The Most Fantastic Things to Do in Rethymnon, For an Amazing Holiday in Crete


If you are wondering what are the top things you can do in Rethymnon, this is the guide for you. 
Rethymnon is the third biggest city in Crete and it’s located halfway between the capital, Heraklion and Chania.

Rethymnon has one of the best-preserved old districts on Crete with aristocratic buildings from the 15th and 16th centuries. Narrow streets, a small Venetian harbor, and an impressive Venetian Fortress are some of the must-sees.

If you are planning a trip to Crete and you want to see this city, let me guide you through some of the best things to do in Rethymnon town, Greece.

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Top Things to Do in Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

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What’s in a Name? Rethymno or Rethymnon?

things to do in rethymnon

Rethymno (Greek: Ρέθυμνο), as locals call it, is also written Rethimno, Rethymnon, Réthymnon, and Rhíthymnos, it all depends on the transliteration into Latin characters since Greek pronunciation cannot always be exactly transliterated. Both spellings are correct.

I’ve decided to use the word “Rethymnon” throughout the post since this is what visitors usually call it. 

To be fair, though, Rethymno is the way we call it on the island.

The same could be said of the capital, locals don’t say “Heraklion“, but that’s the way visitors and guidebooks call it.

Dolphins of Rethymno.

Dolphins of Rethymno, with the Greek inscription “ΡΙΘΥ” (Rithy, from Rithymnia). (Source: Wikipedia).

is more or less /ˈɾeˌθɪmno/ pronounced: *ré (like in red) – thee – mno.

The name dates back in time, modern Rethymnon flourished upon the ancient Rhithymna and the adjacent Arsinoe, during the Minoan era.

Rhithymna was an important civilization center that even minted its own coins with maritime emblems (the best-known one includes two dolphins in a circle).

At present, the city is the capital of the regional unit or prefecture of Rethymnon, the third in importance in Crete. 

General Information about Rethymnon

Regional unit: Rethymnon
Location: North coast of Crete, between the western region of Chania and the central region of Heraklion.
Latitude: N 35.367647
Longitude: E 24.473608

Map of Rethymnon & Location

Rethymnon map with things to do in Rethymnon

Distances to Rethymnon from Crete’s Main Cities

  • Sitia – Rethymnon: 204 km, 3 h. 10 m.
  • Agios Nikolaos – Rethymnon: 139 km, 2 h.
  • Heraklion – Rethymnon: 80 km, 1 h. 15 m.
  • Chania – Rethymnon: 68 km, 1 h.

Fantastic Things to Do in Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

When I host experiences and tours in my city, Chania, it’s common to hear guests saying that they will only visit Rethymnon for a day or two.

That’s the reason why it might be impossible for you to do everything I recommend on the list.

However, it can work as a perfect thing to do in Rethymnon’s list of activities to choose from.

This way, you can decide what you would really like to do and plan the perfect visit to Rethymnon.

If you have questions or ideas, add them to the comments at the end of the article, this way I can improve this list and make sure you have the best experience in Crete.

So now, if everyone’s ready, let’s go and explore some fun things to do in Rethymnon!

Visit the Old Town of Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

One of the best-preserved old towns in Crete is certainly the old town of Rethymnon with its unique Cretan Renaissance style.

The old city mixes Venetian-style architecture with the influences of Turkish-Ottoman rule.

To discover the old town better, you can join this Rethymnon street food tour with historic highlights run by a local.

Rethymnon Old Town: Architectural Traits

things to do in rethymnon

The Republic of Venice conquered Crete in 1204, that’s why most towns and villages still preserve distinct architectural traits.

Buildings were erected by the Venetians and later on by the Cretan murari, local builders trained by the conquerors. 

A characteristic of Rethymnon’s layout is that the city is open to the sea, while other coastal towns, such as Chania and Heraklio, were closed for defensive reasons.

things to do in rethymnon

There used to be gothic buildings as well but they were destroyed in 1571, with the attack of the Turkish corsair Ulu Ali.

After that, Rethymnon was rebuilt at the end of the 16th century.

The Ottoman Empire got hold of the city in 1648, occupying Crete until 1898. That’s the reason behind the opulent Turkish houses in Rethymnon.

Venetian buildings were refurbished and restored following their taste and style, normally with heavy use of wood.

things to do in rethymnon
things to do in rethymnon

The limestone was replaced by wooden frames while the walls received a heavy layer of plaster. Another typical feature is an upper balcony projecting out over the street, also known as a harem window or mashrabiya.

This way, houses gained a few extra meters of living space, allowing for a good view of the street without being seen.

The old town of Rethymnon features a myriad of Venetian and Turkish monuments which clearly depict the past of the city, a visit to some of these buildings is certainly a good answer if you’re still wondering what to do in Rethymnon.

Porta Guora and the Minaret of Valide Sultana

Entrance to the old town, door, path
Porta Guora.

Known by the name of Porta Guora but also as Megali Porta or Great Gate of Rethymnon, this gate has really changed as time went by.

