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Eine perfekte Mischung aus alt und neu, bekannt für seine beeindruckende Festung, die venezianische Architektur und die türkischen Minarette. Rethymnon bietet auch schöne Strände und eine charmante Altstadt, Bild: Georgios Tsichlis / shutterstock

Rethymnon – Excursion to Venetian Harbor

With its 55,000 inhabitants, Rethymnon is the third largest city in Crete behind Chania and Heraklion. The town has retained the charm of a small town where life is less
hectic, preserves and combines two rare features.

It is rare to find an old town steeped in history in the immediate vicinity of a long sandy beach. In the process, it has retained its Venetian and Turkish appearance. Rethymnon is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Greece. Venetian fortifications blend harmoniously with Orthodox and Catholic churches, mosques, majestic structures of Venetian architecture that create a magical atmosphere and bear witness to the turbulent history of Rethymnon.

Arkadi Monastery Rethymnon
Arkadi Monastery, Image: Cezary Wojtkowski / shutterstock

From the eastern end of the town, the beach hotels extend through the villages of Perivolia, Platanias, Aselianos Kambos, Pigianos Kambos, Sfakaki, Stavromenos and Skaleta. They form the antithesis to the romantically dreamy old town with its fascinating harbour facilities.

The Venetian Harbour is the ideal place to relax with a coffee in one of the numerous, but also well-frequented cafés. Soak up the atmosphere and watch the numerous boats that depart for the pirate caves in Kefalas Bay.

The Fortezza Fortress dominates the cityscape and is often used by tourists as a background for souvenir photos.

The streets below are lined with historic Venetian buildings that are interspersed with
the minarets and the domes of the mosques. They keep alive the memory of the former Turkish influence. In addition to souvenirs, numerous shops also offer trendy clothing and imaginatively decorated jewellery in order to combine tradition with modernity. In the surroundings of Rethymnon there are deep gorges, monasteries, ruined villages with ancient churches as well as the mountains Psiloritis and Lefka Ori. Rethymnon is the hub of the island of Crete. Crete is huge and you can explore it for weeks.

Where is Rethymnon?

Rethymnon is centrally located on the island of Crete and offers good transport links to other important cities on the island. Here are the approximate distances from Rethymnon to other major cities in Crete:

  1. Heraklion: About 80 kilometers east of Rethymnon. By car, the journey takes about 1 to 1.5 hours on the main E75 highway, which runs along the entire north coast of Crete.
  2. Chania: About 60 kilometers west of Rethymnon. The journey usually takes around 1 hour, also along the E75.
  3. Agios Nikolaos: About 135 kilometers east of Rethymnon. The journey time is about 2 hours, mostly on the E75 and then on smaller roads in the eastern part of the island.
  4. Sitia: About 210 kilometers east of Rethymnon. The trip can take 3 to 3.5 hours, depending on traffic conditions and the exact route.
  5. Ierapetra: About 160 kilometers southeast of Rethymnon. The drive via the E75 and then south on smaller roads takes about 2.5 hours.
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These distances and travel times show that Rethymnon has a central location in Crete and is a good starting point to explore the different regions of the island. The well-developed main road E75, which runs along the north coast of the island, makes it relatively easy and quick to travel between the major cities.

Attractions in Rethymnon

Fortezza Fortress, Rethymnon
The Fortezza Fortress, Image: volkova natalia / shutterstock

The Fortezza Fortress was built by Venetians in 1573 to protect the city. Not only the walls and the church should be visited – it is also an excellent starting point due to the sensational view of Rethymon. Take advantage of the view to plan your tour of the city.

The Archaeological Museum is located at the entrance to the fortress and is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. – except Mondays. The pieces on display here offer visitors interesting insights into Neolithic and Roman history. Finds found during excavations in Eleutherna, Armeni and Minostiraki are also on display.

The Venetian Loggia dates back to the 16th century and serves as a souvenir shop for the museum. Books, miniatures, puzzles and cards are offered. The Venetian Loggia is often used as a starting point and meeting point for tourists. After all, you can find maps and travel guides in all common languages.

In the restored premises of the Folklore Museum, there is a
large collection of woven textiles and baskets, embroidery, ceramics, historical
Photographs, weapons and coins. In total, more than 5,000 specimens from the 17th to 20th centuries are on display.

Shopping and culinary delights

Right next door, you’ll find a bakery that makes the traditional Fyllo pastry and gives those interested an insight into the production process. The Kara Musa Pasa Mosque is located on the corner of Arkadiou and Ougo Street in the immediate vicinity of Café Galero with the Rimondi Fountain.

Souliou Street is the shopping mile – ideal for changing your clothes or bringing a souvenir back home to your loved ones. In addition to books, cosmetics and ceramics, there is a large selection of jewellery to buy.

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The Raw Materials shop sells local products related to cooking. Attached is a wine cellar that has an impressive selection of wines and offers wine tastings every Tuesday. Wine lovers can choose from more than 460 types of wine.

For the annual carnival (end of February, beginning of March), the inhabitants of Crete flock to Rethymnon in droves to parade through the city dressed up in colorful costumes. The parade coincides with the holiday of Apokries. The highlight of the festivities is the largest parade in Crete.

Seven kilometres from the city lies the Mili Gorge, an idyllic retreat in the countryside to recharge your batteries. For tourists with a desire for nature, it forms a contrast to the hustle and bustle in Rethymnon.

Facts about Rethymnon

  1. Historical charm: Rethymnon is known for its well-preserved old town, which features a fascinating mix of Byzantine, Venetian, and Ottoman architecture. The narrow, winding streets lined with historic buildings offer a picturesque experience.
  2. The Venetian Fortress (Fortezza): One of the city’s most significant attractions is the Fortezza, an imposing 16th-century fortress perched on a hill overlooking the city. It was built by the Venetians to protect the city from pirates and other invaders.
  3. The Venetian Port: The charming old port of Rethymnon, also from the Venetian era, is a popular meeting place for locals and tourists. Here you will find numerous cafés, bars and restaurants offering local specialties.
  4. Beaches: Rethymnon has some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, including the city’s long sandy beach, which is ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and various water sports activities.
  5. Cultural Events: The city is known for its vibrant cultural scene, especially during the Summer Carnival and Renaissance Festival, which takes place in the Fortezza and celebrates the city’s cultural history.
  6. Archaeological Museum: The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon is another highlight that presents finds from different periods of Cretan history, including Minoan, Hellenistic, and Roman artifacts.
  7. Gastronomy: Cretan cuisine is famous for its health and taste. In Rethymnon, visitors can discover traditional taverns serving fresh local produce, olive oil, and seafood.
  8. Natural beauties: The surroundings of Rethymnon are ideal for nature lovers. The stunning landscape with its mountains, gorges and coastal paths offers perfect opportunities for hiking and exploring.