Syros, as the capital of the Cyclades, exudes the cosmopolitan grace of a duchess. Her impressive architecture and cultural richness have helped her maintain the lustre of the past.
Get lost in the alleys of Ano Syros, a medieval quarter that orchestrates neoclassical and medieval elements. Here, the church of Saint George presides over a neighborhood where the bouzouki tunes of Markos Vamvarakis (the country’s most important rebetika musician) are heard.
From a distance, Syros seems bare and barren, but up close a town studs two hills with vast neoclassical villas overhanging the Aegean and churches blue as agapanthus. At one spot, letters and salutations carved into boulders by ancient sailors tell of their fervent faith as they waited out storms at the bay of Grammata (Letters).
The main square of Ermoupoli and its waterfront are hotspots, and rightly so – a mix of contemporary bars and restaurants with an old traditional feel that is infused with atmosphere. But there is much more to explore across the island. Wander the tucked-away medieval alleys of Ano Syros for a glimpse at a more traditional side of Greece and the local way of life. Or drive north through the island to discover a rugged landscape and secluded tiny beaches along hiking paths.
The beach is a key part of island life and it’s the locals who really know how to make the most of it. Join them for a morning swim and an espresso in organised beaches like Galissas or Agathopes or if you prefer your beach day to be more low-key head to Komito, Ambela, Gria Spilia, Lotos or Delfini to find calm waters and a selection of cafes and tavernas that offer everything from water sports to sun loungers.
In the centre of the island, Hermoupolis is an irresistible spectacle of neoclassical beauty that emanates the aristocratic charm of a queen. Whether you stroll through the streets of the capital or explore its traditional villages that brilliantly orchestrate their medieval with Cycladic features, you will be taken back in time to experience Greece’s past grandeur.
Newcomers, mainly merchants and sailors, brought with them a dynamic energy that transformed the town of Ermoupoli into a leading commercial port in the Greek islands. It developed a commercial court, the first post office in Greece, insurance brokerages, museums, libraries and other cultural facilities. A period of prosperity lasted until the second half of the 19th century when cholera and other epidemics hampered its development.
Wandering around Ermoupoli is a delight as the paved streets are lined with blooming bougainvillea and high concept restaurants that blend cuisines from all over the Aegean. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Archaeological Museum of Ermoupoli – housed in the iconic Neoclassical town hall building designed by German architect Wilhelm von Weiler, and the Gallery of Contemporary Art.
You can also stroll by the port area, watching the ferry ships docking or disembarking. It is one of the most important ferry ports in the Aegean and it connects with Piraeus and Rafina (eastern Attica), other Cycladic islands, and North Aegean destinations such as Chios.
Syros offers an endless variety of landscapes from the lush green lands with ancient villages on top of steep hills to its busy seaside resorts in the south and a fine assortment of uncrowded coves in the north. It also boasts a rich gastronomy with delicious local products like the famous ‘San Michali’, a hard yellow cheese produced exclusively on the island and recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin product. The ‘Kopanisti’ and the ‘Scordoloukanika’ (garlic sausages) are must-try as well.
The capital of Syros, Ermoupoli, is a beautiful town with stunning squares and neoclassical buildings. The city’s old buildings showcase its glorious past and are worth a visit especially the City Hall, Customs Office and Apollo Theater. In the heart of the town are also a number of amazing churches like Metamorphossitou Sotiros and Dormition of the Mother of God.
Another highlight of Syros is Grammata Bay, which means Letters, referring to the inscriptions on its rocks. Generations of sailors that sought shelter from the harsh northern winds in this bay carved their wishes, prayers and names on the rocks here. Some of these inscriptions date back to Roman and Byzantine times.
The Grammata Bay is reached either by boat or by hiking the trail that starts at Kini and leads to the northern part of Syros. This is a spectacular beach with golden sand, crystal waters and natural shade thanks to the trees.
Located on the western part of the island, Kini has a cosmopolitan feel with a beautiful sandy beach, hotels and restaurants. A visit here is a must for wine lovers, as the vineyards of the Kritsini family are known all over Greece for their quality and taste. The wines produced here are characterized by their complexity, while some are even aged for years.
The island has many museums that showcase its rich history. At the center of the town is the Apollo Theater, while in the old town is the Town Hall, both with stunning neoclassical architecture. You can also visit the Church of Agios Georgios, which is a spectacular specimen of neoclassical architecture and has some of the most beautiful frescoes in the region.
Aside from the magnificent buildings, Syros has other treasures. Ano Syros is a hilltop village that preserves its medieval charm and features a number of remarkable Venetian elements. Countless marble stairs and old mansions make up the settlement. The village also has a church that stands out, called Koimisi tis Theotokou (the Dormition of the Virgin Mary), which boasts a piece of an El Greco painting.
The best place to visit for music lovers is the museum of Markos Vamvakaris, a popular rembetika musician from Syros who was born in the village. The other must-see is Saint Michalis, which was one of the first settlements of Syros and now has a beautiful view (another great sunset spot) as well as a tavern where you can try some of the most delicious sausages in the country.