The Romantic Old Town
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The old town of Rethymnon is one of the best-preserved towns of the Renaissance. Lying in the heart of modern Rethymnon, it combines the oriental features of the Turkish period with Renaissance-style Venetian architecture. After the Venetian conquest of Crete (1204), the town of Rethymnon was built according to the rules of Venetian architecture. The layout of Rethymnon is directly linked to the sea, with the main Venetian street, the Ruga Maistra (today’s coastal Venizelou Avenue) running parallel to the sea.
Many buildings with gothic features were lost in the destruction of the town by Ulu Ali in 1571, while Rethymnon was rebuilt almost in its entirety in the third quarter of the 16th century. Many fine examples of Turkish architecture are preserved scattered around the narrow streets of the old town.
Their main feature is the heavy use of wood. Building styles changed during the years of the Turkish occupation (1646-1898) and the dressed stone of the Venetians was replaced by a wooden frame filled with rubble and mud (bagdati). The upper storey almost always projects out over the street (sahnisi) and is faced with wood, often with kafasoto latticework. In Rethymnon the Turks made full use of the existing Venetian public and private buildings, which they modified according to their needs.
Today the old town of Rethymnon is a living museum of monuments of past centuries. Despite the damage sustained in the Second World War, many Venetian and Turkish monuments still stand.
Start with the Old Town, where you can admire Creto-Venetian architecture as you wander the paved lanes and browse wares, from food to jewelry, on sale in cozy boutiques. Need a break? Head for the coffeehouses on Platanos Square and mingle with the locals. Get the low down on Rethymno’s ancient roots at the Archaeological Museum near the Fortezza entrance. Its collection features finds from excavations in the area. Next, immerse yourself in local tradition.