10 Best Things to Do in Rethymnon, 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 half-way 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 Rethymno, let me guide you through some of the best things to do there.

What’s in a name? Rethymno or Rethymnon?

Alleys of Rethymnon, Crete. A visit of the old Venetian town os one of the 10 Best Things to do in Rethymnon
Alleys of the old town, 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” all through the post since this is how 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 guide books call it.

As for pronunciation, this could be more or less it /ˈɾeˌθɪmno/  which translates: *ré (like in red) – thee – mno.

Dolphins of Rethymno.
Dolphins of Rethymno, with the Greek inscription “ΡΙΘΥ” (Rithy, as written in ancient coins). (Source: Wikipedia).

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. 

Best things to do in the Old Town of Rethymnon

Alleys of the old town of Rethymno.
Alleys of the old town of Rethymno.

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 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.

Rethymno square
This 10 Best list will help you discover the wonderful 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 the best things to do in Rethymnon!

#1 Visit the Old Town of 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 the Venetian-style architecture with the influences of the Turkish Ottoman rule.

10 best things to do in rethymno, crete: Visit the old town
Rethymnon’s old town.

Architecture

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.

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.

Building, Venetian style, Rethymno.
Venetian style, Rethymno.

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.

Rethymno, Crete:Houses with the characteristic traits of the Turkish architecture.
Houses with the characteristic traits of Turkish architecture.

The limestone was replaced by wooden frames while walls received a heavy layer of plaster. Another typical featured are upper stores projecting out over the street, also known as 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.

Typical architecture of Rethymno, Crete.
Ottoman traditions in the buildings of Rethymno, Crete.

The old town of Rethymnon features a myriad of Venetian and Turkish monuments which clearly depict the past of the city.

Porta Guora and the minaret of Valide Sultana

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 Great Door or Megali Porta, Porta Guora, one of the gates to Rethymno's old town.
The Great Door or Megali Porta, Porta Guora, one of the gates to Rethymno’s old town.

The archway originally had a triangle over the top of 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

Another historical landmark of Rethymno is Rimondi Fountain, in 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.

It 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.

Rimondi Fountain, Rethymnon, Crete
Rimondi Fountain, old town.

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

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

Platanos square and Rimondi fountain.
Platanos square and Rimondi fountain.

The Venetian Loggia

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

It has been part of Rethymno’s scene since the 16th century and it’s one more 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 hosted the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon.

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

#2 Fortezza, explore the Venetian fortress

Rethymno fortezza
The Venetian Fortress.

The origins

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 which 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.

The constant Ottoman threat during the Venetian period, led to the reorganization of the local military protection, with new walls 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.

Rethymno fortezza
The details of the walls.

Venetian reconstruction

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, the outside walls had an outward inclination to make the missiles bounce off to avoid damages to the structure.

In any case, and 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

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

Inside the complex, you can visit the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim Han (formerly the Cathedral of St. Nicholas) with 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 churches of Agios Theodoros and Agia Ekaterini, both of them 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

#3 Check the Venetian port and the Lighthouse

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, it’s always better to reach the inner alleys of the old town or the modern city.

The Venetian port of Rethymnon

The small port of Rethymno.
The small port of Rethymno.

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

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 during the Byzantine ruling.

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

There’s a small lighthouse overlooking the entrance to the old port, making the whole area one of the most beautiful places in the old town of Rethymnon.

The Egyptian Lighthouse

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 (21 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.

Egyptian Lighthouse.
Egyptian Lighthouse.

The Egyptian Lighthouse is definitely one of the things to see in the old town of Rethymno, it adds a unique character to the port and the views at sunset are really romantic.

#4 Check the mosques in the Old Town

Other than the impressive square mosque located inside the Fortezza, you can also find clear memories of the Ottoman ruling in town.

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

Neratze Mosque

Neratzes mosque, rethymno
Neratzes Mosque.

Before the Ottoman ruling, the Neratze mosque used to be the Church of Holy Mary, a Franciscan religious building.

It was converted into a mosque at the end of the 1600s. Now it’s a music conservatory, the Municipal School of Music of Rethymnon.

The roof of the original church was replaced by three domes while the minaret dates back to 1890. Now, the building is mainly used for music concerts due to its impressive acoustics.

Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque

Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque, Rethymno
Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque, Rethymno

The Kara Moussa Pasha mosque got its name after the Turkish commander of the naval campaigns against Rethymnon. It’s located where there used to be the Venetian monastery of Agia Varvara.

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

Mosque of Valide Sultana

Minaret of Valide Sultana
Minaret of Valide Sultana (Source: Wikipedia).

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 Mosque of Valide Sultana, (who was Sultan Ibrahim’s mother). The mosque’s minaret dates back to 1878 and clearly adds character to the city’s skyline.

#5 Visit Rethymnon’s remarkable churches

Holy Church of the Four Martyrs

Rethymno for Families with Crete Urban Adventures
Inside the impressive church.

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 into Islam.

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

Rethymno for Families with Crete Urban Adventures
Vivid colors inside the Church of the Four Martyrs.

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 Angel

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.

Our Lady of the Angels, Old Town Rethymnon.
Our Lady of the Angels, Old Town Rethymnon.

During the Turkish period, it was transformed into a mosque, and it included a minaret as well as a mihrab.

It came back to the Christian faith in 1917, and it 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 not far from the Venetian port.

The construction in a timeframe of a year was possible thanks to the Catholic Polish soldiers stationed on the island who were in Crete 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 present 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

Gate, Agios Frangiskos.
Gate, Agios Frangiskos.

Another remarkable building in Rethymno is the church of Agios Frangiskos, which was 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 get a glimpse of the Turkish School, the oldest school in town.

#6 Museums in Rethymnon

Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

If you are interested in the past of the area, but also want to visit part of Agios Frangiskos church, 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

Minoan Larnax
Minoan Larnax (Source: Zde Wiki commons).

History & Folklore Museum Of Rethymnis

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 the preservation of the Cretan popular culture and traditions (Vernardou street, 28).

Paleontological Museum

One excuse to explore another Rethymnon’s 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 of the traditional Cretan crafts that we’re sadly losing on the island. Among the different artisans, there are people skilled in pottery, wood sculptures, weaving, and embroidering as well as 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 the Cretan folk art which has survived until our days.

# 7 Meet the local artisans and learn about their crafts

Komboloi, or worry beads

Crete Urban Adventures and Rethymno Conquered, because locals know..!
A shop selling Komboloi (worry beads).

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

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

Rethymno komboloi
A huge kolomboi decorates the entrance to the shop.

A komboloi is a string of beads than men usually manipulate when they are 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 monks in Mount Athos made strands of beads by tying knots to say their prayers.

The beads can be made of amber, wood, and coral. They normally come in odd numbers, have one head of a fixed bead (the “priest”), and a shield dividing the two threads of beads.

Musical instruments from Crete

10 Best things to do in Rethymnon
Cretan Lyra.

Stop at the Cretan Lyra, a shop of 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).

Music is a very ancient craft in Greece; it can be traced back in times and 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 are unable to hear it.

Besr traditional placein town: Phyllo pastry

Preparing the thin kadaifi dough.
Preparing the thin kadaifi.

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

There’s no building, no museum or mosque that beats the experience of visiting Mr. Giorgos Hatziparaschos’ workshop. I’ve been there many times already, and it’s always a pleasure to come back. I wrote a special article about this place for 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.

Art made by the hands. Rethymno.
Art made by hand.

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.

#8 Best bars and restaurants in Rethymnon

Authentic Greek coffee

Greek coffee.
Greek coffee.

One of the best things you can do in Rethymno is tasting a proper cup of coffee. Keep away from modern cafeterias to explore one of the most deeply rooted Greek ritual, the kafenion.

The Greek café, the kafenion, is a traditional coffeehouse, but that’s saying the least of it. In fact, Kafenia are an important piece of Greece’s life, 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.

Punch Bowl

Arabatzoglu street, 42

The Punch Bowl is a curious Irish pub really worth a visit at least to check decoration made of signs, weird objects, and all kinds of memorabilia. It’s in the alleys of the old town.

The punch bowl rethymno
A weird place in the old town.

At the Punch Bowl, enjoy a glass of authentic Guinness or wine and listen to traditional Irish Music, rock, and blues.

Raki Ba Raki

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

Raki Ba Raki rethymno
Check this place for raki and meze.

The mezedes (small Greek tapas) are super generous and creative while the atmosphere 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

Xanthoudidou 22 & Radamanthios street

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.

