Information about Rethymno

rethymno creteRethymno or Rethymnon is the capital of the same prefecture in Crete, located midway along the north coast, between the two bigger centres of Heraklion and Chania, it is also positioned at one of the island’s narrowest points from north to the south.

Rethymno is an ideal base  to explore Crete, with the south coast beaches being a relatively short drive away.

Rich in tradition and with an extensive town beach there will be those content to stay in Rethymnon and richly rewarded they are, provided they stick to the centre.

The east and west approaches to Rethymnon are a string of hotels and apartments and the south is a twisting uphill battle to the main cross-island highway.

Traffic is heavy and noisy away from the harbour but there is parking space waste land opposite the municipal gardens (except Thursday which is market day.)

The centre is bursting with tavernas and cafes offering good food at decent prices. Apart from the harbour area, where demand for the romantic waterside setting is well reflected in bill, it is a place to eat cheaply and well.

It is believed that the contemporary town stands on the site of the ancient Minoan city of Rethymne or Rithimna although evidence has been found to show that the town has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Initially, the Minoan city of Rethymno was fairly insignificant but slowly began to flourish, minting its own coins and being the centre for the worship of Rokia Diana, who was the patron deity for those bitten by rabid dogs.

This increase of power and economic importance thrived even more during the Venetian occupation between 1210-1646. It was in this period that the Fortezza castle was constructed as well as a strong fortress of some 1400 metres in length to protect the city from invading forces. In 1646 Rethymno was seized by the invading Turks and began to decline. Since that time however, Rethymno became the focus of many revolts in Crete and, in 1821, its inhabitants were slaughtered by the Turks for taking part in the Revolution.

Modern Rethymno

rethymnoToday, there is still plenty of evidence that reflects Rethymno’s chequered past. The historic buildings of the Venetian Lotzia, Venetian mansions, the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, the churches of Agia Maria, the Lady of the Angels and of Agios Fragiskos.

The Turkish occupation left their mark with the mosques of Veli Pasha, Kara Moysa Pasha and the Neratzes Mosque. There is also the building which housed a Turkish school, Turkish baths and the beautiful Rimonti Fountain a public drinking fountain.

The city also has some interesting museums and an art gallery. Rethymno has two of the largest sandy beaches in Crete 12km to the east of the town and 10km to the west.

Places to see

rethymno old townMost noteworthy sights of the town are located in Rethymno Old Town with its small Venetian harbour, narrow streets lined with beautiful, old, aristocratic buildings dating from around the 16th century, garnished with stone arches and staircases.

Here too you can find remains of Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman structures. It is an attractive location to sit in one of the many fish tavernas which have occupied the vaulted spaces below the buildings along the quay.

The town also boasts some beautiful religious buildings which include mosques, churches and a cathedral. It is also worth visiting the Archaeological Museum where artefacts from the Neolithic to the Roman period are displayed having been excavated from various locations around the prefecture of Rethymno.

The Folklore and History Museum is also fascinating as it is housed in a restored Venetian building with a beautiful interior courtyard. . The carved tomb of the third Hystero Minoan Period located in the group of houses of Mastabas of Rethymno.

In Ethnarchou Makariou Street are the remains of the Venetian fortifications of 1540-1570 as well as three soldiers’ lodgings which were protected by the fortification wall. Very impressive is the big door to the fortification enclosure (known as Goura) which is preserved at Ethnikis Antistatis Street.

The Loggia

loggia RethymnoThe Loggia is a four sided building with semi-circular arches at three sides, of which the middle one is open and leads inside the building through a flight of stairs

. Today, it forms the roof of the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno but, when it was built in the middle of the 16th century, it was an important public building of the Venetian occupation where noblemen and important city dignitaries used to hold meetings.

The Loggia buildings were also used as places of entertainment.

Rimondi Fountain

rethymno-the-rimondi-fountainThe Rimondi Fountain is a very attractive public drinking fountain built by the Venetian governor, Rimonti, of Rethymno  in 1626. It is located at the north end of Petychakis square where an older fountain once stood.

The church of Agios Franciskos is one of the most significant monuments in Rethymno. It is a wooden roofed church which, in the past, housed the monastery of Franciscan monks.

During the years of the Turkish domination it was converted into an alms house. In 1971 it was sensitively repaired and renovated.

Lady of the Angels church

The church of The Lady of the Angels known locally as Mikri Panagia and dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene of the Battalion of the Dominican monks. It is located on the crossroads of Nikiforos Fokas and Thessalonikis Street in the old part of the town. It was constructed in the final years of the Venetian occupation. Interestingly, this church was built without a dome.

Forteza on Paleocastro Hill

rethymno-fortezza The Fortezza on Paleocastro Hill at the north end of the town is a fortress built in 1573 by the Venetian governor, Alvisso Lanto. It is a polygonal building with a total area of 1,370 metres and four ramparts at the south and east sides and three points at the west and north.

Today, only the walls remain of this Venetian building. Close by is a domed mosque which was a small cathedral church, St. Nicholas, constructed in 1583.

However, during the years of the Turkish occupation it was converted, in 1648, into a mosque and dedicated to Ibrahim Khan and, it was at this time that the enormous dome, with a base diameter of 11m, was added.

