Rethymno’s Palia Poli– the Old Town – was almost all built by the Republic of Venice, the mighty rulers of Crete from 1205 until 1669. The stronghold you see today guarding the old harbor with obstinate stoicism was their Fortezza, the city’s most fascinating tourist attraction and always a rich cultural experience.
Within the walls of the historic citadel, you can visit all kinds of landmarks, like the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim, the Ottoman ravelin, bastions, the prisons of the House of the Rector, the churches of St Theodore and St Catherine, gunpowder magazines, and storage rooms, among other attractions.
It’s easy to spend a couple of hours lost within the walls of this Cretan treasure, then take a break at a cafe by the port and have a cold beer. Or ask for a freddo, the cold coffee drink that Cretans love so much – Cappuccino or Espresso brews are served in tall glasses over a stack of ice cubes. It’s very refreshing.
The Blue Flag beaches of Rethymno lure many visitors too. There’s something therapeutic about feeling the kiss of the sun close to the waves that caress the sands of the beach in an endless dance. It’s soothing and calming to forget the worries of the mundane.
Visiting Rethymno can also be a journey of creative discovery:
- The Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete is a modern space with a permanent collection boasting more than 500 works by contemporary Greek artists, as well as 50 works by Lefteris Kanakakis (1934 – 1985) who was born in Rethymno. The museum also offers pottery workshops and painting classes for children and adults, as well as other educational programs.
- The Nikos Siragas Gallery & Workshop is another rewarding cultural stop for lovers of art and beauty. It’s located at 38 Varda Kallergi St. in the heart of the Old Town. He is an internationally-recognized woodturning artist. He offers woodturning classes too if you are interested in creating something special with your own hands.
- The Historical and Folklore Museum of Rethymno is another interesting place to discover the fascinating heritage of this beautiful city. It is housed in an old Venetian mansion dating from the 15th century. It boasts a permanent exhibition showcasing local handicrafts and folkloric art. It is also an important research center for the preservation of the Cretan Folklore culture.
- Self-thought, French-born Alexandra Kaouki-Melidoni has a workshop in the Old Town too. Here, the artist showcases the mysterious craft that goes into the creation of Byzantine Icons and wall paintings. She’s an adept of the Byzantine traditional technique of the Cretan school. She offers classes for all ages too.
- Another interesting find for lovers of art is Katerina Manetaki, better known as CloClo Witch. Her gallery is located at 32 Tzane Bouniali in the Old Town. The artist uses all kinds of unconventional materials to create thought-provoking sculptures and dynamic works of art.
- The Morfes Gallery is a contemporary art gallery showcasing young talent working in all kinds of media. From paintings to sculpture, from photography to art installations and beyond, this gallery will always surprise you with art that inspires dialogue. They also have a variety of educational programs for the little ones.
As you explore Rethymno you will find other galleries and shops selling either traditional art or works by contemporary artists.