The list of fascinating attractions on Greece’s largest and most historic island is long. However, at the top of the list, one finds none other than Knossos Palace. This Minoan palace is a place of history, legends, and Crete’s most extensive and important archaeological site.

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Table of Contents

1. Historical background

2. What is the Palace of Knossos famous for?

3. Who built the Palace of Knossos?

4. When was the palace at Knossos built?

5. The throne room of Knossos Palace

6. Mythical Background

7. Knossos Minotaur

8. Daedalus and Icarus

9. Knossos’ artifacts at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

10. Excavations

11. What to expect

12. How to get to Knossos

13. Knossos Tours

The palace is the largest, most complex, and most fancy of all in Greece. It is located about 20 minutes south of Heraklion. KnossosPalace was inhabited for several thousand years, starting somewhere in the 7th millennium BC. It was abandoned after its destruction in 1375 BC, which also marked the end of the Minoan civilization.

If you’re planning an excursion to Knossos Palace, here’s everything you need to know before going!

Palace of Knossos - credits: Georgios Tsichlis/
Knossos Palace was the ceremonial and political center of the Minoan Civilization during the Bronze Age. Considered asEurope’s oldest city, Knossos was once the city-state of Crete,with the town surrounding the hill the palace is on.
The area actually has a very long history of human habitation, from the first Neolithic settlement around 7000 BC, until1500 BC, when the surrounding city had a population of 100,000. The palace suffered through an earthquake but then was reconstructed. It’s believed that the palace was abandoned around 1380 to 1100 B.C. for largely unknown reasons.
The excavation and exploration of the site have provided historians with a wealth of knowledge and insight into the Minoan Civilization. Tools like clay and stone incised spools and whorls point to a cloth-making industry and curvaceous female figurines indicate the worshipping of mother goddesses.
The palace structure we see today is not exactly as it looked in its original time, due to reconstruction and renovation throughout the years, and it is considered by some archaeologists as a facsimile. The palace complex is not believed to have just been the residence of the monarch but also as the civic, religious, and economic center of Knossos.

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What is the Palace of Knossos famous for?

knossos palace ancient ruins Kiev.Victor shutterstockAncient ruins of Knossos Palace - credits: Kiev.Victor/

The palace of Knossos is divided into several sections, each of which has a separate use. It was multi-story, built with carved structures, and decorated with magnificent murals depicting possibly religious ceremonies. It was accessible from three entrances located on the north, west, and south sides. Four wings develop around the central courtyard.

Thus on the west side of the palace, there are the ceremonial halls on the upper floors and the public storerooms. Additionally, there are the sanctuaries, the treasuries as well as the throne room. In the southwestern part of the palace, are the Western Courtyard and the Western Entrance leading to the Procession Corridor. The latter was decorated with frescoes. On the left side of the corridor, are the Propylaea and the famous Double Horns. The Double Horns are one of the sacred symbols of the Minoan religion.

On the east side were the royal apartments, which led to a large staircase, staff rooms, and a sanctuary. Among the most important rooms are the Double Ax and the Queen"s Apartment with the dolphin mural. To the north and east of the queen"s apartment are the main warehouses as well as the Zatriki Corridor. In the Zatriki Corridor, the ancients used to play a type of chess called ‘Zatriki’. Further east was the various workshops, as well as the royal warehouses. The north wing is dominated by the "Customs", a tank of purges, and a stone theater. From the theater starts a Cobbled Road that led to the small palace. Finally, in the south wing, there was the majestic south Propylos.

Apart from its construction and architecture, the Palace of Knossos is most famous for its connection to Greek mythology. Namely, the tale of the Labyrinth and the Minotaur and the one of Daedalus and Icarus. We’ll unfold these mythological tales that relate to Knossos later on.

Who built the Palace of Knossos?

knossos palace north entrance Constantinos Iliopoulos shutterstockKnossos Palace north entrance - credits: Constantinos Iliopoulos/

The Palace of Knossos is the largest of the centers of Minoan power. This is a building complex that is developing in an area of 22,000 sq.m. Built on a largely artificial hill, it was the most impressive of the Minoan palaces. It was the administrative center of Minoan Knossos.

According to Greek mythology, the famous architect Daedalus designed the palace with such complexity that none of those who entered could find the way out.

Daedalus is considered by most the greatest inventor of ancient Greece. He was simultaneously a real craftsman and an artist. Its artistic tendencies are even shown in his name. ‘Daedalus’, derives from the ancient Greek verb ‘daedalo’, which means to ‘work with art’.

The Labyrinth in Minoan Crete, the thread of Ariadne, the wooden cow of Pasiphae, the harpoon of Ariadne, the bow of the ships of that time, and the flying with wings of wax were all according to mythology inventions of Daedalus.

When was the palace at Knossos built?

The first palace on the small hill by the river was built around 1900 BC. in the ruins of previous settlements. It was first destroyed along with other first-palace palaces in Crete around 1700 BC, probably by a major earthquake or foreign invaders. An even more complex was rebuilt immediately. Until its abandonment, it was destroyed several times during earthquakes, and invasions. Finally, it was destroyed in 1450 BC. from the huge volcanic eruption of Santorini and the invasion of the Mycenaeans. The invasion led to Knossos being used as their capital on the island of Crete until 1375 BC.

The throne room of Knossos Palace

knossos palace kings chamberThe King"s chamber at Knossos Palace - credits:

The throne room of Knossos was located on the north side of the sacred apartments. The entrance to it was from the main courtyard with a quadruple multi-door and four steps. On one far side of this room stood a stone throne, built to mimic wood. One mural depicts a pair of griffins framing the throne. On the opposite side was a tank of purifications, indicating the sacred character of the space.

The throne room is a unique find with a purely Minoan character, although there are similarities with the Mycenaean mansion, as is known from the palace of Pylos. The throne was considered the seat of Minos and the throne room as the hearing room of the citizens. Newer interpretations, however, that take into account the theocratic character of the leadership in Minoan Crete, tend to characterize the throne as hieratic and not as the throne of the Minoan leader.It is believed that it was mainly used as a concentrator of Minos and the priesthood. There, they used to decide on matters of law.

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Mythical Background of the Palace of Knossos

Theseus fighting the Minotaur - Knossos Palace - credits: MatiasDelCarmine/
The Minotaur was a half-man, half-bull, and was kept in the Labyrinth – a maze – by King Minos, ruler of Crete, who lived in his palace at Knossos. It was said that the Minotaur was the King’s son. The king"s daughter,Ariadne, however, fell in love with Theseus. When he entered the Labyrinth to fight the Minotaur, Ariadne gave him a ball of thread which he unwound, so that he could find his way back by following it. Theseus killed the Minotaur, and then he and Ariadne fled from Crete, escaping her angry father.