Crete`s rural city
Rethymno, also Rethimno, Rethymnon, Réthymnon (Greek: ÑÝèõìíï), a city of approximately 40,000 people, is the capital of Rethymno Prefecture in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity (ancient Rhithymna and Arsinoe), even though it has never been a competitive Minoan center. It was, however, strong enough to mint its own coins and maintain a mild urban growth. One of these coins is today depicted as the crest of the town with two dolphins in a circle.
The town of Rethymno on the island of Crete represents a place of contrasts, boasting a long and remarkable history as well as untouched places of natural beauty and living traditions. This small Mediterranean town will enchant you with its centre dating from the period of the Renaissance, its fortress and museums as well as its beaches, not to mention a visit to the wider area of the Prefecture. Where to begin is a difficult decision to make: In the picturesque villages, the areas of natural beauty, the caves, the beaches or the mountains? The inhabitants will become your friends. They will offer you a glass of "tsikoudia" and invite you to their home.
Rethymno combines rarely united features: the old town's charm and history, with proximity to a long sandy beach.
You can enjoy arriving by ferry and be "right there" close to the centre of the Old Town, just a 5 minute walk away (newly built harbours on many Greek islands are now far from the center, removing the romance of arriving IN the place you are visiting!).
There are two sides to Rethymno offering two styles of visit: the endless big beach hotel strip that stretches from the east end of Rethymno, lapping up the coastal "villages" of Perivolia, Platanias, Adelianos Kambos, Pigianos Kambos, Sfakaki, Stavromenos and Skaleta - and - the Rethymno that allows you the character of the old town with its mix of architecture and history, cultural influences and styles ranging from Venetian to Ottoman empire. We present the second and more romantic choice - leaving the all-inclusive beach and booze tours to others.
Before leaving the beach, we should mention that there are other visitors - the turtles. Turtles are regular visitors along the beaches of Rethymno and return between June and August to lay their eggs each year.
The Venetian harbour...
Rethymno’s harbour area is a fine place for a coffee at one of the cafes and perhaps you will chance to eat there, just for the atmosphere. Look out from the harbour edge at the state of the buildings and seeing the abuse of this historic area you may be disappointed - perhaps you should suggest a renovation or two! But not to worry, there is much else to see and enjoy, no shortage of other places of great character to stroll, stop in cafes, eat and generally enjoy the enormous amount Rethymno offers you.
The Fortress dominates the city and makes Rethymno very photogenic, its pedestrian streets below, strewn with charming old buildings. Venetian influences abound and the minarets and domed mosques remind of the Turkish influence long gone.
Numerous shops for souvenirs (with many local products now available), trendy fashion or imaginative jewellery...the old and the modern combine to make a colourful and buzzing town.
Venturing outside the town, some days you will visit dramatic gorges, monasteries, time-trodden villages with ancient churches, the south coast Libyan sea, spectacular mountains of Psiloritis and the Lefka Ori (White Mountains).
For Rethymno provides you with an advantageous pivotal point on the island, allowing you to range across the centre of Crete and have enough to discover for weeks!
What to see
Explore the waterfront and streets just behind. Walk along the harbour wall to the Venetian lighthouse.
The Fortezza (fortress) was built by the Venetians (1573) to protect the city. Not only are walls, church and the remains of its buildings of interest, the views from it to the town are a great way to start planning your tour of the town. There are also sweeping sea views. Open daily. Admission: 3.10 Euros.
Archaeological Museum at the entrance to the fortress. Open daily 08.30–15.00. Closed Mondays. Admission: 3.00 Euros. Tel: 28310-28482. Very small but with some interesting (and big!) exhibits from Neolithic to Roman times. Includes Archaic and early Christian finds from Eleftherna and Minoan finds from Armeni and Monastiraki sites. A wonderful clay larnax is visible as you enter. Also don't miss the Minoan goddess figurine.
The Venetian Loggia, dating back to the 16th century. Used as the archaeological museum's shop. (Books, models, jigsaw puzzles and cards). Open Monday to Friday 08.00-15.00.
Folklore & History Museum on Vernardou 30. Open Monday to Friday 09.30-14.30. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Admission: 3.00 Euros (half price seniors and students). Tel. 28310-23398. Housed in a restored Venetian building with an interior courtyard. Eight halls with collections that include textile and basket weaving, embroidery & lace, costumes, ceramics, historic photographs and maps, weapons and coins. Over 5.000 items dating from the 17th to the 20th century are displayed.
Next door is a bakery where the baker keeps his ancient door open and is happy to show how he makes the traditional "fyllo" pastry leaves.
The main minaret (Neratze mosque) is on Venardou street, though it is surrounded by a very hefty scaffolding structure for a while. Used currently as a music school (odeon).
At the bottom of Arkadiou street (corner of Ougo str.), the Kara Musa Pasa mosque.
See also the uptown minaret, Veli Pasa mosque, under some refurbishment. Up from the post office, near corner of Markellou and Andoulidaki streets.
The Rimondi fountain, with the pleasing cafe "Galero" to sit at right next to it – which also has internet access, as many cafes do in the centre of Rethymno.