It’s still possible to recognize this entrance to the city’s fortifications from the 1570s.

The door was named Guora after the Rector of Rethymnon, Iacopo Guoro.

The archway originally had a triangle over the top with a relief of Venice’s Lion of St. Mark. Currently, you can see the badly-damaged relief exhibited in the Archaeological  Museum.

Passing through the door towards the modern city, you will reach the Four Martyrs’ Square and the imposing church. The door is the southern tip of the old town.

Rimondi Fountain

Rimondi Fountain,Rethymnon
Rimondi Fountain.

Typically, another thing you can do in Rethymnon is to drink water from one historical landmark in town: Rimondi Fountain.

To visit, you will need to walk to Platanos Square, right in the center of the old Venetian town. The fountain was built by one of the city rectors, A. Rimondi, back in 1626.

Rimondi Fountain has three water basins with the characteristic lion head, as well as three columns with an inscription in Latin.

The central basin also has the coat of arms of the Rimondi family.

things to do in rethymnon

The fountain was used to partially cover the drinking water needs in the old town. Until today, it continues to spring water through the lions’ heads.

Locals agree that drinking from the fountain secures a trip back to the city.

The Venetian Loggia

things to do in rethymnon

The Loggia is a remarkable building in the heart of the old town.

It has been part of Rethymno’s scene since the 16th century, and it’s one of the works left on the island by the famous Veronese architect Michele Sanmichelli.

The Loggia’s main purpose was to host the meetings of prominent rulers and politicians who would gather there to discuss public affairs.

The square building has imposing arches and a courtyard.

The Venetian Loggia was also a mosque during the Ottoman occupation. It had a minaret, which was demolished later on.

For over 40 years, the Loggia has hosted the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon, now in a different location.

Nowadays, it hosts a shop selling reproductions of local art and archaeological findings.

>> You can read everything about Rethymnon’s former mosques here.

Fortezza, Explore the Venetian Fortress of Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

The Origins of Rethymnon’s Fortezza

Another beautiful attraction in Rethymno is the Fortezza. The structure dates back to the 16th century.

It’s open to the public and you reach it going up from the old town or following the seaside road starting from Rethymno’s bus station or from the Venetian Port. 

The fortress dominates the town from Paleokastro, a low hill whose name means ‘Old Castle”.

Different sources state that this was probably the acropolis of ancient Rithymna and that there was also a Sanctuary for Apollo and Artemis.

things to do in rethymnon

The constant Ottoman threat during the Venetian period led to the reorganization of local military protection, with new walls being completed between 1540 and 1570.

However, the Fortezza was not enough to protect the city from the attack of the corsair Ulu Ali, who invaded and destroyed Rethymnon.

Venetian Reconstruction of Rethymnon’s Fortezza

Rethymno fortezza
The details of the walls.

Rethymnon needed more effective protection, and that’s how one of the biggest bastions of Crete was born between 1573 and 1580.

Among the unique characteristics was that the outside walls had an outward inclination to make the missiles bounce off to avoid damage to the structure.

In any case, despite its imposing size, the Ottoman Empire managed to invade and take over the city in 1646 after about 20 days of siege.

What to See in the Fortezza of Rethymnon

Inside the Fortezza of Rethymnon, the dome of the Mosque in the back.
Inside the Fortezza, the dome of the Mosque is in the back.

Inside the complex, you can visit the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han (formerly the Cathedral of St. Nicholas), which has a remarkable domed ceiling covered in tiles.

Near the mosque, there’s a smaller building – probably the residence of the local Bishop.

It’s also curious to learn that the cathedral was Catholic and not Orthodox, this implies that the ultimate function of the Fortress was to offer protection only to the Venetians and not to the Cretan population.

Inside the fortress also visit the churches of Agios Theodoros and Agia Ekaterini, both more recent, built to celebrate the expulsion of the Turks.

There are also gunpowder magazines and water tanks.

Worth a visit is the Bastion of Saint Lucas, with an impressive ramp for the cannon and ammunition. The view from the seaside control towers is really fantastic too.

The Venetian Fortezza of Rethymnon is one of the best-preserved castles in Crete.

The tickets start from 4 €, with a reduced fee for senior citizens (ID required). The fortress is open to the public with the following timetable:

  • June to September: 08:00-19:15
  • October to May: 10:00-17:00
Spending a couple of hours walking around the fortress is among the top things to do in Rethymnon, Crete.

Check the Venetian Port of Rethymnon and the Lighthouse

Rethymnon at Night

Walking away from the Fortezza, following the coastal road, it’s possible to reach the old harbor and the lighthouse, both of great strategic importance during the Venetian era.

The vaulted spaces in the seafront buildings have been turned into picturesque (but a bit expensive) fish restaurants.

If you are looking for a convenient and more authentic Cretan dinner, reaching the inner alleys of the old town or the modern city is always better.

The Venetian Port of Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

Along with the beautiful lighthouse, the Venetian port is one of the most attractive places to visit.

