of the Cyclades, Syros, population
20,000, lies 83 nautical miles from Piraeus. Syros' has 84 sq. km
of predominantly barren land area and 87 km of rocky coastline which
contain many small coves, nice sandy beaches and two large bays. The
island of Syros is mountainous in its northern section while its
southern end is flatter. The southern and western parts of Syros are the
most densely inhabited.
natural harbor is large and deep with facilities to repair and build
ships. The prominent industrial facilities of the Neorion Shipyards mar a visitors first impression of this other wise very interesting
and friendly island capital.
Syros provides a good mix of
tourism with real Greeks going about their business. Many 'in the
know' foreigners return devotedly year after year and many more
have moved to the island. Syros
has several charming villages including Dellagracia, Finikas, Vari,
Chroussa, Faneromeni, Azolimnos and Gallisas.
pretty white Church of Aghios Dimitrios greets your ferry
as you round the point towards the harbor.
Ermoupolis' Twin Peaks
main port and capital Ermoupoli,
population 12,000, is named after the ancient Greek mercantile
god Hermes. It's the largest city in the Cyclades, the capital of the Cyclades, and was once the premier port in all of Greece.
built the hilltop, predominantly Catholic, Ano
or upper-Syros on the left, or north, of the two peaks overlooking Ermoupoli.
The right peak. settled primarily with Greek Orthodox
islanders, come to govern the fledgling state. The right peak is called
Deeli or Vrondado. In Vrondado, the elegant buildings have been restored to their original colors. There are old street lamps and palm trees adding to the charms in this quarter.
Sqare is the center of the lower town and ringed with cafes,
shops and administrative buildings. There's a statue of Admiral Miaoulis, a revolutionary hero.
The most important buildings in the Square are
the Town Hall (1876) and the Apollon Municipal Theatre, a
copy in miniature of La Scala, Milan. The Apollo was the first ever
Opera House in Greece and until 1914 had regularly scheduled Italian
productions. The Historial Archives are near the Town Hall. The Historical Archives are
the scene of the Ermoupolis Seminars in summer.
Ermoupoli has had many of its elegant,
neo-classical buildings and restored mansions that make wandering pleasant.
Museum (8:30-3, closed Mon, fee) is in the left of the square
and contains finds from Syros and other islands dating from Pre-Cycladic
through the Roman era. The nearby Velissaropoulos Mansion has elaborate
ceiling and wall decor characteristic of old Ermoupolis and is open to the
public during business hours.
is where you find the bustling markets. Chios Street and the surrounding closely packed streets leading from the harbor
offer picturesque views and interesting shopping for local delicacies
Several Churches of both denominations serve the town.
The Transfiguration or Metamorphosis is the main Greek Orthodox Cathedral and sits immediately behind the
square. It possesses a baroque interior, a style rare in Greek Orthodoxy.
Just up from the harbor is the Church of the Annunciation with its unique icon The Assumption painted
by El Greco.
The Karavia (also known as Vaporia) quarter of town, which begins along the upper waterfront, contains
unique, old and restored mansions belonging to now departed ship owners
and wealthy merchants. Their elaborately carved marble facades and richly
decorated interior frescoes and painted ceilings are a testament to the
inexpensiveness of labor in bygone days. The local square holds the Church
of Aghios Nikolaos with its blue and gold dome.
This church is dedicated to the patron saint of the city. The church contains a carved marble iconostasis by Vitalis of Tinos. In front of the church is the world's first Monument to the Unknown Soldier, also by Vitalis.
Three town beaches are further along the shore and
attainable by marble steps leading down.
The Vrodado district and Ano Syros
to Ano Syros, you pass through Vrondado (also spelled Vrondado and Vrontado), with its mix of Cycladic and medieval it's a bit like being transported to another time and place. Its stone
walls and cobblestone streets, narrow lanes and many arches resound
to your footsteps. And step you will, as there are over 870 steps to
climb to its peak. (It's also possible to take the bus.) Vrondado has a fine old Byzantine Church, Anastasis, and excellent tavernas which spread over the steps at night.
At the top of the steps Ano Syros. The main entrance to Ano Syros is an ancient vaulted passageway called the Kamara. Ano Syros is a whitewashed predestrian-only quarter. Catholic since the Crusades, this quarter houses Cathedral of St. George, with its star-fretted barrel roof. Next door is the Center
for Historical Studies. Not
far below are the Jesuit (1744) and Capuchin (1400) Monasteries. The
Town Hall is central with the Historic Archives of the Municipality,
and the Museum devoted to the popular composer and exponent of Greek blues, Markos Vamvakaris.
Various folklore events take place in Ano Syros, generally during
the summer. The main drag is called the Piatsa with tavernas, shops and domiciles.
A 45 minute walk from Ermoupolis is the church of
Ag. Dimitrios. All ships coming into port hoot as they pass it. In Dili, just above, is and
the ancient Temple of Isis built in 200 BC. Little
remains of it or the site across the harbor at Lazaretta where a 5th Century BC
Temple to Poseidon once stood. There is speculation that this is the Poseidonia mentioned in The Odyssey.
Syros northern section
contains lagoon like Grammata Bay where sailors from
classical to Byzantine times found refuge from storms and engraved still
visible epigrams in the rocks in thanks. In fact 'Grammata' means just that:
At Halandriani (Chalandriani) on the east coast a trove
of grave goods were discovered in 1898 in the 500 tombs of the Bronze Age
necropolis. An hours walk north to Kastri, there stands the ruins of an ancient Bronze Age citadel, with walls, six towers and foundations still visible.
Grammata Bay is only reachable by sea but has a very nice and quiet beach.
Easily reached by bus and quite crowded is sandy Galissa and next door Armeos the small, rocky, nude beach.
Buses go to Kini on the west coast. It has two sandy beaches and is popular for sunset watching. There's a taverna famous for its authentic bouzouki music.
Poseidonia or Delagratsia, is a coastal
area with the good beach of Angathopes and neo-classical houses of interest.
Vari has an attractive beach. Finikas Bay mentioned in Homer, is a gritty sandy beach. Megas Gialos is shady and family oriented. There
are good swimming beaches at Kimata, Agios Nikolaos, Ambela, Delfini and Ahladi.
Drinking and Dining
In Ano Syros, dine at Lilli's for an excellent view and local
There are several excellent
tavernas in Vrodado. The Nest or Folia Taverna is considered
the island's best with fresh game such as rabbit and pigeon and locally
- Loukoumia: sweet rose, quince or pistachio flavored squares, also known as Turkish Delight
- Halvadopitas: sweet molasses flavored flaky nougat
- San Michaeli Cheese (like Romano)
- Louza sausages
- Local liqueurs: Grandma's or "Yaya's" brand is delicate but authoritative
- Locally made moonshine: Tsipouro!!!!
The first inhabitants were possibly the Phoenicians who made off with Homer's swineherd Eumaeus. They settled at Dellagracia and Finikas. Poseidon was the chief god of Syros. A heiotrope was constructed on Syros in his honor in the 6th Century BC.
In Roman times, the population shifted to Ermoupolis. After the collapse of the pax Romana, Syros sat abandoned until the 13th Century. The Venetians arrived then and founded Ano Syros. Because Ano Syros was Catholic, the island enjoyed the protection of the French and was neutral during the Greek War of Independence. After the war, refugees arrived with their Orthodox faith and began the settlement on Vrondado.
Since then the harbor has boomed with trade, refueling and shipbuilding. The new town that grew from the two settlements on the hills was named for Hermes: Ermoupolis. The god of commerce has indeed blessed Syros with great fortunes.