Rethimno (also written Rethymno and Rethymnon) is one of the most beautiful port towns on the island of Crete, Greece. Crete consists of four regional units: Chania, Rethimno, Heraklion, and Lasithi, Rethimno being the capital city of the Rethimno region. With more than 34.000 inhabitants, Rethimno is the third most populous city in Crete after Chania and Heraklion.
This scenic coastal city has a scenic port, a long beach with crystal clear water, a charming old town and everything needed for a perfect vacation. In this article, I share with you the top 10 things to do in Rethimno, useful tips and practical information on the port of Rethymno.
Rethimno Travel Info
- Rethimno is located on the north coast of Crete, 68 km/42 miles (a 1-hour 10 min drive) east of Chania and 80 km/50 miles (a 1-hour 15 min drive) west of Heraklion, the capital of Crete.
- The town of Rethimno is connected with Chania, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos (the capital of the Lasithi region on the eastern side of Crete) via the E-75 national road (no tolls). The rest of the roads in Crete are regional.
- The currency in Greece is EURO (€) and you’ll find ATMs and some currency exchange offices in the city of Rethimno. Local currency and credit cards are widely accepted. See the currency converter
- Due to its fantastic location between Chania and Heraklion, Rethimno is a perfect starting point for the exploration of the island and one of the best places to stay on Crete. Make sure you download the https://maps.me/ app before hitting the road!
- The best way of getting around Crete is by car. In Rethimno and other cities, you’ll find many rent-a-car agencies where you can get a car starting at 60€ per day (prices updated in August 2022). Some car rental agencies may ask you to make a deposit, which is not recommended to do. Make sure you are fully insured. The insurance doesn’t cover off-road damages and accidents. Book Crete rent a car online
- In Rethimno it’s relatively easy to find free parking, especially along the seafront promenade. In the area around the Rethimno port and old town, parking is available for an extra charge, as well as on clearly marked spots you’ll see in the city.
- Rethimno is well connected by bus to other parts of the island, particularly Chania and Heraklion. There are also local buses serving the bus stops of the city of Rethimno and these are great if you want to move around and check out some other local beaches at a small cost. The ticket is 1.5€ one-way and buses run every 20-30 minutes. You can buy the tickets at the kiosks at bus stations, or at some supermarkets and grocery stores. If you want to travel to other cities by bus, you can check out the timetables and fares at the main Rethimno bus station located at the address: Leof. Emmanouil Kefalogianni, near the Old Town.
- Unlike other islands, Crete is rich in natural resources and has potable water. However, because this water is of slightly different chemical composition, it’s recommended to drink bottled water.
- Crete is generally very windy, especially in July and August, which may affect the beach time as well. Based on the currents, winds and waves, beaches in Crete can be assigned the red flag (swimming and water activities are prohibited), yellow flag (swimming is allowed with caution) and green flag (swimming is allowed). Before planning your itinerary, always check out the weather forecast on https://poseidon.hcmr.gr/ first, as the wind can really spoil your beach time.
- There are two main international airports in Crete: Heraklion International Airport “Nikos Kazantzakis” and Chania International Airport “Daskalogiannis”, from where you need to take a transfer to Rethimno (from 1h to 1h 15 min driving time). Book a private transfer from Crete airports to Rethimno
- Although Rethimno can easily be visited on foot, Rethymno City Tour by bus or little train departs from Iroon Square in the city center, where the Old Town begins. It is a Hop-on Hop-off tour that includes stops at twelve different locations such as Fortezza Castle, Old Town, Municipal Garden, Panagia Chalevi monastery, Myli Gorge, Agia Irini monastery, the Military Museum and a few more. You can find the timetables and fares on the official webpage https://rethymnocitytour.com/
- If you want to read about the top 15 things to do on Crete for first-time visitors, check out my article Top 15 Things to Do on Crete from Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion
- Explore Rethymno tours and activities
- Check out the best Rethymno hotels
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Read more about Crete:
- Chania Port Guide (Souda), Things to Do, Shore Excursions
- Heraklion Port Guide, Things to Do, Shore Excursions
10 Best Things to Do in Rethimno
Unlike Chania and Heraklion which don’t have a public city beach, Rethimno has a beautiful, 12 km long public beach boasting all types of facilities and activities needed for a perfect vacation.
Crete is known as the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, one of the oldest civilizations in the world whose beginnings date back to 3500 BC. The Palace of Knossos and Heraklion Archaeological Museum are the two major locations where you can admire the fascinating legacy of this civilization, however, little is known that the town of Rethymno was also originally built during the Minoan civilization.
