Whether you’re planning your next vacation on Crete or preparing your itinerary to tour the island, this is a fool-proof mini guide to better discover the beautiful region of Rethymnon. Let’s see what you can see and do with 2 days in Rethymnon or more!
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Get Ready for Crete!
RESOURCES TO BOOK YOUR TRIP:
Book your flight: I use Skyscanner to compare prices before booking a plane ticket.
Book your ferry: When ferries are more convenient than air travel, I use Ferryhopper.
Book your accommodation: I’ve tried many different platforms for accommodation, but none of them beats the advantages of Booking.com.
Book your car: The best way to find an affordable car to rent is to use a powerful search engine that compares all the rental companies in the market. I use Discover Cars.
Don’t forget travel insurance: Things can go wrong at times, but travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I recommend Safety Wing for peace of mind.
Best hotels in Rethymnon
Affordable: Ilian Beach and Summer Drem in Rethymnon Town.
Mid-range: Archipelagos Hotel in town or Veneto Boutique Hotel.
Luxury: Avli Lounge and Rimondi Boutique Hotel in the old town. Or read my review of this top old-town boutique hotel.
Check also Rethymnon Accommodation Guide and Rental Homes and Airbnb in Rethymnon.
Rethymnon City Break: A Picture-Perfect Itinerary
Hundreds of tourists that visit Crete every year admit that Rethymnon is one of their favorite regions on the island, and its capital, the prettiest.
Rethymnon is indeed a magnificent place for a vacation. Whether you are into adventure, beach life, or sightseeing, there’s a lot to do and see.
On the other hand, those who come to Crete for the first time want to give every region a chance. Devoting 2-3 days to discovering the region of Rethymnon is a great idea to get a glimpse of this land of traditions, wonderful landscapes, and a unique coast.
As I also did for the short Chania and Heraklion itineraries, we now start with three must-sees. These are perfect if you visit the region with an organized tour or have little free time. Whether it’s just a few hours or a couple of days, there’s so much you can do! Take a look…
Just a Few Hours in Rethymnon… or More!
It’s a few years now already that you can arrive at Rethymnon from other islands by ferry. If that’s you, or if you only plan to spend a weekend in town, there are many things to do in Rethymnon.
It’s a good idea to start by exploring the old town, a maze of romantic cobblestone alleys, beautiful Venetian houses, and a lovely Venetian port.
Other than that, in the region, there are beautiful beaches, both close to the city as well as on the Libyan sea coast, in the south of the island, and it’s quite simple to visit them on a day trip even if you’re in town only for a couple of days.
If you’re spending just one day in Rethymnon, choose some of the ideas below to spend a great day in town.
How to Use this Itinerary Guide to Rethymnon
A few hours in Rethymnon
- Use this itinerary if you’re planning a short visit. If you stay in Rethymnon town for a couple of hours, while you’re driving along the northern coast, head directly to the top attractions listed as Quick Tour of Rethymnon.
One day in Rethymnon
- If you’re staying in Rethymnon for a whole day, add some of the afternoon suggestions to your itinerary. Check my food suggestions as well for a quick lunch or dinner.
Two days or more days in Rethymnon
- If you’re spending two full days in Rethymnon, choose one of the alternative itineraries under What to do in Rethymnon in 2 or 3 days.
- Those who wish to extend their stay can choose one more day trip idea for extra activities.
- Don’t forget to check the hotel recommendations and tips for public transportation.
- And don’t forget to learn about some unique things to do in Rethymnon at night.
A Quick Tour of Rethymnon: 3 Things You Can’t Miss
Choosing only 3 things to do in Rethymnon is not simple. The city is full of stunning sights, museums, and churches that you will enjoy visiting.
However, and since you are short of time, this list highlights what I believe is the very best in town. You can always check these Top things to do in Rethymnon to see and do more!
1. Walk to the Fortezza, Rethymnon’s Venetian Fortress
From the top of the Venetian fortress, you’ll get a magnificent insight into Crete’s history and a fantastic view of the city’s skyline. Begin your sightseeing experience of Rethymnon by walking towards the entrance of the Fortezza.
You can do so either departing from the local bust station, walking east, right next to the sea (along Emmanouil Kefalogianni Ave.), or from the old town (walking up Katechaki Street) towards the sea. Both roads lead you to the Main (Eastern) Gate of the fortress.
If you have arrived in Rethymnon by car and have parked at the parking lot of the modern port, you will also need to walk along the sea, but towards the west, until you reach the signpost indicating you’re at the fortress.