Currently out of use, except for a few fishing boats, it has been replaced by the nearby modern port. This old harbor was already active on the island during the Byzantine rule.

However, its more active period dates to the Venetian times when it was one of the island’s most vibrant centers of commerce.

The small Egyptian lighthouse overlooks the entrance to the old port, making the whole area one of the most beautiful places in the old town.

Walking all the way to the lighthouse is definitely one of the must-do things in Rethymnon’s harbor.

The Egyptian Lighthouse

things to do in rethymnon

Another beautiful sight of Rethymnon is the Egyptian Lighthouse, which dates back to the 1830s. It’s the second-largest (9 m tall) Egyptian lighthouse still standing in Crete, after the one in Chania’s Old Town (26 m tall).

It’s on the edge of the old sea wall of the old town. Many believe that there was an older Venetian lighthouse in the place.

The Egyptian Lighthouse is definitely a sight you must check in the old town of Rethymno, it adds a unique character to the port and the views at sunset are really romantic.

Check the Mosques in Rethymnon Old Town

things to do in rethymnon
The mosque in Rethymnon’s Fortezza is not the only mosque in town.

Besides the impressive square mosque inside the Fortezza, you can also find clear memories of the Ottoman rule in town.

The city’s landscape is not just made of the many Turkish houses still standing, but there are also many mosques in Rethymnon’s Old Town

Neratze Mosque

things to do in rethymnon

Before the Ottoman rule, the Neratze mosque was the Church of Holy Mary.

It was converted into a mosque at the end of the 1600s. But it currently hosts a music conservatory and the Municipal School of Music of Rethymnon.

Three domes replaced the roof of the original church, while the minaret dates back to 1890.

The building is mainly used for music concerts due to its impressive acoustics.

Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque

things to do in rethymnon

The Kara Moussa Pasha mosque got its name after the Turkish commander of the naval campaigns against Rethymnon.

It’s located where the Venetian monastery of Agia Varvara used to be.

The mosque’s courtyard has the rests of the minaret, several grave steles, and a mausoleum where the Pasha is probably buried.

Mosque of Valide Sultana

things to do in rethymnon

During the last years of the 1600s, the Ottomans built a mosque next to the Guora Gate.

Locally known as the Mosque of Megali Porta, its original name is the Mosque of Valide Sultana (who was Sultan Ibrahim’s mother).

The mosque’s minaret dates back to 1878 and adds character to the city’s skyline.

Veli Pasha Mosque

things to do in rethymnon

The Veli Pasha Mosque  (Veli Paşa Camii in Turkish) is also known as the Mastaba Mosque, and it is now home to the Paleontological Museum of Rethymno.

This historical religious building from the Ottoman period was originally built back in the seventeenth century (around 1651) outside the city walls where an older church used to stand (Saint Onouphrius church).

This mosque underwent heavy damage during WWII and was later restored to house the local Paleontological Museum.

The building features nine domes, six small ones on the roof and three larger domes on the portico.

The mosque has a tall minaret dated a little later than the mosque itself (1789), making it the oldest surviving minaret in town.

Visit Rethymnon’s Remarkable Churches

Check out these stunning churches in town…

Holy Church of the Four Martyrs

things to do in rethymnon
things to do in rethymnon

One of the most important churches in Rethymno is immediately outside the old town. The Church of the Four Martyrs (Tesseris Martyres in Greek) is a must-see.

It’s dedicated to saints Aggelis, Manolis, Georgios, and Nikolaos, who were martyred in 1824 for not converting to Islam.

The four martyrs were Crypto-Christians (i.e. they pretended to have converted but maintained their Orthodox Christian faith).

The church has three aisles and features impressive frescoes and icons. It’s not such an old construction (1975); however, its style, magnificence, and serenity easily remind you of older sanctuaries.

Church of Our Lady of the Angels

Our Lady of the Angels (Kyria ton Angelon in Greek) is a small Greek Orthodox church originally dedicated to Mary Magdalen.

It’s in the center of the old town, very close to Rimondi Fountain, and it was built by the Order of the Dominicans almost at the end of the Venetian rule.

During the Turkish period, it was transformed into a mosque, including a minaret and a mihrab.

It came back to the Christian faith in 1917 and was dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels. Locals call it the church of the Little Virgin (or Mikri Panagia).

Catholic Church of Saint Anthony of Padua

This small Neoclassical church inside the old town is near the Venetian port.

The construction in a timeframe of a year was possible thanks to the Catholic Polish soldiers stationed on the island to maintain peace between the Cretans and the Turks.

Holy Metropolitan Church of Rethymnon

Dedicated to the Presentation of the Virgin Mary, this church saw three distinct periods in its history.

It began as a tiny church constructed during the Venetian era, which was demolished in 1844 and replaced by a larger shrine.

The church was rebuilt in 1956 as a three-aisled basilica with imposing wood carvings and icons. This temple is also the seat of the local archbishop.

