The palace complex and the city of Phaistos were built on a hill, offering a panoramic view to the east, the north and the south, which is alone worth the visit. At the east, the fertile plain of Messara opens up with the Lasithi mountains in the background, while towards the south the Asterousia mountains come into view and to the north the majestic Psiloritis dominates the scenery together with the verdant hills at its foot.
Phaistos was the second largest Minoan city and an important administrative centre of south-central Crete. The Minoan city covered a large area around the palace complex. Mythology links Phaistos to Rhadamanthus, a brother of Minos, whose dynasty is believed to have ruled in the city. According to another story, it was founded by Phaistos, a son of Hercules. Homer mentioned that the city took part in the Trojan War, led by Idomeneus, king of Knossos and the whole of Crete.