


The visit of the archaeological site Knossos is a journey, a few hours’ escape from reality, an awesome following in the footsteps of kings and sages. The archaeological site of Knossos is no exception.

8000 year old site

As soon as you pass the ticket control, you enter an 8000 year old site which had been continuously inhabited, the fact of which is actually hardly to grasp. Knossos is the site of the most important and better known palace of Minoan civilization. According to tradition, it was the seat of the legendary King Minos. The Palace is also connected with thrilling legends, such as the myth of the Labyrinth with the Minotaur, and the story of Daidalos and Icaros.

A little history 

The Minoan Palace of Knossos – Crete’s most famous building

Digital reconstruction of the palace

The site was continuously inhabited from the Neolithic period (7000-3000 B.C.) until Roman times. The Linear B tablets (Mycenaean script) of the 14th century B.C. mention the city as ko-no-so.
Intensive habitation occurred mostly in the Minoan period, when the so-called first (19th-17th centuries B.C.) and second palaces (16th-14th centuries B.C.) were built along with luxurious houses, a hospice and various other structures. After its partial destruction in 1450 B.C., Knossos was settled by Mycenaeans from the Greek Mainland.
The city flourished again during the Hellenistic period (sanctuaries of Glaukos, Demeter, other sanctuaries, chamber tombs, north cemetery, defensive towers) and in 67 B.C. it was captured by the Roman Quintus Caecilius Metelus Creticus. The “Villa of Dionysos”, a private house with splendid mosaics was built in the same period.

Εxcavations & restoration

Knossos was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos. Sir Arthur Evans conducted systematic excavations at the site between 1900 and 1931, bringing to light the palace, a large section of the Minoan city,

The Minoan Palace of Knossos – Crete’s most famous building

Sir Arthur Evans holding the famous bull head rhyton

and the cemeteries. Since then, the site and the surrounding area havebeen excavated by the British School of Archaeology at Athens and the 23rd E.P.C.A.

The restoration of the palace to its present form was carried out by Arthur Evans. The interventions were mostly imposed by the need to preserve the monuments uncovered. The Archaeological Service of the Ministry of Culture carries out only consolidation work, whenever necessary.

The advanced level of technology attained by the Minoans is also demonstrated by some original architectural and structural features, such as the light-wells and polythyra, the use of beams to reinforce the masonry, and the complex drainage and water-supply systems.

The palace is set around a large Central Court, an area used for public meetings.

A second courtyard, the West Court, acted both as the official approach to the palace and a ceremonial area.
The west wing was occupied by the official rooms for administrative and religious activities, including the Tripartite Shrine, the Sacred Repositories and the Pillar Crypts.
The Throne Room is outstanding amongst them, with its lustral basin and the alabaster throne flanked by benches.

The most important areas in the south wing are the South Propylon, the Corridor of the Procession and the South Entrance, with the fresco of the Prince of the Lilies.

The east wing contained the residential quarters and large reception rooms, the most important being the Hall of the Double Axes and the Queen’s Hall. These rooms are approached by the imposing Grand Staircase.

From the North Entrance, a road led to the harbour of Knossos. The North Entrance is flanked by elevated stoas, the one at the west being decorated with the Bull Hunt fresco.

Ground plan Minoan Palace Knossos

(as it is shown in the information material given by the Greek Ministry of Culture)

Click the button to print the ground plan for your visit to Knossos

The ground plan of the Minoan Palace of Knossos

Around the palace extended the Minoan settlement, with the cemeteries on the hills. Important buildings from this same period include: the South House, the House of the Chancel Screen, the Small Palace, the Caravanserai, the Royal Villa and the Temple-Tomb. The Villa Dionysos with its floor mosaics (2nd c. AD) is an important building of the Roman period.


Useful information   (last updated: May 2018)

Opening hours: in summer (01.05.-31.10.) 08.00 – sunset daily, in winter (01.11. – 30.04.) 08.00-17.00hrs every day, closed on 25 & 26 December and 1rst of January

Entrance fee: 15 €, reduced ticket 8 €. Or purchase 1 ticket valid for both the Museum and the archaeological site of Knossos, valid for 3 days: €16, reduced €8, you can buy it either at the museum or at Knossos.   Additional information about entrance fees in Entrance fees to national museums and archaeological sites in Greece – General information

  • By bus from Heraklion:
    The archaeological site is great to reach by bus from Heraklion. Travel times all 20min., Ticket price 1,50 € single trip.
    Ride Heraklion-Knossos: Departure from KTEL bus station on the harbor, next stop in front of the Astoria Hotel at Eleftheria Square.
    Ride Knossos-Heraklion: Departures directly in front of the archaeological site to the main road, the bus stops again at the Eleftheria square in Heraklion and then moves down to the harbor.
    Driving time: about 15-20 minutes
    Directly on the Eleftheria Square is the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion with all the finds from Knossos

Our tip:
The earlier in the day you enter Knossos, the better. At 10.00hrs latest, the cruise tour buses and others are stopping outside of the entrance with hundreds of visitors.


Leave a Comment