After a visit to the church, it’s also possible to check their Ecclesiastical Museum located on the ground floor.

Church of Agios Frangiskos

Another remarkable building in Rethymno is the church of Agios Frangiskos, the most important church of the local Franciscan monastery.

The only areas currently open to the public are its outside courtyards.

Close to the church, you can also glimpse the Turkish School, the oldest school in town.

Museums in Rethymnon

Check out these museums in town…

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Greek_inscription_Eleutherna_600-450_BC_AM_Rethymno.jpg
Archaic Greek inscription (boustrophedon script), a law against excessive drinking from Ancient Eleftherna, 600-450 BC. (Zde – Wikimedia Commons)

Suppose you are interested in the past of the area but also want to visit part of Agios Frangiskos church. In that case, the Archaeological Museum will offer you the chance to do both since the museum has temporarily relocated to the premises of the church.

There are interesting pieces belonging to the Minoan Civilization.

Museum entrance fee: €2.
Check their website for an updated timetable – Or check more Rethymnon Museums

History & Folklore Museum Of Rethymnis

things to do in rethymnon
(This photo is courtesy of Tripadvisor).

This museum is located in a Venetian mansion of the 17th century.

The permanent collection includes traditional crafts and folklore art from Crete, and it’s a place of research for preserving the Cretan popular culture and traditions (Vernardou Street, 28).

Paleontological Museum

One excuse to explore another Rethymnon Muslim monument is to visit the Paleontological Museum in the restored Mosque of Veli Pasha, in the quarter of Mastampa out of the old town.

The museum is especially interesting, and it has dedicated access and facilities for disabled visitors. (Markellou Street, Mastampa).

The Center for Cretan Folk Art

In this “living museum,” you will see many traditional Cretan crafts that we’re sadly losing on the island.

Among the different artisans, there are people skilled in pottery, wood sculptures, weaving, embroidering, and bookbinding.

It’s also possible to take classes with the craftsmen and to buy their creations. The main aim of the Center is to promote and support Cretan folk art, which has survived until today.

Meet the Local Artisans
(One of the Best Things to Do in Rethymnon!)

things to do in rethymnon

Komboloi, or Worry Beads

Not far from the Church of the Four Martyrs, walking opposite the Porta Guora, you can have a first-hand experience of one of the most authentic traditions in Greece.

If I were you, I wouldn’t skip this from my what to do in the Rethymnon list!

things to do in rethymnon
things to do in rethymnon

There, a tiny shop that wouldn’t normally attract tourists sells beautiful komboloi. Thanks to the huge komboloi next to their window, you will easily spot the place.

A komboloi is a string of beads that men usually manipulate when sitting at a café or even while walking. An instrument to relax or to cope with anxiety.

Despite the current secular use, their origin is religious and dates a long way back in time, when Mount Athos monks made beads by tying knots to say their prayers.

The beads can be made of amber, wood, and coral.

They normally come in odd numbers and have one head of a fixed bead (the “priest”) and a shield dividing the two threads of beads.

Musical Instruments from Crete

Stop at the Cretan Lyra, a shop selling musical instruments where you can appreciate the difference between the Minoan Lyra, the Cretan Lyra, the Mandolin, and the Bouzouki, as well as see an Askomandoura (a Greek folk instrument similar to an Irish bagpipe).

Rethymno for Families with Crete Urban Adventures
Cretan Lyra.

Music is a very ancient craft in Greece; it can be traced back in time and is related to Pythagoras and his philosophical system of harmony and sequence.

According to the philosopher, each of the seven planets produces a particular note related to its distance from the Earth.

This is known as Musica Mundana, or Music of the Spheres. Tradition says that the sound produced is so exquisite that our ears cannot hear it.

Best Traditional Place in Town: Phyllo Pastry

things to do in rethymnon

It’s true that, when it comes to tastes, everyone has their own. But if I had to choose one – and only one – thing to do in Rethymnon, this would be it.

No building, museum, or mosque beats the experience of visiting Mr. Giorgos Hatziparaschos’s workshop. I’ve been there many times, and it’s always a pleasure to return.

I wrote a special article about this place for the Greek Reporter as well. 

Inside a Venetian house in the old town, Mr. Giorgos is the last traditional phyllo master who has been making ultra-thin phyllo pastry by hand since the times of the II World War.

Thousands have visited his workshop to buy his well-known handmade phyllo and admire both him and his wife, Mrs. Katerina, at work.

His son told us that Mr. Giorgos started working as an apprentice when he was about twelve and went on making phyllo all his life.

It’s still possible to see his dexterous hands working the dough over two huge tables.

His ability captured our children when he tossed the dough in the air, giving shape to an enormous air bubble! 

Against the unstoppable arrival of massive manufacture, Mr. Giorgos and his family have continued the tradition of homemade and handmade values with love and extreme dedication, producing one of the most beloved treasures of Rethymnon.

