Heavenly Syros, a must-visit Cycladic isle
You have heard of Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros. But you may not have heard a lot about Syros island, the capital of the Cyclades, which is now becoming more and more popular amongst locals and international visitors, reaching a high a number of tourists over the last few months. This gem on the Aegean Sea has an aristocratic aura and a feeling of a glorious past. It doesn’t seem at all like other Cycladic islands, it really is one of a kind.
Syros deserves your visit and these are the best things to do while you are here…
Admire the neoclassical beauty of Ermoupoli
Ermoupoli, the capital of Syros and the prefecture of Cyclades, was once an important commercial hub and the biggest urban centre of Greece. Its glory is obvious today through the beautiful neoclassical architecture. Ermoupoli is like a living museum. The majestic Town Hall with its charming cafe, the Assumption of the Virgin, the second oldest church on the island, built behind the harbour in 1824, the Apollon Municipal Theatre, an emblem of the island’s cultural heritage and Agios Nikolaos, a magnificent Byzantine church are proof of Ermoupoli’s role at that time. Don’t miss a visit to these glorious places.
Extra Tip: Listen to the choir accompanied by the ecclesiastical organ at Agios Nikolaos, it’s an unforgettable experience. Also, at the Assumption of the Virgin church, the authentic icon of the assumption from 1562 painted by Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) stands out as one of the most important sights on the island. Extra plus the church’s priest, Papakostas is something else!
Get lost in the Cycladic alleys of Ano Syros
I love the Cycladic architecture, so when I visited Ano Syros, I felt as though I found my paradise. Ano Syros (Upper Syros), as its name indicates is built on the mountain like a fortress. Its alleyways are so narrow, like a charming maze. The best thing you can do is get lost in there, in order to discover all the colourful doors and balconies, beautiful flowers in the small courtyards, bougainvilleas on the streets and sometimes a yiayia sitting on a wooden chair, watching people go by. Take a rest while sipping on a fresh lemonade or bite on a meze… at the Maison de Meze.
Spend a day at ONO Concept Syros
ONO is a concept venue right on the popular sandy beach of Agathopes. It’s an open space with the amazing interior design above the sea with two bars, a restaurant, a private area and three places to catch the sun or relax under the umbrellas. If you need more time out though, there are massage and body treatment services. However, if you are after a spot of shopping, there are indoor boutiques offering a curated selection of gifts, wearables, accessories and design ornaments. We stayed there for the sunset and then just sat on the fluffy chaise lounges, had dinner and enjoyed the sound of the sea until midnight. It was the best and most relaxing night of this trip.
Visit Galissas beach
Situated in the southwest of the island, Galissas is a sandy beach and a great place to watch the sunset. There is a part with sunbeds but also some trees if you are looking fir shade. The couple of first days we stayed at Hotel Benois, which is in fact one step from this beach.
Extra Tip: Within a few minutes walking distance from Galissas there is a hidden beach, called Armeos. This beach is reached by boat or if you follow the path that leads to the Catholic chapel Agia Pakous, that dominates the top of the hill and has a magnificent view of the Aegean Sea and the sunset. It is a favorite beach of nudists and it’s easy to understand why as soon as you see it.
Have a tasty adventure at aVentoura restaurant
At Galissas, right on the beach, there is a charming little restaurant with imaginative dishes. Try the tuna pastitsio, the cheese trilogy (mastelo, haloumi and talagani) with tomato jam, or the sautéed seabream with chilli jam from Syros, citrus and roasted fennel.
Visit the Vaporia district
I think that Vaporia is the most beautiful area of Syros. It is built by the sea, with magnificent captain houses that seem to hang on the rocks. It seems a little bit like Little Venice of Mykonos. The high-class families of the past built these high-ceiling mansions with striking paintings, woodcut doors, marble balconies and wooden floors, resembling boats, which is where the name of Vaporia came from, which in Greek means big ships. The neighbourhood is known as the most prestigious district at the eastern part of Syros. Here you can find a concrete platform and a small beach called “Asteria” (Stars) where you can lay your sun towel and dive straight into the sea.
