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Discover the Hidden Gems of Syros: Top Things to Do on This Enchanting Greek Island

Updated: Jul 6

Syros, an island you can visit a beach during the day and enjoy a cultural performance at night.

Nestled in the heart of the Cyclades and often referred to as 'the gem of the Aegean', Syros is an island that beautifully blends tradition, elegance and culture. Often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours like Mykonos and Santorini, Syros offers a unique charm that captivates visitors. From its stunning beaches and historic architecture to vibrant cultural festivals, there's no shortage of things to do on this enchanting island.

Photo by Tassos Giannouris from Pexels

Before we dive into the top things to do on the island of Syros, let's quickly look at some interesting information.

University: Syros is the capital of the Cyclades and is one of the few islands in Greece which offers a university, the University of the Aegean university.

Dual religious identity: Once you reach the island, you will notice two hills, Ermoupoli topped by a Greek Orthodox church & Ano Syros with a Catholic church making evident the islands dual religious identity.

Culture: The island is well known for its cultural events taking place every year in Ermoupoli, many of which take place in the Apollo Theatre, which is a replica of La Scala in Milan.

Architecture: Influenced by 19th century western standards, the houses, squares and buildings are a treat for Architectural enthusiasts. Look out for the beautiful mansions around the island, especially Ermoupoli.

In addition to this blog post, we have a dedicated podcast episode available on all Podcast platforms. To find out more, click the link to listen on Spotify.

Now, let's look at some of the top activities you shouldn't miss when visiting Syros. Click on the link to take you to the relative section.

MGI TIP: The fastest and easiest way to reach Syros is either by boat or internal flight from Athens, or by boat from a neighbouring island like Mykonos which offers an international airport.

1. Explore Ermoupoli

Ermoupoli, the capital of Syros (and all of the Cyclades), is a vibrant town brimming with neoclassical architecture, lively squares, and a bustling harbour. Stroll through the narrow streets, admire the pastel-coloured buildings, and visit the impressive Miaouli Square, which is surrounded by beautiful structures like the Town Hall, designed by German Architect Ernst Ziller and the Apollon Theatre, designed by the Italian municipal architect Pietro Sambo. Don't miss a visit to the Church of Saint Nicholas, one of the most significant landmarks in Ermoupoli.

The name, Ermoupoli, which literally translates to 'the town of Hermes', is named after the god of trade, Hermes and was founded by wealthy refugees, mainly in the shipping industry, from Crete, Kasos, Psara, Chios & Asia Minor, after their homes were destroyed during the Greek Revolution in 1821 transforming it into one do the most important commercial shipping destinations. The town is known for its neoclassical architecture and old mansions, especially in the Vaporia district.

2. Visit Ano Syros

Perched on a hill above Ermoupoli, Ano Syros (also known as Ano Syra) is a medieval settlement that offers stunning views of the island and offers a mix of Cycladic and Venetian features. The settlement reminds you of streets in other Cycladic islands with the narrow alleys and whitewashed houses.

Wander through its winding alleys, visit the Catholic Cathedral of Saint George, and explore the small museums dedicated to local history and culture. Enjoy a traditional meal at one of the taverns and enjoy a drink at one of the local bars offering cocktails with an Aegean twist. The village's charming atmosphere and panoramic vistas make it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.

3. Explore the Beaches

Syros boasts several beautiful beaches, each with its own unique charm and many of which can be reached by car or other means of transport. One of the most popular beaches is Galissas Beach, known for its golden sand, crystal-clear waters and great sunsets. The beach but also the chapel of Santa Paku close by offer wonderful sunsets and should not be missed.

For a more tranquil experience, head to Kini Beach, whereas if you're looking for a bit of adventure, Delfini Beach offers excellent conditions for snorkelling and exploring the underwater world. The charm and simplicity of Vaporia should also not be underestimated, where you lay your towel on the cement platforms and jump into the water but also enjoy some architectural gems with mansions overlooking the Aegean.

For a completely unorganised and secluded beach where you can switch off and enjoy some privacy, head to Santorinii Beach but make sure to go prepared and leave nothing but your footsteps.

