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Rethymnon is one of the most beautiful towns, not only in Crete, but in Greece altogether. The Rethymnon old town with the colourful alleys, the venetian port, the beautiful hotels and wide range of restaurants make an ideal destination for your holidays. That is why we decided to spend the third day of our road trip to Crete there. You can read about what we did on our first day here and on our second day here.
Rethymnon: things to do and see
As soon as you arrive to Rethymnon old town, you can leave your car at the parking space by the port. The ideal way to visit Rethymnon old town is on foot.
There are numerous things you can see and do. Here is a list of my favorites.
La fortezza or Rethymno fortress
The Venetian Fortezza fortress can be found at the west side of the city, close to the new harbour. Being on the west makes it an ideal spot to watch the sunset. It was built on Paleokastro hill by the Venetians in 1573. It was built to protect the city of Rethymnon from the Turks.
As you enter the main gate you will see the ammunition depots, the building of the Commander and the building of the Counselor. Another important site includes the old church of St Nicholas that was turned into the mosque of Sultan Ibraim Han that now hosts cultural exhibitions.
Every summer the fortress hosts the Renaissance festival.
The Venetian Harbour of Rethymnon
Around the Venetian harbour you can find many restaurants and cafes. It is a perfect place for a romantic dinner. At the end of the mole stands the lighthouse that was built on the 17th century by the Turks.
The Venetian Loggia
Very close to the Venetian Harbour you can find the 16th century square building of the Venetian Loggia. It used to be the place where the Venetian officials and nobility used to meet to discuss important matters.
The Rimondi Fountain
It can be found in the centre of the city at Petychaki square. It was built-in 1626 by the Venetian governor Rimondi due to the lack of drinking water. The water runs from three lion heads into three basins.
The Historical – Folk Museum of Rethymno
The museum is housed in a 17th century Venetian house. It exhibits objects of traditional handicraft work and folklore art.
The Nerantze Mosque
During the Venetian times it used to be the church of Santa Maria. During the Turkish occupation it was turned into a Mosque. Nowadays it used for exhibitions and concerts.
The Guora Gate
During the Venetian period it used to be the entrance to the town. Now it is the only part left from the old fortification wall. It can be found at the Four Martyrs square and leads to the main market street.
Stroll through the narrow roads of the old town
One of my favorite things when I am in a new place is to wander through its streets. especially when that particular town was declared as a protected historical monument and a traditional settlement. As you stroll through the alleys of the old town of Rethymnon you can see that many building have preserved the Venetian and Ottoman influence.
Day trips from Rethymno
If you are staying at Rethymnon town there are a lot of things you can see and do in the surrounding area. We hired a car from Heraklion as soon as we arrived so that we could explore a little more.
Here are some ideas on what you can see around Rethymno:
Visit the Argyroupoli village in Rethymnon
Argyroupoli village is located 21 km away from Rethymnon town. It is a traditional village very famous for its springs. It has a vast vegetation, small waterfalls and small springs. There are a lot of restaurants serving a very tasty lamb called “antikristo”. It took its name by the way it is cooked. You should definitely try it, it’s very tasty.
My favorite restaurant in the village is called Tavern Ancient Lappa. It serves traditional Cretan food in a beautifu garden.
Cretan Gastronomy Center
The Cretan Gastronomy Center in Argyroupoli is a wonderful place to indulge in Cretan cuisine, learning about the history of this famed Mediterranean diet as well as the techniques of how to cook and serve these delicious traditional dishes.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a cookery class with Aspasia and Mrs. Zambia, two lovely local ladies who helped us create some tasty dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves) as well as giving us the chance to taste Cretan olive oil. Olives and olive oil have been a staple in Greek cuisine for centuries and it was amazing to learn about the harvest, the press and the taste of different oil.
Ancient Lappa and The Church of the Five Virgins
Lappa was a town in ancient Crete that is famed for The Church of the Holy Five Virgins that is carved into one of the many Roman tombs in the area. This religious and historical site has long been a place of pilgrimage for Christians, who came to seek blessing from the Five Virgins (Thekla, Marianna, Athena, Martha and Mary) during their lives in 330 AD. Today the site is simply an intriguing tourist attraction for those wanting to witness an ancient tomb and to explore the rugged landscape of ancient Lappa.
A Bygone tour of Crete with Urban Adventures
If you fancy diving into the depths of Cretan life and history, you can’t beat this incredible Bygone Crete tour by Urban Adventures. While the tour is full on (it’s 11 hours long) it really packs in everything from history and culture to nature, cuisine and biodiversity! If you’re short on time, this tour gives you all the highlights of the island in just one day, with a friendly, knowledgeable and interesting guide to keep you entertained. The trip comprises of different sections to ensure you are constantly learning and exploring.
We spent time walking and hiking through the Cretan countryside, visiting a traditional village, ancient olive groves, historical sites, and even did a wine tasting. Our guide Giannis really knew how to make the most of the island and took us to secluded spots for an off-the-beaten-path adventure.
Finally we got the chance to get inside a traditional Greek kitchen, learned how to cook using local, organic produce. Cretan cuisine is very unique so this cooking class will be unlike anything you have experienced before. We then sat down with new friends and enjoyed a home-cooked meal.
For more information about this tour you can check here.
The Poliou House in Crete offers you a taste of history and cuisine in one, with a traditional taverna doubling up as a folklore museum. Poliou House provides classic Cretan hospitality while also allowing you to discover the history and culture that the locals are so proud to share.
