Rethymnon is located between the two other large cities of Crete. To the east is Heraklion, about 80 kilometres away, with Chania, located about 60 kilometres to the west. It sits on the north coast, and is the administrative centre for the Prefecture of Rethymnon.
There is evidence of a settlement at Rethymnon since Neolithic times, but the area first gained importance during the Mycenae occupation of Crete, but diminished again after the third century B.C. Through the Roman and Byzantine periods, the town seems to have been neglected. With the arrival of the Venetians, who saw Rethymnon as a safe harbour between the two prominent settlements of Heraklion and Chania, the town was fortified and seemed to enter a golden age. Later the town fell to the Turks, who apart from changing the churches into mosques, left the town as it was. The Russians gained control of the town in the 1800's, with the Greeks regaining control in 1913.
Rethymnon night life can range from, extremely lively, in the night clubs, pubs and bars, that are mainly based in and around the old town and harbour areas. and the more relaxed atmosphere in the small bars and tavernas that stretch along the length of the beach. So if you are looking for a family holiday, then one of these sub-resorts may be a good choice. If you are considering exploring further, there are the usual places to hire cars and cycles, plus a good bus service that runs all along the northern coast road.
Its main attraction, apart from the harbour itself, is the Old Venetian quarter which sits on the headland beneath the Venetian fortress. It is a maze of narrow streets, Venetian monuments, fountains, and the occasional minaret. The Old quarter, a major tourist attraction in its own right, has grown into a very popular place for shopping, and offers a wide assortment of stores selling just about everything from souvenirs to jewellery, leather, pottery, plus many other locally made craft items.
To the east of the city and running along the coast for several kilometres is a good, sandy beach. Unsurprisingly, this area has become a target for developers, and now, is lined with many hotels and apartment blocks, around which there can be found yet more shops, bars, and tavernas, forming, in places, small tourist communities in their own right. The area around Rethymnon has become one of the major holiday destinations.
The fortress, that looks out over the city, and known as the Fortezza, was built between 1573 and 1580, by the Venetians, for protection from the Turkish threat. It was built in the shape of a star with three gates and six bastions. Inside you can view what is left of Commander' s house, the Counsellor's house, the barracks, stables, plus ammunition and storehouses. Excavations on the site have been minimal, but work has been done from time to time in an attempt to preserve the remaining buildings.