Souliou street – much jewellery and large selection of English titles at its bookshop. If one street is to be the single place for gathering all the gifts you need to complete your shopping tasks – this is it: gather herbs, cosmetics, books, a variety of jewellery, pottery and many other different items.
The shop Raw Materials, by the Avli restaurant owners. An amazing array of products and produce from Crete and all over Greece. A great place to buy things for people who like cooking, food and wines. At the back is the wine cellar - the dramatic and large wine tasting room sees wine-tastings in progress every Tuesday. There are more than 460 Greek wines (labels) in the shop.
Further down on Mesologgiou is the Apollon cinema which has fairly recent movies (if they are foreign language they are shown in the original language with Greek subtitles).
Laiki (open market) on Thursday mornings is beside the marina towards the beach. Or small laiki Saturday by Iroon Polytechniou square - just before the main bus station.
Carnival: every late February/early March strange and colourful outfits, floats decorated in brash, bright and sometimes controversial themes, hordes of people, together create the Rethymno carnival. Known as the biggest of its kind in Crete. This is set on a holiday known as "Apokries" (the Greek Halloween). The big carnival parade is the climax of the celebration and great fun for adults and kids alike.
For really sublime views over Rethymno and surrounding areas, including dramatic sea vistas, head uphill following signs to Agia Irini. On the way, after a little over a kilometer and a half, stop at a church above you on the right – there is a driveway up to it, though the gate for cars is often locked you can still walk up, see the church and enjoy this magnificent viewpoint.
Continue on to Agia Irini monastery and a quiet, tranquil visit is there for you. Hours: 09.00-13.00 and 16.00-sunset daily. Ring bell only during those hours if you would like to visit. The Monastery (nunnery) is very recently restored. Restoration started in 1989. Its origin is 927 AD. The shop offers – with loom in view – their own hand made linens and woven pieces, jams, cards and hand-painted icons. The monastery is small and a place for a quiet visit.
Two of the major monasteries of Crete and amongst its most sought and visited, Arkadi and Preveli monastery are medium distance outings.
Other visits: Armeni minoan site, Argyroupoli (ancient Lappa) where the sound of water from springs cascades through this refreshing, taverna-laden village. Eleftherna, Axos, Zominthos archaeological sites. Amongst the significantly enjoyable, old and historic villages: Episkopi, Spili, Amari (valley), Monastiraki, Anogia.
On the south coast visit: Plakias, Rodakino, Schinaria, Preveli beach, Agia Galini, Agios Pavlos. Where inland leads out, the gorge of Prassano (from Prasses village), and where land leads inwards, the Melidoni and Sfendoni caves.
See the only sizable lake in Crete, Lake Kournas, with eating places along its edge, and cafes above from which to gaze at the view. Enjoy the lake itself in a paddle boat (at last, some fun for the kids!).
Extensive beaches stretch east of Rethymno itself - some with scattered large hotels alongside, or cafes or...just beach.
Holidays in Rethymnon
You want shops and bars in easy strolling distance, waterside restaurants – preferably on some atmospheric old harbour front, a great range of accommodation to suit your style and budget, and a fabulous beach – well, naturally – for swimming, sun-soaking and watersports. Is that asking too much for your holidays? In Rethymnon it's not.
Summer holidays to Rethymnon can be almost anything you want them to be. Pick your perfect self-catering holiday in Rethymnon's outlying villages and bays ... and enjoy the total freedom of your own home in the sun. Opt for an A-class, family-friendly hotel, close to the beach and perhaps with kids' entertainment. Many hotels are deservedly firm favourites with families and couples alike. And if you've decided to go deluxe, take a look at 5 star resorts – where fabulous facilities for sport and leisure combine with several eateries, sea views, and super service for the best of summer holidays in Rethymnon.
Sightseers, shoppers and beach-lovers, singles, couples and families – there's something for everyone in this old Venetian town and its satellite resorts. So whether you're planning your trip well in advance or looking for last minute holidays to Rethymnon, you'll be joining a growing band of fans who flock here for summer fun.
See our hotels...
Rethymno started growing again when the Venetian conquerors of the island wanted to have an intermediate commercial station between Heraklion and Chania acquiring its own bishop and nobility. Today's old town (palia poli) is almost entirely built by Venetians. It is one of the best preserved old towns in Crete.
The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, small Venetian harbor and narrow streets. The Venetian Loggia today houses the information office of the ministry of culture. The big municipal gardens are ideal for those in search of shade and tranquility. Throughout the year various activities are organized which draw a large crowd. The Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July. Another festival is held on 7-8th of November, in memory of the destruction of Arkadi Monastery.
It has a Venetian castle called the Fortetza which is the one of the biggest and best standing castles in Crete. Other monuments include the Neratze mosque (St. Katherine's Catholic Church), the Great Gate (megali porta, Porta Guerra), the Piazza Rimondi (Rimmondi square), the Venetian Loggia etc. Today its main income is tourism, with large Facilities that have been built the past 20 years and Agriculture especially, for its olive oil and Mediterranean products. It is also the base of the Philosophical School and the University Library of the University of Crete and the School of Social and Political Sciences having 8,000 students every year on its University Campus at "Galos" and where the Academic Institute of Mediterranean Studies is situated.
Places near Rethymno Town
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