History of Rethymnon

Rethymnon does not appear in history books before the Fourth Crusade. After the Venetians carved up the Byzantine Empire, they decided the spot could be made into a fine harbour for their trading ships.

No Minoan palaces, Classical ruins or even Roman roads have been found here, though archaeologists speculate they may lie buried under the old town.

Dominating the port is the Fortezza with a mosque and enclosed by stout walls and ramparts. Besides being a romantic place to stroll at sunset, it is also the largest Venetian castle in Crete. But for all its size, it only lasted 22 days when the Turks besieged it in 1646.

Between 1573 and 1580, the Venetians built this enormous fortress, completed with sturdy bastions, to protect the island against Turkish invasion and also as a place where locals could take shelter, should the Turks take the town.

On the highest point, note the mosque, originally a church, but converted into an Islamic place of worship by the Turks when they eventually conquered the town in 1646. There’s also a small open-air theatre, which hosts concerts in summer.

Apart from the castle, Rethymno has been described as “the best-preserved example of Renaissance domestic architecture found outside Italy.”  Some of these buildings have been converted into elegant pensions, bars and antiques stores and even the souvenir shops and restaurants here are on a higher plane than their counterparts on the beach.

Not just a sandy beach, not just a picturesque town, Rethymno is also close to some memorable inland destinations and some of the most beautiful countryside in Crete.