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

Avli restaurant rethymno, crete
Avli Lounge (Source: Photo courtesy of Avli).

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

Prima Plora

Akrotiriou street 4

Certified organic ingredients and a creative sushi menu are at the core of Prima Plora, a restaurant and wine bar located very close to the Fortezza. You will enjoy your meal by the sea and discover a modern twist to Cretan raw materials.

Check their menu online to have a better idea of their proposals.

Prima Plora rethymno
Dine by the sea at Prima Plora.

A bite on the go

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

Zisis Taverna is a family restaurant serving homemade dishes since 1972. It’s quite popular among the locals also for their 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, 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).

#9 Best day-trips from Rethymnon

Wine tasting in Rethymnon

Klados Winery
Wine tasting – Klados winery, Rethymnon.

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

If you’ve already tried and like local wines, you’ll discover an interesting approach in Klados, one of the wineries in Rethymnon open for visits and wine tasting. Klados is one of the wineries I really like 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.

Another new family winery you can visit in Rethymnon is Kourkoulou. I still have to visit their premises, and I will do so really soon. However I had the chance of tasting their rosés in 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 t0 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 to it, check the village of Asteri. It’s about 15 km from Rethymno and it allows you to visit the city any time you want 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. I wrote about the stay here.

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, of which you can read about down below, was burning for 11 days and underwent serious damages. 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 Anogeia, Arkadi Monastery and also the Archaeological Site of Eleftherna

Poliou House

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 used to be a long time ago on the island. 

Poliou House, Asteri.
Poliou House, Asteri.

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, the rabbit stew, the goat, and the salads. Do taste also their cheeses as well as the homemade wine and raki.

Admire the beautiful Arkadi Monastery

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

Arkadi Monastery
Inside Arkadi, one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Crete.

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

Preveli Monastery, beach, and palm tree forest

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 has huge importance for the local population.

Preveli Monastery Crete
Preveli Monastery (Source: Ghmyrtle at the English Wikipedia)

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 at about 35 kilometers from Rethymno and it 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 kilometer,

Amari and Thronos, two mountain villages

 Amari is a small village in Rethymnon, located near the imposing Mount Psiloritis. The valley of Amari is ideal to spend the day and taste the staple dishes of the Cretan Diet.

Amari, rethymno
Church of the Panagia, also known as Church of the Assumption, Thronos.

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.

The valley surrounding Amari.
The valley surrounding Amari.

You can read an extensive article about our visit to Amari and Thronos in the post I wrote a few years back.

Are you fit? Hike the Psiloritis!

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

psiloritis
Mount Psiloritis, Crete.

Many visitors of Crete climb the Psiloritis in Spring, the best season for outdoor activities.

There are at least 4 routes to reach the summit and those who know better agree that the one starting in Nida Plateau is the easiest. Snow can be found on the mountain as far as May and even June.

Archaeological Site And Museum Of Eleftherna

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

Part of the archaeological site.

Also known by the name of Apollonia in ancient times, Eleftherna was an ancient Cretan city-state. Today it’s possible to visit the excavations that unearthed unique settlement and sanctuaries. Here you can read more about other things to do in this area of Rethymnon, including the village of Margarites.

Local traditions in the village of Anogeia

Anogeia is a traditional mountain village on Crete, famous for its history, music, and dances. Locals also produce and sell beautiful handmade crafts. This village has a special place in the history of the island for its endless struggle to fight the Germans. As a result, over a hundred locals were killed between 1941 and 1944.

Anogeia,Crete
The square of Anogeia.

The village also received the award of the War Cross for their 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 simply unforgettable.

If you are really interested in learning other details about Anogeia, check the Wikipedia page dedicated to the village, which is packed with lots of information about its history and traditions. 

More adventure: Patsos gorge

Also known as the gorge of Saint Anthony, a visit to Patsos Gorge is among the best 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 which makes it an ideal excursion for families with children. 

River Patsos Gorge
The river in the gorge.

Why not organizing a picnic close to 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 god Hermes.

#10 Chill on the best beaches of Rethymnon

You can check some of Rethymno’s best south beaches, such as Preveli, Plakias, Agios Pavlos, and Triopetra in the article covering the Best Beaches of South Crete. Instead, if you are looking to visit other beaches in the Prefecture of Rethymno, check the following list.

Best beaches in South Rethymnon

Damnoni, Rethymno.
Damnoni, Rethymno.