Paying a visit to the phyllo pastry workshop of the Hatziparaschos family is one of the best things to do in Rethymnon!

Best Bars and Restaurants in Rethymnon

Check some of the best places in town for a drink or a snack…

Authentic Greek Coffee

One of the best things you can do in Rethymno is to taste a proper cup of coffee.

Avoid modern cafeterias to explore one of the most deeply rooted Greek rituals, the kafenion.

Greek coffee.
Greek coffee.

The Greek café, the kafenion, is a traditional coffeehouse, but that’s saying the least of it.

Kafenia or traditional coffee houses are an important piece of Greece’s life, they are magical places that capture the local flavor of the country and its people who spend hours over a cup of coffee engaged in friendly conversation.

These cafés are normally frequented by men who drink Greek coffee, ouzo, or raki, have animated chats with friends, or play backgammon (tavli).

Even when women are not officially banned from them, they are most often populated by men.

Raki Ba Raki

things to do in rethymnon
things to do in rethymnon

A place I vividly recommend is Raki Ba Raki. This is a modern reinterpretation of the classic Cretan Rakadiko (a kind of kafenio serving small dishes and local raki or tsikoudia).

The mezedes (small Greek tapas) are super generous and creative, while the atmosphere is relaxing and authentic. Raki Ba Raki is like an old grocery store with original decoration.

It has excellent raki and the most creative mezedes in town. 

Avli Lounge

things to do in rethymnon

There’s a place I honestly love in Rethymno, Avli, a restaurant set in a delicious and romantic Cretan garden (in fact, avli means garden in Greek) with aromas of local herbs. Here, you can read a full review of Avli.

Their outstanding menu takes pride in using fresh raw materials and loads of creativity. If you can, do taste their Cretan breakfast!

Do check their wine list and cellar, and if you are in the mood to splurge, book a room in their exclusive boutique hotel; you won’t regret any minute of it.

Prima Plora

things to do in rethymnon
(Source: Avli).
Prima Plora rethymno
(Source: Prima Plora).

Certified organic ingredients and a creative sushi menu are at the core of Prima Plora, a restaurant and wine bar right by the sea, a few minutes from the Old Town. You will enjoy your meal by the sea and discover a modern twist to local raw materials.

A Bite on the Go

Not all food is about fine dining. If you want a quick bite or some homemade Greek food at very convenient prices, check Kokkinos for pizza, gyros, and local dishes (Platia Agnostou Stratioti).

Zisis Taverna is a family restaurant that has been serving homemade dishes since 1972. It’s quite popular among the locals also for its facilities for children and parking spots. Zisis is about 4 km from the center (Misiria, Amariotikos Junction, on the old highway Rethymnon – Heraklion).

Finally, a favorite of mine when staying out of the old town is Pagonas Place, which is ideal for authentic dishes.

Don’t be surprised if, while you’re eating, the owner’s mom is classifying the freshly picked herbs on a table next to you. At Pagonas Place, try their keftedes (meatballs).

The tiny restaurant is in the village of Platanias, close to the road that takes to you Arkadi Monastery (Nikeas street, 2).

Things to Do Near Rethymnon: Best Day Trips from Rethymnon

Wine Tasting in Rethymnon

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I have a thing for Cretan wines.

things to do in rethymnon

Despite being Heraklion the most popular wine region on the island, Rethymnon also deserves a special place in the local wine scene, because the region is home to the Cretan variety star, Vidiano

Klados is one of the wineries in Rethymnon open for visits and wine tasting and it’s also one of my favorite wineries on the island, you can read all about Klados labels here.

The winery is near the village of Skepasti, 25km east of the city. Check Klados’ Facebook page for more information, opening hours, and directions. You won’t regret adding the visit to your list of things to do in Rethymnon, Crete!

Another new family winery you can visit in Rethymnon is Kourkoulou. I still have to visit their premises and will do so soon.

However, I had the chance to taste their rosés at the last two Cretan wine fairs, and I must say I can’t wait to taste some more.

Kourkoulou is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday and from 10.30 to 17.00. Here you can check the directions to get there.

Visit the Village of Asteri

If you are looking for a place to stay not far from the city but with a Cretan feel, check the Asteri village. It’s about 15 km from Rethymno, allowing you to visit the city any time with a quick car ride.

We spent a weekend in Asteri’s Amazing Villas two years ago, just before Christmas, and I must say that the kids had a blast.

Asteri has a significant spot in the history of the island. During the 1866 revolution, the villages of Asteri and Hamalevri were raided by the Turks, who completely destroyed the homes of the Christians.

During the German resistance, starting in 1941, the German soldiers encircled the village and arrested the local men. They executed 14 villagers and burned down every house in the area.

Poliou House was burning for 11 days and underwent severe damage. You can visit a monument honoring the victims of the German resistance close to Poliou House.

Asteri is a tranquil place to stay at a convenient location. From there, it’s easy to reach Melidoni Cave, the village of Anogia, Arkadi Monastery, and the Archaeological Site of Eleftherna

Poliou House

things to do in rethymnon

For those looking to discover the most authentic Cretan lifestyle, a visit to Poliou House is a must.

