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Rethymnon Town Sightseeing

As it happens with Chania and Heraklion, Rethymnon too has a lot of things worth seeing. Here too, one finds this peculiar and very interesting mixture of cultures: Byzantine remains stand side by side with Venetian constructions and Ottoman buildings. The old city stands almost intact; many buildings have been restored to cover modern needs and host actual activities. Rethymnon is a living Museum of Medieval and Modern times, where the visitor can come across and feel the history of some 800 years.

Many important monuments of the city are owed to the Venetians: the Venetian Harbour, with the light house at the end of the water break, a construction of the 16 th century, the impressive Fortetza, the fortress built to protect the city, which, however, never had been transferred there, the Porta Guora, one of the gates of the earlier Venetian fortifications, the Loggia, an impressive square building, where the nobility of the city and the Venetian governors were assembled to discuss administrative and political topics, the Rimonti fountain, the church of Aghios Frangiskos (St. Francis), which used to be the church of the Franciscan monks' Monastery, the Augustinian church dedicated to Holy Virgin, transformed by the Ottomans to the mosque of Neratze, the church of the Lady of Angels, the "Mikri Panaghia" (meaning "little Virgin" in Greek) as the locals call it, and the Venetian vaulted buildings.

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Apart from those monuments, the Venetian period of the city is present in the interesting decorated doorframes of various private houses in the old town of Rethymnon and in some villages around.    

The Ottoman domination is also present with the Hamam, built in the 17 th century, the mosque of Neratze with its impressive minaret, actually the Odeon, the mosque of Cara Moussa Pasha, the mosque of Veli Pasha, the Ottoman school, today housing one of the elementary schools of the city.

It is also worth seeing the Municipal Park and the Municipal Library, the Seat of the Prefecture of Rethymnon, a neo-classic building, the Cathedral, a basilica dedicated to the Presentation of Virgin Mary and the Old Municipal Hospital.
Don't miss to stroll around with the little wheel-driven train, one of the attractions of the city.

The city has six Museums: The Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon is lodged in the pentagonal building just in front of the central gate of the Fortetza (eastern gate). The building had been constructed by the Ottomans to protect the entrance of the fort.

The exhibits come from various areas all over the prefecture and represent all the prehistoric and historic periods. The Late Neolithic (3500-2900 b.C.) and Early Minoan (2800-2100 b.C.) pottery, tools and statuettes, among them a violin-shaped marble figurine, have been found mainly in the caves of Melidoni and Gerani; the Middle Minoan (2100-1600 b.C.) finds come from the building complexes of Apodoulou and Monastiraki sites, as well as from the peak sanctuary at Vryssinas; what is most interesting is the great number of seal stones and the clay model of a shrine, preserved only in its upper part. The Late Minoan (1600-1100 b.C.) period is represented by various finds, mainly from the cemeteries of the area, with most important this of Armeni; an impressive serrated helmet and a clay figurine of the well known "goddess with upraised hands", along with weapons, jewels, tools and abundant pottery are some of the most important exhibits. One can also see finds of the Geometric (1000-700 b.C.), Archaic (700-500 b.C.) and Classical (500-300 b.C.) periods, from the sites of Eleutherna, Axos, Stavromenos and Argyroupolis, the most interesting being the funerary steles. Finally, from the Hellenistic and Roman periods it is worth seeing the marble statue of Aphrodite (Venus), a Roman copy of the Greek original, as well as the glass vessels very common during the Roman period.
The Museum also houses a good collection of coins of various periods.

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The Historical and Folk Art Museum is lodged in a restored Venetian building, an excellent sample of the urban dwelling of the period, dated back to the 17 th century, listed by the Ministry of Culture as a historic monument with conservation status; apart from the collections it houses, the building itself is worth seeing. There are exhibited costumes, hand woven textiles, tools for weaving, embroideries and laces, traditional pottery and its tools, and metal work. The whole traditional process of making bread, one of the characteristic activities in Rethymnon, from harvesting the grain to baking the bread, is also presented, along with some traditional professions, as that of the saddler, the coppersmith, the farmer and the cutler. There is also a good collection of historical documents photographs and maps. Educational programs and various editions of the Museum are also available for the visitors.

The Museum of Sea Life: In this Museum the visitor can find a good representation of fauna and flora of the sea, mainly mollusks, fish and sponges. There are also some fossils. The Museum is lodged in an abbey within the old town recently restored, and the collection is one of the most important in Rethymnon.

The Municipal Gallery "L. Kanakakis" is housed in a Venetian building, within the old city, just below the Fortetza. In the gallery there is a permanent exhibition of the work of L. Kanakakis, but also of many other contemporary Greek artists since 1950. Actually, the Gallery, incorporated in the National Cultural Network since 1995, is part of the Center of Contemporary Art, which has influenced and orientated the activities of the Gallery. As a result, the Gallery -and the Center- organize a broad range of activities concerning Modern Art both in Greece and abroad almost all year round. Thus, apart from exhibitions, there are lectures, seminars, editions and educational material.

