Every kid with even the faintest interest in Greek mythology will know the story of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth of King Midas. And while the Minotaur may be nothing more than an elaborate story, the place that it is based on definitely does exist.
In the legend of the Minotaur, King Midas of Crete builds a labyrinth underneath his palace to contain his son, the beast, the Minotaur. So when the grand Minoan palace was found near the modern day city of Heraklion, it was immediately associated with the legend.
If you come to Knossos searching for a spooky labyrinth, well, you will likely be disappointed. However, the site is certainly worth a visit, solely for its historical and archaeological importance. It is a tentative listing for UNESCO world heritage status after all.
The palace of Knossos was built between the years 1700 and 1400 BC which was the Late Minoan period. The palace must have been an incredible symbol of power and prosperity. Some parts of the palace were up to five stories high. Just imagine that, a five story building in 1400 BC? It must have been an awe inspiring site for travellers from other regions. A Minoan sky scraper.
Only a few sections of the palace complex have been partially reconstructed, to help give visitors an idea of what it may have looked like. The majority of the site however is in ruins.
However, some original mosaics did survive, and are a vivid picture of life, art, and the ideas of the time.
The site is well documented, and informational signs are abundant throughout the ruins. When you buy your ticket you will be approached by hopeful tour guides offering to take you through the site, but we found the informational signs quite thorough and instead opted to walk through the site at our own pace.
The palace of Knossos is easy to get to from the city centre of Heraklion. Buses depart from Bus Station A and take about 25 minutes to reach the site.
Tickets to the site cost 10 euros.
Plan to spend 1 – 3 hours at the site.
To learn more about Knossos, and the history of Crete, follow up your visit to Knossos with a visit to the Archaeological Museum in the city centre of Heraklion. The museum spans a period starting several thousand years ago, through the Minoan, post-Minoan and later periods. Popular highlights include the Phaestos disc, classic Hellenic and Roman sculptures, frescoes, jewelery, wall-paintings and pottery.
We visited the museum after we visited the actual palace of Knossos, and found that visiting it in this way helped put all the items in the display cases into context for us.
To book your travel, start by searching for Crete flights from Thomas Cook Airlines.