The house is a folkloric museum where it’s possible to learn and see how houses on the island used to be a long time ago. 

Other than learning more about the peasant life of Crete, in Poliou, you can enjoy a relaxed lunch or dinner made with fresh local ingredients.

Among the best choices are the rabbit stew, the goat, and the salads. Taste their cheeses as well as the homemade wine and raki.

Admire the Beautiful Arkadi Monastery

things to do in rethymnon

I’ve visited Arkadi a few times since moving to the island, and I always find new things about its history and beautiful architecture.

Arkadi is one of Crete’s most visited religious sites, and it’s definitely one of the many things you could do in Rethymnon.

Arkadi is the best-known religious place in Crete, with a tragic history that deeply marked the identity of the Cretan people. If you want deeper insight into Arkadi, check this article.

Preveli Monastery, Preveli Beach, and Palm Tree Forest

things to do in rethymnon

With a spare afternoon left, it’s a good idea to visit Preveli Monastery.

It dates back to the Middle Ages, and the history of the place is of huge importance to the local population.

Preveli was an active center for the organization of rebellions against the Turks. The monastery contributed to Crete’s independence and political union with Greece. 

Travel even farther to reach the palm grove and the beach of Preveli, on the opposite side of the island. Preveli lies about 35 kilometers from Rethymno and is certainly one of the best beaches in southern Crete.

The Grand River forms a big lake, opening its way to the sea for over one and a half kilometers.

>> In this article, you can read more about Crete’s monasteries (including Preveli and Arkadi).

In town just for the weekends? Look into this itinerary for 1-3 days in Rethymnon for more things to do.

Amari and Thronos, Two Mountain Villages

Amari valley - Things to do in Crete

 Amari is a small village in Rethymnon near the imposing Mount Psiloritis. Amari Valley is an amazing day trip from Rethymnon and the perfect place to taste staple dishes of the Cretan Diet.

The tiny village of Thronos is a Byzantine gem with humble mountain houses and simple, hospitable people. In Thronos, visit the Church of the Assumption, a small chapel surrounded by the landscape of Amari Valley.

You can read an extensive article about our visit to Amari and Thronos in the post.

Are you Fit? Hike the Psiloritis!

things to do in rethymnon

Mount Ida or Psiloritis is the highest peak on the island (2456). In the Minoan period, Psiloritis used to be a holy place. The big cave known as Idaion Andron is where, according to the myth, Zeus was brought up.

Many visitors climb the Psiloritis in spring, the best season for outdoor activities.

There are at least 4 routes to reach the summit. Those who know better agree that the path starting in Nida Plateau is the easiest one.

Snow can be found on the mountain even in May and June!

Archaeological Site and Museum of Eleftherna

roof, valley, Eleftherna, Crete, archaeological site,

Less than 25 km from Rethymno, the Archaeological Site of Eleftherna and the museum are popular places to visit near Rethymnon.

Also known as Apollonia in ancient times, Eleftherna was an ancient Cretan city-state. Today, it’s possible to visit the excavations that unearthed unique settlements and sanctuaries.

Local Traditions in the Village of Anogia

Anogia is a traditional mountain village in Crete, famous for its history, music, and dances.

Locals also produce and sell beautiful handmade crafts.

This village has a special place in the island’s history for its endless struggle to fight the Germans.

things to do in rethymnon

As a result, over a hundred locals were killed between 1941 and 1944.

The village also received a War Cross award for its heroism. Besides its history, Anogeia retains every characteristic and tradition of our mountain villages.

A slow pace, a tranquil atmosphere, and the legendary Cretan hospitality at its best.

The views of the Psiloritis, as well as the nearby villages in the valleys, are unforgettable If you are really interested in learning other details about Anogia, check this article packed with information about its history and traditions. 

More Adventures: Patsos Gorge

Also known as the Gorge of Saint Anthony, visiting Patsos Gorge is one of Rethymnon’s best things to do.

things to do in rethymnon

It’s only 8 km from the city, in the center of the Amari region. It’s rather easy to hike the gorge, making it an ideal excursion for families with children. 

Why not organize a picnic near the river and enjoy a day surrounded by nature? In the area, discover the church of Agios Antonios, originally an ancient Greek temple dedicated to the god Hermes.

Chill on the Best Beaches in Rethymnon

Kalypso Beach - Access
Kalypso Beach, Rethymnon.

You can check some of Rethymno’s best south beaches, such as Preveli, Plakias, Agios Pavlos, and Triopetra in this article about the best beaches in south Crete.

Or you can discover why the southern coast of Rethymnon is one of the best places to go scuba diving in Greece.

This guide to the best beaches in Rethymnon has more shores to visit in the region.

If you want some privacy or the possibility to swim without any clothes, check this guide to the best nudist beaches of Crete, it includes plenty of beaches in the region of Rethymnon.

