CreteTravel.com

  • Region : Crete
  • Prefecture: Rethymno
  • Municipality: Rethymno
  • Population: 54.900

Rethymno combines rarely united features: the old town's charm and history, with proximity to a long sandy beach.

Although it is the third largest town in Crete, Rethimnon never feels like a city as Chania and Heraklion do.Instead, it has a provincial air; it's a place that moves slowly and the most important preserves much of its Venetian and Turkish appearance.

You can enjoy arriving by ferry and be "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!

How to get there

Rethymno's convenient aspect is that it is nearly equidistant from both main airports, Chania and Heraklion - meaning many more flight options (you can fly into either airport, whichever suits you). See flight information.

Ferries sail into Rethymno from Athens port (Pireas) daily. The ferries are overnight sailings, take a cabin for comfortable travel. See ferry schedules.

By ferry you can travel overnight from Athens (Piraeus port) and arrive in the centre of Rethymno - well, you will only have a few hundred metres/yards to go to reach your centuries old building, your hotel in the historic old town. See ferry schedules. 

By car, we strongly recommend approaching Rethymno along the coast taking the western-most exit from the New National Road at Atsipopoulo/Rethymno - this gets you directly to the port and the old town.  There are frequent buses connecting Rethymno with other towns and villages. See bus schedules.

Parking in town: At the port (limited), near the marina at the ferry landing (large). The old town streets are kept for pedestrians only and cars will always need to be parked away from your hotel if you stay within the area.

Where to stay

In the heart of the old town:

The tasteful, smart and traditional building of Palazzino di Corina or the simpler authenticity of Veneto Hotel.

Palazzino di Corina is 1 minute from the harbour and about 7 minutes walk to the beach. Veneto is about 5-10 minutes to the harbour and 10–15 minutes walk to the beach.

For the swish and fancy - a genuine taste of old stone and Venetian luxury brought up to date, Avli Suites are just the thing. Above Avli Restaurant or their shop (both mentioned below).

Civitas Rethymnae (opened in 2008) is a great choice for those who like plush interiors, being close to the waterfront, and the convenience of a kitchenette in the room.

The doll's house-like Vetera Suites is charm itself, in one of the oldest buildings in Rethymno, next to the big church and on the edge of the Old Town - unique and special. 

Our suggested hotels outside Rethymno and within easy access:

Review, photos, rates & reservations with CreteTravel.com

Villa Avra: stone-built 4-bedroom villa near Gerogioupoli, 20 km from Rethymno.

Abelos Villa: 2 stone-built houses sharing a large pool, in rural Roustika village, 18 km from Rethymno. 

Villa Lucia: 5-bedroom house with pool, close to village & sandy beach. 

Kastellos Village: old house in small village with atmosphere, 18 km from Rethymno. 

Villa Kynthia: small inn in Panormos, 22 km from Rethymno.

What to see & do

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.

Archaeological museum at the entrance to the fortress. Open daily 08.30 to 15.00. Closed Mondays. 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.
This is a good landmark as a meeting/rendezvous place. There is a travel agent opposite with a Piraeus Bank cash machine and on the opposite corner a shop with maps, guidebooks in several languages, foreign press rack and magazines.

Folklore and history museum on Vernardou 30. Open Monday to Friday 09.30-14.30. Closed Saturday and Sunday.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.

Outside Rethymno :

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:

Mili Gorge. 7 km outside Rethymno, to the south, up on the hills, it is an idyllic one-day tour for those who like to walk in the country. A real paradise, a place of purifying harmony, beauty and peace, the splendour of nature. A walk to another world, unspoiled and uplifting, untouched from progress or tourism, in the green, between trees and plants, along little steams, under the songs and sounds of many kind of birds. Old and now deserted watermills, along the stream, were supplying Rethymno with flour during the last centuries, giving the name to the old and the new settlements. Taking Theotokopoulou street, passing from Evligias hill, with the pine tree forest, the road comes to the Nunnery of Agia Irini. It was founded in 981 and it is one of the oldest monasteries in Crete. It was completely destroyed by the Turks at 1896 and it was restored on 1989. 2 km after, there is the new village of Mili from where you can get down to Mili gorge and the old settlement. Taking the gorge to the end, it leads back to the coast of Rethymno.

