When travelling to Greece, there are many different places that you can visit taking you from the mainland to the many island groups that offer a different glimpse into Greek culture and history. Crete is the largest of the Greek Islands, giving visitors plenty to do and see regardless of the season.

In this post, we are going to explore Rethymno. Located 80 km east of Heraklion, Crete’s capital city, old town Rethymno is a stunning ancient holiday location, full of Venetian and Ottoman touches, Orthodox churches and the Byzantine neighbourhood of Armeni. Join us as we uncover Rethymno Old Town, the perfect destination for history enthusiasts, culture lovers, and everyone looking to discover the ancient world.

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What Can I See in Rethymno Old Town?

Rethymno Old Town has touches of so many cultures and empires that once ruled the island of Crete. Here is a list of the main attractions that you can visit when in Rethymno Old Town: 

The Venetian Fortezza


One must-see location when visiting the old town is the Venetian Fortezza which is located on top of Paleokastro Hill. It is open daily from 8 am to 8 pm during the high season of the summer months and has an entrance fee of €4. The Fortezza has ancient relics and also houses the Ibraham Han Mosque, the Bastion of Santa Maria and the church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas within its walls, not to mention the stunning views of the Aegean Sea.

Melidoni Cave

Melidoni Cave​

Next on our list is the incredible Melidoni Cave located just outside of Rethymno. It is an old archaeological site, used by the Minoan civilisation to worship Talos, the mythological giants that protected the island of Crete. During the summer, the site is open from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm and in the winter, it is only open on the weekends from 10 am to 4 pm. Tickets are €4 per adult or €3 for families and students. We suggest calling ahead to reserve your visit.

Exploring Rethymno does not end there, the old town is a must-do. Wandering the cobblestone streets, and seeing the Rimondi Fountain and the Old Venetian Harbour is the perfect afternoon plan for taking in the Renaissance architecture of this Greek town. As you make your way towards the Harbour and the lighthouse in the port, make sure to stop by all the little shops, finally arriving at the promenade in time for sunset and a drink by the sea.

Old Town Rethymno: The Jewel Origins

A stand-out feature of Rethymno’s old town is the labyrinthine of narrow cobblestone streets, an image straight out of any postcard. As you make your way through the town, wandering along Souliou Street is perfect for anyone looking to view the local culture of craftsmanship and artistry. Souliou Street is full of little artisan shops selling handmade leather goods and jewellery.

Something truly unique to the island is the “Cretan Spiral” inspired by the Minoans, which has become a signature design for many necklaces and bracelets made by local jewellers. There is also a huge culture of pottery in this part of Crete, which can be seen in the vases and art shops around the area.  The Loom is a traditional textile shop where intricate patterns and fabrics are fused bringing traditional weaving patterns into modern-day bags and purses. It is a unique and meaningful souvenir.


The Culture of Rethymno

The cultural heart of Rethymno Old Town is a mix of so many different cultures and traditions. First up, the Historical and Folklore Museum is a must-visit and highly recommended by many visitors to Crete. It has a collection of textiles, traditional costumes and artefacts from the island. It is open from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm.

For anyone who enjoys art, the old town Rethymno has many art galleries scattered around its streets full of local artists’ works. The Municipal Gallery of Lefteris Kanakakis has some amazing exhibitions showcasing contemporary Creten art. The gallery is free to visit.

Lastly, the local Renaissance Festival is an annual summer highlight that fills the streets of Rethymno old town with music, traditional dances, markets and pop-up theatre shows.

Local Gastronomy in Rethymno Old Town

Greek food is perhaps one of the most enjoyable cuisines, and nothing beats sitting along the seaside in a traditional taverna, enjoying locally sourced ingredients and meals.

On our list of suggestions is the Avli Restaurant. Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, we must warn that is a pricy option, located in a luxurious Venetian mansion, but truly an experience if you can manage. They specialise in Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, so fresh seafood is a staple on their menu.

For those looking to venture out and try local street foods and quick bites, you can’t go wrong with any of the smaller cafés and restaurants located in the heart of the old town. Try some moussaka (layers of meat and eggplant with bechamel sauce) or dakos (a local salad made with barley, tomatoes, feta and olive oil) and why not finish with loukoumades (golden fried balls soaked in honey and cinnamon).


Hidden Secrets of Rethymno Old Town

A few suggestions to take you off the beaten track is to plan a walking tour of Rethymno old town. This is a great way to explore the area with a guide and learn some details about buildings and monuments that you might otherwise miss.

Taking a short trip to see the Byzantine village of Armeni is another not-so-common plan that is a great option for anyone who enjoys ancient cultures. The Village of Armeni is located in the Armenokampos Valley near mountain Vrysina. In the year 961, Armenian soldiers, along with the Byzantine Emperor Nikiforos Fokas came to this area to liberate Crete, hence the village’s name Armeni. Later, in 1969, this area was discovered to be an old Minoan grave and you can now visit the archaeological site that is located in a forest.

Relax on the Beaches Near Old Town Rethymno

Whether you are planning your visit in the summer or not, Crete usually has mild weather all year round. This means, that although you might not want to swim in December, you can always enjoy a relaxing day at the beach, laying out and catching up on a good book!

Enetiko Beach and the Town Beach of Rethymno are the closest to Rethymno old town and are simple beaches where locals and tourists mix, with a few taverns located along the seaside. But, in our opinion, if you are looking for a unique beach day, we suggest travelling a bit further out to Geropotamos Beach. This is a stunning cove located about 18 km from Rethymno and is easily accessible by car. Damnoni Beach is a little further away, about 42 km south of old town Rethymno, but is worth it! It is a clean, sandy beach with umbrella and lounge chairs for hire. Perfect for a full day out under the sun!


Visit Rethymno Old Town and Fall in Love With Its Historical Charm

Visiting the island of Crete offers so many distinct corners of history and the old town of Rethymno is no different. When planning your trip to this historical area along the seaside, make sure to book your accommodations with Oreo Travel, perfect for your comfortable home base in Crete.