Instead, if you want to visit other beaches in the Rethymno region, check the following list.

If you can’t live without spending time by the sea during your holidays, checking the beaches in the south is one of the top things to do in Rethymnon!

Best Beaches in South Rethymnon

If you’re staying in town, you will probably go to the beaches on the northern coast. However, if you rent a car and move around the region, I recommend heading south to find better beaches.

>> Which car rental service is the best to choose? If you want to rent a car for your trip, consider Discover Cars, a worldwide car rental booking engine.

These are some of the top beaches you can check on Rethymnon’s southern coast:

Agia Galini

things to do in rethymnon
The cliffs in Agia Galini.

A well-known -usually crowded- seaside resort on the southern coast of Rethymnon is Agia Galini (61 km from Rethymnon city). It’s a small village with beautiful beaches and rugged caves to explore.

In the area, visit the ruins of an ancient Greek temple or take a long seaside walk. There are also camping facilities.


things to do in rethymnon

About 30 km from Rethymnon town, the village of Rodakino stands at the exit of a steep gorge of the same name.

The settlement is on the side of the gorge overlooking the Libyan Sea, and the beaches are peaceful and lonely. On the other hand, the beach of Korakas is more organized, with restaurants and a few rooms to stay in.

Damnoni Beach

things to do in rethymnon

One of the most popular beaches in south Rethymnon is about 5 km away from the nearby Plakias Beach. Both the beaches and the nearby caves are worth a stop.

The southern breathtaking landscape is at its best in this area, featuring turquoise waters and white sand. 

Triopetra and Ligres

sunset, beach, things to do in Rethymnon

These two are definitely my favorite beaches in the South of Rethymno. Triopetra is excellent for families with children, and Ligres is ideal for couples.

There are more Rethymnon beaches in this guide.

On the northern coast of Rethymnon, instead, you can check out these beaches…


Only 12 km from the city of Rethymnon, the beach of Petres is worth the visit. It has a beautiful sandy beach and clear waters.

There, visit also the Gorge of Petres opening to the sea. You can enjoy snorkeling in the nearby coves, but sometimes the northern wind makes the sea wavy. 


things to do in rethymnon

Geropotamos is one of the nicest beaches in Crete,  about 18 km from Rethymnon.

The nearby river that flows to the sea through the beach gives the name to the area.

things to do in rethymnon

Moreover, in the caves on the west lives the monk seals Monachus Monachus, another protected species on the island.

things to do in rethymnon

The most beautiful feature of the beach is the alluring natural arch formation known as Kamara. The formation is ideal for magnificent pictures.

Be aware when you visit: Sometimes the northern winds make the sea wavy and rather dangerous.


things to do in rethymnon
Bali, Rethymnon.

The seaside resort of Bali is one of the most visited in Crete. Several buses reach it daily from Chania (95 km), Rethymnon (30 km), and Heraklion (43 km).

There are four different beaches popular for those looking for an idyllic place. 

Bali is protected from the winds while the water tends to be cool due to the springs that carry freshwater from Psiloritis.

The name Bali has no relation to the Indonesian location. Instead, the name comes from a Turkish term that means honey. This is because the area used to be famous for the quality of its honey, sadly no longer produced in the area.


Panormos - Crete

Panormos is a beautiful small village about 20 km east of Rethymnon.

The main beach worth visiting is the little port beach of Limanaki, with pristine waters, organized facilities, and perfect for kids since it’s rather shallow and protected from the winds.

Adelianos Kampos

things to do in rethymnon
Adelianos Kampos.

All towns on the north coast of Rethymno offer excellent accommodation a few steps from the sea.

There are convenient Greek tavernas as well. I’ve stayed in this village a few times when the kids were small, and the place is perfect for a tranquil seaside holiday.

Few people visit the beaches, which makes it a good spot for a relaxing day by the sea. In the evening, go for a walk on the main avenue to check the souvenir shops, enjoy a Cretan beer, or even have fun playing mini-golf.

Pigianos Kampos

Eight km east of Rethymnon, this small place offers rental apartments, hotels, and entertainment. On the beach area that goes from Pigianos Kampos to Stavromenos, it’s also possible to snorkel thanks to the several coves. 


Pervolia is an organized beach about 3 km west of Rethymnon. It’s sandy, rather long, and comfortable if you travel with kids. In Perivolia, there’s an ample choice of restaurants and accommodations.

The protected sea turtles Caretta Caretta use this beach to lay their eggs.

Organize your Trip and Stay in Rethymnon
Best Rethymnon Hotels

things to do in rethymnon

There are several ways to visit the area. Some people choose Rethymnon for a day visit, but many extend their stay.

There are many options to sleep in Rethymnon on the hotel strip that stretches facing the beach, both east and west of the city.

An option that works well with families with kids or those interested in seaside relaxation.

Otherwise, you can book a stay in the old town; surrounding yourself with a mix of cultural influences and ages of history.

