Top things to do in Syros, Greece – A hidden gem in the Cyclades Islands
Everyone’s heard of Mykonos and Santorini, and even Milos and Naxos – all part of the Cyclades Islands in Greece. But not that many people have heard of Syros, the capital of this group of islands. Syros? Tell me more, I hear you say! Last September I spent a few days with the #DyscoverSyros team, well… discovering Syros. And what a treat that was! Known as ‘Lady of the Cyclades’ and ‘Nymph of the Aegean Sea’, this little-known island is the epitome of Greek island life. So here are a few things to do in Syros that will make you add this hidden gem to your bucket list.
Get lost in the alleys of picturesque Ano Syros
Ano Syros, which means Upper Syros, is a beautiful Venetian settlement that was built in the 13th century like a fortress, and is now the Roman Catholic quarter of the island. Its alleyways are so narrow and steep that it feels like you are in a maze, and that’s part of its charm. Getting lost here is the best way to discover little delightful corners – a beautifully decorated door, a colourful balcony, a hidden corner with a typical Greek chair, where you can imagine a yaya sitting watching the world go by.
You can visit Agios Giorgios, a Catholic church built right on the top of the hill, from which you can enjoy some spectacular views. And the interior is pretty impressive too!
If you are interested in traditional Greek music, Ano Syros has a small museum dedicated to Markos Vamvakaris, a famous rembetiko (urban Greek music) musician who was born in the village.
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Be captivated by the neoclassical beauty of Ermoupoli
Syros was once an important commercial and manufacturing centre and one of the most visited islands of the Aegean. The effects of the financial boom of the time are visible in the beautiful neoclassical architecture. Buildings such as the Town Hall, one of the largest in Greece, the Apollon Municipal Theatre, and Agios Nikolaos are testament to the importance of Ermoupoli, the administrative capital of the Cyclades.
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Named after the ancient Greek god Hermes, Ermoupoli is one of the most beautiful Greek towns. It was built on a hill overlooking the port – the pastel colours of the buildings as you approach it on the ferry are just dreamy, and the narrow streets of the town are just what you imagine when you think of idyllic Greece. Don’t miss the Vaporia district in the eastern part of the town and its impressive neoclassical mansions. Formerly owned by wealthy ship owners, some of them are now boutique hotels.
And like every good Greek town, there are plenty of cats roaming the street. In fact, I think cats rule the streets here! But best of all, cats here are really well looked after by the locals. So much so, that there is even a Syros Cat Garden!
Admire the splendour of the Apollon Theatre
Built in the 19th century, it is a replica of the famous La Scala di Milano but on a smaller scale. Its architectural grandeur didn’t save the theatre from major catastrophes over the years. The Apollon Theatre was forced to close and to spend a long period of renovations until 2000, when it opened its doors again. Today the theatre is one of Syros’ most important cultural centres and hosts various artistic and cultural events such as Animasyros and the Festival of the Aegean, famous plays and world-class performances.
Soak up the atmosphere at Asteria Beach Bar in Ermoupoli
Asteria Bar is located in the Vaporia district of Ermoupoli, on the waterfront right next to Asteria Beach. With wooden tables and director’s chairs lined up along the water’s edge, it offers magnificent views of the neoclassical villas. It has a ladder to get into the water, but be careful with the sea urchins!
It was recently voted one of the top 10 beach bars in Greece by The Guardian and I can clearly see why. The unique location is perfect to end a day of sightseeing or relaxing on the beach.
Swim in Syros’ excellent beaches
There are so many great beaches in Syros, I don’t even know where to start! And best of all, they never get as crowded as in neighbouring islands here.
Galissas is the one that perhaps caught my eye the most. In a secluded cove in the west of the island, it’s surrounded by hills and a cliff, so it feels very sheltered. The beautiful crystalline waters are so inviting that you won’t be able to resist dipping your toes in. And when you’re done, there’s an excellent beach restaurant there called aVentoura that makes delicious traditional Greek food. Try the parsley salad, a Syros specialty!
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Asteria Beach in Ermoupoli is another of my favourites, although it is not strictly a beach as we know it. It’s actually a concrete deck over the sea where you can soak up the sun and have a refreshing swim. The views from here are some of the best in the city, with the blue-domed Agios Nikolaos and the beautiful villas in the background. Asteria is frequented by friendly locals, some of who own ‘caves’ on the deck. You will notice the little doors on the cliff wall – they lead into little rooms that local people have turned into their own version of beach huts. If you get lucky, you may be invited in for a cup of coffee!
There are also a few beaches that can only be reached by boat, but unfortunately I run out of time to go and visit them. I will just have to go back another time and check them out!
