A Cycladic island that doesn’t resemble the rest. Instead of the usual white cubic houses, here you’ll find luxurious two-storey mansions, and instead of the small white-washed churches stately grand temples.
Syros may be in the Cyclades but it’s a league of its own. Forget the small white trademark houses of the Cyclades and the small bright-white churches; here you’ll find tall, grand, two-storey mansions with blooming verandas, stately churches with blue domes, and public buildings designed by the best architects.
Where to go
A stroll around Ermoupolis will show you how magical the atmosphere the town’s impressive architecture creates is. Start from the Miaouli Square and the Town Hall, designed by Ernst Ziller, and head towards Vaporia, the most aristocratic neighbourhood on the island. Stop at the exceptionally beautiful church of Agios Nikolaos, with the elaborate marble altar, and if you need a break, the beach Asteria is just five minutes away, ideal for a chill dip.
On the other hand, Ano Syra, with the medieval elements, the narrow cobbled alleys, and the Roman Catholic St George’s cathedral, imposing guard of the island’s Catholic population, has a more familiar feel. Ermoupolis was an important port in the 19th and 20th century, and the related history of the area can be explored in the old harbour as well as in the Industrial Museum, whose exhibits include the legendary Enfield 8000, the first electric car to be produced in Greece, 40 years ago.
Syros’ grandeur isn’t all concentrated in Ermoupolis, Posidonia and Chroussa will also enchant you with their majestic mansions and both settlements are worth visiting. And when you’re tired of swimming, walking, or driving around, sit in a shaded little café and order ice water and a traditional loukoumi (Turkish delight) from Syros.
How to get there
By boat from Piraeus, Lavrio and Kavala.
Where to stay
Aristide Hotel: A restored neoclassical building in the Vaporia neighbourhood that preserves its noble luxury. The owners have maintained the original fixtures and have created nine impressive suites, each decorated differently. Hardwood floors, marble bathrooms, plaster decorations on the ceilings, famous works of art, and quality details are proof that a lot of work, care, and passion have been put into them. The view from the roof garden is unexpectedly beautiful. (27, Babagiotou str, Vaporia, Ermoupolis, 2281081601, www.hotelaristide.com).
Hotel Ploes: A boutique hotel housed in a restored mansion right by the sea, with a unique atmosphere and decoration. The rooms are comfortable, beautifully designed, and have views of the sea or of the town. The café’s balcony has an amazing view and there’s a cute little stone pier with sunbeds below. (2 Apollonos str, Ermoupolis 2281079360, www.hotelploes.com).
Olala Brazzera Hotel: Within reach of Foinikas beach, of neoclassical design, with comfortable rooms with simple décor. Some of the rooms include a fully equipped kitchen (Foinikas, 2281079173).
Emily Hotel: eleven well-kept rooms, bright and fresh. They come with a mini fridge and the essentials to make coffee or tea, while at breakfast you’ll be offered homemade marmalades. The beach is steps away and is accessible to wheel-chair users (Achladi, Vari, 2281061400, www.hotelemily.gr).
Anemos and Almyra: at a quiet location away from the crowds and very close to the beach. The rooms are orderly, spacious, and all have a fully equipped kitchenette (Delfini, 2281088893, www.anemos-almyra.gr).
Where to eat
San Michali: a lovely veranda overlooking the sea, with Greek cuisine that includes dishes with international influences. Seafood, pasta, and meat both fresh and dry aged (16 Agiou Dimitriou str, Vaporia, 6976581656).
Allou Gialou: the menu is mostly dominated by seafood, but you’ll also find a few casserole dishes. A very pretty veranda on the sea from where you can enjoy the sunset. (Kini beach, 2281071196).
Dyo Tzitzikia st’ Armirikia: also on Kini beach, with fresh seafood and fish. They have tables on the beach in the shade of the tamarisk trees (Kini beach, 2281071151).
To Limani: a typical fish tavern that specialises in open-fire grilled fish and seafood mezze (60 Ethnikis Antistaseos str, Ermoupolis, 2281085809).
Plakostroto: traditional, both in style and flavours, tavern. Pork with fennel, lamb shank casserole, and other Cycladic recipes comprise the menu (Σαν Μιχάλη, 6973980248).
Local products: San Michali (cheese), petrota (soft cheese) Syros sausage, louza (traditional air-dried pork, marinated in red wine and spices), loukoumia (Turkish delight), pastelaries (dried figs with walnuts), halvadopita (nougat pie), aetopita (a pie made with fish and vegetables).
What to see
If you want to learn the long history of this island all you have to do is visit the most important and representative spots that show the culture and civilization of the island.
Ermoupolis Town Hall: perhaps the most impressive town hall in the whole of Greece. It was built in 1876 under the supervision of Ernst Ziller and it cost around 1.300.000 drachmas. Its architecture combines three distinct styles, Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian (Miaoulis sq. Ermoupolis).
Archaelogical Museum of Ermoupolis: its collection includes findings from the Prehistoric up to the Byzantine period. It was founded in 1834 and is one of the oldest museums in the country. It is housed in the impressive Town Hall, but has its own entrance (Miaouli square, Ermoupolis, 2281088487).
Markos Vamvakaris Exhibition: it tells the story of the great ‘rebetis’ (rebetiko is the Greek urban popular song, especially of the poorest, that thrived in the late 19th century up to the 1950s) through his personal belongings and through a rich photographic collection (3 Ag. Sevastianou str, Ano Syros, 2281360914).