Eat at Ermoupoli
Enjoy a romantic dinner at Mazi restaurant, a stunning hidden garden in the heart of Ermoupoli with beautiful interior design and great food. The place used to be a ceramics factory and it’s definitely worth a visit. There is also another garden, the Avant Garden restaurant with a wonderful atmosphere and delicious dishes, opposite Apollon theatre.
Spend a day at Asteria Beach Bar in Ermoupoli
Located in the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli, on the waterfront, Asteria Beach Bar was voted as one of the top beach bars in Greece by The Guardian. Wooden tables, director’s chairs, magnificent views and a ladder to get into the crystal-clear water (pay attention to the sea urchins though) is everything we need to relax in style by the beach.
Have a romantic lunch or dinner at Iliovasilema Restaurant
At Galissas beach, there is the romantic restaurant from the executive chef Kostas Bougiouris, with sophisticated dishes, awarded with a Greek Cuisine Award, a culinary institution by Athinorama that rewards the best Greek cuisine restaurants all over Greece. Try the fresh fish, the seafood barley and the salad “Iliovasilema”, green fresh lettuce foliage, French salad and lolly, cheese graviera of Syros Zozefinos, radish and citrus vinaigrette.
Visit Achladi beach
Achladi is a lovely sheltered bay favoured by fishing boats, next to which you can enjoy some swimming. There is also a waterside taverna (Achladi Restaurant) you hope to find at every beach. Small beach, charming taverna, so make sure you beat the rush by going earlier than 2 pm. We were lucky enough to spend two days here, two steps from this beach at Syra Suites, so we had the beach to ourselves some hours of the day.
Visit Kini beach and don’t leave without tasting the cuisine of Allou Yiallou
Kini is a small fishing village on the west coast, with a sandy bay and charming little tavernas. But we went mainly for the restaurant Allou Yiallou, right over the sea. The location is majestic and the food is like ambrosia. Try the zucchini sticks with yogurt cream and fresh tomato, the mussels roasted with Retsina and rosemary or the grilled squid with Feta sauce flavoured with egg and capers.
Visit the hidden chapel in the rocks
Saint Stefanos Chapel is in the area of Galissas, 15 minutes from the main beach, built among the rocks. The easiest and fastest way to reach it is by boat, but there is also a small path for the adventurous souls. The chapel was built by a fisherman who was saved from the tentacles of a large octopus after praying to the Saint to help him. Saint Stefanos is celebrated twice a year, on 19 August and on 26 December and after the liturgy, all pilgrims are offered “loukoumi”, the sweet local delights of Syros, that you can find everywhere in the island.
Devour Savvas dishes
At Galissas, there is also a restaurant by the beach that stole our hearts (or should I say our lustrous souls). Try the delicious seafood barley and don’t leave without tasting the brownie with kaimaki ice-cream and strawberry syrup.
Drinks at Ermoupoli
Head to Boheme for an alternative night and to Koutsiko to savour its awarded cocktails. Both bars are to see and been seen. Young clientele and island vibes.
If you have time, visit the Kyvernio
We found this charming traditional kafenio at Posidonia by chance. It has a beautiful decoration from the outside that made us stop to take photos. Vintage objects make up the décor of the Kyvernio (Governor), since in the same place during the period 1943-1958 it was a grocery/pastry store. Today it functions as a traditional café with a warm homely environment and homemade traditional flavours.
I would like to thank the Municipality of Syros and especially the Mayor Mr George Marangos for the invitation. Also, the head of the Regional Tourism Agency of Cyclades, Michalis Paravalos for his valuable help, Seajets.gr for our tickets, Gaviotis Travel for our car and the hotels Hotel Benois and Syra Suites for the wonderful hospitality.
*Images by Polina Paraskevopoulou (Copyright)