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Why Should I Visit Syros?

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Syros at a glance

Refined and bohemian; modern and retro; Orthodox and Catholic; Greek and European. The charm of the aristocratic capital of the Cycladic islands lies in the harmonious co-existence of two distinct identities, a noble blend of high and popular culture that gave rise to the first centre of industry, shipping and commerce in the modern Greek state.

The famous “Syra” of European maps in the 19th century was the birthplace of Greece’s upper middle class and intellectual life in that era. The old splendour of the island’s rich social and intellectual life radiates to this day in its capital Ermoupoli, a jewel of neoclassical architecture with grand public buildings and dazzling cultural monuments. Together with the mysterious atmosphere of the medieval Ano Syros, the “Duchess of the Aegean” casts an irresistible spell over visitors. Syros is not just for the summer; it is an island for all seasons to build a lifelong relationship with and return to year after year, choosing ferry route to Syros.

10 reasons to visit Syros
  1. To discover the aristocratic grandeur of Ermoupoli. The capital of the Cyclades has many fine examples of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, particularly around the marble-paved Plateia Miaouli with its palm trees and pigeons.
  2. To take an early-evening stroll around the narrow, cobbled streets of the medieval Ano Syros with its white cube-like architecture and fairy-tale atmosphere. There are glorious views of the island and the Cyclades from the top of the Catholic cathedral of St. George.
  3. To walk to the old shipowners’ neighbourhood of Vaporia, a refined setting of neoclassical mansions, palm trees and gorgeous terraces that once hosted the island’s most exclusive parties and receptions.
  4. To experience a magical evening at the Apollon Theatre, Greece’s first ever opera house, modelled by the Italian architect Pietro Sampo on the theatres of his homeland. It opened in 1864 with a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
  5. To admire the small painting of the Virgin Mary (1562-1562), one of the first masterpieces by El Greco, in the Church of the Dormition.
  6. To visit the Markos Vamvakaris Museum, housed in a traditional two-storey residence in Ano Syros. Personal items, photographs and rare manuscripts make for a moving tour of the life and art of the “Patriarch” of rebetiko music.
  7. To go to some performances of classical music at the iconic International Festival of the Aegean, known as the “Salzburg of the Aegean”, held in July every year.
  8. To try genuine Syros loukoumi, made according to a recipe brought to the island in the nineteenth century by refugees from Chios. They are said to owe their unique taste to the island’s slightly salty water.
  9. To experience the reverential atmosphere of Easter on Syros, where Orthodox and Catholic Christians celebrate harmoniously together.
  10. To admire the Orthodox Cathedral of St. Nicholas, which has stood in Vaporia since 1850, with its blue dome and towers overlooking the sea.
The top 5 beaches

Galissas: A natural harbour with fine, soft sand, natural shade provided by tamarisk trees, and shallow, silky smooth waters just 9 km from Ermoupoli. This lively, cosmopolitan beach is ideal for families with children and anyone who loves water sports. It is well-worth climbing up the rock to the Catholic chapel of St Pakou to watch the sunset.

Delfini: One of the island’s largest and most popular beaches, with pebbles and exotic turquoise waters, is worth visiting just by taking a ferry to Syros. The straw umbrellas and beach bar offer all the comfort of a tourist beach, and it is ideal for a walk at sunset. It is 2 km from Kini by unsurfaced road or a 20-minute hike along a path.

Agathopes: This tourist beach with crystal clear waters, situated close to the settlements of Finikas and Dellagracia, is sheltered from the wind. One of the island’s most popular beaches, there is a narrow strip of land at one end that extends into the water, where sea daffodils bloom every summer. It also has a view of the tiny islands of Schinonisi and Stroggylo.

Kini: The village of Kini has a long sandy beach with natural shade provided by tamarisk trees. It is favoured by families with children but also by couples who go there for the romantic sunset. The best time to visit is the late afternoon.

Vari: A popular beach near the village of the same name. The shallow waters of the bay, the large expanse of sand, and the availability of water sports and games make it ideal for children.

Don’t leave Syros without…
  • Visiting the magnificent Town Hall, designed by Ernst Ziller. Sit in the café in the arcaded atrium with the glass ceiling.
  • Learning more about the island’s fascinating industrial heritage at the excellent Industrial Museum of Syros, through old machinery, tools, photographs, maps, documents, and workers’ oral accounts.
  • Wandering around the aristocratic resort of Dellagracia (Poseidonia) and admiring the neoclassical villas of the 19th-century upper classes, with their turrets and gardens.
  • Stocking up on local loukoumi and halvadopita for friends and relations.
  • Visiting the cemetery of St George, whose 56 mausoleums make it an open-air art museum.
  • Making a stop at the legendary “haunted” Red House in the verdant village of Episkopeio. The villa was a source of inspiration for M. Karagatsis’ famous novel The Great Chimera.
  • Dropping by the historic Stathopoulos Books, one of the oldest bookstores in Greece, which has played an important role in the intellectual life of the island since 1912.
  • Discovering the picturesque Catholic chapel of St Stephen’s in the area of Galissas, built in a small cave between the rocks. It can only be approached by boat or via a coastal path.
  • Seeing the inscriptions on the rocks in the Bay of Letters, prayers to the gods carved by sailors shipwrecked here or taking refuge from bad weather, some of them dating from Roman and Byzantine times. You can get here by private boat or sightseeing boat from Kini, or by hiking the trails from Delfini or Apano Meria.
  • Losing yourself in the past on the path between the acropolis of Chalandriani (dating from the 3rd millennium BC) and the prehistoric settlement of Kastri, two of the most important archaeological sites in the Cyclades. The walk offers unique views of the Aegean.
  • Taking a dip from the Asteria concrete platform in Vaporia and viewing the neoclassical buildings and St Nicholas’s Church from the sea.
  • Exploring Apano Meria, the mountainous part of the island with its scattered rural settlements of San Michalis, Mytakas and Plati Vouni, breathtaking views of the Aegean, and a few small, welcoming tavernas from a bygone age.
Tasty experiences
  • Be sure to try the protected designation of origin (PDO) San Michalis cheese from the mountain village of the same name, with its strong parmesan-like taste.
  • The famous local sausages made with fennel and air-dried pork (louza).
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with the renowned pastelaria of Syros.This jammy delicacy made of dried figs, sesame seeds, cinnamon and almonds goes down well with a glass of tsipouro.
  • Enjoy the famed local halvadopita, a nougat and wafer sandwich that is perfect to snack on as you wander the streets of the island.
  • Start your day with a hearty breakfast of the famous local “frissoures” (French toast with honey).
  • Sit in one of the island’s tavernas and try local mezes such as sun-dried tomatoes fried in batter, fried whitebait with onion or egg, caper dip, octopus balls, stewed vine shoots, aetopita (a fish and vegetable pie), pork with quince, parsley dip, pork with cabbage and fennel and more.
  • Take a walk along the historic Chiou Street, the gastronomic heart of Ermoupoli’s Central Market, for an unforgettable tour of the island’s aromas and flavours.
  • Visit the historic taverna “Katogi tou Lili”, a local institution and Markos Vamvakaris’ favourite hangout, for delicious mezes accompanied by rebetiko music.
Trivia

“The experience was splendid. Syros is more or less the navel of Greece, the capital of elegance and nobility. Who could have imagined such a culture… planted on an island in the Aegean?”

Théophile Gautier, French romantic poet and novelist (1852)

MAP OF SYROS
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