Enjoy the best Aegean cuisine in Kini
Kini is one of the most picturesque villages in the island, and it’s well known for its fish restaurants. It can get pretty busy in July and August with predominantly Greek tourism. Located on the west side of the island, it has a beautiful sandy beach with a lovely promenade and a melancholic statue that honours those who have lost their lives at sea.
The best meal I had in Syros was at a seafood restaurant called Allou Yialou. At the northern end of Kini beach, the restaurant has an open canopy built over the water, with impressive views of the bay on both sides, and the turquoise sea right in front of you. Combine this stunning setting with mouth-watering seafood and you have a winner. Some of the dishes I tried included a vegetable salad with Anthotiro cheese, royal herring eggs with bread, olive oil and lemon, and fresh calamari with feta sauce and ouzo. Absolutely delicious!
If visiting Allou Yialou for lunch, after your meal, you can take a boat from Kini to those beaches that can’t be reached from land and enjoy the peacefulness of an unspoilt Aegean paradise. If you visit for dinner, just relax and enjoy the sunset!
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Devour gyros and souvlaki to your heart’s content
And as we are talking about food, I couldn’t write about Syros and not mention gyros and souvlaki, the Greek version of ‘fast food’ but nothing to do with the idea that most of us have in our head when we think of fast food.
Everyone knows gyros, meat (pork, chicken or lamb) with onion, tomato and tzatziki sauce served with pita bread. It is sometimes also served with chips inside the pita. Souvlaki is similar to gyros, but the meat and vegetables is cooked on a skewer, and is sometimes served with pita bread too or on a plate.
They are both delicious, and whichever you go for I can guarantee you it will just hit the spot!
Indulge in the best loukoumi ever!
If you have a sweet tooth, then you’re in luck. Syros loukoumi is worldwide famous and it still gets made the traditional way here.
Loukoumi comes originally from Constantinople (today’s Turkey) but it was brought over to Syros in the 19th century.
There are only three ingredients in loukoumi – water, sugar and starch. These are boiled in copper cauldrons while the loukoumi maker stirs them constantly until they can see that the mixture is ready. The only way to know if it’s ready is through the expertise passed on by generations. The mixture is then emptied into wooden crates and left to set until the next day, when it gets cut into cubes and coated with icing sugar.
It can be said that loukoumi has put the island on the map, and even though this little treat is made in a lot of Greek towns, Syros loukoumi is particularly distinctive because the brackish water in the island gives it a special quality.
Don’t leave the island without trying it and if you can, visit one of the traditional factory-shops and watch it being made.
Get high to get the best views of the island
This will not come as a surprise, as wherever you are, if there is a hill, chances are you will get great views from the top. But Syros doesn’t just have a couple of hills. Hills are everywhere here, and no matter where you are, there is always an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful coastline all around the island. These are some of my favourite spots…
At the back of Anos Syros there is a windmill with a little church next to it, where you can enjoy the view of Anos Syros itself, perched on the hill and crowned by the local church, Agios Giorgios.
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From here you can make your way to Agios Giorgios church. From the front porch, you will see the southern side of Ermoupoli hugging the coastline. This is a great spot to enjoy sunset.
For sunrise, drive up to the village of Episkopeiou, more precisely to Profitis Ilias church. Chris from Trip and Trail and I went up one morning before dawn and had the most spectacular sunrise!
Where to Stay
Syros has a wide range of accommodation across the island.
- Airbnb – Get your £25 credit on your first booking with Airbnb here.
- For the best hotel deals check Booking.com. Get a £15 credit for your booking here.
- Or how about housesitting as an alternative stay? Check out TrustedHousitters.com and get 20% off membership.
There are ferries to Syros from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, every day. As Syros is located centrally in the Aegean Sea, it serves has ferry connections with many other islands of the Aegean Sea, such as Mykonos, Andros, Tinos, Ikaria, Lesvos and more. The port of Syros is at Ermoupolis.
The ferry from Athens is extremely comfortable and it even has a cinema. I loved being on the deck as we approached Syros and seeing Ermoupoli built up on to the hill above the port.
The best way to explore the island is by hire car, which gives you the freedom of discovering out of the way villages and hidden viewpoints. For the best hire car deals, click here.
Have you ever been to the Greek Islands? Which one was your favourite?
Let me know in the comments!
For more must see destinations in Greece click here!
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Disclosure: A big thank you to the Discover Syros team, who hosted me on this event. As always, all views are my own. This post also contains affiliate links, that earn me a small commission but come at no extra cost to you. Thanks as always for your support!