INSIDER’S TIP: The road that leads to the gate of the fortress from the old town is quite steep. And although the seaside road is great to walk, the road that leads to the entrance, no matter where you’re coming from, has very old and irregular cobblestones, quite slippery and difficult to walk on. Avoid heels at all costs and flip flops too. A nice pair of walking sandals or comfortable tennis shoes are the safest option to walk in the area.
Once inside the fortress, discover the former Cathedral of Agios Nikolaos that the Ottomans transformed into Sultan Ibrahim Han Mosque. This impressive building has a unique domed ceiling visible from all over the city. Once inside, the hundreds of small tiles that cover the ceiling will leave you in awe.
Before the Ottoman rule, the mosque used to be a Catholic church, which clearly explains that the main purpose of the whole fortress was to protect the Venetian (therefore Catholic) population and not the Cretan (Orthodox) community.
Don’t forget to visit the gunpowder magazines, the water tanks, and the different subterranean passages hidden inside the fortress. The architectural style and impressive walls built by the Venetians are worth the visit.
Timetable: Everyday 8 am – 7 pm (summer), 8.30 am – 16.15 pm (winter).
Ticket: €4 (€3 reduced: senior citizens, students, and other categories apply). Family pass €10.
GPS coordinates: Latitude N 35.372664 | Longitude E 24.471120
Nearest parking spots are available near the fortress (unless it’s a farmer’s market day), at the bus station (arrive early), and in the new harbor.
2. Stroll Along the Old Venetian Port of Rethymnon
From Rethymnon’s Fortress, reach the seaside promenade and walk for about 10 minutes to the Old Venetian Port.
Often compared to the other Venetian port, the one in Chania, this smaller harbor has a different style and character. Walk all the way to the old lighthouse to enjoy a different perspective of the harbor or choose a table in a seaside taverna. Enjoy a glass of fresh orange juice and soak in the views of the old port.
The old Venetian port was built in the 13th century. It was a trading port that the Venetian merchants used during their long rule of the island. Later on, when the Ottoman Empire conquered Crete, it was also used by the Turkish Navy.
The Lighthouse in the old Venetian port of Rethymnon is another Egyptian lighthouse, just like the one in Chania’s old town. It’s a nine-meter structure which stands on the old sea wall. You can a closer look walking along that wall to access the old faro.
During the 180s, the Turkish handed the rule of the island to the Egyptian government who built the present lighthouse. However, many believe that it stands on top of an older lighthouse built by the Venetians, just as in Chania.
3. Shop for Local Products in the Old Town of Rethymnon
There are endless artisan shops in the alleys of the old town where you can get anything you want. From locally made crafts to olive oil, raki, or the sweeter version made with honey (rakomelo). You can also purchase cosmetics, antiques, leather products, and musical instruments, to mention a few.
If you’re looking for the perfect souvenir, check the different workshops in town. Painters, sculptors, and artisans sell jewelry, paintings, figures sculpted in wood, masks, and even lamps.
Don’t miss a visit to the open public market (only on certain days of the week). You will be able to discover the local tastes, including fresh vegetables, seasonal fruit, and a wide variety of cheeses from the region.
1 Day in Rethymnon
The old town of Rethymnon is fairly small but there are so many things to do that usually a morning in town is not enough. If you’re willing to discover more or if you have a few extra hours, it’s not hard to come up with ideas about things to do in the afternoon. Before moving on, though, let’s go for a quick lunch in town.
Lunch On the Go
To make the most of your day in Rethymnon, grab a quick lunch, and keep walking and exploring. These are a few convenient options for a fast lunch. Here’s where to eat a quick lunch in Rethymnon:
Mojo Burgers: For years one of Rethymnon’s top places for freshly-made hamburgers with original ingredients (you can add to your sandwich virtually anything you want). Don’t forget to write your message on the wall once you’re done with your meal. Mojo Burgers is near the new port of the city.
(Damvergi Street, old town).
Takis Place Beer – Restaurant: Right opposite Paralias Rethymnon (the city beach), it serves quick dishes and a great selection of beers. The restaurant also offers sunbeds on the beach with drinks included.
(Sofokli Venizelou 48, opposite the city beach of Rethymnon).
Gorgona: Also located on the main street facing the sea, Gorgona offers delicious and abundant meat plates, souvlaki, and gyro dishes for convenient prices.
(Sofokli Venizelou 46, opposite the city beach of Rethymnon).
