Rethymnon. The Fortress. January 2018. Photo credit: Annika Barbarigos.
Inhabited since 6500 BC, Crete's Minoan history is evident in the archaeological remains that tourists still marvel at. The prehistoric Cretans art legacy, dating back to the Bronze Age, remains in museums and galleries throughout the island. Crete's four major cities are all distinct. Western Crete is home to Chania and Rethymnon, two cities that boast of having Crete's loveliest beaches. Crete is a tourist hub, and rightfully so. Crete's landscape is probably its biggest asset. Its coastline has earned it the nickname Big Blue. Cretans enjoy the water that surrounds them, and so do tourists. A favorite sport at most any beach is windsurfing, and rentals are often available. Much of the terrain on Crete is rough, but this can also make for a nice challenge if you are a hiker, biker, or nature enthusiast. For those less physically inclined, Crete offers plenty of museums and unique activities that will allow you to take it easy and enjoy. Regardless of your interests, Crete is sure to inspire awe with its rich history and modern splendor.
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“Rethymnon view” by Romtomtom is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Rethymnon was originally built during the Minoan civilization (ancient Rhithymna and Arsinoe). The city was so prominent that it minted its own coins. Rethymnon went through a period of growth under the Venetian conquerors when they decided to put an intermediate commercial station between Heraklion and Chania, appointing its own bishop and nobility in the process. Today's old town was almost entirely built by the Republic of Venice. 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 c., arched doorways, stone staircases, Byzantine and Hellenic-Roman remains, the small Venetian harbor and narrow streets. The Venetian Loggia houses the information office of the Ministry of Culture and Sports. 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. The city's Venetian-era citadel, the Fortezza, is one of the best-preserved castles in Crete. Other monuments include the Neratze mosque (the Municipal Odeon arts center), the Great Gate (or "Porta Guora"), the Piazza Rimondi and the Loggia. The town was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1646 during the Cretan War (1645–69) and they ruled it for almost three centuries. The town was the center of an administrative part of a province during Ottoman rule. During the Battle of Crete (May 1941), the Battle of Rethymnon was fought between German paratroopers and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and the Hellenic Army. Although initially unsuccessful, the Germans won the battle after receiving reinforcements. Today the city's main income is from tourism, while many new facilities having been built in the past 20 years. Agriculture is also notable, especially for olive oil and other Mediterranean products.