Agia Galini

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

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

Rodakino

About 30 km away from Rethymnon, the village of Rodakino stands at the exit of a steep gorge of the same name. The beautiful settlement stands on the sides of the gorge overlooking the Libyan sea, the beaches are peaceful and lonely. On the other hand, the beach of Korakas is more organized and there are also restaurants and a few rooms to stay in.

Damnoni

One of the most popular beaches in south Rethymnon is about 5 km away from the nearby Plakias beach. The beaches are worth a visit but also the nearby caves. The southern breathtaking landscape is at its best in this part of the prefecture with turquoise waters and white sand. 

Triopetra and Ligres

Ligres Beach at sunset in Crete
Sunset hour in Ligres.

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

Best beaches in North Rethymnon

Geropotamos arch, Rethymno
Geropotamos arch, Rethymno (Source: Alamy).

Petres

Only 12 km from the city of Rethymnon, the beach of Petres is a place 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. 

Geropotamos

Geropotamos is one of the nicest beaches you can see in Crete,  about 18 km from Rethymno. The nearby river that flows to the sea through the beach gives the name to the area. Moreover, in the caves on west lives the monk seal Monachus Monachus, another protected species on the island.

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, though, sometimes the northern winds make the sea wavy and rather dangerous.

Bali

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, Rethymnon

Bali protected from the winds water tends to be cool due to the springs that carry freshwater from the Psiloritis. The name Bali has no relation to the Indonesian location. Instead, the name comes from a Turkish term which means honey. This because the area used to be famous for the quality of its honey, no longer produced though.

Panormo

Panormo 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, and perfect for kids since it’s rather shallow and protected from the winds.

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. Adelianos Kampos is one of them, I’ve personally stayed in this village a few times.

Few people visit the beaches so it’s a good spot for a relaxing day by the sea. At night you can enjoy a stroll on the main avenue, enjoy a Cretan beer or even have fun playing mini-golf.

Pigianos Kampos

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

Perivolia

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

Organize your trip and stay in Rethymnon

Where to stay 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 to the east and to the west of the city.

An option that works well with families with kids or for 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

Since I moved to Chania, I’ve visited Rethymnon many times and I’ve 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.

Stay in the mountains

Villa Asteri, Rethymnon.
Villa Asteri, Rethymnon.

A stay in the mountain village of Asteri allowed me to easily reach Mount Psiloritis and Rethymnon’s famous monasteries.

Stay in modern Rethymnon

Finally, last year and for work reasons, I’ve traveled to Rethymno once a week, always spending one or two nights. In 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 the modern city when I was driving since parking was a lot easier. The aparthotel in the previous link is super convenient. Close to the center, it has an impeccable pool too.

Stay in the Old Town of Rethymnon

Quite a few times I traveled by bus. On those occasions, 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 definitely Avli, probably the best suites in town. And remember, even if you don’t sleep in Avli, do try their restaurant!

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

Streets of Rethymno, Crete
Streets of Rethymnon, Crete

How to get to Rethymno

Those arriving at the airports of Heraklion or Chania can reach 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€).

How to move around in and near Rethymnon

Ktel, the public bus company also 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.

Rethymnon
Souvenirs in the old town.

About this guide to Rethymnon

This extensive Guide to Rethymno covering more than just 10 things to do, took a long time to write and loads of research. I’m also very thankful to all the Rethymnian friends that contributed. I’d be very glad if you could add your own contribution too. So, send over opinions, suggestions or requests for me to cover other areas. 
Nothing makes me happier than talking to those who use this site to prepare their trip to Crete. Leave me a comment in the section below, or get in touch through the Contact page if you need more personalized information.


If you are planning a visit to Chania instead, check this guide with the Best Things to do in Chania’s Old Town!


If you liked this article, pin it so that you can check it again before your trip to Crete!

Best things to do in Rethymnon.
Best things to do in Rethymnon.

This post was first published in May 2015, and it was updated in July 2019.

Check these other cities on the island of Crete

About the author

Hola! I’m Gabi. I moved to Crete a few years ago to explore the island all year round. I love to backpack with my kids, taking pictures and driving around the mountain roads of Crete. I’m a beach freak and on this island, I’ve found heaven on earth!

3 thoughts on “10 Best Things to Do in Rethymnon, Crete”

  1. 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!

    Reply

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