Rethymno (alternative spelling Rethymnon) is one of the four prefectures of Crete, the largest Greek island. Rethymno Town is the capital of this regional unit. Rethymno Town is located on the North coast of Crete, between the towns of Chania and Heraklion.
Founded by the Minoans, Rethymno was occupied at first by Romans, then by Venetians and lastly by Ottomans. All these civilizations left their marks on the city.
The Rethymno prefecture includes popular spots such as Matala, Agia Galini, Plakias, Preveli, and Bali.
Its central location makes Rethymno a great choice for visitors who want to see as much of Crete as possible without having to move from one hotel to another. Let’s see some of the best things to do in Rethymno. This travel guide should provide you with everything you need to plan your trip like a pro.
Getting into Rethymno Port by Ferry from Athens
There’s no direct ferry from Athens to Rethymno. You’d have to take a ferry from either Piraeus or Lavrio to Santorini (Thira) and then another one from Santorini to Rethymno.
This could work very well if you’d like to spend a few hours on Santorini. Also, if you want a, island hopping adventure, you can stop in Mykonos and Santorini for a few days on your way to Crete.
Otherwise, you’d better catch the night ferry to Heraklion or Chania and then catch a bus or a taxi or rent a car on the island to get to Rethymno.
Getting to Rethymno from Chania or Heraklion Airports
Rethymno Town is at 70 km distance from Chania Airport, respectively 80 km from Heraklion Airport. Expect to cover these distances in a little over one hour.
There are airport taxi services you can use to get to virtually any place on the island.
The links below will take you to the website of Welcome Pickups, where you’ll be able to book a taxi for your desired date and time:
If you prefer to travel by public transport, beware that the bus ride is slower.
Buses in Crete are comfortable, safe and cheap. You can find the timetables and the ticket prices on the official website of KTEL, here. I used the buses between Rethymno and Agia Galini many times and never had a problem. Nonetheless, if you want the freedom to explore the island on your own, a car will be priceless.
Road signs in Crete are clear and easy to follow, so you don’t need a GPS to find your way around. Most rental cars, though, come with a GPS option you can enable for a small fee (as far as I remember, that was about 12-15 euros for the entire rental period). If you’re on a phone SIM card from any country in the EU, you’ll be able to use your regular mobile data plan at no additional costs.
Rethymno Old Town – Things To See
The old town of Rethymno is a web of narrow streets full of shops and tavernas. Simply wandering these streets is very rewarding. You’ll find both free and paid parking near the fortress.
The Fortezza fortress and the old Venetian Harbor are the two main tourist attractions in Rethymno.
The Rethymnon Archeology Museum is also in the old town area.
In fact, the town itself is a hidden gem. I’ll let my photos speak for now.
The Rimondi Venetian fountain (photo below) is also in the Old Town. Built in 1626, this public fountain featuring Corinthian columns is one of the historical landmarks in Rethymno.
This is the Rethymnon Archeology Museum, right in the Old Town:
Rethymnon New Town & the Venetian Port
The new town of Rethymno has a special charm, with its palm trees, restaurants and shops. If you want to take some amazing photos, get there by late afternoon, when the golden light makes everything look so soft and warm.
The main boulevard alongside the coastal promenade is closed to motor vehicles for the summer season. It will stay pedestrian-only until the end of October 2021.
Even a stormy day can be a great opportunity to take some awesome photos of Rethymno.
Rethymno City Beaches
The prefecture of Rethymno is home to some of the best beaches in Crete. We’ll take a closer look at them in another article. For now, you need to know that the public beach of Rethymno is large and clean. There are sunbeds and umbrellas, as well as water activities. Also, there are lots of restaurants just across the road, so you’ll be able to spend entire days at the beach, if that’s your wish.
Some of the restaurants will allow you to use their sunbeds and umbrellas for free if you buy something from them. Anyway, if you don’t need chairs and umbrellas, you can use any beach in Crete for free.
If you want spectacular coves, impressive scenery featuring massive rocks or pink sand, Rethymno isn’t the beach for you.
Choosing a Hotel in Rethymnon
Choosing a hotel in Rethymno is a matter of priorities. If you want a relaxing beach vacation, you should seek for peaceful villas or beachfront properties. I found the Paralia Kourna area to be quite good for beach vacations.
Check out Argiri Apartments & Suites or other hotels on Kourna Beach or Episkopi Beach. If you pick this area as your base camp for the entire trip, you’ll want to take a look at this 7-day Crete itinerary to see how it suits you.
If you want to feel the vibe of the city, you’ll want to pick accommodation right in the Old Town of Rethymno.
For instance, Afroditi is one of the top rated boutique hotels in the old part of the town, featuring scenic views of the Old Rethymno Town, as well as sea views (from some of their rooms).
Rimondi Boutique Hotel is another interesting choice, with its lovely pool area and its impressive architecture.