Rethymno, Crete’s third largest city, is full of wonders. With its great restaurants, historic architecture, a two-kilometer golden sand beach and one of the most intact medieval ‘old towns’ in Greece, the town is a must-visit.
First up? History. You simply can’t miss Rethymno’s most prominent landmark, the Fortezza, built by the Venetians in the 16th century. The old stone fort capped by a mosque constructed in Ottoman times, sits above the Old Town, and with its amazing views, an hour or so here is a relaxing, inspiring start to a day in Rethymno.
Time travelers will find more delights at the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno (Agiou Frangiskou str., off Ethnikis Antistaseos str.), with its fascinating collection of exhibits from Neolithic and Roman times and relics from the Rethymno region’s most significant archaeological sites.
Spending time in the Old Town is what a visit to Rethymno is all about. Starting at its southern entrance (take a left at the end of the beach road), head west passing the Rimondi Fountain to savour some of the Old Town’s most delightful alleys – Arabatzoglou and Radamanthyos are great for gifts and keepsakes and home to excellent restaurants.
Take the tiny street Nikiforou Foka south, and then left at Vernadou, to get you back to the Old Town’s ‘high street’ Ethnikis Antistaseos. The nearby alleyway Souliou is good for jewellery, leatherwork and mementos, and leads to Arkadiou with its high-end fashion retailers. At Vernardou 30, you can marvel at the work of veteran pastry-maker Yiorgos Hatziparaskos. Yiorgos is one of the last pastry-makers in Greece to use traditional methods for making filo pastry. The spectacle is a highlight of any Old Town visit, as the dough is blown into a giant bubble and then spread over a vast table. You can savour the result too by sampling Yiorgos’ fine baklava and kataifi. And don’t forget there’s the picture-perfect Venetian harbour to stroll through, and even rest a while, for a bite at the waterside tavernas.
Rethymno gastronomy – 3 top tips
7 Thalasses (Stamathioudaki 89). Great seafood created by chef and owner Giorgos Michelakis. Served in a luxurious location at the water’s edge.
Prima Plora (Akrotiriou 4). Seriously good food with the accent on organic, in a beautiful waterfront setting.
Avli (Xanthoudidou 22) Exquisite dishes featuring exciting new takes on Cretan favourites served in a romantic leafy courtyard in the heart of the Old Town.
Rethymno cafe bars – 3 top tips
Cafe Galero (Mesologiou). Watch the world go by at this colourful laid-back cafe next to the Rimondi Fountain.
Livingroom (5 Sofokli Venizelou) with its lush velvet decor on the palm-lined promenade is a great all-day cafe/bar.
Sweet Cup (Dimokratias 6), is chic and cosy. Its beautiful cakes match its pretty decor.
The drive from Creta Maris to Rethymno takes 1 hour 30 minutes.
Two car parks in Rethymno – at the port and beside the Municipal Gardens – offer the best parking options for visitors to the Old Town.