Arkadi Monastery. Originally built in the 14th century and re-built in the 16th century, it is located in an attractive hill, 23 km south-east of Rethymno. In the center of the complex stands the Byzantine church. It is well known as one of the most important centers of the Cretan resistance against the Turkish occupation and a symbol of fight for freedom. In November 1866 the Turks sent 15000 men to besiege the monastery. After two days siege and when the entrance was bombed by the Turkish canons, Cretans chose not to surrender and set fire to the store of gun powder, blowing themselves up. Shot and sword marks can be seen on the door, walls and the table inside the refectory. Monastery, ossuary and museum open daily. Buses from Rethymno: 06.00 (not on Saturday, Sunday), 10.30, 14.30. Return: 07.00 (not on Saturday, Sunday), 12.00, 16.00.

Eleftherna. Some km after Arkadi monastery, it is the most important archaeological site in Rethymno and one of the most interesting current excavations being conducted by the Archaeological section of The university of Crete. Inhabited from the ancient years till the Byzantine era, it is the only site in Crete that can give valuable information to archaeologists in how a settlement developed during the years. There can be seen the ruins of dwelling complexes, sanctuaries, cemeteries, the ancient wall, the aqueduct, the huge cisterns and the bridges and an early Christian basilica. Eleftherna is not yet an organised archaeological site.

Margarites village. Continuing from Eleftherna, a characteristic Cretan village with long tradition in hand-made pottery. Buses: 06.30, 12.45 -not on weekends. Return: 07.15, 14.00.

Panormo. Quiet fishing village and currently tourist resort, 19 km east of Rethymno, on the north coast. Taking the bus to Iraklion.

Bali. 8 km after Panormo, the second main resort on the north coast of the prefecture, after the town of Rethymno. Very picturesque, with wonderful bays and port, it is built in the ancient site of Astali. Taking the bus to Iraklion.

Melidoni village. Typical Cretan village, interesting for its cave, inhabited since the Neolithic years and a place of worship during the ancient times. During the Turkish occupation, 370 people were killed by Turks, inside the cave, after refusing to surrender peacefully. Interesting cave, with many stalactites and stalagmites. 140 m long, 6 chambers.

Axos vilage. Small village, 44 km south east of Rethymno, on Idi mountain, at the site of the ancient settlement of Axos, the refuge of the Minoans to be protected from the Dorian invasion. During the venetian occupation the population moved to Anogia. Many byzantine churches can be visited.

Anogia village. One of the most famous Cretan villages for its tradition in the Cretan way of life and music. 8 km after Axos, it is a starting place for visiting the very impressive Idi (Psiloritis) mountain (2452 m), the cave of Ideon Adron, an ancient place of worship and where according to mythology Zeus grew up, the Nida plateau (1500m) and, during the winter, the ski center. Bus: 05.30, 14.30 - not on weekends. Return: 07.00, 16.00 - not on weekends.

Zoniana Cave (Sfedoni). Beautiful cave, on the slopes of Psiloritis mountain, at an altitude of 630 m. It is 10 km west of Anogia, 52 km south of Rethymno. The cave has 14 chambers and covers an area of 3000 sq. m, but the walking route is only 270 m.

Amari. The old country road from Rethymno to Agia Galini, passes from many picturesque characteristic Cretan villages and a wonderful scenery. Prassies, Potamoi area, Thronos with the archaeological site of Sivritos, Pandanassa, Patsos and the wonderful gorge of Agios Antonios, Meronas, Amari, Ano Meros, Agios Ioannis, Fourfouras, Kouroutes could offer a very refreshing trip, away from the common tourist attractions. By renting a car.

Argiroupoli. West and south of Rethymno, on the mountains, at the site of the ancient town of Lappa, which prospered during the Roman years. Before entering the village, on the right, the road turns to the sources of the The Holy Power, where the springs of the mountains, running fom everywhere, join in small waterfalls and powerfull streams. The sound of the impetuous water, the greenery and the freshness make this place a small oasis during the summer heat. From inside the village, a foot path 2 km long, brings to the site of the ancient Necropolis, with hundreds of tombs.

Kournas lake. 28 km on the west of Rethymno, 4 km from Georgioupolis, very beautiful lake surrounded by The White Mountains. Should be visited for the wonderful scenery.

Georgioupolis. Big village on the north coast, which grew to a tourist resort, during the last years. 24 km west of Rethymno. Here ends Mouselas river. Taking the bus to Hania. 4 km south, there is the picturesque village of Vrisses and 5 km west, the village of Vamos with a special interest in Cretan tradition.

Petres. Long sandy beach, starting 12 km west of Rethymno, spreading until Georgioupolis. Taking the bus to Hania.

