The Greek Island of Crete is said to be blessed by Gods and it’s easy to see why. Its stunning coastline, imposing mountains, mix of Minoan and Venetian architecture and spine-tingling (we don’t say that lightly!) cuisine make the island an incredible place to visit. Whether you are looking for total relaxation, floating in turquoise waters, rich and lively nightlife or have a passion for history, Crete will impress you.
If you want a true taste of the island and are planning a full tour, then you should definitely add some space in your schedule for Rethymno. Just two hours from the main town of Heraklion, even if you only have time for a day trip, it’s well worth it.
The Old Town and the restaurants
Discover the Old Town of Rethymno. This should be the starting point of any visit to Rethymno, as well as the place you’ll end up in the evening for a boozy shot of raki or indulging in some divine Cretan cuisine and try some restaurants such as Alana Restaurant. Start of from Paleologos street, where you’ll find a Venetian Lotzia, a lovely 6th century building which is now the Public Library. Wandering around the cobbled streets of the Old Town, which are naturally adorned with pink bougainvilleas, you’ll meet many historical sites of interest. A favourite is the Rimondi Fountain, a leftover from the Corinthian Era complete with elaborate lion heads that still flow with water today. Next up check out the Historical and Folklore Museum, housed in a Venetian townhouse, it offers a real insight into the history of the island. Their permanent exhibition features handmade textiles, traditional costumes and tools and materials from days gone by. At the nearby Church of St Francesco why not relax and take a moment of reflection before continuing to the Mosque Neratzes, formerly a small chapel dedicated to the Mary of Augustans and currently in use as a conservatoire.
The Fortezza fortress
The highlight of the town is The Venetian fortress Fortezza perched high on top of Paleokastro hill. Thanks to its raised position, Fortezza is the symbol of Rethymno and can be seen from every single spot in the town. Once a sanctuary to the Goddess Artemis, and shaped like a star, it was built by the Venetians to keep the town’s inhabitants safe from invasion. Take an hour or two to put yourself in their shoes and discover what it must have been like to live on the island hundreds of years ago. In the summer a newly built theatre the Erophylli offers outdoor music and theatrical performances. It’s hard to beat soaking up a wonderful outdoor theatre performance on a balmy summer evening.
Old Venetian Harbour
Finish your tour with a walk along the old Venetian harbour. The promenade is made for long, easy strolls and simply watching the world go by. It’s lined with colourful buildings, fish tavernas and rows of Turkish and Venetian inspired buildings. At the end of the pier you’ll meet the dramatic lighthouse with a small café which is busy from morning until night. In the evening go back towards the Rimondi Fountain, where you can indulge in a lush evening of food, including local specialities, fresh fish grilled with olive oil and lemon dressing, snails with vegetables and of course, a couple of shots of local raki!