The house is filled with traditional furnishings, artwork, tools and trinkets, that give you a slice of life in Greece from the 1950s to the present day. To be honest, not much has changed and creating delicious Cretan dishes and welcoming new friends is what this family does best! Every Thursday night there is live music and traditional Greek dancing.
Village of Margarites
Margarites in Crete is a quaint mountain village that is surrounded by natural beauty. There are various tales as to why the village is called Margarites, so you’ll have to choose which one you believe. Perhaps you’ll enjoy the story of Margarita, the queen of Eleftherna who so loved the locale that she sold her jewellery to have a settlement built here in her honour.
Instead you might prefer the simplicity of the fact that the margaritas flower grows abundantly in the area. Or maybe you think the name comes from “magarika” (or magarikata) meaning “clay” during the Byzantine era, which makes sense as the village is famous for its pottery that has been produced here for years!
Whichever you choose you can’t deny that Margarites is a stunning destination, filled with character and history that is well worth a visit. Explore pottery workshops, village cafés and the range of local churches here including Renaissance church of Archangel Michael, Agios Ioannis and the monastery of Christ the Saviour and Agios Gedeon.
Visit the Arcadi Monastery
The Arcadiou Monastery is located 23 km away from the town of Rethymnon. It is one of the most important historic monuments in Crete. During the revolution of 1866-1869 a Cretan man called Giamboudakis decided to blast the powder keg instead of surrender when the monastery and the people hiding there were being besieged by the Turks.
The Preveli Monastery
The Preveli Monastery is located 37 km away from Rethymnon. It consists of two monasteries the Lower monastery (Kato Moni) which is abandoned but can still be visited and the Rear Monastery ( Piso Moni) that is still in operation. On site there is also a museum. Very close to the Monastery is Preveli beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in South Crete with a Palm tree forest.
A day trip from Rethymnon to Santorini
From Rethymnon port you can do a day trip to the island of Santorini. Santorini is one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Although it is better to spend some days there, a day trip is a good idea if your time is limited.
Where to Stay in Rethymnon, Crete
Recommended accommodation inside Rethymno Town
Veneto Boutique Hotel
In the heart of Rethymnon’s old town is the Veneto Boutique Hotel, in a 14th century, restored Venetian building with original features and boutique furnishings that complement the historic building. The hotel is minutes from the old town shops and restaurants as well as a four-minute walk from the beach. However, if guests choose to dine at the hotel, they can select wines from the expansive cellar and enjoy traditional Cretan cuisine from the local chefs.
Rimondi Boutique Hotel
The nearby Rimondi Boutique Hotel is a luxurious hotel housed in two separate buildings with a large pool and courtyard in between. Suites here are equipped with air conditioning, a mini bar, free wifi, and a modern bathroom with deluxe amenities. Rimondi Boutique Hotel also has a small spa for guests.
Bellagio Luxury Boutique Hotel
The Bellagio Luxury Boutique Hotel is a small, family-run hotel in a beautiful Renaissance building in the heart of the old town. With only five suites, the hotel is a great place for couples because it is intimate yet in the middle of everything. Rooms have plush bedding, comfortable bathrobes, and small seating areas.
Loggia Traditional Suites
Guests in Rethymno seeking the sun might enjoy the Loggia Traditional Suites, which boasts a rooftop terrace, complete with a hot tub and sun beds. Some rooms (but not all!) also have private balconies or terraces; all suites come equipped with a private bathroom and kitchenette facilities.
Recommended hotel in Argyroupoli:
The Arcus Suites in Lappa, (Argyroupoli) Rethimno are filled with character and charm thanks to their old Venetian style, terracotta roofs and sympathetic renovations. Each suite features warm colours, plush furnishings and exposed stone walls. Some also feature arches, stone fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs! The suites are well-equipped with comfortable living rooms and full kitchens. The complex is picture-perfect and with outdoor areas including pools, wood ovens, BBQs and plenty of seating you’ll have everything you need for a memorable stay.
Recommended Villas in Rethymno:
Amazing Villas in Crete
If you’re seeking a stylish villa for your trip to Crete, look no further than Amazing Villas. This company offers a range of spectacular properties each with traditional design, self-catering facilities and private pools. The villas are ideal for groups or large families, accommodating between six and eight guests in each. These stunning villas offer everything you need for a relaxing stay and are well located for exploring all the highlights of the island.
You might also be interested in: The best areas to stay in Crete.
Where to eat in Rethymnon town
What I love about Crete is the incredible food you can eat everywhere. The ingredients used most of the time are local and very tasty.
If you are wondering where to eat in Rethymnon town here are a few suggestions:
- Avli restaurant: Is considered one of the best restaurants in town. The food and location are perfect but is a little expensive 50€ – 60€ per person. You can find it at Xanthoudidou 22
- 1600 Raki Ba Raki: It is a very nice modern restaurant with traditional cuisine located in a small alley in the old town. Prices 20€ per person. You can find it at Arambatzoglou 17
- Prima Plora: It has a very nice view of the city and the sea. You have to try kritharoto with shrimps. The prices are normal 20€-25€ per person. You can find it at Akrotiriou 8
- Vassilis restaurant : It has recently opened near the Fortezza. Nice enviroment, good food and normal prices. You can find it Chimarras and Argiropoulon 27
Need more inspiration? Why not check my posts:
- The best things to do in Crete.
- The best beaches in Crete.
- Things to do in Chania, Crete.
- Things to do in Heraklion, Crete.
Have you ever been to Rethymnon in Crete? What did you like the most?
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