Rethymnon

Crete

The third-largest city in Crete with a population of about 25,000, Rethymnon is in some ways like a scaled-down version of Chania, with its harbour, strong Venetian and Turkish influences, and strong traditional culture. Like its neighbour along the coast to the west, Rethymnon also goes by several variations on its name, such as Rethymno and Rethimnon.

Venetian Harbour in RethymnonRestaurants Line the Venetian Harbour

The original name of the town was actually Rithymna, and it is known to have been occupied since Minoan times. There are no palatial Minoan remains but there are many from the Greco-Roman period when it was already a busy trading centre and port. During the 16th century Venetian rule it boomed, attaining a reputation for art and scholarship that it retains to this day. 

Venetian Fortress

The Venetian Fortress in RethymnonThe Venetian Fortress

It was a busy time architecturally too, and the Venetian fortress, which is such a dominant feature of the town, was built in the 1570s to defend against pirate attack and also with one prescient eye on the increasing dominance of the Turks. The strength of the fortress was short-lived, as the Turks conquered it in 1645 after a siege that lasted for 23 days.

The Fortetsa, as it is called, is said to be the biggest Venetian fortress ever built and is still in quite good condition, revealing inside the remains of some administrative buildings, a barracks, cisterns, the church of St Catherine and the Sultan Ibrahim Mosque. It is even big enough to contain a small theatre, used for performances in summer. The views from the huge ramparts over coast and town are worth the visit alone.

Restaurant in Rethymnon

The Archaeological Museum

Opposite the entrance to the Fortetsa is the former prison, which now houses the Archaeological Museum. The conversion has been well done and the displays are arranged in rooms around a light, central atrium. Although the city itself is not rich in Minoan remains, the surrounding area certainly is and the museum has an excellent collection of them, including a fascinating and large selection of painted burial chests known as larnakes. There is also a good range of statuary, especially from the Greco-Roman period when Rethymnon was a prospering outpost.

The Old Town

The Old Town in RethymnonThe Old Town

To the south of the Archaeological Museum is the old part of the town, with numerous structures of historical interest which seem a long way removed from the jostle of foreign visitors in the harbour tavernas and stretched out along the town beaches. But there is bustle in the old town too, notably around the Rimondi Fountain, which stands at one end of a busy main street surrounded by cafes and shops. The fountain was built in 1629 by the Venetian governor (allegedly jealous of the Morosini Fountain in Iraklion), with waterspouts in the shape of the lions’ heads that are emblematic of Venice. Close by is an even older building, the 16th century loggia, built by the Venetians as a marketplace.

Map of Crete showing Rethymnon

The Venetian Harbour

The Venetian Harbour in RethymnonThe Venetian Harbour

Near here is the little Venetian harbour, only able to take the smaller boats and the local fishermen, with the bigger inter-island and Piraeus ferries forced to moor outside. It’s in the Venetian harbour that the fishermen can be found mending their nets, and in the mornings selling their catch from the night before. At the harbour too is another notable Venetian legacy, the 16th century lighthouse. By night here the scene is transformed, as all the world comes here to see and be seen, to eat and drink the night away.

Watch out for Brink's craft beers while you're on Crete, and maybe tour the brewery as we did.

Arkadi Monastery, CreteThe Arkadi Monastery

Moni Arkadi

An essential trip out of town is 24km (15 miles) to the southeast where, in a truly spectacular setting at the head of a gorge and surrounded by groves of fruit trees, stands the monastery of Moni Arkadi. A monastery has stood on this site since the 5th century, with what we see today dating mostly from the 16th century when the Venetians restored the buildings including the audaciously ornate double-naved church which is the site's most impressive feature. We've listed it as one of the best things to see on Crete, and if you want to learn more visit our page about Arkadi Monastery.

Where to Stay in Rethymnon



Read some of our other Crete pages...

  • The Icon Painter

    Icon painting is a centuries-old tradition in Crete and the rest of Greece, and Greece Travel Secrets meets a modern-day icon painter in Elounda on Crete.

  • Hiking the Samaria Gorge

    Hiking the Samaria Gorge on Crete, one of the best things to do on Crete, by Greece Travel Secrets.

  • Best Beaches on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets chooses ten of the best beaches on Crete including the beautiful beaches at Vai and Elafonisi.

  • Hiking in Southwest Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets goes hiking in southwest Crete with Ramblers Walking Holidays based in Paleohora and hiking the E4 footpath and to Anidri and Azogires.

  • Eco-Tourism Accommodation on Crete

    The Dalabelos Estate offers luxury eco-tourism accommodation on Crete in the hills near Rethymnon with its own farm, vineyard and olive groves.

  • Goules Taverna Crete

    The Goules Taverna in Goulediana, south of Rethymnon, has been called one of the best tavernas on Crete and Greece Travel Secrets recently visited them.

  • Airbnb near Chania

    This Airbnb in the quiet village of Malaxa, a 30-minute drive into the hills above Chania, is a peaceful retreat with a delightful and thoughtful artist owner, with wonderful views and amenities.

  • Zacharioudakis Winery

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Zacharioudakis Winery near Ancient Gortina in southern Crete, and does a vineyard tour arranged by our guide from Go Crete.

