Rethymnon is the third largest town in Crete. It is on the north coast, with the Mount Ida mountain range to the south. A long sandy beach runs from the small harbour at Rethymnon to the east for about seven miles (12km). Set back from the beach are hotels, apartments and guest houses. This attractive town is ideal for strolling around, because traffic has been banned from many of the old parts. Travel is easy with good road access from other parts of the island.

A mix of styles

The town was occupied at various times by the Venetians and the Turks. The result is a fascinating cultural mix which is especially evident in the old part of the town. Turkish houses are marked by their overhanging balconies, which add great charm and character in the narrow streets. The Venetians excelled at constructing magnificent well proportioned houses, and the overall effect is very atmospheric.

old harbour Rethymnon boats and tavernas

The old harbour is one of the most attractive on Crete. It’s an ideal place to meet for a meal or drink, although prices can be quite steep. There are some good fish tavernas and restaurants here.

The old Venetian fortress (Fortetza) is worth a visit. It was built between 1574 and 1582 AD, and is the largest Venetian fortress every built. Although all the buildings are empty, it gives you a good idea of how these forts were constructed. There are good views from the fortress to the town and the harbour.

An ideal location

Rethymnon is an ideal place to stay if you plan to make a number of tours. The town is not too far from Heraklion and Knossos, so if you hire a car or take a local bus you can easily fit these tours into your schedule. There are day trips to the island of Santorini from the main harbour, and as its an early start you don’t have too far to travel to get to the ship. If you are in reasonable health then consider walking the Samaria Gorge. Although it’s a long day beginning with a coach trip to the beginning of the walk, it’s not as bad as having to start from Heraklion or one of the resorts even further to the east.

Gateway to the old Venetian fortress
Gateway to the old Venetian fortress

Rethymnon museum

The museum is now housed in the old Venetian prison which is opposite the main gate of the Venetian fort. It’s quite a comprehensive collection, dating from the Neolithic period to Hellenistic times.

The Minoan sections contain a wonderful collection of objects. Much of the pottery is beautifully made and very delicate. Finds from all over the island have found there way to this museum, and you can see figures of bulls and priestesses.

There is a large display of clay coffins, known as larnakes. These are painted with abstract impressions of sea creatures. You can easily make out fish, octopuses and shells. There are also some hunting scenes, which have led to the conclusion that ancient Crete was a land with many wild animals such as goats, sheep and deer.

Greek and Roman statues are well represented. One of the statues is of a youth thought to be Mercury, and has a bronze helmet. Another statue is of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite.

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