Rethymno is the third largest city in the heart of Crete and the capital of the prefecture of Rethymno, the smallest county located on the west side of the island.

Spanning over a small peninsula on the northern coast and near the center of the island, Rethymno, with approximately 30.000 inhabitants, is currently one of the most tourist destinations of the country, combining rich history, great culture, unique beaches, picturesque taverns, modern hotels and vivid nightlife. Moreover, the development of the city was achieved also due to the presence of many students, since it is the seat of several faculties, mainly of Human Science, of the University of Crete.

Rethymno is the best preserved Renaissance city in Crete, with mixed influences from Ottoman and Cretan architecture elements that rarely can be found anywhere else. The Loggia, the club of the nobility of Venice, the Neratze Mosque with its imposing minaret that today houses the modern Conservatory of the city, the Veli Pasha Mosque and the Kara Moussa Pasha Mosque, the church of Agios Frangiskos are fine examples of the city’s history.

The first evidence of human presence in Rethymno dates from the Late Minoan period (1350-1250 BC), while the city became prosperous during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, with gold and silver coins found dating to that period.

The Venetians, after the conquest of Crete in 1211, understood the importance of the location of the city of Rethymno, since its harbour handled significant amounts of goods, and in 1540, due to the expansion of the city, they decided to surround it with new fortified walls. The weaknesses, however, of the new fortifications were revealed in 1571, when the pirates of Ouloutz Ali entered the city and destroyed it completely. Two years later, in 1573, the foundation of the fortress Fortezza was laid on the hill of Palaiokastro, the hallmark of the city.

In 1646, the city of Rethymno fell to the Turks until 1897, with the Holocaust of Arkadi Monastery in 1866 being an important milestone in the history of the prefecture. In 1897, the Great Powers (Russia, Britain and France) decided the island’s occupation and Rethymno was occupied by Russian and Polish troops, which retreated in 1907. In 1908, Cretans took advantage of international developments and declared the union of Crete with Greece. The formal union treaty was signed in 1913, after the victorious Balkan Wars.

At present, Rethymno is a modern city, internationally renowned as tourist resort with all the necessary facilities that can satisfy all kinds of needs, such as banks, travel agencies, car rentals and all kinds of shops, many hotels, studios, furnished rooms-to-let and even smaller or larger apartments for long term rental. After the recent renovation of the city, bicycle lanes and paths for walking have been created, while during the summer months the movement of vehicles from the afternoon until late in the evening is forbidden. The city wheeled-train and bicycles are an alternative way of touring in Rethymno.

On the west side of the city, the Venetian harbor and the lighthouse of Rethymno, which was added later by the Turks, are sights that can be visited combined with a walk, a dinner in one of the many fish taverns and coffee in one of the cafeterias along the harbor. The Megali Porta (Great Gate), one of the gates of the early Venetian fortifications and the entrance to the almost intact Old Town, is one of the major attractions of the city. Inside the quaint alleys more treasures are “hidden”, such as the Rimondi Fountain and all Fountains of the city, the church Kyria ton Aggelon (the Lady of the Angels), the Turkish School and others. The Municipal Garden and the Public Library of Rethymno complete the puzzle of this historic city.

Apart from architecture, Rethymno maintains its rich cultural tradition by holding the Renaissance Festival of Rethymno, the Treasure Hunt and the Rethymno Carnival, all of them having become institutions and major attractions not only in summer, but throughout the year.

Because of its ideal location, Rethymno, the city of Letters and Arts, with 4.500 years of civilization, is a good base for trips to unique villages of the county or to other urban centers. Heraklion is 75 km far from Rethymno and Chania – 55 km.


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