Kastri & Chalandriani archaeological sites: a prehistoric settlement from the end of the Early Cycladic Period II that covers a 3,5 – 5-acre area. In the same location there is also a cemetery with about 600 tombs, and also various findings that prove how advanced pottery, stonemasonry and metallurgy were. The area is connected with the ancient Acropolis of Chalandriani, which is worth visiting, by a challenging path.
Industrial Museum of Ermoupolis: Syros was a developed industrial centre in the 19th and 20th century and this long history has been preserved in the museum housed in 4 industrial buildings of the era (11 Georgiou Papandreou str, Ermoupolis, 2281084762).
Apollo Theatre: designed by the Italian architect Pietro Sampo, its architecture has been influenced by four Italian theatres: the Scala di Milano, San Carlo in Naples, the academic theatre Castelfranco and Teatro della Pergola in Florence. It’s the island’s pride and joy, with good reason (Varkada sq. Ermoupolis, 2281085192).
Saint George Cathedral: on the hill of Ano Syros, it was built in 1200 and is quite imposing. The complex includes the church, the bell tower, the baptistery, the sacristy, the hospitality room, the building of the Historical Archive and the Episcopal Palace.
Agios Nikolaos Church: in the neighbourhood of Vaporia , the patron saint of Ermoupolis, and the most majestic church on the island, with huge marble bell towers and gates, archaic motifs, Corinthian style columns, and an impressive marble altar created by the sculptor G. Vitalis. Many donors, mostly Greek expats in Russia and shipowners from Chios living on the island, contributed to its construction.
Where to go swimming
The south beaches are cosmopolitan, with umbrellas and sunbeds, and easily accessible like those of Vari, Azolimnos and Foinikas, while the beaches on the northern side or Apano Meria offer privacy – some are totally secluded – like Grammata, Gria Spilia, Aetos, Vervarousa, Lia etc. You get there by water or on trails.
Foinikas: The marina that is right next to the beach gives it a cosmopolitan air. With umbrellas and sunbeds, easily accessible, and with taverns nearby. It’s ideal for fishing and speargun fishing.
Galissas: one of the largest beaches on the island with lovely golden sand and nice waters. There are umbrellas and sunbeds, and there are also water sports facilities.
Kini: a nice sandy beach with shallow waters, umbrellas and sunbeds, and the most beautiful sunset on the island. The local beach bars play loud music, and it mostly attracts young people and families. There are many options for coffee and food.
Azolimnos: just 5 kms from Ermoupolis, it’s where the locals go for a quick dip. It’s a serviced beach with beautiful waters and there are taverns in the surrounding area.
Agios Nikolaos – Asteria: not exactly a beach, more like a cement pier in Vaporia, but it’s popular because it is an easy, ideal solution for those who don’t want to leave Ermoupolis. There are sunbeds and you can have a coffee there.
Achladi: the ideal choice for families with small children. Great waters, serviced, with water sports options, while it’s also good for scuba diving.
Agathopes: a large, beautiful beach and one of the most popular on the island. Its shallow waters make it ideal for small children. There are taverns and cafés on the street there. In the spring, monachus monachus seals appear on the beach.
Varvarousa: a beautiful beach ideal for total calm and relaxation. It’s accessible by boat from Kini or a private boat, and also via a path that starts at Delfini beach and takes about half an hour to complete.
Aetos: amazing isolated beach with stunning waters that can be reached by boat or on foot.
Gria Spilia: perhaps the most beautiful beach on the island with amazing crystalline waters and a small copse of trees at the back that offer shade. Accessible by water or on foot.
Armeos: a lovely pebbled beach in a beautiful landscape, very popular among the nudist community. Next to the beach Galissa, connected with a path.
What to do
In Syros the activities available range from water sports to hiking, and from horseback riding to wine & cheese pairing.
Hiking in Apano Meria: the area consists of the greenest part of the island and is part of the Natura 2000 network. Starting at the small village of Kampos, walk next to the marble mine, and admire the unique nature and morphology of the area with the rare cyanoliths, and reach Grammata, a small stunning beach with amazing waters. Apart from this trail, there are 11 marked, scenic routes and you can choose the one that suits you. Rent a bike and explore this magical island, starting from the old harbour and going to Azolimnos beach for a dip in its cool waters.
Alternatively, explore the island’s nature on horseback. If you have a boat license you can rent a boat on Kini beach, and go on a round of the island, approaching pristine beaches, with crystal-clear waters, or visiting the small islands Didimi and Strogilo.
A stroll around Ermoupolis is a must: the beautiful mansions, churches, huge bougainvillea trees, marble balconies and cobbled streets make the island’s capital a big sight worth seeing. Especially the area between the Town Hall and the Vaporia neighbourhood. But also make sure you visit Ano Syra, the oldest settlement on the island, with medieval elements and amphitheatrical view of the Aegean sea.
Chroussa: this picturesque village surrounded by green in the south of the island, with the Catholic and Orthodox churches and the grand mansions from past eras is truly beautiful, as is Posidonia. In the villages San Michalis, Papouri, Mitakas, Rihopo, Hartiana also you will travel back in time. While for the gourmands there’s also the option of wine tasting and wine & cheese pairing organised by Syros Wine Trails.
Must: A stroll in Vaporia, the sunset at Kini beach, buying capers and thyme honey.
Syros Health Centre: 2281080300
Syros Bus Station: 2281082575
Port Authority of Syros: 2281082690
Syros Police Station: 2281096166
Municipality of Syros: 2281361000