Abstract The adsorption of benzene and naphthalene on the Rh(111) single-crystal surface has been studied by low-energy electron diffraction (LEED), Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) and thermal desorption spectroscopy (TDS). Both benzene and naphthalene form two different ordered surface structures separated by temperature-induced phase transitions: benzene transforms from a ( 3 1 1 3 ) structure, which can also be labelled c( 2 3 × 4 )rect, to a (3 × 3) structure in the range of 363–395 K, while naphthalene transforms from a ( 3 3 × 3 3 )R30° structure to a (3 × 3) structure in the range 398–423 K. Increasing the temperature further, these structures are found to disorder at about 393 K for benzene and about 448 K for naphthalene. Then, a first H 2 desorption peak appears at about 413 K for benzene and 578 K for naphthalene and is interpreted as due to the occurrence of molecular dissociation. All these phase transitions are irreversible. The ordered structures are interpreted as due to flat-lying or nearly flat-lying intact molecules on the rhodium surface, and they are compared with similar structures found on other metal surfaces. Structural models and phase transition mechanisms are proposed.