SYROS,
A UNIQUE SCENERY

General information

 

This is the island where Greek tradition and western influence come to a harmonious marriage.

Hermoυpolis (meaning “the city of Hermes”) is the island’s capital town and has been the first important trade

and industrial centre of the country in the 19th century.

 

Evidence of this glorious past can be seen on public buildings (the City Hall, the Customs Office, “Apollo” theatre), on the neoclassical houses and at the beautiful squares. Due to its economic activity, Hermoupolis has been called “Manchester of Greece”

and the history of its years of blossom is exhibited in the Industrial Museum.

The Orthodox community has contributed some outstanding religious monuments to the architecture of Hermoupolis such as the churches of Metamorphosis tou Sotiros (Transfiguration of Jesus Christ), St Nicolas the Rich (Agios Nikolaos Ploussios), Dormition of the Mother of God (Koimissis tis Theotokou).

The medieval quarter of the Roman Catholic community and the fortress-like St George’s cathedral are on St George hill, also named Ano Syros (meaning upper Syros). Go up the stairs to the top of the hill and through the narrow streets, by the traditional whitewashed houses,

the archways and the open spaces with a breathtaking view of the island.

The great number of beautiful beaches will delight the sea and sand lovers: Vari, Foinikas, Galissas and Kini, as well as Possidonia or Dellagrazia, the beach of a village with many neoclassical mansions with colourful orchards.

Syros is well-known for its gastronomic peculiarities. Halva pie (a pie made of thyme honey and roasted almonds),

loukoumi (a delight made of water, starch and sugar), “loosa” ham, fennel sausages and the San Mihalis spicy cheese (appellation d'origine contrôlée/”protected designation of origin") will no doubt satisfy even the most demanding taste buds.

Internationally acclaimed festivals are held on Sýros, offering a wide range of choices and covering any taste, e.g.

The International Cyclades Music Festival, the Classical Music Festival, the Ermoupólia and the Musical May.

 

What to See 

 

Hermoupolis is crowned by two churches on two competing hills (mountains actually). One is the Catholic Hill of Ano Syros with its

Metropolitan of Saint George, a 3 aisle basilica with marble floors and a sculptured alter from the nearby island of Tinos,

which also has a sizable Catholic community. Next door in the building that once was the Seminary is the Historical Archive of the Catholic Diocese and houses manuscripts from the earliest Christian period.

 

Another critical stop is the Markos Vamvakaris Museum. Vamvakaris was one of the most prolific and some say the greatest of the Rembetika musicians if you take into account the majority of Tsitsanis songs were really laika, not rembetika. Vamvakaris,

or you can just say 'Markos' and everyone in Greece will know who you mean, came from Syros to Athens somewhere around 1922,

playing in the back street cafes (tekedes), smoking hash, singing about poverty, drugs, prison,  heartache,

and most famously his song Frankosyriani, (the Catholic Girl from Syros, a love song, which is almost a roadmap of the island.

You can hear the song and read the lyrics by clicking on the link). Its quite a climb to Ano Syros but you can do it if you are young

and don't have a heart condition. We drove. Ano Syros is a community of narrow winding streets, mostly steps, small shops, tavernas,

cafes and has a completely different feel from the city below. It had been the main town on the island before the building of Hermoupolis

in the early 19th Century. The other hill is called Anastassi which is the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection,

accessible by car and also worth the trip.

Down below there is a lot to see in the town of Hermopoulis, from the beautiful Apollon Opera House, a copy of La Skala in Milan,

to Platia Maoulis, one of the largest and most active central squares in Greece, surrounded by 19th century arcaded buildings

and the enormous town hall(photo), built by the architect Ziller in 1876 which contains the courts, offices, a gallery and a small cafe inside. The Archaeological Museum is in the western side of the building on Benaki street and contains pieces from Neolithic times up to the Roman period.

At one end of the square is an outdoor movie theater which shows films, mostly in English with Greek subtitles.

 

The square is surrounded by cafes, ouzeries, a sandwich shop, the National Bank of Greece and the Pantheon Live Piano Bar.  

The Church of the Metamorphisis was founded by refugees from Chios in 1824 and is the oldest church on the island and the home of the

Metropolitan of the Cyclades. It's a  three aisle basilica with a large courtyard with pebbled mosaics. The Church of the Assumption, built by the refugees who came to Syros from the island of Psara has an icon by Domenico Theotokopoulos,

also known as El Greco which probably was brought here by the Venetians in the 19th century.

 

For those who have visited Athens First Cemetery and been impressed by the marble mausoleums and sculptures,

the Cemetery of Syros is also worth a visit. Many of the tombstones and family grave sites are works of art, spanning the last two centuries,

and contain works by some of Greece's first architects.