The Frantzeskakis' Collection: The collection of Eleni Frantzeskaki contains traditional embroidery, needlework, lacework and woven textiles. It is housed in a building just opposite the Municipal Gallery.

The Church Museum contains a collection of ecclesiastical items, such as icons, bells, utensils used in the mass. One of the most interesting exhibits is the clock of the bell-tower, which was working from 1894 up to 1986. The Museum is housed in the Office of the Metropolis (Cathedral).
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Several cultural activities are organized throughout the year in the city. Many of them have a rather long history and they get better from one year to another.

The Renaissance spirit of the city of Rethymnon has inspired and initiated the Renaissance Festival, taking place every year from July to September, since 1987 and aiming at presenting the Art and Letters of Renaissance both of Crete and of Europe. During this period of time there have been performed a lot of theatrical plays, from the masters of the Cretan theatre of the 17 th century, to Shakespeare, Moliere and Goldoni. Medieval, Renaissance but also modern music concerts, peinting exhibitions, seminars, conferences, and cinema are some other activities taking place during the Festival. It is also interesting that scenes from the "Commedia del Arte" have been presented in the streets of the old town.
Almost all the activities are carried out in the theatre "Erofili ", within the Fortetza.

Two weeks before the Carnival, in February or in March it is organised the game of the Treasure Hunt. It is a very popular game to which locals take part with enthusiasm. The game lasts one day and it is a hard test of the body and brain abilities, as it has reached such a high level of toughness, that it is almost impossible for any uninitiated person to participate. The game is a very good source of knowledge of the history, the spirit of the various historic periods and monuments of the town; thus, if you are around when it takes place, try to watch one of the groups when in action.
The Treasure Hunt game is a game for adults; however, one week earlier, it is also organised the Children's' Treasure Hunt, a great chance for children to combine fun with knowledge and exercise.
As the game has been pretty famous and is one of the attractions of the city, the Association of Hotel Owners, in co-operation with the Municipality have decided to organise another Treasure Hunt, this time in summer for the visitors of the city. The activity is carried out within the framework of the "Day of Tourism".

The winners of this game are awarded a package of holidays in Rethymnon, all included.

Carnival is celebrated in Rethymnon with a wide range of original events, which combine tradition with imagination and fun. The Carnival of Rethymnon is the greatest on the island and one of the most important in Greece; the parade of masqueraded groups following the "King of Carnival" date back to the first decade of the 20 th century. Since 1959 the parade is organised every year and year after year new events are added up. The events start some ten days before Shrove Monday, with the open-air party on the Pancake day, which take place at the Platano Square and at the church of Mikri Panaghia; live music, wine and titbits and a big crowd of people having fun, dancing and singing make this event an attraction worth attending.
One week before the "official" parade of the groups, a party is organised for the participants, who not only attend it dressed up with costumes, but they also prepare and perform funny sketches. As expected, wine, food, music, dancing and fun are abundant. The parade takes place on Sunday before the Shrove Monday and the spectacle is really worth seeing.
Shrove Monday is dedicated to tradition: old customs revive, mainly in the near by villages as Melidoni and Meronas and if you are around you can attend the "kidnapping of the bride» or the "Kandis". But watch out! One of the most popular customs is the smudging of faces!

If you are in Rethymnon in mid-July don't miss the Cretan Wine Festival organised by the Touring Club of Rethymnon in the Municipal Park.
During the event the wine producers present their products; wine is free and the visitors can taste almost all varieties of the Cretan wine. But, as wine without music, dance and fun is incompatible to the Cretan psychology, the event is enriched with folklore music from Crete, but also from the rest of Greece.

A series of cultural activities in the memory of the "Sacrifice" of Arkadi take place on the 8 th of November.
A series of cultural activities take place in summer during the "Nautical week".
A local feast ("panighyri") takes place on the 23 rd of June in honor of St. John (Klidonas).

Access to the city (and all the prefecture) is possible by ferryboat from Piraeus; there is one ship from Piraeus to the port of Rethymnon, all year round. In summer there might be some more. The ships usually sail in the afternoon or in the evening and, depending on their speed, they arrive at Rethymnon after 6 to 10 hours. Access by ship is also possible from Thessaloniki, by bus or plane to Piraeus and then by ferryboat.

Rethymnon does not have an airport; visitors preferring airplane should catch a flight to Chania or Heraklion. From the International airport of Athens, Eleftherios Venizelos, there are usually two flights daily to Chania and to Heraklion; one early in the morning and the other in the afternoon or evening. In summer there may be more. The airport of Chania is at Akrotiri, some 15 kilometers far from the city; from the airport you will arrive to Rethymnon by the Olympic Airways buses, by public bus or even by taxi (50 kilometers approximately). The airport of Heraklion is 5 kilometers at the East of the city; from the airport the passengers are transferred to Rethymnon by the Olympic Airways buses. You may also use the public bus or even a taxi (60 kilometers approximately). Access by plane is also possible from Thessaloniki.

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