Late Minoan Armeni cemetery. Taking the road to the south, 7 km from Rethymno and 2 km before Armeni village. Large burial site, with many rock chambers been excavated. Many of the findings, nature monument waterfalls of decorated earthenware, seals, jewellery and tools, are exposed at the Archaeological Museum of Hania. Bus: to Plakias or Agia Galini.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.

Where to eat & drink

The treat of treats for both food and visual flair - authentic natural Cretan grown ingredients and steel-tech-traditional meets cavern & Venetian rock:

Avli restaurant. Few restaurants offer the choice of different styles and decor in one place. You will find it hard to choose whether to sit at a table in the large dining hall, beneath ancient arches, walls lined with wine bottles, wrought iron trim and creative decor - versus - another very cozy area of the restaurant with white linen covered tables.

Part of the whole space is the "Enoteca" wine bar and in the centre of the building is a beautiful courtyard ("Avli" means courtyard), where you can dine in the summer. Main courses are all mouthwatering, so your own choice must rule. We have to recommend the strawberry soup with cinnamon ice cream for dessert! Xanthoulidou 22 & Radamanthios 17. Reservations recommended. Open year round.

Veneto Restaurant, a unique and one of the most respected restaurants in Rethymnon Town which is certified by the Cretan Quality Agreement for the high quality and the certified, pure, Cretan products, Greek creative tastes made of chosen products from the Cretan nature.

Thalassografia, by the fortezza. Coffee, drinks, meze (appetizers), fresh salads, fish and seafood, greek cuisine - all mouth watering. A great location and super view. Splendid refresher. Open March/April to October.Kefalogiannidon 33.

Quaint: taverna Gounas, Panou Koroneou 6, tel. 28310-28816. With live Cretan music most evenings.

Hari’s creperie, good and many varieties (nice interior too). Very near the Rimondi fountain, corner of Arabatzoglou and Mesologgiou.

Go into one of the cafes on edge of Iroon Polytechniou, the square in front of the prefecture building and the central police station…you can have a meze with an ouzo or a beer.

It’s a little contrast with either being on the beach or some of the cafes more central or on the waterfront, where perhaps the music they are playing is not to your liking. And it’s a change of pace and style anyway, and you will return to your wandering around the highlights with a new blank canvas – refreshed!

Sit at the end cafe and you can glance at the sea anyway! Along the seafront, the surprisingly varied faster foods at Goody's can be useful between greater feasts.

A few doors along are a Chinese and a Mexican restaurant if this satisfies the need of the moment.

Nightclubs abound on Melissinou (where Fortezza hotel is and your likely first parking place in Rethymno is). Also Arkadiou street, near the museum shop, and down to the waterfront has several nightclubs ready to hit the groove.

In Koumbes area (west, outside the centre of Rethymno - 5 minutes by car): Before a turn as you have passed most buildings on the way towards the National road from the Port and Fortress, staying on the sea road, passing the bus station, turn to the right.

Watch out for Petradi and Delfini hotels on your right where you will find Pastopoieion restaurant. Stone building, together with Delfini hotel, on the waterfront. Mediterranean cuisine, fish.

A little further, on your right, there is Tabakario taverna, which is on the seafront. It is good (outdoors) in summer on the water's edge or indoors in cooler weather. This stone building seems to stay warm naturally. Food is a standard menu and has always been of good quality over the last couple of years. Tabakario taverna, Stamathioudaki 93 (Koumbes).

About 50 m further (after Tabakario) is a small road leading down to the right. The places here afford great views across the sea to the fortress of Rethymno, offering good restaurants and charming cafes for a quieter (though these places can get busy) pace of being just outside central Rethymno. Taverna food is most appetizing at Prima Plora.

Go all the way to the end for the ultimate seafront cafe experience. This last cafe on your right, Maistros, has a water's edge garden which makes a cappuccino or a whisky sour all the more enjoyable. Their restaurant serves a wide variety of tasty dishes specializing in seafood. It is very good.

Also, worth noting: after the last really warm summer sunshine has departed, the restaurant interior affords splendid floor-to-ceiling views and the drama of breathtaking waves crashing on the rocks just below. The night-time illumination of the sea, contrasting with a cozy fireplace is a real winter treat. Open year round (closed on Mondays in the winter). Akrotiriou 7.

Special comments

By ferry you can travel overnight from Athens (Piraeus port) and arrive in the centre of Rethymno - well, you will only have a few hundred metres/yards to go to reach your centuries old building, your hotel in the historic old town. See ferry schedules.