One of the most picturesque cities on the island of Crete, Rethymno offers plenty of opportunities for day and night. Before you leave the city to head to the island’s dreamy beaches, take a stroll at these 6 places that bear witness to Rethymno’s past.
The scenic old port
The port has always been a vitalizing element of great commercial importance and nowadays is one of the must-visit places in Rethymno. The harbor of Rethymnon was constructed during the Venetian period that started in the 14th century and ended three centuries later. The lighthouse, still standing today at the end of the old pier is the second-largest remaining Egyptian lighthouse on the island. In fact, it was built in 1838 when Crete was an Ottoman province under Egyptian control. In 1864 it came under the control of the French Lighthouse Company and was operating till 1962. Reaching the lighthouse is quite easy and many people go there in the evening or at night to rummage at the sea.
The ideal moment to walk along the harbor and the lighthouse is right before sunset when the heat is less and the sky is painted in a diverse color palette. End your night with a local dinner and a glass of raki at the restaurants located by the waterfront.
The Loggia, a Venetian building
The Loggia was built by the Venetian rulers during the 16th century and constituted the meeting place for the nobles and the wealthy citizens of the city. Actually, it was their private club where they could talk about politics and business. During the Turkish occupation, the Loggia was transformed into a mosque. From 1954 until 1991, the building hosted the archaeological museum of the city and nowadays houses the museum gift shop of the Ministry of Culture.
Extra Tip: Do some souvenir shopping
The museum gift shop sells books, postcards, souvenirs and replicas of the most famous artifacts and exhibits of the Cretan archaeological museums.
The Rimondi Fountain
At the heart of the old town of Rethymno, lies an example of exquisite Venetian art and architecture, the Rimondi fountain. Constructed in 1626 the beautiful fountain was named after the governor of the city Alvise Rimondi who financed its construction. Nestled in the old Venetian center of the city, the fountain supplied fresh water to the inhabitants and is the only one dated to the Venetian period. Until nowadays water springs from the three lions that adorn the fountain.
Extra Tip: Explore the hidden alleys
Stroll around the little cobblestone streets and see the old houses built in the Ottoman architecture bearing witness to the city’s past.
Fortezza, the imposing fortress
In the old town of Rethymnon, you’ll come across Fortezza, one of the largest fortresses dating back to the Venetian period. It is estimated that Fortezza could host the entire population of the city during the attacks. Built between 1573 and 1590 on a hill called Paleokastro, the Fortezza lies on the site of the ancient city of Rethymno. Even though it was built to protect Rethymnon from the Ottoman attacks, it could not prevent the city’s fall. It is said that the absence of the ditch and the outbreak of cholera in the castle led to the occupation of the city by the Ottoman Empire.
The fort is in the shape of a pentagon with bastions on most of its sides. However, Agios Nikolaos bastion is the one that offers a spectacular view of the Venetian harbour and of the city of Rethymno. Inside, there are the remains of the governor’s house, a mosque and several other buildings such as the bishop’s palace and the church of Saint Catherine.
Extra tip: Catch a show
Keep an eye out on the castle’s event calendar and make sure to catch a show. Cultural events and exhibitions take place at the armory and at the 20th-century theatre of Erofili.
Pasha Nerace Mosque
Initially, a Franciscan monastery, later a mosque, currently a music school, the Pasha Nerace (or Neratze) Mosque bears testimony to the cultural crossroads of this city. Built in 1601, as a church of the Augustinian monastery dedicated to the Virgin, the historic building features an impressive Renaissance portal on the north side. The passage is framed by two Corinthian columns with a curved entablature, reminiscent of Roman triumphal arches. In 1657, while the monastery’s conversion to a mosque was taking place, the roof was replaced by three domes. And nowadays, it remains well known for having the highest minaret in the city.
Extra tip: Catch a show
Due to its excellent acoustic, the place hosts concerts and music lessons while it also houses the Municipal Odeon, run by the Rethymno Association for the Promotion of the Arts.
During the Venetian period, the street, named Sabbionara, was a coastal promenade. Today, it is named Arkadiou, after the well-known Arkadi Monastery, and is an extremely frequented commercial area that reflects the contemporary ambiance of the city. Brimming with stores with handmade items and local products or souvenirs, Arkadiou is one of the best places in Rethymno for shopping.
Not to miss:
At numbers 48 and 154, you can admire residences that date to the Venetian era, while at the end of the street (corner V. Hugo street) there is the Kara Musa Pasha Mosque that is a formerly monastery dedicated to Saint Barbara.