The prefecture of Rethymnon which is between the Lefka Ori and Psilorotis Mountain will enchant you with its numerous beauties such as the city of Rethymnon which combines the Venetian and Eastern cultures overlooking the Sea of Crete.
Rethymnon is the state capital and also the commercial, administrative and transportation center of the prefecture. It is divided in the old and the new city. The old city is surrounded by the Forteza Castle and the new city lies around the old one. In the marina, the emblem of the city, the statue with the two dolphins, dominates the area.
Rethymnon is teeming with life in the winter as well as in the summer. During the summer months the city is crowded with tourists while the students keep the city alive the rest of the year. The University campus hosts the School of Philosophy, the School of Social, Economic and Political Sciences and the School of Education.
Most important personalities were born and raised in Rethymnon such as Georgios Hortatsis who wrote the tragedy “Erofylli” among others, 15th century scholar Nilolaos Vlastos and so on.
- Coins that have been found in the area indicate that Rethymnon has been inhabited since the 5th-4th century BC. The way that the coins were cut proves that the trade was well developed. Perhaps there were relations with the Ptolemaics, who called Rethymnon Arsinoi.
- 1204 AD, when the Franks bought the city, saw the beginning of the Venetian rule. They settled throughout the island but they did not show much interest in its development.
- In a period of intellectual prime, the Turks attacked and conquered the city in 1669. The years that followed were difficult. During that period there were revolts that led to an important revolution in 1866. In 1897, when Crete became individual, Rethymnon began developing from scratch. Nowadays, the Venetian city of Rethymnon is one of the best preserved cities in Greece.
In Rethymnon you can visit quite a few museums.
The Archaeological Museum οf Rethymnon is situated in front of the main gate of the Forteza Castle. Its exhibits give an intertemporal view of the cultural history of the prefecture from the Neolithic period until the Roman Rule. It includes most important findings: Statuettes, jewelry, tools, spearheads of the Neolithic era from the cave Geranio and the cave Elenes Amariou.
Ιn the Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymnon there are traditional handicrafts, hand-woven textiles, embroideries, ceramics, along with other tools that are connected with crafts developed in Crete.
In the Paleontological Museum of Rethymnon there are exhibits from the flora and fauna of the area that date back millions of years. The dwarf elephants and the dwarf hippos are of special interest.
A Venetian building, very close to the Archaeological Museum, houses the Museum of Contemporary Art, along with the Municipal Gallery “L. Kanakakis”, where you can see works of art by Greek artists.
In Zoniania there is a special kind of museum. The Wax Effigies Museum hosts the important personalities of Crete and makes the history of the island come alive through them.
Arkadi Monastery, the cave of Melidonio, Armeni and the Cave of Zeus (Idaion Andron), the cave where according to legend Dias (Zeus) was raised, are all worth visiting when you come to Rethymnon.
Α stroll in the old city in the heart of Rethymnon will take you back in time. Beginning at the Venetian harbor, through the narrow streets you will find yourself at the huge Venetian Castle, the Forteza Fortress. Somewhere in the middle of the harbor there is a narrow path that leads to the impressive Lotzia, a Venetian building that used to be the meeting place of the nobles and the grandees of the city.
Moving on, you will find the Rimondi Fountain at the Platanos Square. You will see water spring through the three lion heads. Entering the “long narrow street” (Nikiforou Foka street) you will find yourself in front of the beautiful orthodox church of the “Kyria ton Aggelon” (Lady of the Angels). If you turn left, you will find Neratze Mosque and the Church of Agios Francisco’s (Frances) in Ethnikis Antistaseos street.
Porta Guora (the Big Door) is a few meters down the street. Passing through it tou will see the impressive public buildings while in Arkadiou street you will be amazed at the Venetian mansions.
You will find hotels and apartments along the beach. If you wish to explore the beauties of nature and the villages you can stay at traditional guesthouses and farms in the area around the city.
If you love luxury and comforts you may choose to stay in one of the villas in the old city or the suburbs. If you prefer camping instead, you will find plenty organized campsites that will satisfy your needs.
In Rethymnon, as throughout Crete, the food is delicious. “Hohli bourbouristoi”, roasted lamb, “amanites” (mushrooms), fresh seafood. Everything is traditionally cooked with pure local ingredients. The famous Cretan olive oil gives a special flavor in all food.
There are taverns by the sea, restaurants in the heart of the city, traditional small taverns in the picturesque villages to make you taste and feel the Cretan gastronomy. There could not be a Cretan city without its traditional “rakadika” which are traditional small taverns for you to begin your night out.
You can enjoy your evening out in one of the cafeterias in the cobbled streets in the old city or next to the Venetian harbor as well as in the pedestrian street near the picturesque Fortetza overlooking the sea.
The coast road in Rethymnon has something for everyone. During the summer, the beach bars in Misiria, Platania and Agia Galini right outside the city are teeming with life.
If you choose to visit enchanting Rethymnon during the winter, you can entertain yourself in the numerous clubs in the old city and the old harbor.
Festivals take place in Rethymnon throughout the year such as the Wine festival, the Raisin festival, and let us not forget the Carnival of Rethymnon where you will be able to get to know the traditional way of entertainment of the city.
The search for souvenirs should begin in the heart of the city. There, you will find souvenirs such as small magnets, mugs, key rings and cards to remind you of your visit on the island or take back home as gifts for your friends.
The traditional hand-woven textiles that are made in the mountain villages of the prefecture are well worth buying. Υou will also be impressed by the “sarikia” (traditional turbans) ,the ceramics, the knives as well as various souvenirs from the archaeological sites that are related to the history of the island.
You can also buy products such as Cretan graviera (cheese), pure olive oil and olives, Cretan wine, tsikoudia as well as the traditional “lyhnarakia” and “anevata” that will remind you of the delicacies of the island when you are back home.
In the prefecture of Rethymnon there are numerous beautiful beaches along its coast in the north as well as in the south part of it.
If you do not want to lose time travelling, the beach within the city of Rethymnon will definitely not disappoint you. The beach starts right off the harbor and stretches eastwards for 2-3 km.
The village Bali, 35 km away eastwards of the city, has beautiful pebbled beaches. The central beach is organized and has beach chairs and water sports.
In the white beach of Preveli, 35km southwards of the city, the tropical vegetation of the palm tree forest and the big river that flows into the sea, create a beautiful scenery that makes many people consider the beach as a paradise on earth.
On the beach of Agia Galini, on the southeastern part of the prefecture, 55km from the city you can enjoy yourself in one of the beach bars or you can go scuba diving. . If you just need to relax, you can walk till the central beach which is not an organized one.
You can also swim in the water of the Libyan Sea on the beaches of Plakia and the villages of Rodakino and Triopetra (Akoumiani Gialia). The majestic beaches and the crystal clear water will fascinate you.
The harbor of Rethymnon is in the old city and is connected with the Piraeus harbor. There are lots of daily routes especially during the summer months. There also routes to Santorini, Kythira and other islands.
If you wish to travel by plane you should go to “Nikos Kazantzakis” airport in Heraklion or the “Ioannis Daskalogiannis” airport in Chania. It takes one hour from Chania or one and a half hour from Heraklion to travel to Rethymnon by coach.
The intercity transport network (KTEL) of Rethymnon is very well organized and has lots of routes every day for destinations to all districts of the island. At the same time there is the local transport service which you can use if you wish to visit nearby villages and beaches. You can also take a taxi, or rent a car or motorcycle.