​Historic Crete: Knossos


​​​​22nd April 2015

Crete is a beautiful island with a lot to offer, and no matter what your interests are, there is certainly something for everyone. One of the most wonderful things about Crete is its rich history, and here we will look at the historic site that simply cannot be missed: Knossos.

What is Knossos?

Knossos is the largest archaeological site from the Bronze Age, and is considered by many historians to be the oldest city in Europe.

Located approximately 5km south-east of the island’s capital of Heraklion, the ancient city was discovered in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos, and was first excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900. They continued to uncover more about the site over a 35 year period.

Amongst the treasures that were unearthed during the excavation were a variety of beautiful frescos, which gave archaeologists an excellent insight into the civilisation that lived there.

The Minoans

Knossos was undoubtedly the home of the Minoan people, an ancient civilisation from the Aegean Bronze Age that flourished on the island of Crete from approximately 2700 to 1450 BC.

Their unique art and architecture, much of which was discovered and can be seen in Knossos, revealed that the Minoan civilisation actually heavily influenced modern European culture; they were among the first cultures to have paved roads and running water. Their frescos depicted dolphins, bulls and other animals, and while some may have represented belief systems, many are believed to have been purely for aesthetic purposes.

Once a thriving ancient capital city, Knossos and the Minoans are thought to have been hit by what has been called an ‘ancient apocalypse’. A huge volcanic eruption occurred approximately 100km off the island of Crete, and the civilisation was soon in ruins. Although it is still disputed and will never be known for sure, many historians believe that this eruption could have ended the Minoan civilisation in horrific circumstances.


There were many spectacular artefacts that were uncovered during the excavation of Knossos, and many of these artefacts came in the form of pottery and frescos.

The Bull Leaping Fresco, now on display in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion with a duplicate at the original site, is perhaps the most famous discovery from the ancient site. The depiction of bulls is a popular theme throughout all ancient Greek art, and this fresco is a particularly popular artistic piece.

Pottery was particularly prolific in Knossos, featuring heavy decorations and unique designs. Pottery was a popular craft for ancient civilisations, however Minoan pottery is particularly remarkable when considering the time period in which it was created.

Things to Do

The ancient city of Knossos, which was restored by Sir Arthur Evans, is a fantastic place to visit and is certainly a must-see if you are in Crete.

Guided tours around the site are a great way to spend a beautiful day in the Mediterranean sun. With an expert local guide, you can spend hours exploring the ancient ruins and hearing the ancient myths, legends and stories from the Minoan civilisation.

Families and couples will enjoy seeing the wonder that is Knossos Palace, which featured lavish royal quarters and shrines, and you can see how the site has been brought back to life by archaeologists. A particular favourite with children, guides will bring to life the famous myth of the Minotaur, which was based in ancient Knossos.

As well as historical tours, there are also many cultural events that take place in and around Knossos. These include shows that bring the Minoan culture back to life through song, dance and art, all of which makes for a fantastic evening of entertainment.

There is so much to do in the ancient city of Knossos, and if you are paying a visit to the beautiful island of Crete, you simply can’t miss out on exploring the rich history of Europe’s oldest city.

Crete has so much to offer its visitors, and its rich culture is certainly on display in the ancient city of Knossos. If you are visiting Crete, here at Pure Crete we specialise in Crete villas and holidays, and we can help to make your holiday as magical as possible.