Kokkinos Bros: One of my favorite food joints in town when it comes to quick dishes, full of flavor, and at very convenient prices. You can go for pizza, souvlaki, gyro, skepasti (double the size of a gyro!), apaki (curated pork), and – my favorite – their amazing selection of fried sikotaria (offals including liver and sweetbread).
(17 Agn. Stratioti Square).
Katsarolaki: Another simple place with great traditional dishes, fast and friendly service, and budget prices.
(Mark. Portaliou 19 – in the modern city of Rethymnon).
Nikos Souvlaki: A favorite place in town for gyros, Nikos Souvlaki has been serving pita wraps for many years, and, according to those returning, flavors get better and better. Very convenient prices too.
(Arkadiou 70, old town).
Three Things to Do in Rethymnon in the Afternoon
So the morning has gone by really quickly, it’s time to enjoy your afternoon in town now…
4. Explore the Turkish Past of Rethymnon
One thing that usually surprises visitors is the impressive amount of Turkish buildings that still survive in town. The old town skyline has tall minarets which have been recently refurbished and embellished. There are also mosques and the typical Turkish balconies made of wood, covering the Venetian facades of dozens of buildings.
If you have some extra time, visit a Turkish hammam. Some of them offer special beauty treatments in some very beautiful buildings.
In town, you can find Crete’s most vivid example of Ottoman architecture, so take some time to check the Turkish sights well worth exploring in the old town.
Mosques of Rethymnon
We’ve already mentioned the magnificent mosque inside the Rethymnon’s Fortress, Sultan Ibrahim Han Mosque.
This is one of the prettiest Turkish buildings in town with an impressive dome that can be seen even from the distant highway.
Once the Franciscan church of the Holy Mary, Neratze Mosque hosts the tallest and most impressive minaret in town, dating back to 1890. The Ottoman rulers added impressive domes to the structure of the building too.
The structure now hosts the Municipal School of Music, with stunning acoustic features of the building.
One more mosque worth a visit is the former church of Agia Varvara transformed into Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque during the Ottoman rule of the island.
Although the building cannot be visited inside, it’s located in an open garden and it’s possible to appreciate the fine architecture of the building, as well as the water fountain and abandoned carved gravestones that lie in the gardens.
5. Discover the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon
The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon is currently hosted in the fantastic church and former monastery of Saint Francis, in the old town. So, you can admire the interesting collection of archaeological findings but also discover one of the most gorgeous buildings in the city, dating back to Venetian times.
The museum is famous for a collection of Minoan funerary chests, known as larnax (from the Late Neolithic to the Proto-Minoan times). Other findings include tools, figurines, coins, weapons and helmets, magnificent Minoan jewelry, and ceramic collections too.
If you want to buy replicas you need to visit the Venetian Loggia, which also works as the museum shop. The Loggia, a fantastic building from the Venetian period features refined Venetian architecture
Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon
(4, Agiou Fragiskou Street, Church of Agios Fragiskos)
Opening hours: 10 am – 6 pm (Summer) | 8 am – 3 pm (Winter)
Ticket: 2€ (students 1€, children free) – Time needed to visit: About 2 hours.
>Check some other top museums in the region<
6. Check a Traditional Pastry Shop
Get a close-up look at the tastes and most authentic traditions of the island, with a visit to Giorgos Hatziparaschos‘ pastry shop. The workshop is in a beautiful old Venetian house, in the heart of the old town of Rethymnon.
Here, it’s possible to meet Mr. Giorgos the last traditional phyllo master in the city. Every day, Mr. Giorgos, with the help of his son and grandson, prepares handmade kadaifi pastry and phyllo. A craft he has mastered since WWII.
When you visit, buy a small tray of his delicious baklava to taste on the go… and a few more to take as a sweet souvenir of the Old Town of Rethymnon.
Dinner in Rethymnon
Don’t go far from the alleys of the old town to enjoy dinner in one of Rethymnon’s most famous restaurants.
Avli Lounge is set in a uniquely beautiful garden in a romantic Venetian villa right in the heart of the old town. Combining fresh local ingredients and a superb dose of creativity, Avli has been serving outstanding Cretan dishes for over 20 years.
Katerina and her dedicated staff also offer beautifully crafted cooking lessons for those who want to discover the secrets of the Cretan diet. The restaurant also boasts a unique wine list and a beautiful wine tasting room and cellar with glass floors exhibiting a former Turkish hammam.
Not far from the restaurant, visit Avli Raw Materials, a small boutique where they sell Cretan products such as olive oil and sweets.
From their menu…
Try their Greek Degustation Menu with Greek wine pairing.
