the charging bull fresco behind red pillars at knossos palace

Our magical Palace of Knossos visit

Greek history is simply fascinating. Being one of the oldest civilisations in the world there’s so much we can learn from a visit. The island of Crete is home to many historical locations perfect for a bit of learning on the go. One of the most popular is the Minoan Palace of Knossos near Heraklion. Read on to discover more about our magical Knossos visit.

ancient greek ruins of the palace of knossos in crete against a bright blue sky

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Knossos was once the centre of the Minoan civilisation on Crete and one of the most advanced civilisations of ancient Greece. It is believed to be the oldest city in all of Europe. Parts of it date back to 7,000 BC but the first Palace was built in 1,900 BC. Legend has it it was home to King Minos, son of Zeus and designed by architect Daedalus. The Palace was unearthed by Sir Arthur Evans, a British archeologist in the early 1900’s.

throne room at knossos palace with an ancient seat, raised bath and red walls

What you will see at Knossos Palace

Not everything you see will be authentic, some parts of the Palace have been replaced with replicas.

Perhaps the most famous thing to see at Knossos Palace is the Charging Bull fresco with its bright red pillars.

famous image of knossos palace with red pillars

Another highly important part of Knossos is the throne room, one of the few parts of the palace where you’ll want to go inside. You may need to queue for a while to enter. You’ll see the ancient throne and sunken bath which was used by priests for bathing rituals. Also more frescos and again vivid red walls.

beautiful red and green frescos in the throne room at knossos palace

The Royal apartments are another must see with their beautiful door surrounds and decorated walls. This is though to be where royalty lived in the city.

If you’re really lucky you may spot some of the gorgeous peacocks wandering around the shaded areas of the ruins.

peacock at palace of knossos

Knossos Tickets

Queues to enter the Palace can get pretty long during peak times and it can feel pretty rough standing in the Greek heat. I recommend buying your tickets for the Palace in advance. Knossos tickets are currently £13.88 over on Get Your Guide. Tickets will be delivered straight to your smartphone.

Admission is free on the following days:

6 March
18 April
18 May 
The last weekend of September annually 
28 October
Every first Sunday from November 1st to March 31st

fresco on shaded wall behind a white pillar

Knossos Tour

A tour of Knossos is a great way to really get to grips with the history of the Palace. Knowledgeably guides will escort your around the ruins giving you further information about what you’re seeing. These take around one and a half hours and are well worth the price as they will be able to answer any questions you may have. This is particularly great for learning about Knossos Palace for kids. Guides really bring the history to life. You can book your Knossos Tour on Get Your Guide. It is currently £42 per person, kids under 12 are £25. Tickets will be delivered straight to your smartphone so you can skip the queues.

raised walkway around ancient greek ruins

How long will a Knossos visit take

You don’t need to spend a full day at Knossos to take it all in. A quick walk around the ruins will take around half an hour. If you also want to view the Hall of Double Axes and Theatrical Area then you’ll need an hour. I would factor in a couple of hours to include a snack in the restaurant and plenty of breaks to cool down.

excavations at knossos palace

Knossos opening hours

During the summer season Knossos is open from 8am until 8pm. Closing time gets earlier from September. During the winter season the Knossos Palace opens at 8.30am and closes at 5pm.

shaded walkway at knossos palace

Knossos Palace for kids

Any fans of Greek legend will love a visit to Knossos. It is connected to many of the most popular myths such as the Minotaur, the Labyrinth and Theseus and Ariadne. This was enough to convince our daughter to get engaged with the visit. One of her favourite legends is that after King Minos of Crete won a battle against Athens on the mainland the losers had to send 7 boys and 7 girls over to Crete each 9 years to feed the minotaur who lived in Knossos Palace. Theseus travelled to Crete to end the bloodshed and kill the minotaur but instead fell in love with Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter. On returning home Theseus lost Ariadne on a neighbouring island and was so heartbroken he forgot to inform his father he was alive. His distraught father threw himself into the sea and died. Yep, Greek legend gets pretty dark!

You can read more about the Minotaur on Wikipedia.

Try to keep little ones close as they explore the ruins, parts of the site are not that well fenced off and the uneven floor makes it easy to trip.

young girl looking at ruins of knossos palace

Suggested reading for kids before they visit Crete

Younger kids will love this illustrated book of Greek Legends by Usborne Books. It will give them a good intro to the stories they will be told on a visit to Knossos.

My eleven year old daughter is obsessed with the Percy Jackson books. They really are brilliant for getting tweens excited about a trip to Greece.

minos kalokairinos statue

The best time for a Knossos visit

If you can it’s best to avoid the Palace between the hours of 12 and 4pm. This is when the sun is the hottest and coach loads of tourists tend to arrive. I recommend either first thing in the morning when you are likely to have the best bits of the Palace to yourselves or just before closing when the light will be stunning.

Knossos Palace is alway busy during the European summer holidays. Avoid these times if possible.

ruins of knossos palace

Where to eat on your Knossos Visit

If you’re hungry after you Knossos visit then there is a lovely restaurant onsite called The Little Garden. It has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and serves delicious Greek dishes such as moussaka and Greek Salads. You can also grab a cold beer or glass of juice. You are not allowed to bring other food into the Palace.

little garden restaurant in crete

Knossos Location

The Palace of Knossos is located on the outskirts of Heraklion, about 15 minutes drive from the city centre in the valley of the Kairatos river. The whole area is stunning with olive grove covered hills and far reaching vineyards.

green countryside surrounding knossos palace in crete

Chania to Knossos

If you’re visiting Knossos from Chania then it can take quite a while. You’ll need to take the A90 along the coast which will take around two hours to drive. You can also get the bus from Chania bus Station to Heraklion then change to get the number 20 bus to Knossos. This will take around three and a half hours. Often your hotel will be able to organise a tour if you would rather go in a group.

Heraklion to Knossos

It’s easy to drive to Knossos from Heraklion and will take you just over 15 minutes. There is a large free carpark just outside of Knossos. If you want to take public transport then you’ll need to find the number 20 bus at the Port of Heraklion.

ancient ruins in crete

Souvenir shopping on your Knossos Visit

There are several souvenir shops on the opposite side of the road to the palace. We picked up some pieces of jewellery and little minotaur statues all for very reasonable prices. They also sell sun hats and cream, bottled water and snacks incase you’ve forgotten anything.

souvenir shops outside of knossos palace

What to bring on your Palace of Knossos visit

It can be very hot in the Palace so make sure you bring plenty of water. Be sure to cover everyone in sunscreen before your visit and sun hats and long sleeved shirts are a good idea.

Make sure you have plenty of charge on your phone. You’ll need it to show your pre-booked tickets. A reasonable camera is also a good idea as you’ll want to take heaps of pictures to remember your visit.

Good shoes are a must, the ground can be uneven and there are a few stairs as you go around. Trainers or hiking sandals would be perfect.

three greek clay pots

Where to stay

During our visit to Crete we stayed at the gorgeous Mitsis Rinela all inclusive hotel. It’s a brilliantly family friendly hotel located just East of Heraklion, about twenty minutes drive from Knossos. Check out the best prices for your stay at the Mitsis Rinela on Booking.

If you’re visiting Knossos as part of a tour around Greece with kids then be sure to check out my post on the top things to do in Halkidiki on the mainland.

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