Rethymno is a picturesque port town that lies on the north coast in between Chania and Heraklion. Being one of the best preserved medieval towns in Greece, it offers plenty of history, culture and romance. The town consists of two parts. The old town around the port and the modern part that stretches along the infinite sandy beach to the east. Most of your time you would want to spend in the old town, as this is the most authentic and interesting part of the town that you should explore. If you need a car to discover the amazing beauty Rethymno has to offer outside of the Town, feel free to request an offer. We can deliver your rental car for free right to the comfort of your accommodation.
The first evidence of human civilization where modern Rethymno is located, dates back to the Minoan Period. In the 3rd and 4th century, based on silver and gold coins found in the region, ancient Rethymna must have flourished. However, in Roman years the city gradually lost its significance. There is no remarkable evidence about the town's activity in the next historical period.
After the 4th crusade, Crete was occupied for a short term by the Genovese and later on sold to the Venetians.
The Venetians rebuilt the whole town, constructing libraries, luxurious buildings, mansions and literary societies marking the Cretan Renaissance. This golden period of arts and culture attracts scientists and intellectuals from various countries.
Realising their weakness after a catastrophic attack by pirates, that led to the destruction of the town, the fortress “Fortezza” on the hill of “Paleokastro” was constructed.
Unfortunately in 1646 Rethymno was occupied by the Turks, following the complete occupation of the island. The introduction of muslim elements contribute to the change of Rethymno into a multicultural community.
In 1897 Crete gained its independence and in 1913 it was united with the newly-established Greek state.
During the second world war Rethymno was bombed hard by the Germans which led to many casualties and destroyed buildings.After the end of the war, poor living conditions forced many people to move to Athens or abroad, in search of a better future.
4 Best activities in Rethymno Town
1)Visit the Fortezza Castle
The Fortezza castle is a sprawling fortress located almost in the center of Rethymno. It was promontory built by the Venetians in the 16th century against pirate and Saracen intrusions. The fort was used by the Ottomans for 250 years, briefly occupied by Greek villagers and then by the German forces during world war 2. In the fortress you will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Aegean sea and the town of Rethymno. It also features a remarkable empty mosque and military buildings, hundreds of arrow slits all around, underground galleries, a room with old canons, piles of cannonballs and broken slabs with Arabic calligraphy. In the summertime, concerts and events are held in this awe-inspiring and peaceful setting. We would recommend a better visit in the evening to avoid the scorching heat and catch a glorious sunset.
The tickets start from 4 €, with a reduced fee for senior citizens (ID required). The fortress is open to the public with the following timetable:
- June to September: 08:00-19:15
- October to May: 10:00-17:00
2) Explore the old Town of Rethymno
The old town of Rethymno is one of the best preserved old towns in Crete. It was built a bit different than other bigger cities like Heraklion, as it was not fortified but the narrow colourful alleyways are fairly similar to the ones found in Chania’s old town.
A mixture of different architectural buildings and structures makes it a perfect setting to wander around and explore. Let yourself get lost in the buganvilia filled corridors and discover amazing little arts and crafts stores, workshops as well as picturesque little restaurants and cafes.
If you start your day early you should be able to visit all the interesting parts in the old town and port of Rethymno.
Points of interest you should not miss are the following:
The small Venetian port and Egyptian Lighthouse : played an important role in the Venetian trading times back in the day. Nowadays it's been replaced by the modern port of Rethymno and is only being used by a few small fishing boats. Around the harbour you will find a few fish tavernas and cafes. For a more authentic experience we recommended the cafes and restaurants in the alleys of Rethymno. The small Egyptian lighthouse dates back to 1830 and overlooks the port. It just takes a few minutes and is definitely worth walking to preferably in the morning or evening hours.
With the arrival of the Turks, many mosques were constructed throughout the town of Rethymno, replacing the Christian churches. You can find all of them in the old town district.
Neratze mosque used to be the church of Holy Mary. It was converted to a mosque in the 1600. Nowadays it serves as the Municipal School of Music of Rethymno.
Kara Mousha Pasha mosque is located where the Venetian Monastery of Agia Varvara used to be. In the courtyard you can see a few graves and a mausoleum.
Valide Sultan mosque is located next to the Guora Gate and was built in the last years of the 1600s. The minaret dates back to 1878 and adds character to the town's skyline.
If you are interested in the architecture or the Christian religion, these churches are worth visiting and a good excuse to briefly get out of the hot Cretan sun.
The Holy Church of the 4 Martyrs is located just outside of the old town of Rethymno. It is one of the most important churches and features impressive frescoes and icons.
The Holy Metropolitan Church of Rethymno is located in the old town and is a modern style basilica featuring great religious paintings. The highlight is the belfry. The original temple and belfry were built in 1844. The temple was rebuilt in 1956. It is the seat of the local archbishop.
3) Visit the last handmade traditional Phyllo Bakery of Crete
First thing that you will notice when you will try to find this special place (and you’re close of course) is a sweet smell of freshly made pastries. After you quickly located the entrance to this wonderland of scents, you will be warmly welcomed by Mr Hatziparaskos and his family.
They have been producing the traditional phyllo for over 56 years. If you don't know what “Phyllo” is, it is a very thin and transparent dough that is shaped into pieces of three by four meters. It is used to make Greek Baklava and various Greek syrup desserts.
You can stay and watch Mr Hatziparaskos making the phyllo using his lifelong acquired skills and you will be blown away. Even better, you can buy directly some fresh pastries for yourself in the worksop. We promise you it will be one of the highlights of your trip to Rehtymno.
4) Visit the museums of Rethymno
Historical and Folk Art Museum of Rethymno: The museum is located in the old town of Rethymno in a restored Venetian building. If you have time to visit it is definitely an excellent place to dive deeper into the local culture and history of Crete. The collection mainly consists of folk and historical items found in the prefecture of Rethymno. The artifacts on display date from the 4th century BC to the 20th century AD and feature basket weavings, costumes, ceramics, metalwork, maps, weapons, coins as well as several items that cover traditional methods of bread making, farming and other traditional professions.
In addition you will be able to see weapons, photographs and various other items from the battle of Crete.
Location: 30 Vernardou Street, Rethymno 741 00
Telephone: +30 28310 23398
Opening times : Monday- Saturday 10:00-15:00
Entry fee: 4€
Archeological Museum of Rethymno: This museum is located as well in the city center of Rethymno inside the church of Saint Francis which was founded in the 16th century.
You can easily spend a few hours admiring the museum's excellent exhibition.
The artifacts are well displayed and belong to the Paleolithic era until the Venetian era in 1646. Few of the most impressive items displayed are a 9000 year old limestone statue of a goddess, a marble statue of Aphrodite and a war helmet decorated with boar teeth.
Location: 4 Agiou Fragiskou Street, Rethymno 741 00, Greece
Telephone: +30 28310 54668