About fifty minutes west of Fodele on the main coastal highway, Rethymno is one of Crete’s most charming and historic seaside towns. Situated on an ancient harbor and bordered by pristine Blue Flag beaches, Rethymno is our island’s third largest town. We urge guests who want to explore the island, to put this provincial and romantic destination on their itineraries. For first-time visitors, here are some of the high spots to catch when they visit Rethymno in a day.
Old town Rethymno is one of the best-preserved spots in Crete for observing amazing Venetian and Ottoman architecture. This medieval town is crowned by a magnificent Venetian fortress integrated into Old Rethymno and adorned with fairytale romance ambiance, Orthodox and Catholic churches, mosques, majestic Venetian mansions, and cobbled paths among other lures.
Unlike Chania farther west, Rethymno has a kind of split personality exhibited in the paradox of the Old Town and the newly built harbor and beachside structures. The dichotomy of the town’s spirit is one of those things that makes this Cretan port so interesting. The vast stretch of beach that runs through coastal villages like Perivolia and Skaleta is a hip and fun diversion from the mix of architecture, culture, and history of the city center.
On the historical side, you have the Venetian Harbor where row on row of classy cafes and stylish shops beckon from the water’s edge. There, close by the Venetian Fortress (Fortezza), shopaholics mingle with amateur historians taking in the dominating fort set among old Venetian buildings, Turkish mosques, and minarets. At some point, groups and families will be tempted to part ways to find their shopping experience or their cultural side, but most find Rethymno to be one of those places where you can cover everything at once.
Besides the fortress (Fortezza), history buffs will want to visit the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno, the Historical and Folklore Museum, sea the Rimondi Fountain, the Guora Gate, the Neratze Mosque and the Egyptian Lighthouse that prevails in the old harbor of Rethymno.
Life at the beachside in Rethymno carries value from all the usual suspects, like trendy bars, crowded cafés and Greek tavernas, to souvenir shops.
Strolling down the streets can be somewhat a time bandit once you get lost in the charm of the place, but places like the 6th-century Venetian Loggia, Stagakis Cretan Lyra Workshop, and other famous buildings and landmarks are right along your way. We suggest you walk along the Venetian port to admire its striking lighthouse but be careful not to get lost in the maze of alleyways leading out from the harbor. Many travelers get caught up admiring the ornate doorways and their decorative Venetian crests or being seduced by that quaint little craftsman shop that promises the most beautiful Cretan souvenirs.
No matter how you choose to approach your tour of this colorful, buzzing, diverse little town, Rethymno is not a place that can be fully experienced in only a day. However, once you stroll the narrow streets you breathe in the intoxicating soul of a truly fascinating Cretan treasure.
Rethymno is a place you fall in love with, at first sight, a place where intensity and tranquility cohabitate with antiquity and modernity.