Greetings everyone! I hope you’re all well and in a wanderlust mood. As promised this post is about Syros, the “capital” of Cyclades, an island complex in the Aegean Sea. So sit back, take a break for a few minutes, grab yourself your favorite drink and continue reading this review about the things that I like and dislike. I’ll try to make it worthwhile for you.
I was lucky enough to spent four weeks during this summer in Syros, an island I’ve grown very font of. This would be my fourth time on the island (obviously I haven’t always stayed that long). Undoubtedly though, the longer you live in a place, the better you get to know it. And Syros, unlike other islands such as Mykonos and Paros per say, is an island that’s lively all year round. As the capital of the Cyclades, she has a graceful and dynamic character partly due to the fact that all the public administrative authorities for the Cycladic islands reside in her main town, Hermoupolis. Top that with the fact that there is a University campus, that translates into a lot of students even during the winter months. Hence, the people here have a more laid back attitude despite the fact that they are very much aware of their cultural heritage legacy (read about its amazing architecture).
Syros, Cyclades, Greece (an island in the Aegean Sea between Andros, Tinos, Mykonos, Paros, Sifnos, Serifos, and Kythnos)
Main Town (Chora): Hermoupolis
Highlights in Short
Syros is one of the best destinations for a family vacation. Why? It combines numerous fun things. For starters you can have a great swim at sandy beaches (perfect for building sand castles). Most of these beaches have sunbeds lined up with sun umbrellas and most of them charge only your consumption from the respective beach bar (check their pricing policy before you sit). That’s not a bad deal! There are also plenty of restaurants and tavernas with good food, mostly Mediterranean cuisine dishes (including many local specialties) most of which are reasonably priced. Next, you can enjoy a great evening walk in town with lots of opportunities to watch street performers and live music bands. Of course, there’s also the busy port (yet, not too busy to become a nuisance) where both grown ups and kids walk about while watching the boats dock, combined with an outing to the town’s main square. Now, the town’s square has several cafes ideal for parents to unwind while their children can run and play about freely all evening long! There’s also an open air movie theater located by the square that can serve as an alternative option for a family outing. Lastly, there’s a bike cycling rental shop. Families of up to four can get a rental bike and cycle through the town. The downside to all of the above, is the parking that at times isn’t as easy as you would like it to be. Still, once you’ve parked then you will surely find a way to make everyone happy. And a note before I forget: if you’re a keen walker then I strongly recommend visiting some of the churches (both Greek Orthodox and Catholic) or the village of Anos Syros (extension of Hermoupolis).
Where to swim
Syros has several popular sandy beaches and a few sandy coves to satisfy most. I will mention only the most important ones. Agathopes is the most popular beach for tourists and locals alike. It has a restaurant – ONO concept – on the hill on the one end of the cove with a beach bar, a spa, a couple of shops and plenty of lounge seating attracting big crowds of people partying. The beat music keeps the party mood going for hours. They serve eclectic dishes including sushi; Elisabeth says that their sushi was really good, but I didn’t try it myself. Moreover, they have wide sunbeds with stylish sun umbrellas on the beach. However, I didn’t like their reservation policy. 🙁
Kommito is the beach at the next cove. The road stops there! It’s a small, scenic beach, usually deserted and no housing around. This August though, they had about ten umbrellas and sunbeds set up with a beach bar (real basic) and a shed for water sports activities. This beach had a rough appeal and I do recommend it, despite the fact that I got stunk by a bee – just like that out of the blue!
Galyssas is another popular beach with a lifeguard on watch, a beach bar and sunbeds with umbrellas charged separately from consumption. It has the option of renting out a water paddle boat or a cannoe. In case you do get hungry, there are a couple of tavernas serving good traditional Greek cuisine dishes within a two minute walking distance.
Kini is definitely my second favorite beach. It has several beach bars along its shoreline, so there is plenty of choice. Only one of them has beat music to it though, Cougars, preferred by singles and couples rather than families. The main reason I like this beach are the breaking waves that can keep children happy for hours, while the sound of the ebb and flow unwind every last cell of mine. Furthermore, there are two restaurants with great food on this beach that I’m mentioning further below.
Vari is yet another sandy but small beach with very shallow waters, so it’s ideal for families with very young children. Furthermore, provisions have been made for shade and easy access to the water for people with disabilities. The lifeguard on duty there is always most helpful. At the one end of the cove, the beach becomes really wide. Therefore, they hold beach volleyball and beach racket tournaments there. Hence, it is gets pretty crowded during August.
Delfini is our favorite beach. It has a beach bar with a restaurant and a big parking lot behind it. It is a scenic beach and attracts a lot of people during the “not windy” days. We loved watching the sunset whilst playing with the sand. Note that this beach is not “easily” accessible. Buses don’t have access and taxis will not drive you there because of the bumpy dirt road you need to take after Kini. However, if you have a car rental, then it’s definitely worth visiting.
Where to eat
At Hermoupolis: To Tsipouradiko tis Myrsinis, overlooking the port is ideal for local dishes and “meze” (appetizers) accompanied with “tsipouro” a strong distilled spirit (almost 45% alcohol). It’s nothing fancy or anything, but has some tasty dishes. Amvix with a rustic interior, is probably the best restaurant for Italian cuisine, also by the port. Reservations are usually required for this one. Limani is another option by the port (despite its really slow service), specializing in seafood dishes; I recommend the “kalkani” dish. In the alleys of the town (in the pedestrian zone), you’ll come across lots of tavernas and restaurants including Kouzina and Oysyra almost side by side. Oysyra is a new restaurant, beautifully decorated in a predominantly white, eclectic, minimal way, with a decent Italian cuisine yet, in my opinion not as good as the Amvix I mentioned earlier. Kouzina is another great alternative; it is more colorful with interesting Greek and Mediterranean dishes. I can’t recommend any of the other restaurants in that alley for they are too touristy and in my opinion, not worthy.
For a nice outing though, there are two more restaurants I recommend. Avant Garden is a stylish restaurant with a bar on the side and a lovely outdoor seating in the privacy of a backyard garden, located across the Apollon Theater. (The peripheral lighting was a little annoying, but we couldn’t do much about it). Its cuisine is more eclectic, with very presentable dishes but not a huge selection. We dined there one night (without our children) and had a good time however, the service was inexplicably slow. Personally, I enjoyed the dessert the most. The other bar-restaurant is called Sta Vaporia, named after the district it’s located in with a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea with Mykonos and Tinos on the horizon. It’s a great place for cocktails and dinner. I should mention here in order to be fair that we were recommended a third restaurant called Mazi. We didn’t actually dine there but Elizabeth liked its setup in a garden and thus, made a note of it in order for us to check it out next summer.
If you really want to taste traditional Greek cuisine at affordable prices, then Kastri is the best kept secret in town. It is an enterprise run solely by women (even the delivery service is carried out by a woman) and was partially funded by the EU. These women cook 11 different dishes every day. By midday, most of the dishes are gone! It was one of our favorite choices for lunch.
Now, if you’re looking for a easy going place to have a great breakfast in the morning or a cocktail at night in a friendly environment with a chill-out atmosphere, then the Jar is just right for you. We loved their freshly squeezed juices. Naturally, if you have children then chances are that you’ll be having plenty of ice-cream too. I know we had lots of it. There was a time that Daidadi, run by an Italian, was the best gelato in Syros. Personally, I think that those days are long gone as it’s not the case anymore. (Both its strawberry and chocolate flavors were disappointing). We preferred a bakery called Ntanos instead on the main street (turns into a pedestrian zone in the evenings). Every day he had different flavors freshly made. Elisabeth’s favorite was a flavor called Mozart, while mine was lemon pie combined with praline chocolate! (What else is new? What can I say, they’re my favorite)! 😉 Our kids loved its strawberry flavor.
At Kini: Apart from the town there are several other alternative places you can dine. My favorite two are found at the sea village of Kini, which happens to be one of my favorite beaches. Both restaurants are setup by the sea and serve local dishes with a twist. We really like the food at both of them. The first one is called Allou gialou – I know it’s definitely not easy to pronounce 😉 but the next one is even harder! It’s called Dyo tzitzikia sta armyrikia and I recommend their seafood risotto.
One of the things I enjoy doing is window shopping especially when I find myself in a place with so many shops with arts, crafts, and jewelry. Can you blame me? Seriously, some of these shops had some beautiful stuff: shoes, clothing and home decor related -my kind of thing! I have pinpointed four shops as my favorite.
Sandalia Cyclades. You can’t miss it for it’s situated in the corner of the two main streets. It’s a small shop, all white, run by a lovely couple Andreas and Florence. This Greek – French romance gave birth to a project against the odds. It’s all about handmade ancient Greek sandals and bags with a bohemian edge to them. They started out as a local business a few years back, but now they’re exporting their products to France, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon and the Caribbean Islands. Elisabeth was one their first clients. We love their simplicity in their design, their elegance, their colors, and quality materials.
Velli. This arts and crafts shop is only about 50 meters away from the sandals’ shop on the main road (pedestrian zone in the evenings). It has two window displays that instantly grab your attention. It is filled with many great stuff including jewelry, pottery, prints and decor, all potential eclectic gifts. I just loved looking through its little treasures curated by Daphne Velli.
Elikas. Another favorite shop with handmade arts and crafts. Many of them were made of glass and/or steel and were amazing for home decor. You can’t miss it on the main road that turns into a pedestrian zone in the evenings. (I realized while writing this post that sadly I don’t have any pictures of the store – next time)!
Terra. This shop has a wonderful facade. It’s the first thing that attracts you to it with well lit window showcases. It is a shop with affordable designer jewelry, various accessories and Greek designer boho clothing.
Where to stay
Since, I’ve always been a guest on this island I can’t recommend any accommodation. I know for a fact though, that there many hotels suited for every budget. A very popular choice is a very decent hotel by the port Hermes – excellent location with lots of amenities. But there are also several small boutique hotels (if you’re looking for something more exquisite). Moreover there are lots of affordable, clean boarding rooms in Hermoupolis and villages. You can always do a little research beforehand or worse comes to worse contact the Greek National Tourist Organization for more information (+30 22810 81206). So, there you have it!
A final word
During my four week stay in Syros, we went to Mykonos for a day (no sleeping over). It is only 45 minutes away and the cost for the ferry ticket was at €13,00 per adult. Our friends at Mykonos came to pick us up from the port, take us to the beach and back to Chora again for a stroll, so it turned out to be a great field trip (more details on that to come). One thing that was clear, is that Mykonos has a totally different vibe to it. She has changed considerably over the years with all those house developments springing about everywhere. I can’t say the same for Syros though that “orbits” at a pace of her own accord and I’m kind of glad about that.
Syros, with its medieval charm is an all season island. It’s quite different from the other Cycladic islands with its stunning architecture and unique beauty. It’s busy yet, peaceful. It has a cosmopolitan aura to it yet, homey. It will win you over if you give her a fair chance. She has a lot to offer. Hence, it is easy to unwind and concentrate on making some of the most wonderful memories ever. If there was one thing I could change, that would be the opening hours of the stores. Seriously, it puts me off knowing that most shops are not open all day long, something that you do expect in a touristy place. Other than that, I love this island just the way it is! Really!
Thank you for taking the time to read it all! I would love your comments…
featured image via Bernard G