In ancient times, the town of Rethymnon was first occupied by Dorians and then Romans, before finally being conquered by the Venetians in 1204 after the fall of the Byzantine Empire. The Republic of Venice ruled Rethymno and Crete until 1669 when the island was occupied by the Ottomans. The island has finally united with the rest of Greece in December 1913, mainly thanks to Eleftherios Venizelos, one of the most important Greek political figures of all time.
The major growth and flourishing of Rethymno happened in the 16th century when the entire town was rebuilt by the Venetians and the majority of the present structures in Rethymno date from that period.
All these historical facts are important to understand Rethymno’s fascinating past that reflects in the town’s unique architecture featuring a blend of Cretan renaissance, Ottoman influences and modern elements.
1. Rethymno Old Town
Rethymno’s old town is an endless maze of twisty, narrow streets filled with souvenir shops, stores, restaurants and cafes housed in old, centuries-old buildings. Here, you’ll find some important landmarks, monuments and museums such as:
- Rimondi Fountain – The elegant fountain dominates the small Petichaki square and was built in 1696 by the Venetians.
- Venetian Loggia – The 16th-century Loggia houses the information office of the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
- Archaeological Museum of Rethymno – The museum is located across from the Neratze Mosque and overlooks Mikrasiaton square. The museum holds an impressive collection of artifacts, objects and archaeological treasures dating from the Minoan to Roman times.
- Neratze Mosque – Originally a Venetian church, the building was converted into a mosque in the 17th century during the Ottoman occupation. In the 20th century, the mosque was turned again into a church but never functioned as one. Nowadays, it houses the Municipal Odeon arts center where music lessons are held and music concerts are performed.
- Megalos Antonios Church – A beautiful church famous for its picturesque belltower.
- Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete – A modern museum showcases the artwork of Lefteris Kanakakis and other Greek artists.
2. Venetian Fortezza Castle
Fortezza fortress is the citadel overlooking the town of Rethimno built by the Venetians in the 16th century. The fortress was built on the hill of Paleokastro (meaning “Old Castle”), on the site of the acropolis of ancient Rithymna. The Venetian authorities had an original plan of permanently moving the entire city to the fortress, however, the local people disagreed and refused it. As a result, only the Venetian Guard administration moved there and built the necessary infrastructure.
In 1646, the citadel was occupied by the Ottomans who made some extensions and additions to the Fortezza. During World War II, German soldiers occupied it and some of the buildings were turned into prisons and dormitories.
Nowadays, Fortezza is a restored hilltop castle complex open to the public. You can visit its Eastern gate complex, Artillery warehouse, bastions, Counselors’ residence, Sultan Ibrahim Khan Mosque, the ruins of the Episcopal Mansion, a beautiful tiny St. Catherine’s Church, and other buildings and ruins.
Fortezza is located on top of the hill that offers undoubtedly the most spectacular views of Rethymno town and the coast. The admission fee is 4€ and you get a free brochure with the ticket.
3. Old Venetian Harbour
The Old Venetian Harbour of Rethymno was built by the Venetians in the 13th century as a trade port. It is one of the most beautiful and scenic parts of Rethymno, dotted with a 9-meter-high Egyptian lighthouse easily reachable on foot. It is the second largest remaining Egyptian lighthouse on Crete after the one in Chania, built in the 1830s during the Egyptian Occupation when the Turks handed Crete to the Egyptians.
The Old harbour is located next to the marina and the bustling old town, lined with a promenade with palm trees, restaurants, cafes and shops.
4. Rethymno Promenade
The town of Rethymno boasts a very long beachfront promenade overlooking the port and Old Venetian Harbour. The promenade is lined with hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, shops, travel and car rental agencies. It is ideal for sunset walks when you can admire the romantic views of the port of Rethymno and the Fortezza in its background.
5. Rethymno Beach
The promenade of Rethymno is lined with a 12 km long beach of Rethimno, a wide urban beach where you’ll find all sorts of facilities including sunbeds, umbrellas, lifeguard stations, showers, changing rooms, beach bars, restaurants, shops and supermarkets. The beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles, and the water is crystal clear and relatively warm.
Depending on the season, swimming on the beach may be prohibited due to the dangerous waves (you’ll see the red flags). The current prices (updated in August 2022) for a set of an umbrella and two sunbeds vary from 5€ to 10-15€, and some bars offer them for free if you order drinks.
6. Baja Beach Club
This great beach club is located 3 km from Rethymno city center and offers an ultimate all-day beach experience. Besides a beautiful beach, here you can find a large pool, a restaurant, a snack bar, a shisha bar, umbrellas, standard and lux sunbeds, Gazebos and music all day long!
