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The Aristocratic Island of Cyclades

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Discover Syros

Syros is the administrative centre of the Cyclades and the archipelago’s most populous island. It was the first industrial, shipping and cultural centre of the modern Greek state, and home to the country’s emerging middle classes in the 19th century. The wealth and status of this era is evident today in the capital Ermoupolis, with its aristocratic atmosphere, dazzling mansions and splendid public buildings. Together with the medieval town of Ano Syros, a 13th-century architectural gem, they comprise one of the most romantic settings in Greece.

Syros has a very particular identity. It is a place where Orthodox Christians and Catholics live together in harmony, where an innately bourgeois sensibility mingles with folk tradition, and where aristocratic heritage is perfectly balanced with the simple dignity of the ordinary people.

The island is full of life and cultural pursuits all year round, offering constant reasons to visit. Easter on Syros is an unforgettable experience, while in the summer, the “Duchess of the Aegean” promises quiet holidays, calm seas, a variety of gastronomic pleasures, and countless opportunities to investigate the local history and arts scene.

6 memorable experiences on Syros
  1. Easter on Syros. The long tradition of harmonious coexistence between Orthodox Christians and Catholics on the island is reflected in the simultaneous celebration of Easter, which is a moving and reverential experience both for locals and visitors.
  2. The International Festival of the Aegean in July. Through its consummate performances of classical music, it has come to be known as the Salzburg of the Aegean.
  3. A visit to the Church of the Dormition to admire the small painting of the Virgin Mary, an early masterpiece by El Greco.
  4. Discovering the rocks at Grammata Beach, carved with the pleas and prayers of seafarers and shipwrecked sailors sheltering here from bad weather. Some of the inscriptions date from Roman and Byzantine times.
  5. Following the hiking trails in Ano Meria to explore the rugged beauty of the mountainous part of Syros in unique settlements such as San Michalis, Mytakas, and Finikia, as well as terraces, dry stone walls, scattered farm buildings and evocative views of the Aegean.
  6. A walk in the verdant village of Episkopeio, with its lovely paths and old villas, including the (reputedly haunted) “Red House”, which inspired M. Karagatsis’ famous novel The Great Chimera.
Beaches of Syros

Syros is an island of idyllic beaches and calm seas that are perfect for relaxation and water sports. Discover:

  • The popular Galissas, with its shallow sea, fine sand, and family atmosphere.
  • The picturesque Kini, where you can swim against the backdrop of a spectacular sunset.
  • The cosmopolitan Delfini, with its pebbles, exotic turquoise sea, and trendy beach bars.
  • Vari, with its long stretch of sand and good water sports facilities, a favourite of families with young children.
  • The attractive Agathopes, where you can go for a refreshing dip and then sunbathe with a view of the islets of Stroggylo and Schinonisi.
  • For lovers of adventure or those with access to a boat, there are the remote beaches of Grammata, Aetos, and Gria Spilia, as well as the ecological paradise of Fokiotrypa (via a path from Azolimnos) with its rich marine life of seals, cormorants and gulls.
Postcards from Syros: 10 things not to miss

The capital of the Cyclades and an important urban centre of the 19th century, Ermoupolis is a jewel of neoclassical design with elegant public buildings and gorgeous villas.

Ano Syros
The island’s oldest settlement, founded in 1200 AD by the Venetians, follows a medieval style of fortification, with narrow labyrinthine streets, arches, covered passages, and authentic Cycladic architecture. Built around the Catholic Cathedral of Saint George, the town has been home to Syros’s Catholic community for centuries. The Cathedral, situated at the very top of the hill, is a beautiful spot from which to survey the island and the other Cyclades.

Overlooking the sea, the famous shipowners’ quarter of Ermoupolis is an imposing setting of neoclassical mansions with wonderful terraces, surrounded by palm trees and an aristocratic atmosphere. Its centre is dominated by the blue dome and two towers of the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Nicholas (1870), an exceptional monument with fine acoustics, that is full of artistic treasures.

The Apollon Theatre
Designed by Italian architect Pietro Sampo and inspired by La Scala in Milan, the first opera house in Greece is an exquisite building with a long history. The theatre opened in 1864 with a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto, and has hosted some of the most important names in Greek opera.

The Markos Vamvakaris Museum
Occupying a traditional residence in Ano Syros, this small museum offers a fascinating insight into the life and work of the “Patriarch” of rebetiko music, through personal items and rare manuscripts.

Dellagracia (Poseidonia)
If you choose one of the itineraries to Syros, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the coastal resort that was the preferred summer retreat of the island’s 19th century aristocracy. With its superb neoclassical villas and large gardens, it is still a hugely impressive sight. The area where ancient Poseidonia once stood took the name Dellagracia in the early 19th century, after the Catholic Church of Madonna della Grazia (1631).

Ermoupolis Town Hall
Among the most beautiful public buildings of the modern Greek state and a local architectural landmark, this majestic edifice, which was designed by the Bavarian Ernst Ziller and completed in 1898, dominates Miaoulis Square in the centre of town. The Archaeological Museum is also housed here.

Ermoupolis Industrial Museum
This unique museum, a conversion of four 19th-century manufacturing premises, offers an absorbing interactive journey into Syros’s industrial past.

The archaeological site of Chalandriani and Kastri
The discovery of a prehistoric cemetery of 600 underground tombs at Kastri, and the priceless grave-goods found there, brought to light one of the most important settlements of the Early Cycladic period in the Aegean. The impressive archaeological site is connected to the acropolis of Chalandriani, dating from the 3rd millennium BC, by a mountainous path with breathtaking views.

Saint Stephen’s Chapel
This tiny Catholic chapel in the area of ​​Galissas is astonishing, having neither a floor nor a roof, and consisting only of walls built in the fissure between two enormous horizontal rocks next to the sea, with a fabulous view of the sunset.

Tastes of Syros

The island’s most famous delicacy is loukoumi (Turkish delight). This traditional treat originating in Asia Minor has been made on Syros since the 19th century, and owes its special taste to the slightly salty water used by confectioners here. It is available in various flavours, and together with the famous halvadopita (nougat pie), is a timeless ambassador of the local food scene.

You should also try the outstanding San Michalis cheese, louza (air-dried pork), and sausages with fennel.

The cuisine here is full of surprises and includes delicious specialities such as fried smelt with onions or eggs, sun-dried tomatoes fried in batter, octopus balls, aetopita (a fish and vegetable pie), pork with quince or cabbage, parsley dip, and vine shoots yiahni (cooked in a stew with onions and fresh tomatoes).

Syros also produces some excellent varieties of figs. Don’t leave without trying pastelaria (a dessert of dried figs, sesame, cinnamon and almonds) with a shot of tsipouro.

Sample the superb local cuisine and excite your palate by choosing one of the ferry tickets to Syros.

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