Avli is also well-known for its creative pies and local salads. A must-try? Sfakiano, a super dish made with very tender local lamb cooked with local herbs and baked potatoes.
Dial (+30) 2831 058250 to book a table at Avli (Xanthodidou 22, Old Town of Rethymnon)
>Check also these other restaurants in Rethymnon<
Spend the Night in Rethymnon
Do you want to drive around and be free to explore more? Check this step-by-step guide to driving in Crete.
Love this itinerary? Explore all the places to see in Rethymno and then plan your personal trip.
>Before going to sleep, spend some time in one of these local bars<
Rethymnon in 2-3 Days
At first, I thought of this itinerary as a 1 day in town + 1 day trip in the regional unit of Rethymnon, the perfect 2-day in Rethymnon trip. However, it’s very common to devote more time to visit the area.
So, if you have more time available, or if you have picked this town as your destination, the following alternative ideas for day trips or itineraries are just perfect for your second, third… or even fourth day in Rethymnon.
Choose just one, two, or even all of them if you have more time.
All these itineraries are flexible, so it’s possible to combine them according to the things you want to see and do in Rethymnon.
Do you prefer an organized tour? No worries!
>Check these great tours in and from Rethymnon<
More of Rethymnon City Itinerary
If you enjoyed dinner in Avli, as previously recommended, go for their unique Cretan breakfast and then walk along the sea to reach the city beach. Spend some hours by the sea if you feel like swimming but don’t feel like driving along the coast.
Locally known as Paralias Rethymnon, the beach is opposite a popular strip full of restaurants and tavernas. It’s possible to rent a sunbed and spend the day by the sea. Of course, this is not the best beach in the region, but it’s a good option to spend just a few hours by the sea.
One can never get enough of the old traditional alleys of Rethymnon. If your first day in the city was not enough, spend some more time discovering the Venetian buildings and take advantage of this walk to taste some of the excellent pastries produced in the town.
One of my favorite places for a sweet treat is Gaias Gevsis, a small shop near Porta Guora, at 17 Eth. Antistaseos Street, is known for frying the best fresh loukoumades that they serve hot with delicious honey syrup. This little shop is a must for me and my kids every time I visit Rethymnon.
Ice Cream stop
Head to the heart of the old town to check the beautiful Rimondi fountain, drink a few sips of water flowing from it in order to make a come back to Rethymnon, and choose one of the ice cream parlors or cafeterias that surround the square.
Considered a hotspot in town, and a place where locals meet, it’s always a great idea to spend a few hours watching the city go by. After your sweet treat, reach the nearby church of Our Lady of the Angels for a visit.
Rethymnon for Foodies Itinerary
Plan a morning drive to the village of Skepasti and pay a visit to Klados Winery located in the area.
Not everyone is aware that the most famous grape variety from Crete, Vidiano, has its origins in the Rethymnon region.
This local winery produces just a few labels which you can sample while touring the vineyards.
>Read more about this winery in this article<
Drive inland to the mountain village of Asteri to discover the Folklore Museum established in the village, Poliou House.
Inside the museum, you will be able to explore the former way of living in Crete’s houses, learn about the furniture used, the ways of cooking, and the tools used to work in the fields.
Yet, the most delicious thing you can do in Poliou House is to sit at one of its tables and enjoy dishes such as the meat stew with onions, the homemade raki and wines, and their unique spoon sweets made with fruit sourced locally.
Rethymnon Itinerary for Beach Lovers
All-day trip to the South of Rethymnon
Set to the south of the region early in the morning to discover some of the best-known beaches in Crete.
Plakias is a small village located on the coast of the Libyan sea where there are many beaches to spend their day.
Only 5 km away from Plakias, you can also visit the fantastic beach of Damnoni. I have included some of them in my article about the best nudist beaches in Crete, some of these shores are a paradise for naturism!
The area is a great place for subaquatic sports and there are several immersion schools in the area as well.
Plakias, Damnoni, and Rodakino are great to relax since these beaches are usually not very crowded. Instead, if you prefer a more vibrant atmosphere, more shops, and beach facilities, drive all the way to Agia Galini, a popular resort 61 km from the capital of the region.
Rethymnon Adventurous Itinerary
All-day trip: Alternative 1 – Amari
Drive all the way from the city center to the Valley of Amari to get a close-up view of the impressive Mount Psiloritis, the highest peak on Crete with its 2,456 meters.
>Read about Amari here<
In the area, discover the different villages to experience the traditions of the island, talk with the friendly locals, and enjoy a unique lunch in a village taverna.
