We visited the town of Rethymno during our Crete trip, and if, like me, you enjoy pretty places with plenty of history, then you should add it to your “places I want to go” list.
We had an unnerving experience when we arrived in the town. There are several car parks on the edge of the old town, but we struggled to find a space. Don’t do what we did, which was to try to get into the town with the car! We entered the old town’s streets at about 10:50AM – the barrier was up, and there was a sign saying no entry after 1100. The streets are incredibly narrow, and shop keepers had already started putting their tables and shelving units onto the streets, so we had a very scary ten minute drive through ever narrower roads until we finally popped back out! At the second attempt, we found some parking.
Rethymno is on the north coast of Crete, close to Chania, and has a population of around 40,000. It was originally settled by the Minoans in the bronze age, and has remained important, largely because of it’s sheltered natural harbour. When the Venetians conquered Crete in the 16th Century, they realised the strategic importance of the town and built the impressive Fortezza and most of the town’s buildings are from that period, and are surrounded by fortified walls.
Once the little streets are traffic free (!) it’s a pleasure to walk around them. The town has an almost Moroccan Souk feel to it, with high buildings and interesting shops offering souvenirs, leather goods of excellent quality, and some unusual clothes shops.
You can walk up to the Fortezza and admire the size of it, but it’s worth paying the €4 to go inside. The walls, dungeons and several buildings are still intact. It’s absolutely huge, and was able to accommodate the town’s entire population when under attack. Attacking the fort would have been pretty scary – the elevated position makes it seem easy to repel either land or sea borne forces.
We spent a few hours there – it’s not probably not worth planning a full day, but if you can combine with a visit somewhere nearby, do go and have a look.
Here’s a short video we shot while we were at the fort: