Architectural Gems on the Greek Island of Syros

440 440 Velvet

Midst the Cycladic complex lies a “Lady Charmer” the isle of Syros, rich in cultural heritage and astonishing architecture – a huge inspiration source. Last summer, I was lucky to spend five weeks in Hermoupolis, the main town after god Hermes, as a guest in a renovated house overlooking its ancient port and the Aegean Sea. Syros is the perfect holiday destination for a “real Greek experience,” with courteous people, and plenty of cultural events to keep everyone busy. Walking through its alleys I peeked through the windows or occasionally open doors and became fascinated by their home interiors – old hardwood flooring worn by the passage of time and high ceilings with a story to tell; today I’ll be sharing with you some of those awesome architectural details that are not mentioned in travel guides.

A drone pic of Hermoupolis in Syros, Greece from the port including the town hall. Image by author.
Partial view of Hermoupolis in Syros from above, including the landmark of the Town Hall. Image by author.
Partial view of the port of Hermoupolis in Syros. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Hermoupolis. (Image by author).

Walking through its alleys I peeked through the windows or occasionally open doors and became fascinated by their home interiors – old hardwood flooring worn by the passage of time and high ceilings with a story to tell; today I’ll be sharing with you some of those awesome architectural details that are not mentioned in travel guides.

View of the port of Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Hermoupolis. Port view. (Image by author).
 seaview from the Quarter of Vaporia in Syros
The Quarter of Vaporia. (Image by author).
 seaview from the Quarter of Vaporia in Syros
The seaview from the Quarter of Vaporia in Syros. (Image by author).

The Notable Architecture of Syros

Syros, also known as Syra, is a perfect blend of a Cycladic layout, medieval elements, neoclassical and contemporary architecture. The town of Hermoupolis has an atmospheric cosmopolitan ambiance.  It has remarkable Venetian buildings, 19th century neoclassical mansions, marble squares, imposing splendid churches, both Greek Orthodox and Catholic, whitewashed houses ascending the hill, colorful doorways and countless marble stairs lining its narrow paths leading you all the way up to Ano Syros (built by Venetians during the 13th century).  This is a walker’s paradise.

A drone pic of Ano Syros with the church of St. George. (Image by author).
Partial view of Ano Syros including the church of St. George. (Image by author).
Two different facades of traditional homes in Ano Syros.
Exterior facades of traditional homes in Ano Syros.
Left: View standing from the Miaouli Square. Right: The Church of Saint Nicholas.
Left: View standing from the Miaouli Square. Right: The Church of Saint Nicholas.
Left: The marble facade of a Catholic Church in Ano Syros. Right: The inside of the Catholic Church of Saint George found on the top of the hill of Ano Syros.
Left: The marble facade of a Catholic Church in Ano Syros. Right: The inside of the Catholic Church of Saint George found on the top of the hill of Ano Syros.
The old town hall designed by Ziller, at Hermoupolis Syros.
The imposing Town Hall at the central marble square. (Image by author).
Partial view of the Miaouli Square from the Town Hall after sunset
Partial view of the Miaouli Square, paved with marble slabs, from the Town Hall after sunset. (Image by author).

During the 19th century neoclassicism flourished and two of its most notable examples were built, the Town Hall designed by the architect Ernst Ziller and the Apollo Municipal Theater, a miniature of the Scala Opera House. But, aside from these many mansions of wealthy families were built by the sea, setting a beautiful example of architectural brilliance at the most scenic quarter of Hermoupolis, known as Vaporia.

Looking up at the dome of the theater in Hermoupolis and its mural. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Mural of the dome ceiling at the theater in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).

As a matter of fact, I was told during a tour of the town by a prominent archaelogist, Mrs. Rota, there are over 600 mansions that are real architectural gems; sadly most of which are not in good condition. In any case, many of these mansions have beautiful entrances, embellished marble balconies, hardwood flooring and high accent ceilings decorated with amazing paintings. Some of them even have wall murals acting as silent reminders of another era’s past glory.

Part of a wall mural in the once dining room of a private mansion, now Chamber of Commerce in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Part of a wall mural in the once dining room of a private mansion, now Chamber of Commerce in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
Looking up the the spiraling stairwell of the Chamber of Commerce in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Looking up the the spiraling stairwell of the Chamber of Commerce in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
Partial view of the stairwell with its elaborate murals and Venetian stucco plastered walls. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
The stairwell at the Chamber of Commerce in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
Partial view of a stairwell at ground floor with Venetian stucco plastered walls. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Take note of the Venetian stucco of the walls (not real marble, despite its appearance). (Image by author).
A ceiling mural from a private mansion in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
The elaborate ceiling mural in a private mansion in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
Looking at the nicely lit facade of the Church of St. Nicholas in Hermoupolis, Syros. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Looking at the Church of St. Nicholas, in Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
View of a street alley at the center of Hermoupolis in Syros. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
In Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
A facade of a old building whose ground floor only has undergone some renovation. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Old vs new. (Image by author).
Old houses in a neighborhood of Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Neighborhood. Hermoupolis. (Image by author).
Partial view of the town's main square in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Looking from the port to the main town square. (Image by author).
A blooming bougainvillea outside an old mansion in a neighborhood in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
Neighborhood street alley. (Image by author).
Entrance to a boutique hotel, Ploes, in Hermoupolis. Image: Velvet Karatzas.
A mansion turned to boutique hotel. (Image by author).
Partial view of a corridor and the main stairwell inside the town hall in Hermoupolis, Syros
Inside the Town Hall. Notice the murals on the wall.
View from atop of the coffee house in one of the Town Hall's atriums.
The coffee house in one of the Town Hall’s atriums.

Some of the surviving neoclassical mansions have been restored and a few of these have been converted into small eclectic hotels while preserving elements of their original architectural character. It is quite a treat to stay in any one of those small boutique luxury hotels and see how elements from different eras have fused into a wholesome well balanced synthesis.

Hope you enjoyed this visual journey…

Yours,

Velvet signature

P.S. Last updated 06/04/21

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