In late summer, the Cretan town of Rethymnon plays host to the famous Renaissance Festival. This spectacular cultural event has taken place annually since 1987, and it was originally created to celebrate the Cretan and European Renaissance and Rethymnon’s rich Venetian heritage.
Visit during this time and you can expect to find colourful flags fluttering all over the beautiful old town, plus a whole host of street performers and dancers. There are also pantomimes and art exhibitions galore taking place in Venetian churches and mosques, and the streets and squares, all over town. You’ll find plenty of impressive stage plays and music concerts too; it’s the perfect way to spend a warm summer evening.
What else can I expect?
Over the years, the works of favourite Cretan playwrights have been staged during the Renaissance Festival, along with those of Shakespeare, Moliere, Goldoni, and many others. Musicians also flock here for all over the world to play music dating back to the Renaissance times all the way through to today.
Throughout the narrow streets and alleyways of Rethymno’s old town, you’ll also discover all kinds of ‘Commedia dell’arte’ performances; translating as ‘comedy of the profession’, these improvised sketches and scenarios are a traditional form of Italian comedy.
You’ll also find a wealth of performances of all kinds over in the open-air Erfoli Theatre. It’s located within the ancient Venetian fortress of Rethymnon, so the setting is nothing short of spectacular!
Why is the Renaissance Festival held in Rethymnon?
The Renaissance Festival honours the fascinating past of Rethymnon, and it’s one of Crete’s oldest festivals. This celebration is all about preserving the city’s rich cultural heritage and showcasing the town’s beautiful Venetian monuments, including the stunning old town of Rethymnon and Fortezza (the citadel of the city that dates back to the 16th century).
Where is Rethymnon?
You’ll find the town of Rethymnon on Crete’s north-east coast, half way between Chania and Heraklion. This is the third biggest city in Crete and one of the most beautiful anywhere in Greece.
Rethymnon is home to 10km of sandy beaches, but it’s best known for its stunning Venetian architecture. Whether you visit during the Renaissance Festival or not, you’ll enjoy discovering the hidden gems tucked away amid the narrow streets of the old town. And if you want to explore the town’s history further, you can head over to the Archaeological Museum of Rethymnon and the Monastery of Arkadi.
The busy Venetian harbour has been transformed into a bustling drinking and dining hot spot. Here you can indulge in a spot of traditional Cretan cuisine (with a sea view, of course!) or stay up late in one of waterfront bars.