Ρέθυμνο - we love Rethymnon town. There is so much to see and do, we never stop discovering new spots. We are happy to share some of our favourites. Known for its picturesque old town and Venetian harbour, travellers will find a world of history here, in the north coast of Crete.
This town was built on the site of ancient Rithymna, part of the ancient Minoan civilisation.
Rethymnon shares the long and colourful history of Crete. The ancient Minoan period from 2600 to 1100 BC, the Geometric and Daedalian period 1100-620 BC, the Classical 500-330 BC and Hellenistic 330-67 BC periods and Greco-Roman period 67 BC-323 AD.
After the First Byzantine period 330-824 came the years of Arab rule between 824-961, after liberation the Second Byzantine period 961-1210 after which came Venetian and Genoan rule then Turkish rule for 400 years. Liberation came again in 1898 after many terrible and rebellious years. Unification with the modern state of Greece came in 1913.
The Venetian Fortress on the tip of the peninsula, is in ruins. The original was constructed in the sixteenth century. Coins from the Minoan civilization have been found on this site. We can guess that a shrine or sanctuary was located here, worshipping gods and goddesses and dolphins from the sea as depicted on the coins.
The first place to seek out in the old town is the Rimondi Fountain from 1626 in Plateia Petychaki. It is known as the Liondaria...the Lions.
The narrow medieval streets and the Great Gate mark the transition from the old town to the new town, dating from 1568.
The Minaret of the Neratze Mosque (below) from 1657, was built on the Venetian church of Santa Maria, and is now used as a music school.
The tight old harbour of Rethymnon with its many Venetian townhouses
and restaurants is quite touristy and touts can be a little too eager,
it leads on to the lighthouse, and on to the long sandy town beach to
All around the old town are wonderful examples of Venetian
architecture preserved in private houses. The doorways especially hold
great historic interest.
The Venetian Loggia, from the 16th century, used to be a gentlemen’s club and is now the Rethymnon information office, is just down from the Liondaria.
Of the many restaurants in the old Rethymnon town, we have a few favourites including the Taverna Akri on Kornaru street, Galero Café next to the Rimondi fountain (with internet upstairs), Gounas traditional taverna, andMesostrati for music.
Taverna Gounas has traditional Cretan music and dancing and it is vital to any visitor to come and experience the Rethymniots hospitality. A skinny little joint on Panou Koroneou, don’t underestimate how serious these guys are about their music. Even in the shoulder season, this is a jumping warm-hearted place where you will meet everyone on your table. Leap into the dancing and you will never look back. Panou Koroneu 6.
We love wandering along Odos Kefalogiannidon, enjoying the café strip by the fortress at sunset.
Another atmospheric taverna where live Kritiki musiki is enjoyed by all is Mesostrati Taverna, (above) tucked away behind the church on Platia Martiron. Giorgos Sifakis shows all his guests great hospitality, and the traditional Cretan dishes mezedes are served, alongside the tasties from the grill.
The Carnival at Rethymnon town, three weeks of parades, fancy dress balls and theatre sketches wakes everyone up from winter. The whole town parties during the three weeks before Lent. The Carnival is a vibrant showcase of Greek Culture, incorporating dance, theatre and art and well as traditional costumes, activities and games. The gem in the crown is the Grand Parade.
The summer program of events in June and July has a variety of events including theatre, art, dance and music. Some events are held in the atmospheric Erofili Theatre in the fortezza, some in Neratze mosque, and plenty of acts and excitement in the streets.
The proud presentation of Cretan folk music, flamenco, telling of fairy tales, cinema and graphic arts adding colour and life all around the town occurs each year during summer.
The Cretan Diet Festival in July sets a bucolic scene in the Municipal Garden, with barrels full of local wine, and a program of music of international quality performances, art exhibitions and of course local food and much more.
The University of Crete has a campus at Gallos, 5 km from Ρέθυμνο with faculties of philosophy, social science, economics and political science as well as education, sciences and engineering and medicine. The University if a centre of research as well as learning and has seperate campus in Heraklion. The University runs an international Erasmus program.
Pantelis Prevelakis - Παντελής Πρεβελάκης - was a poet and author born in Rethymnon town in 1908. His titles include 'The Sun of Death' published in 1959, and his most well known work is about Rethymnon 'The Chronical of a Town'. He studied law, philosophy, literature and art in Athens and Paris and was a known member of the Greek 'Generation of the 30's', recognised for his poetry, prose, drama and essays. He died in Athens in 1986, however his grave is in Rethymnon and his statue is in front of the town hall.
From the Venetian Harbour in Rethymnon town leaves a very special day tour with Pirate Barbarossa, AKA Dolphin Cruises. Choose from one hour or three hours cruises, fishing trips or cruises to Panormos, past dolphin waters to beautiful beaches, pirate caves and Marathi near Chania, in the beautiful Souda Bay.
Pirates were active around Crete in the 16th Century and none more fierce or wild than Barbarossa, click here to learn more about Johnny Depps's friend, Pirate Barbarossa.
We encourage you to stay within the walls of the old town and have chosen beautiful guesthouses with charm and plenty of local atmosphere...
The interactive map below to shows our selected accommodation options in the old town...
The Palm Beach Apartments, facing directly onto Rethymnon Beach allow easy access to all parts of town as well as being strolling distance from the old town and numerous tavernas, cafes and restaurants down by the promenade and Old Harbour.
These modern apartments are well-priced and convenient, with bright modern rooms, great service and a family atmosphere.
There is plenty to see around the prefecture of Rethymnon. Take to the hills and see the real Crete. With mountains, gorges, villages and plenty of natural interests, you will learn a little more at every step.
Arkadi Monastery is 23 km from Rethymnon through rolling hills and gorges. This place is worth the visit for the architecture alone, yet it tells one of the most fascinating stories of Crete's rebellious history.
Margarites Village is 30 km south-east from Rethymnon in gorge country. This village is famous for its ceramics. Nearby is the historic site of Eleftherna and the notorious Melidoni cave.
Plakias Beach on the south coast makes a wonderful day trip. Drive a circular route through the mountains to see the real Crete.
Below are some more beautiful images of the atmospheric old town