Neratzes mosque

rethymno-neratzes-mosqueThe Neratzes mosque, at the Venetian square of Rethymno, was the church of Santa Maria and the monastery of Augustine monks. It was altered into a mosque in 1657 by Gazi Hossein Pasha, the conqueror of Rethymno and was the biggest mosque in the town.

The Kara Moussa Pasha mosque, on the junction of Arcadiou and Ugo Street was the very first Venetian monastery of Saint Barbara. It was changed into a mosque by the Pasha. Today it exhibits artefacts of Byzantine antiquities

The mosque of Megali Porta on Tobazis Street was built before 1670 and dedicated to Sultana Valide, the mother of the Sultan Ibrahim Khan. The building has two cupolas framed by a minaret. Today it is used by the Greek Archaeological Service. As a warehouse to store archaeological finds.


Mosque of Veli Pasha

veli-pasaThe mosque of Veli Pasha, in the group of houses of Mastaba close to the bus station was built in 1789. It is covered by six small domes, has a minaret, a circular balcony and a pyramid roof. There is an impressive entrance of Tuscany style.

Next to the church of Agios Franciscos is the old Turkish school. There is an inscription over one of the entrances that states it was built in 1796 and was a girls’ school. Of special interest is the Turkish entrance door which has some remarkable architectural features. Today, the school is used as a primary school.

The Turkish Hamam (or Turkish Baths) is a building with two large halls covered by hemispherical cupolas. It is located at 25 Radamanthyos Street but unfortunately is not open to the public.

Temple of Esodia of Theotocos

The Temple of Eisodia of Theotocos was built in 1834 on the site of an older church.

The bell tower was added later in 1889. The temple was designed according to the plans of the church of Evangelistria of Tinos and inside are some outstanding wooden and sculptured iconostasis and frescoes.

There is also a notable painting of the Panagia of Pathos although it is unknown who the artist was and when it was painted.

Venetian houses of Rethymno

venetian houses in rethymnoThere are several hundred beautiful houses with Venetian frontages dotted around the old town many of them renovated and some in ruins Likewise, a couple of noteworthy Neoclassical buildings.

Examples of the latter include: The Metropolitan Mansion at the southern side of the church in Moussourou Street. This Neoclassical building has an absolutely symmetrical facade.

The Mansion of the Prefecture, on Heroon Polytechniou Square is a two-storey Neoclassical building constructed in 1869. Finally, the Catholic Church of Agios Antonios, on the corner of Messologiou and Salaminas Street was built in 1890 according to Neoclassical design.

Places to visit in the vicinity of Rethymno

Armeni, lies approximately 4.5km away. Famous for its Minoan cemetery and tombs. 6km west of Rethymno is Gerani with the Cave of Gerani complete with stalactites and stalagmites. 8km south-east of Rethymno is Adele with its long beach and hotel complexes nestled in front of a cultivated plain and thickets of reeds. In 1868 a battle took place at Adele which led to the retreat of the Turks and Konstantis Giaboudakis, one of the heroes of this battle was born in the village and his house can be seen with its inscription on the walls in remembrance of this event. . All around this area, including the village of Pigi, are many villas, restaurants and clubs.

Getting around Rethymno

The city is well served by scheduled buses, but the best way to visit Rethymno, given the size of the island of Crete, is by car which will also allow you to continue along the coast and find the most beautiful beaches.
If you do not want to go too far, even the scooter will be a valid solution. KTEL services in Rethymno serve travelers with many itineraries and cheap tickets. Buses connecting Rethymno to Heraklion run daily, every hour, from 6.30pm to 10.30am.

The car is the ideal vehicle for getting around Rethymno and the whole of Crete. Distances are long and the car will facilitate your visit to every part of the island. The bike gives you a sense of freedom, but they are suitable for close distances and not for covering long distances.

In the prefecture of Rethymno there are many taxi stations, in the capital and in the most famous tourist resorts, but it is equally easy to take a taxi in the most central streets. Of course, a radio taxi service is also available. The cost for the most popular destinations is predetermined.

Getting there

While it won’t be easy for you to get to Rethymno directly, there are ports and airports within easy reach of Rethymno’s most popular tourist spots.

The ports and airports of Chania and Heraklion are the main access points to reach this city of Crete. Strategically located one hour by motorway from Chania and an hour and a half from Heraklion depending on the airport of arrival from Italy to Crete, you can reach it both with a car and with the bus network.

By ferry it will be possible to arrive directly from Piraeus and Athens. Flight time from Athens to Chania or Heraklion is 45 minutes. There are frequent buses from Chania and Heraklion to Rethymno.

Ferries also do not arrive directly in Rethymno. If you want to reach Rethymno by sea you have to take the ferry to Chania or Heraklion, the two closest ports of Crete.

There are daily ferries from the port of Piraeus in Athens to Chania and Heraklion. In summer the port of Heraklion is very busy as it offers ferries to Piraeus, Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Karpathos and other islands in the Aegean Sea. Heraklion Airport is also very popular and receives domestic and charter flights from abroad. Many low cost airlines also fly to Heraklion.

Useful telephones

Rethymno Municipality +30 28313 41301-5
Taxi services +30 28310 35000 & 28310 28316
Buses KTEL +30 28310 22212
Port of Rethymno +30 28310 20248
Tourist office +30 28310 29148 & 28310 56350
Emergency : 1065
Disable people taxi service +30 28310 56678
Hospital +30 28313 42245