There are plenty of things to do in Rethymno, both within its fortified walls and among its mountainous outskirts. The 3rd largest city on the Greek island of Crete, this port city has a history spanning more than 4,500 years. As a result, there’s a cultural and architectural blend of the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires throughout the city.

    The old cobblestone streets of Rethymno hide remnants of the fortified Venetian settlement and mosque minarets symbolising former Turkish rule. You can easily lose yourself for hours while admiring the Old Town’s attractions, which range from museums to handicraft shops. Otherwise, its breezy beaches will lure you in for an afternoon on the edge of warm and turquoise waters. Check out our guide to the best things to do in Rethymno.

    What are the best things to do in Rethymno?

    1

    Porta Guora

    Step into Rethymno’s Old City through its original gate

    Porta Guora (Grand Gate) is the main entrance of the south side of Rethymno, through the city’s Venetian fortified walls. The stone archway dates back to the 1560s and is the only part of the original city wall left standing today.

    While not a huge monument, Porta Guora is still considered an important landmark. It’s the main entrance for those wanting to step into the main laneway of Rethymno Old Town. If you walk underneath the archway and continue down the old cobblestone street heading north, you’ll reach the main market area and many of the Old Town’s historical attractions.

    Location: Antistaseos ke Dimakopoulou, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

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    photo by C messier (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    2

    Rimondi Fountain

    Refill your water bottle at this Venetian-era drinking fountain

    Rimondi Fountain is one of the Old Town’s still-functioning masterpieces from the Venetian era. The fountain was built by the then-governor Rimondi in 1626 to provide the city’s residents with clean drinking water. It’s situated in the northern end of Petychaki Square.

    The well-preserved collonaded fountain has freshwater flowing from the 3 lions’ heads carved into the wall. You can refill your bottle, just as the locals still do, before continuing your stroll around the rest of the Rethymno’s Old Town.

    Location: Mavrokordatou Alexanrou, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

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    3

    Historical and Folk Art Museum of Rethymno

    A protected historical building dedicated to the city’s culture

    The Historical and Folk Art Museum of Rethymno showcases an outstanding collection of handicrafts and artefacts of different eras. Located on Vernardou Street, it occupies a fully restored Venetian mansion that was built in the early 17th century.

    The museum displays more than 5,000 rare artefacts, including basket weavings, costumes, ceramics, metalwork, maps, weapons and coins. For around €4 per ticket, the Historical and Folk Art Museum of Rethymno is an excellent place to delve deeper into the local culture and history of Crete.

    Location: 30 Vernardou Street, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

    Open: Monday–Friday from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +30 28310 23398

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    4

    Shopping in Old Town Rethymno

    Find some local handicrafts to take home with you

    Rethymno has been a magnet for traditional arts and handicrafts for decades, with the Old Town being one of the best spots to buy them directly from the local artisans. The winding streets and honey-coloured stone buildings not only house the city’s main attractions, but also excellent shopping venues for you to pick some souvenirs to take home.

    Souliou Street, a skinny laneway off the main thoroughfare in the centre of the Old Town, was originally a shoemaker’s street. Today, it’s Rethymno’s main shopping strip where you can find all sorts of gifts and trinkets, from jewellery and pottery to local food and natural products. Some of the best things to buy here include olive oil, soap and honey.

    Location: Souliou Street, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

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    5

    Archaeological Museum of Rethymno

    Discover Rethymno’s ancient history

    The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno contains a large collection of artefacts dating from the Neolithic Age to the Roman period. It’s housed inside the Venetian-built St Francis Church, not far down from the Grand Gate in the centre of the Old Town. 

    You can easily spend a couple of hours admiring the museum’s well-presented displays. Highlights include a 9,000-year-old limestone statue of a goddess, a war helmet decorated with boar teeth, a marble statue of Aphrodite, and hunting tools found in the caves around Rethymno.

