Rethymno Fortress

Rethymno, Greece

The Fortezza (fortress) is the citadel of the city of Rethymno in Crete. It is built on a hill which was the site of ancient Rhithymna's acropolis. Between the 10th and 13th centuries, the Byzantines established a fortified settlement to the east of the hill. It was called Castrum Rethemi, and it had square towers and two gates. The fortifications were repaired in the beginning of the 13th century.

Venetian era

Following the fall of Cyprus to the Ottomans in 1571, Crete became the largest remaining Venetian overseas possession. Since Rethymno had been sacked, it was decided that new fortifications needed to be built to protect the city and its harbour. The new fortress, which was built on the Paleokastro hill, was designed by the military engineer Sforza Pallavicini according to the Italian bastioned system.

Construction began on 13 September 1573, and it was complete by 1580. Although the original plan had been to demolish the old fortifications of Rethymno and move the inhabitants into the Fortezza, it was too small to house the entire city. The walls along the landward approach to the city were left intact, and the Fortezza became a citadel housing the Venetian administration of the city. It was only to be used by the inhabitants of the city in the case of an Ottoman invasion.

Ottoman era

On 29 September 1646, during the Fifth Ottoman–Venetian War, an Ottoman force besieged Rethymno, and the city's population took refuge in the Fortezza. Conditions within the citadel deteriorated, due to disease and a lack of food and ammunition. The Venetians surrendered under favourable terms on 13 November.

The Ottomans did not make any major changes to the Fortezza, except the construction of a ravelin outside the main gate. They also built some houses for the garrison and the city's administration, and they converted the cathedral into a mosque. The fort remained in use until the early 20th century.


Large-scale restoration work has been under way since the early 1990s. The Fortezza is managed by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and it is open to the public. The Ottoman ravelin now houses the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.



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Founded: 1573-1580
Category: Castles and fortifications in Greece


4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Karzan Meddes (16 months ago)
Beautiful place, located right at the edge of town with magnificent view of the sea. I was there in September and the weather was pretty hot, around 27c degrees. I would recommend eating/drinking at the bars/restaurants right at the edge with awesome view.
Dave Britton (16 months ago)
Great views of the city and a very pleasant stroll around the grounds. Would benefit from some signs explaining the history; the pamphlet supplied was very limited. Also, the toilets were out of order which frustrated several visitors.
adil ashraff (16 months ago)
A good place to see the whole of rethymno city. Do make sure to visit the underground tunnel, it's a good place to take excellent pictures. Can be found while walking on top of the castle
Lara Slater (16 months ago)
€4 per adult. We didn't have to pay for the kids ages up to 9. Path to the main mosque dome is semi suitable for buggies. Bit bumpy! Nice views. Not that busy but few people around in April. Well looked after. Toilet facility at entrance very clean for 50cents
Marina Triantafillaki (16 months ago)
A great architectural fortresses of the venetian Era! The ticket is only 4€ for all and free for the students.
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