  • Touring the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets tours the Lyrarakis Winery on Crete and learns about Crete grape varieties such as plyto, dafni, vidiano, vilana, mandilari and kotsifali.

  • The Herb Man of Kouses

    Greece Travel Secrets visits the Cretan Botano herbs and spices shop near Matala in southern Crete in search of the herb man of Kouses.

  • The Cretan Diet

    Studies have shown the Cretan Diet as one of the healthiest in the world, involving lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, and moderate amounts of wine.

  • Stilianou Winery near Knossos

    The Stilianou Winery near Knossos on Crete uses only Cretan grape varieties, with every bottle numbered, and aims for quality rather than quantity.

  • The Snails House on Crete

    The Snails House in Plouti near Phaistos in southern Crete serves the Cretan delicacy of snails, cooked in several different ways.

  • Sir Arthur Evans, archaeologist at Knossos on Crete

    Sir Arthur Evans is the archaeologist famous for the excavations he made at the royal palace of Knossos on Crete.

  • Samaria Gorge

    The Samaria Gorge is one the longest gorges in Europe and doing the hike is one of the best and most popular things to do on Crete.

  • Phaistos Minoan Palace on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets page on Phaistos or Faistos, the site of one of the finest Minoan palaces on Crete and is where the mysterious Phaistos Disc was found.

  • Paleohora and the South-West Coast

    The area east from Paleohora along the south-west coast of Crete includes resorts like Agia Galini, gorges like the Imbros Gorge and quieter towns like Sfakia.

  • Our Hire Car in Crete

    The travel tale Our Hire Car in Crete describes what it’s like when you go driving in Greece and get off the beaten track, resulting in kindnesses.

  • Matala Beach Crete

    Matala Beach on Crete is a guest blog for Greece Travel Secrets from the We Love Crete website, inviting you to Awaken Your Inner Hippy in Matala, Crete.

  • Manousakis Wine Tasting

    We visit and tour the Manousakis Winery on Crete with a wine-tasting and a chance to buy their tsikoudia, sea salt, olive oil and other goodies.

  • Malia and its Minoan Palace on Crete

    Malia on the north coast of Crete is renowned for its nightlife and beaches but also has the Minoan Palace of Malia, one of Crete's many archaeological sites.

  • Maleme and the German War Cemetery on Crete

    Maleme near Chania is where the people who died during the battle of Crete are buried, in the German War Cemetery with the Commonwealth War Cemetery nearby.

  • Making Rakomelo on Crete

    Greece Travel Secrets visits Crete and learns about making rakomelo from Jorgos Kourmoulis in Agouseliana.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Knossos

    Visiting Knossos near Iraklion is one of the best things to do on Crete, and this page has a history of the site with visitor information.

Latest Posts

  1. A Sommelier’s Guide to Greece’s Most Exclusive Grape Varieties

    Best Greek Sommelier for 2019, Aris Sklavenitis offers his recommendations for rare, lesser-known indigenous Greek varieties: an exciting, unexplored territory for wine lovers.

    Read More

  2. Greece Extends Second Lockdown Until December 7

    Greece will extend its second nationwide lockdown until 6am on Monday, December 7, in efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) and limit the rising number of intubations and fatalit…

    Read More

  3. New Archaeological Museum to Open in Ermionida, Greece

    The Greek Culture Ministry recently announced plans to open a new archaeological museum in Ermionida, a municipality located in eastern Peloponnese.

    Read More

  4. Greece Among Top 3 Booking Choices for US Travelers

    Greece is among the top three international destinations that American travelers are booking, according to a survey on tourism recovery in the post-coronavirus era released by the United States Tour O…

    Read More

  5. Greece’s Air Traffic Controllers Call Off Strike, AEGEAN Reinstates Flights

    Unions representing air traffic controllers, electronic security engineers and aeronautical telecommunication officers in Greece announced that they were calling off strike action to take place during…

    Read More

  6. General Strike in Greece on Thursday to Affect Transport

    A 24-hour strike called by Greece’s main public sector umbrella union ADEDY for Thursday, November 26, will affect public transport in Athens and ferry travel.

    Read More

  7. Greece to Remain in Lockdown, Efforts Made to ‘Save Christmas’

    Greece’s government and health authorities expect the country’s second lockdown to continue into December, adding that it was too early to lift containment measures as Covid-19 is still spreading fast…

    Read More

  8. Qantas to Require Covid-19 Vaccination on All Int’l Flights

    Passengers wishing to fly internationally with Qantas will be required to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination, the airline’s CEO Alan Joyce said this week. The head of Australia’s flag carrier said…

    Read More

  9. Strike in Greece Causes Changes to AEGEAN, Olympic Air Flights

    AEGEAN and Olympic Air have announced flight cancellations and reschedules during November 25-27 due to industrial action announced by Greece’s air traffic control personnel and electronic security en…

    Read More

  10. Air Travel in Greece to Face Disruption Nov 25-26 Due to Strike Action

    Greece’s air traffic control personnel and electronic engineers have announced work stoppages on Wednesday, November 25 and a 24-hour strike on Thursday, November 26, which are expected to impact air…

    Read More