4. Take a Boat Trip

Explore the coastline of Syros from a different perspective by taking a boat trip and visit remote beaches, hidden coves, and nearby islands. Trip to visit the secludes beaches of Syros which cannot be reached by car are operated by local companies, leave from Kini beach and offer umbrellas for the shade and refreshments at a reasonable price.

Whether you opt for a leisurely sailing trip or a thrilling speedboat ride, you'll be treated to stunning views and the opportunity to swim in some of the most pristine waters in the Aegean.

5. Visit the Museums

Syros offers quite a few museums to understand the history and cultural heritage of the island. Housed inside one of the most prominent buildings in Ermoupoli, the Town Hall you can find the Archaelogical Museum where you can find items relating to the Cycladic culture as old as 3.000 years. Then, slightly on the outskirts of Ermoupoli, housed in a restored factory building, to learn more about Syros' rich industrial heritage, you can find the Industrial Museum, showcasing exhibits related to the island's history in shipbuilding, textile manufacturing, and other industries. In Ano Syros, you can find the Vamvakaris Museum, a heritage museum which opened in 1995 in memory of the worldwide known musician and composer of rebetiko music Markos Vamvakaris. The museum exhibits personal items of Markos Vamvakaris donated to the museum by his family.

6. Experience the Local Cuisine

Greek cuisine is renowned for its flavours and Syros is no exception. The island is known for being a foodie's haven and offers a long list of restaurants with exceptional menus with some experimenting and providing twists to the Aegean flavours. In Syros you can experience the full spectrum of dining experiences, from brunch, afternoon desserts and coffee, natural gelato and dining with a view.

In addition to the dining experience, you can enjoy the local delicacies and produce like 'Loukoumia' (a type of Greek delight), 'Halvadopita' (nougat pie), and the cheese 'San Michali' which can only be found in Syros. For an authentic experience, wonder the alleys of Ermoupoli, visit the local markets and try the local produce.

If you would like to take a 'taste of Syros' home with you, why not also try a cooking class and learn the secrets of preparing a Greek dish.

7. Discover Cultural Festivals

Syros is a hub of cultural activity, with numerous festivals and events throughout the year. The festivals and cultural events and venues provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the island's vibrant cultural scene. Cultural events cannot be thought of in Syros without reference to the Apollon Theatre, located in the heart of Ermoupoli. A visit of the theatre is advised whether enjoying a performance or not as the building is a architectural gem inside and out. The most notable festival is the Syros International Film Festival, which attracts filmmakers and cinephiles from around the world. Another highlight is the Festival of the Aegean, featuring classical music performances in stunning settings.

Church of Saint Stephan
Photo by Spyros Boutsikos from pixels

8. Hike the Scenic Trails

For outdoor enthusiasts, Syros offers several hiking trails that showcase the island's natural beauty. One popular route is the trail from Ermoupoli to Ano Syros, which provides breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea and the surrounding landscape. Another scenic hike leads to the secluded Gria Spilia beach, a hidden gem accessible only by foot or boat.

An easier trek which I attempted and enjoyed was to the Church of Saint Stephan, a small chapel built in a cave near the water. The urban myth is it was built by a fisherman who prayed to saint Stephan to help save him from the tentacles of a large octopus. A particularly great day to visit this church is the 19th August, which is the day the saint is celebrated and the locals visit the chapel.

Syros is a captivating island that combines history, gastronomy, culture, and natural beauty. Whether you're wandering through the historic streets of Ermoupoli, lounging on sun-kissed beaches, or savouring delicious local cuisine, enjoying a movie in an outdoor cinema, there's something for everyone on this charming Greek island. Plan your visit to Syros and discover the magic that awaits in this hidden gem of the Cyclades.

To view my top picks and places to eat/drink in Syros, check out the MGI e-map for Syros which overlays onto your own google map and includes coffee shops, restaurants, attractions & more. On each top pick, where possible, I have added some key notes to offer additional tips and tricks.

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Do you need help deciding where to go in Greece? Book a travel consultation session with me and I will help you narrow it down to a destination. Prior to the consultation, a questionnaire will need to be completed. During the session we will discuss the questionnaire and your needs and post the consultation, an overview of the destination proposed will be provided with key information and an e-map with places of interests and other tips and tricks.

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