    Location: 4 Agiou Fragiskou Street, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

    Open: Wednesday–Monday from 10 am to 6 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +30 28310 54668

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    photo by Tomisti (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    6

    Neratze Mosque

    A symbol of the city’s complex Venetian and Ottoman history

    Neratze Mosque (Gazi Hussein Mosque), just south of the Rimondi Fountain, serves as Rethymno’s music conservatory. It was originally called the Church of Santa Maria under the Venetians before the Turks converted it into a mosque during their occupation in the 17th century.

    The mosque is well worth a visit for being the foremost symbol of the struggle between Venetian and Ottoman rule over Crete. You can appreciate its well-preserved exterior and minaret, which towers over Rethymno’s Old Town. Neratze Mosque houses the Municipal Odeon arts centre, where music lessons and concerts take place.

    Location: Emmanoil Vernardoy 2, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

    Phone: +30 2831 341301

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    7

    Arkadi Monastery

    Take a day trip to one of the finest Venetian churches on Crete

    Arkadi Monastery is found on a plateau around 19.5 km southeast of Rethymno’s city centre. A popular excursion from several towns on Crete, the 16th-century baroque monastery overlooks a pretty setting of olive trees and vineyards.

    It’s a particularly important monument, not just for its beauty, but also as a symbol of Cretan resistance to the Ottomans in the 19th century. You can explore the well-preserved church, monks’ residences, and onsite museum within the complex. It’s a relatively relaxing day trip with regular buses between the monastery and Rethymno.

    Location: Arkadi 741 00, Greece

    Open: April–May: daily from 9 am to 5 pm. June–August: daily from 9 am to 8 pm. December–March: daily from 9 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +30 2831 083135

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    8

    Spend the afternoon at the beach

    Laze on the white sand at the edge of the turquoise waters

    Rethymno Beach lies at the east of the Old Town, next to the Venetian Harbour. It's a long stretch of soft sand with plenty of beach chairs waiting to lure you in for a lazy afternoon in the sun. It may not be the island’s prettiest beach, but it’s convenient for those staying in Rethymno thanks to its proximity to the city’s amenities.

    If you want to venture further to a more picturesque Mediterranean coastline, head over to Preveli Beach, some 46 km south of Rethymno. It’s arguably the most beautiful beach in Crete – this little cove is where the Kourtaliotis River meets the Mediterranean Sea.

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    9

    Fortezza of Rethymno

    The sunset view is as stunning as the history is fascinating

    Fortezza of Rethymno (or Venetian Fortress) is an imposing walled fortification dominating a rocky outcrop on the western side of the city. It was built in 1573 to protect the city from the invading Ottomans, who finally took control in the 17th century.

    The fortress complex has been beautifully restored. Its main draw is the St Nicholas Church, which was converted into a mosque under Ottoman rule. From the protective stone walls, you have a panorama of the sea. Fortezza of Rethymno is perfectly positioned to watch the sunset. The fortress also remains open after sunset.

    Location: Fortezza, Rethimno 741 00, Greece

    Open: June–September: daily from 8 am to 8 pm. October–May: daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +30 2831 028101

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    10

    Venetian Harbour

    Eat dinner at the waterfront with views across to the Egyptian Lighthouse

    Rethymno’s old Venetian Harbour is the place to be for hearty dinners and drinks with views of the Mediterranean. The small enclave, with fishing boats and yachts moored at its edges, is surrounded by well-loved seafood restaurants and cosy cafés. Every evening, the harbour area buzzes with energy, with people heading down for fresh fish and a glass of wine with beautiful ocean views.

    Just about every restaurant along the waterfront overlooks the Egyptian Lighthouse, which sits on the very edge of the Venetian Harbour. This famous landmark was built in the 1830s by the Egyptians, who were given access to the port by the Ottomans. It makes for a beautiful view as dusk sets over the city of Rethymno.

    Location: Venetian Harbour, Rethymno 741 00, Greece

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    Elisha Donkin | Contributing Writer

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