Stunning old town
Rethymnon’s old quarters are like something from a postcard, with gorgeous Ottoman and Venetian influences dotted throughout the streets. Walking along scenic avenues, you’ll drift between historic and modern scenes. One minute there’ll be shops boasting leather goods and fresh ice cream, and the next you’ll see the columns of the Rimondi Fountain.
With a Venetian harbour, authentic tavernas and weekly markets, the old town is also Rethymnon’s busiest district. Overlooking it, you’ll notice a large stone fortress standing guard – that’s the Fortezza – a 16th-century castle built to protect the town from Turkish invaders. Tackle the walk up and you’ll be faced with incredible views of Rethymnon all the way out to sea.
Celebrating Rethymnon's culture
Rethymnon is home to a number of museums and galleries that work to illuminate the town’s historic past. There are spots like the Military Museum, Historical and Folk Art Museum and Archaeological Museum whose exhibits range all the way from Roman times to World War Two and beyond.
Another unique feature of Rethymnon’s cultural scene is its selection of monasteries nearby. The now ruinous Monastery of Arkadi is a site of worship and turmoil, as it was used as a fortress against the Turkish invasion. It’s at the top of a steep drive and is now seen as a symbol of peace and freedom. Also available to visit is the Moni Prevali Monastery, where you can tour the museum and grounds before walking down to the nearby sea for a swim.
During the late summer months, the town hosts a Renaissance Festival to recognise its Venetian heritage. It’s a great opportunity to join the locals in an authentic celebration, filled with live music, street performers, pantomimes, colourful costumes and art exhibits.
12 kilometres of sandy shores
Stretching along Rethymnon’s coast is 12 kilometres of beach, which are easily accessible via a short walk from town. Part of the beach is also bordered by a promenade, which rests just across from a busy strip of restaurants, bars and shops.
The beaches here range in vibes from busy to super secluded – Rethymnon Beach is a popular spot with lines of sunbed umbrellas, while Damoni Beach is a little more laid-back. And then there’s Geropotamos Beach, whose pebbled shores are positively untouched and great for getting in tune with nature.
As a cultural hub, Rethymnon may not seem like a top place to explore the great outdoors, but there are actually a number of excursions that’ll get you out on hikes or snorkelling trips with local diving schools during your Greece package holidays.
You can join an off-roading tour and hop aboard an ATV for whizzing through the natural landscape, or take things slower with a walk through one of the town’s surrounding gorges.
St Anthony’s Gorge is a light-paced hike that’ll lead you down to St Anthony’s Church, which was built into the side of a rock. But if you’re really looking to crank up the energy, there’s the 18-kilometre monster of a walk through Samaria Gorge, which is located in the region of Chania. Not for the faint-of-heart, this scenic trek involves driving through the White Mountains to the steep, 215-metre long Xyloskalo staircase and then eventually to the ‘Iron Gates’ – 300 metre walls that are only a metre apart.
Coffee along the harbour
Restaurants and tavernas are scattered throughout Rethymnon, from the beach to the harbour and inside the old town. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of eateries serve Greek food, though you’ll find a selection of Chinese, Mexican, Italian and American places too.
Along the harbour, there are a number of cafes whose quaint outdoor terraces beg for coffee breaks and watching the boats glide in. Wedged between buildings in the old town are alleyways filled with tables and chairs, while even up in the hills, you can dine as you gaze out over the town and surrounding sea.