There is a large free parking in front of the club, and you can also get there by bus from Rethymno city center. The one-way bus ticket costs 1.5€ and buses run every 20-30 minutes. The ride lasts less than 10 minutes, and you can just tell the driver to stop at Baja Beach Club. You can check out the gallery, offer and prices on the official webpage https://bajabeach.gr/
7. Arkadi Monastery
Arkadi monastery (Moni Arkadiou) is located 20 km/12 miles (a 30-minute drive) southeast of Rethymno and is situated on a plateau surrounded by lush hills covered with vineyards and olive groves. This impressive, fortified monastery dates back to the 16th century and boasts a remarkable blend of baroque and renaissance architectural styles.
The monastery is known for being a refuge for 943 Greeks, mainly women and children, during the Cretan revolt against the Ottoman rule in 1866. These unfortunate people were hiding from Ottomans in the monastery and after three days of resistance, they decided to sacrifice themselves by blowing up barrels of gunpowder. They chose death over surrender, and ever since the monastery has become a symbol of the Cretan struggle for independence and a national sanctuary. Historically important, with its idyllic turrets and bell tower, the monastery is a must-see place in the Rethymno region.
8. Rethymno Municipal Garden
If you seek a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the old town and touristic areas, the Municipal Garden is a great place to unwind and enjoy a pleasant walk. The public garden is situated in the heart of Rethymno, in a more residential part of the town, only a few minutes walk from the beach and the old town.
The garden is filled with tree-lined paths, kids’ play areas and cafes where you can sit and relax with a cup of traditional Greek coffee or Freddo Cappuccino.
9. Delight in the Cretan Cuisine
Rethymno is packed with all types of restaurants and taverns serving both traditional Greek food and international dishes. Cretan cuisine is not only famous for gyros, souvlaki, Greek salad, and other typical Greek dishes but also for dishes made of lamb. In Rethimno’s numerous restaurants you’ll find traditional lamb “Kleftiko” roasted with garlic, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.
Rethimno is heaven for seafood and fish fans, as these are prepared fresh and the choice of food options is great! You’ll find many of these restaurants along the waterfront promenade and in the old town, including the Old Venetian Harbour. I’ve had a chance to dine in several restaurants in Rethimno, and I particularly liked the “Mediterranean” restaurant (address: Ari Velouchioti 12, Rethymno) located on the promenade, and “Red Paprika” in Rethymno Old Town (address: Μεσολογγίου 12, Rethymno). If you like pancakes, waffles and crepes, make sure you check out “Hari’s Creperie” in the Old Town.
What makes Cretan cuisine so special is the amazing service you’ll get at pretty much every restaurant you dine at. Everyone is so welcoming and you’re likely to get the “dessert on the house” after you finish your meal in most of the restaurants. While there, don’t forget to try Cretan wines and olives, as they are believed to be of the best quality in all of Greece.
10. Day Trips from Rethymno
If you want to explore the island, Rethimno is a great starting destination as it lies between Heraklion and Chania, the two largest cities of Crete. Some of the destinations you can visit from Rethymno are:
- Elafonissi Beach
- Balos lagoon and Gramvousa island
- The Palace of Knossos
- Heraklion Archaeological Museum
- Falassarna Beach
- Preveli Beach
- Samaria Gorge
From Rethimno you can also take a ferry to Santorini island. Read more about these destinations in my article Top 15 Things to Do on Crete from Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion
Rethymno Port Overview
The port of Rethymno is a medium-sized port that has both free and commercial use. It is divided into two parts:
- The western part is for commercial and passenger use. The loading and unloading of all goods are carried out here (5 piers are available, and the total length of piers is 810 m).
- The eastern part is dedicated to cruise and ferry ships (2 piers, 125 m and 140 m in length respectively). From the port of Rethymno, there is a weekly ferry to Santorini island operated by the Seajets company.
The maximum length of the vessels recorded to have entered this port is 163 m. Find more information on https://www.rethymno.gr/
The town of Rethymno is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Crete and a great starting point for the exploration of the island. You can easily spend your entire holiday in Rethimno however I definitely suggest you rent a car or book a tour to other famous Crete destinations. Crete is huge and it takes days, if not months to discover, so make sure you plan your Crete itinerary carefully as there are so many wonderful things to do and see!
Read more about Crete:
- Top 15 Things to Do on Crete from Rethymno, Chania and Heraklion
- Chania Port Guide (Souda), Things to Do, Shore Excursions
- Heraklion Port Guide, Things to Do, Shore Excursions
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