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We visited 11 islands in the Cyclades chain before finally making it to Syros Greece, the commercial capital of the area. Which I suppose isn’t all that surprising – it’s not like we typically build our travel itineraries around regional administrative centres (sorry, Panajachel). Nonetheless, we should have come sooner because we both loved it.
Me, because it was such a different experience than most of the other Cyclades islands with their cutesy white villages, remote beaches and far too many churches (proportionally speaking, of course).
Laynni, because being in a larger city (25,000 – large for a Greek island) meant there was another fantastic Greek salad available on virtually every corner.
So, first off, we definitely think that anyone considering some Greek island-hopping in this part of the Aegean should add a stop in Syros. Even though we spent 4 nights on the island, other than one morning spent hiking past a few beaches, we didn’t explore much outside the main town of Ermoupoli, so this is not a typical “things to do in Syros Greece” story.
And do you really NEED to know these things? Probably no more than I need to climb every hill I find just to see what it looks like from up there. But I still do it.
So, considering just how different Syros is than the other islands around it, we thought we could provide some useful info – helpful tidbits, if you will – to help you plan and prepare for your inevitable visit to this cool little island.
Having said that, however, you will want a bit of context for some of these suggestions, so here is a brief overview of the main highlights of Ermoupoli:
Miaouli Square – the heart of Ermoupoli and home to a lot of surprisingly well-behaved pigeons.
Town Hall – this impressive neoclassical building dominates Miaouli Square and is visible all the way from the harbour, usually with a delivery or trash truck parked in front to mar the view.
Agios Nikolaos Church – this colourful church dedicated to Saint Nikolas, the patron saint of Ermoupoli, marks the start of Vaporia.
Vaporia – a beautiful neighbourhood of neoclassical Venetian mansions. And a pretty cool name, it has to be said.
Vaporia Beach and Asteria Beach – not really two beaches but two names show up on the map. Either way, you’ll get crystal-clear water and the best photo ops on Syros Greece.
Ano Syros – “Old Syros” sprawls across a hill high above Ermoupoli, full of mazey little alleys, classic old stone homes and the most iconic church on Syros.
Saint George Cathedral – the most iconic church on Syros.
Ermoupoli Port – this is where they keep the boats.
26 Things to Know About Syros
Now, for the good stuff. Get your pen and paper ready, or maybe just the bookmark button, if that’s more the way you roll.
1. Syros features neoclassical architecture and pastel colours, really bucking the normal Cycladic Island style of “square and white”.
2. Syros has been inhabited since the 3rd century BC. The gelato shops came later, though.
3. Ermoupoli is named after clever and mischievous Hermes, the ancient Greek god of trade, wealth, luck, fertility, travel, sleep, language, thieves and, of course, animal husbandry. Potentially the first documented case of someone refusing to choose a specialty in order to remain a student for life.
4. Ermoupoli reminds me of Sicily, but with better drivers and fewer deep-fried rice balls.
5. There are 25,000 people in Ermoupoli and probably twice as many cats, which generally seem healthy, homeless and inexplicably arrogant.
6. Ermoupoli is apparently big enough to support a 24-hour bakery, of all things.
7. Some people travel from other islands to Syros just to shop, assuming those families struggling to drag and hoist dozens fancy bags onto the ferry are anything to go by.
8. Ermoupoli is built entirely on hills. No flat spots, so don’t get your hopes up, chubby.
9. Residents of Syros Greece are technically called “Syrians”, although in light of modern political and military events, they don’t really bring that up too much.
10. These Syrians speak Greek.
11. Syrians love to smoke, most of all in shady cafés in narrow side-streets directly upwind from where I’m eating.
12. Almost everyone drives scooters, probably because they are a practical choice for the tight streets and grim parking situation. But every now and then, just because they like the way their shorts ride way up as they drive.
13. If you borrow a scooter and a huge helmet that makes your body look disproportionately tiny, it’s totally fine as long as the helmet and scooter match.
14. Before they had access to drones, ancient cartographers apparently believed Syros was blue.
15. If you ask if the tap water is okay to drink, they will say “yeess?” very slowly. But the look on their face tells a different story.
16. The pigeons of Ermoupoli are extremely well-behaved, not afraid of anything and clearly do not give two shits about you.
17. Syros takes real pride in its seafood – generally offering real squid, not just “squid” like we saw on some Tinos menus.
18. Vaporia and Asteria Beaches are both paved, which I kind of love. I think it is time I come clean and admit that, when it comes right down to it, I basically hate sand.
19. Syros is known for its loukomi, a local version of Turkish Delight that is apparently even better than the original because of its special ingredient, the “brackish water of Syros”.
20. The ducks and cats tolerate each other but it you can tell there is certain lack of trust.
21. Syros Greece hosts an Annual Festival of Rebetika. Rebetika is apparently considered the urban blues of Greece, an influential underground sound that began as a combination of traditional music and social commentary. I would describe it as very similar to all Greek music.
22. At least one Helen agrees that Syros is a great place to live.
23. When people get married in Syros, the wedding party drives the length of main street honking their horns maniacally. Then they turn around and do it 53 more times, just like their forefathers.
24. If you would like a cool photo of the sunrise from the port but don’t want to get up that early, it’s fine, Laynni’s going anyway.
25. It doesn’t matter if it’s 27C and sunny – summer ends October 1st and the beach bar gets packed up.
26. If you can make it over to the west side of the island (20 minutes by scooter), there is a good hike from Kini Beach past Delfini Beach to Varvarousa Beach where you may pass a naked girl trying to get up the courage to go in the water and, if you’re lucky, find the lip balm I lost.
There you go! You are now as prepared for Syros Greece as you’ll ever be. Or at least as prepared as you need to be.
Quick Links: Cyclades Islands
For more information to help planning your visit to the Cyclades Islands, check out our other guides:
Syros Greece Summary
We loved Syros for the bustling vibrancy, the photogenic beauty, the sandless beach, the great gyros and the cocky cats. You know, Greek stuff.
So, as much as we will always appreciate the quieter, more rural Cycladic islands like Tinos, Serifos, Folegandros and Sifnos, there is definitely a time and place for a stay in a more lively urban setting. Take a bow, Ermoupoli.
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