Take a few minutes to discover the small village of Thronos as well as its tiny Byzantine church with ancient frescoes. A walk in the valley will reward you with unique landscapes.
All-day trip: Alternative 2 – Patsos Gorge
As you probably know already, the island of Crete is famous for the many gorges that cross its three mountain ranges. In Rethymnon, the beautiful Patsos Gorge, also known as Saint Anthony Gorge, is a great place for a day trip.
Considered rather easy to hike, Patsos is a great outdoor adventure for all ages. Its impressive lush landscape and several natural water sources make it a fantastic place to explore.
Rethymnon for Families Itinerary
Alternative 1: Triopetra
Depart early in the morning driving south Rethymnon.
Get on the road that passes through the village of Spili to reach any of these three beaches.
Choose the one that better adapts to your family beach style. Triopetra and Ligres beaches have rather easy access for smaller kids, while for Preveli you need to hike before getting to the coast, consider that if you’re traveling with children.
Alternative 2: Ligres
Ligres is a fantastic and isolated beach, no more than 10 minutes away from Triopetra.
Both shores on the southern coast of Rethymnon can easily be seen in one day.
It’s a great idea to reach the South early in the morning, spend a few hours swimming and exploring the rock formations in Triopetra beach, and then move to Ligres for its breathtaking sunsets.
Here, enjoy a traditional and convenient lunch at the taverna overlooking the coast and spend the rest of the afternoon swimming and exploring the waterfalls in Ligres.
The nearby village of Spili is a fantastic place to visit on your way back to the city of Rethymnon.
Alternative 3: Preveli Beach
Undoubtedly, this is one of the most spectacular beaches in South Crete.
Preveli’s main characteristic is the outstanding palm tree grove that borders the Megalos Potamos river crossing the Kourtaliotiko Gorge and ending right in the Libyan sea.
Thanks to the unique landscape, Preveli has a fantastic exotic feeling, it’s also a great location for those who love taking pictures. The beach is not really organized, so it’s a good idea to carry everything you need with you to spend the day.
When in Preveli beach, it’s is a good idea to visit the nearby Preveli Monastery. For more information about this important religious center, check this article about Crete’s most beautiful monasteries.
General Information about Rethymnon
Keep this info at hand when getting ready for a weekend in Rethymnon, Crete…
Rethymnon Hotels: Where to Stay in Rethymnon
Some of my most memorable stays in Crete have been in the old town of Rethymnon. Avli Lounge is a combination of an all-suite hotel and restaurant, with a fantastic wine bar and cellar.
For an adult-only escape, a romantic getaway, or a honeymoon, Pepi Boutique Hotel is one of the most romantic places in town, exclusive for adults.
If you prefer to stay in the modern city and on a budget, check Archipelagos, it has a system of terraces connecting the rooms that allow you to see the old town and the Fortress.
Renting a Car and Driving in Crete
As far as car rental concerns, you might want to read this Guide to car rental & driving in Crete. I’ve written a post with all the information and practical tips you need when visiting Crete, car rental is obviously included.
How to Reach the City of Rethymnon
If you’ve arrived at the airports of Heraklion or Chania, you can get to Rethymnon with the public bus KTEL. Schedules are both online and at the stations. Here you can find additional information about traveling around the island with KTEL.
- Heraklion – Rethymnon: 90 minutes (8,30€)
- Chania – Rethymnon: 60 minutes (6,70€).
Arriving or Departing by Sea: The Port of Rethymnon
The modern Port of Rethymno is near to the Old Venetian Harbor and steps away from the city center. Just a few ferries operate from this port and they mostly do so during summer.
Ports with a connection to the port of Rethymno: Piraeus (Athens), Rafina (Athens), Andros, Ios, Tinos, Milos, Mykonos, Santorini, Naxos, Paros, Heraklion (Crete).
Check ferry tickets to Greece here!
Moving Around by Bus
Buses (KTEL bus company) connect the town of Rethymnon with all tourist places in the region, the most popular destinations include Bali and Panormos on the northern coast, Plakias, Preveli, and Agia Galini in the south. The service is reliable, the schedule has a good frequency, and the prices are quite convenient.
There are also buses connecting Rethymnon with other important centers in Crete, such as Chania and Heraklion.
Which of the above things would you like to do in Rethymnon?
Let me know in the comments below!
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Pin This Guide About What to Do in Rethymnon in 1, 2, or 3 Days!
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. On the island, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in summer, translating, and freelance writing.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published several travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.
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