Stay by the Beach in Rethymnon

Since I live in Chania, I’ve visited Rethymnon many times and stayed in all kinds of hotels. I’ve often chosen Adelianos Kampos twice when traveling with the kids and for longer stays.

I also slept in Georgioupolis for a week, a few years ago, it’s technically in the prefecture of Chania, but still close to Rethymnon. This hotel was particularly beautiful, the staff friendly, and the stay super relaxing, ideal for families. I would love to return.

In the old town, one of my favorite stays was at Pepi Boutique Hotel. You can read my review here.

Stay in Rethymnon’s Mountains

things to do in rethymnon
Pottery village of Margarites

A stay in the mountain village of Asteri allowed me to reach Mount Psiloritis and Rethymnon’s famous monasteries with a short drive. However, there are different mountain villages where you can stay.

Margarites is another pretty village in Rethymnon. It is close to the city and is known as the region’s pottery village.

Spili is a village situated closer to the southern coast. However, it is a beautiful place to stay.

There are plenty of villages scattered around the mountains and valleys in Rethymnon. I’ve included some of them in this post.

And if you want to know the best accommodation in the villages of the island, head here.

Stay in Modern Rethymnon

things to do in rethymnon

Finally, last year -and for work reasons-, I traveled to Rethymno once a week, always spending one or two nights. On all those trips, I always stayed in the city, both in the old town and in modern Rethymno.

The two areas are comfortable. I preferred this hotel in the modern city when I was driving since parking was a lot easier. The aparthotel in the previous link is super convenient.

Tip! Stay in the Old Town of Rethymnon

When reaching Rethymnon by bus., staying in the old town was more comfortable. It allowed me to explore, and it was ideal to enjoy the best dining spots and the magnificent views of the port.

My favorite place in the old town is Avli Suites. And remember, even if you don’t sleep in Avli, try their restaurant!

Finally, nothing like Pepi Boutique Hotel for a romantic stay in town. This superb place – only for adults –  is great for a few nights in Rethymnon and even for a honeymoon in Crete. Here is my review.

How to Get to Rethymno

things to do in rethymnon
Rethymnon Bus Station.

Those arriving at the airports of Heraklion or Chania can reach Rethymnon with the public bus KTEL. Schedules are both online and at the stations.

You can find additional information about traveling around the island with KTEL here.

  • Heraklion – Rethymnon: 90 minutes (8,30€)
  • Chania – Rethymnon: 75 minutes (7,10€).

This guide to car rental & driving in Crete is useful for driving on the island.

How to Move Around In and Near Rethymnon

Ktel, the public bus company, manages the local buses. The service is reliable and the prices very convenient too. Instead, for those interested in more freedom and flexibility to explore, car rental is perfect for such a big island.

I’ve written a post with all the information and practical tips you need when visiting Crete. Car rental is obviously included.
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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking this guide to plan a trip to Crete. Remember to explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and helpful insider secrets. This comprehensive Crete packing list ensures you have everything you need.

When it’s time to plan, explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, and be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches. If you are exploring specific areas like Rethymnon or Chania, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Rethymnon

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I always recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin it Now! What Things to Do in Rethymnon For Your Next Adventures in Crete!

What to do in Rethymnon, Crete

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the island. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

9 thoughts on “The Most Fantastic Things to Do in Rethymnon, For an Amazing Holiday in Crete

  1. Shulamit says:

    Hey, amazing article, thanks a lot! Where is the center for Folk art? Can’t find anything about it when I look, they refer me to the Folk museum. Thanks!

  2. Anna says:

    I haven’t heard of Réthymnon yet, it’s nice to discover this place through your detailed post. Seems like a very much living city with a lot to explore. Very nice and detailed guide!

    • Gabi says:

      Hi Anna, indeed Rethymnon is a place with plenty of things to discover, thanks for passing by and leaving your feedback! Glad you liked this guide!

      • Neda says:

        Hi Gabi. I’m now in Rethymnon with my little family kids 5 mo this and 3y plus husband) 😊and we definitely book a restaurants You recommend, and some more things . I can also add that Thavma Tavern it’s amazing, with a breathtaking view, delicious food and a great owners. Maybe a one of the best places for sunset I ever see.
        We are on Crete 2 weeks, and we thinking to visiting Chania, Elafonsis, Balos… But in the end we want to stay in Rethymnon last 5 days (we be on Heraklion 7 days also) , and next time come to Chania 2 weeks, and explore without run.

        • Gabi says:

          Hi Neda, I am so glad to read that you liked the island, wait until you see Chania next time, and you’ll never want to leave. I’m happy to read about your experiences and now can’t wait to try the place you suggest! It’s now on my to-do list for the next time I’m in Rethymnon. Thanks for keeping me posted!
          All the best

  3. Rachel says:

    What a thorough post! I don’t know much about Crete and had no idea there was so much to do and see in just one area. I love the musical instruments, and the beaches look lovely. I’ll definitely need to get there sometime!

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