Rethymno is a city of approximately 40,000 people in Greece, the capital of Rethymno regional unit in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity (ancient Rhithymna and Arsinoe), but never really a competitive to the Minoan centre. It was, however, strong enough to mint its own coins and maintain urban growth. One of these coins is today depicted as the crest of the town with two dolphins in a circle.
Coordinates: 35°15′N 24°35′E
This region as a whole is rich with ancient history, most notably through the Minoan civilisation centred at Kydonia (today’s Chania) east of Rethymno. Rethymno itself began a period of growth when the Venetian conquerors of the island decided to put an intermediate commercial station between Heraklion and Chania, acquiring its own bishop and nobility in the process. Today’s old town (palia poli) is almost entirely built by the Venetians. It is one of the best preserved old towns in Crete.
The town still maintains its old aristocratic appearance, with its buildings dating from the 16th century, arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, the small Venetian harbour and narrow streets.
The city’s Venetian citadel, the Fortezza, is one of the most well preserved castles in Crete.
The fort’s central entrance is in the east side through which you will enter a dark arcade and proceed to the interior of the castle but passing through it you will see the sunlight again. The first building you’ll see is the warehouse of the artillery which today operates as an exhibition hall.
A bit further is Aghios Ilias rampart and the small, amphitheatrical and semi-circular theatre Erofili, which is now used for cultural events of cinquecento character during the summer period. Sultan Ibrahim temple dominates there, while opposite the mosque you will see the ruins of Retouri mansion (Venetian prefect).
If you walk along Vernardos Street up to its end, south of Petichaki square, you will end up in Nerantze mosque. The building operated initially as Venetian church, dedicated to Santa Maria and later (1657) it was turned to a mosque by the Turks. Today it houses the Municipal Odeon arts centre.
Other monuments include the Great Gate (Porta Guora), the Piazza Rimondi (Rimondi square) and the Venetian Loggia. The Venetian Loggia houses the information office of the Ministry of Culture. A Wine Festival is held there annually at the beginning of July. Another festival, in memory of the destruction of the Arkadi Monastery, is held on 7–8 November.
Bus services are several times daily to all Cretan areas while the north road network is convenient for a relaxing journey.
Rethymno combines the conveniences of a large city with the beauty of an old town.