The mansions of the Vaporia district which were built when Syros was in its prime as the primary port in Greece during the late 1800s have been or are being restored, some converted into guest houses and some are still homes. They surround the impressive cathedral of Agios Nikolaos, built in 1848, and overlook the sea where you can swim off the stone platforms below them. The houses are adorned inside with wall frescoes and color decorated ceilings. (If you go into the sunglasses shop in the port they may offer you a short tour of the residence above, the home of a dentist.)

 

Beaches

 

Most of the other towns of Syros are like beach communities. The beach towns in the south are on a sort of rocky shelf with buildings

going almost to the sea and architecture inspired by Junta-Period Athens.

 

Azolimnos is one of these, a Greek beach town of small hotels and fish tavernas a few steps from the sea, packed in August

and weekends in July. 

 

Vari is a collection of hotels, tavernas and summer homes in the sheltered Vari Bay. There are a couple of nice swimming beaches

and there is a small cove called Achladi which has a really nice seafood taverna run by Nikos Bamvakousis called Achladi.

One of their specialties is gouna which is sun-dried mackerel that is then grilled. 

 

Megas Yialos is a long narrow sandy beach lined with shade trees with a handful of hotels and tavernas.

Poseidonia which was called Dellagracia in the Vamvarkaris song Frankosyriani, has a couple of sandy beaches but is notable for

the many mansions scattered around, some intact, some in the process of being restored.

The best nearby sandy beach is Agathopes where you will find a trendy beach bar called ONO.

 

Finikas is a yachting center. Its the best sailboat harbor. Life seems to center around the taverna on the small hill overlooking the harbor.

Charter sailboats that stop in Sifnos usually come to Finikas mainly because skippers don't seem to like staying in the big harbor of Hermoupolis. This port is practical and after a few ouzos at one of the cafes or restaurants overlooking the harbor it starts to look like a place you could park your boat and hang out for a season or two.

 

Nearby Red beach is not as spectacular as the Red Beaches in Santorini or near Matala, Crete but the rocky coast will give hope to snorkelers and spear-fishermen.

Further down the coast is Galissas, a long sandy beach with a remote wild feel on one end and beach umbrellas and lounge chairs

on the other and some tavernas, homes and rooms to rent.

Kini is the probably the best place on Syros to stay instead of Hermoupolis, especially if you prefer the quiet village life to the city town.

It was the  port of Syros before Hermoupolis was built, when most of the islanders were Venetians and lived up in Ano Syra.

Even from a distance you can tell that Kini has a different feel than the other beach towns. It sits in a big bay, has a long sandy beach

and a small fishing harbor on one side, trees for shade and several good tavernas. It's not overbuilt.

There are no big hotels, just a few small ones and a scattering of rooms and summer houses. 

 

Just over a small hill is Lotos Beach which sits in a small sandy cove, is clean and has several big shade trees.

 

With a great layout and walking distance from Kini Village, sandy Delfini beach is an ideal chill out spot. It's about a 15 minute drive

from the island's capital, Hermoupoli. At Delfini, you'll find a little tavern and a beach bar.

Shopping

 

- Kriari, fashion/art/design https://www.kriari.gr/

 

- Physis soap lab, https://physiscream.gr/

 

- Terra bijoux https://el-gr.facebook.com/terrabijoux/

 

- Sandalia, handmade in Greece https://sandaliacyclades.com/  on instagram: sandaliacyclades

Wellness -beauty: in the pharmacy you will find all the products of  Korrès and Apivita brands but also the Aegean Beauty products made with plants from the island with aloe vera at the pharmacy in the center MARIO ROUSSO Petrou Protopapadaki 23 at Ermoupolis

https://aegeanbeautyproducts.eu/

Traditional products

-Prekas https://www.prekasyros.gr/

You will find, in this fabulous grocery store good, delicious local products (olive oil, saffron, ouzo, capers, honey and divine jams)

 

-Korres https://www.korres-syros.gr/

Incredible dried fruits 7 nuts and one of the specialties of the island, flat round nougat and excellent pistachios

 

 

-Greek cookie addict: you can find incredible savory and sweet cookies in one of the NTANOS Bakery Café bakeries on the island in the city center.

And also good pastries at MELIKRATON to follow on intagram melikraton_patisserie

El. Venizelou 3, in Ermoupoli

Facts about Syros

 

Size: 84 square kilometers

International code: 0030

Population: about 20.000

Airport: Yes

Local code: 2281

Cash machine: Yes

 

Useful numbers

PREFECTURE OF CYCLADES: 2281360214

MUNICIPALITY OF ERMOUPOLIS: 2281361000

CITIZENS SERVICE BUREAU (KEP: 2281361300

GENERAL HOSPITAL: 2281360500

HARBOR POLICE: 2281089200

FIRE STATION: 199

POLICE STATION: 100

AIRPORT: 2281087025

TAXI STATION: 2281080000

BUS STATION: 2281082575

NATIONAL TOURISM ORGANISATION: 2281081206