Europe

Things to Do In Syros Greece – A Cyclades Charmer

Syros.  One of Greece’s famed Cyclades Islands.  Maybe not as famous as some of its Cycladic neighbors like Mykonos or Santorini, but still a wonderful place to visit.  We spent one week exploring Syros during our time in Greece, and loved every minute of it.  Let me tell you all about this charming island, and show you my top things to do while visiting Syros Greece. 

Why Syros

So if Syros isn’t as famous as its neighbors,  why did we choose to spend a whole week there? Honestly….Wifi.  Greece has a reputation of having among the worse internet speeds in Europe.  Since Mrs. TT works when we travel, a good wifi connection is essential.

While tripping Greece, I discovered that Syros is known to have best internet speed of any of the Greek Islands.  Why?  Because Ermoupoli – its main city – is the governmental center and capital city of all the Cyclades Islands. I presume better tech infrastructure has therefore been a focus for Syros.

Now I didn’t research every single Greek Island.  But, I did reach out to Airbnb owners on Corfu for example.  The best wifi speed they could promise me was 7 mbps.  Not close to adequate for Mrs TT’s needs.  

On Syros however, I was told by several Airbnb hosts to expect anywhere from 25-35 mbps.  Still nowhere near the 200 we get at home, but good enough.

How to Get To Syros

All the Greek Islands are well-connected by an extensive network of ferries.  Syros was our first destination while traveling in Greece.  After arriving at the Athens airport, we spent our first night in a hotel next to Athen’s main ferry port called Piraeus.  The next morning we boarded a large  Blue Star ferry for the 4 hour journey to Syros.

The Blue Star Paros - our ride from Athens to Syros

I used an App called FerryHopper to help me with all our ferry rides in Greece.  This convenient service shows you all potential ferry options for your chosen route and chosen day.  It then allows you to book and pay for your tickets directly through the App.  With no service fee.  It was an invaluable tool as I was tripping our Greek Island hopping.  

For more information on what it’s like to ride on a Greek ferry, check out my blog post specifically dedicated to our ride on the Blue Star Ferry from Athens to Syros. 

Riding the Blue Star Ferry through he Aegean Sea from Athens to Syros

My Top Things to Do in Syros

While internet speed determined our island choice, we found plenty of wonderful things to do in Syros Greece.  Here’s my top 7….

Visit Ano Syros

Ano Syros is a hilltop village sitting high above Ermoupoli  (the port city and capital).  It dates to medieval times and was one of the first settlements on the island. 

Ano Syros - visiting this medieval city is on of the great things to do while visiting Syros Greece

There are no roads.  Only steps….lots and lots of steps.  

Stairway leading up to Ano Syros

And narrow pedestrian-only walkways…  

One of the beautiful streets of Ano Syros

And spectacular views….

The view out across Ermoupoli from Ano Syros with blue pots in the foreground

And small cafes….

One of the commercial streets in Ano Syros

And at the very top of the village sits a 13th century church…. 

The church that tops the hilltop town of Ano Syros

Wander Ermoupoli

Ermoupoli is a newer city than Ano Syros, having been built in the early 19th century.  At one point it was the largest port in all of Greece.  And, even though it is one of the largest cities in the Cyclades, it is still very charming.

A street in Ermoupoli Syros Greece line with cafes and bougainvillea

Rather than the usual Cycladic architecture of white washed houses and colorful doors & shutters, Ermoupoli’s architecture has been labeled “a blend of neoclassic Greek and European architecture”. 

In the central part of town, the streets are made of white marble…

The with marble streets of Ermoupoli

This picturesque city spills down a hillside to the harbor and has a long harbor-side promenade…

Ermoupoli as it spill down to a harbor lined with yachts

The town square is dominated by a huge city hall…

The Ermoupoli town square and city hall

The streets above town are mostly pedestrian-only alleyways connected by flights and flights and flights of stairs.  Here, some building crumble from neglect, while others are beautifully maintained.  

One of the back streets in Ermoupoli Greece with graffiti
One of the city stairways in Ermoupoli Greece
A street corner in Ermoupoli Syros Greece

All of this makes for interesting exploration, and frequent readers know that I like to wander the local streets while traveling. 

Hang Out at Ciel

Ciel is probably the best located bar and restaurant on Syros.  It’s situated right along the water in the most upscale section of Ermoupoli called Vaporia.  In past times, this is where the island’s wealthier ship captains built their mansions, some directly adjoining the water.  

Now several public “beaches” can be found here.  These are actually large cement pads with direct swimming access into the sea….

Cement swimming "beach" in Syros Greece

Ciel is located in between two of these “beaches”, and offers seating directly on the water. From here the view out across the sea and over to one of the town’s main churches is spectacular.  We spent a couple of hours at Ciel one afternoon just taking it all in. 

Having drinks at Ciel is on of the great things to do in Syros Greece

Visit Kini Beach

Not all beaches on Syros are cement pads.  Several sandy beaches dot the island as well.  The easiest to access is Kini Beach – about 20 minutes away from Ermoupoli on the other side of the island.  

Kini is easy to reach by public bus or taxi. We took the bus from Ermopouli’s main terminal for 1.80 Euro each way.

Once there you’ll find a forest of umbrellas and beach loungers spread across the beach – all associated with the various small restaurants and bars that line the beachfront. 

Umbrellas and loungers line the beach in Kini Syros Greece

We had one of our best meals on Syros at one of these restuarants.  It was called Aeriko Tsipouradiko.  Does it get much better than dining on freshly grilled seafood at a table set up beachside in the sand? 

Dining beach side at Aeriko Tsipouradiko in Kini Syros Greece

Plus, Kini is more than just its beach.  It’s also a small picturesque fishing village that begs to be explored.  It’s small and easy to wander in less than an hour.

Fishing boats line the small harbor with a view over to the small town of Kini Greece on Syros Island

Have a Coffee

Going for coffee in Greece has been described as the Greek national pastime.  Coffee shops are everywhere, and grabbing a street-side table for afternoon coffee became one of our favorite pastimes in Greece as well.  

The coffee shop 7 in Ermoupoli
One of the most popular cafe’s in Syros – called Seven

While in Syros, we became familiar with two cold coffee drinks that are popular in Greece.  After all, who really wants hot coffee on a hot afternoon?  

The first is the Greek Frappe.  This is a concoction of instant coffee and ice, topped with a foamy sludge of milk and sugar.  It was the first coffee drink we tried, and neither of us really liked it.  

Two Greek Frappes

The second is the Freddo Espresso.  This is brewed espresso poured over ice and topped with a more traditional crema.  We loved Freddo Espresso and drank it almost daily, taking an afternoon break at a variety of coffee shops both in Syros and elsewhere on our Greece adventure. 

Freddo Cappuccino in Greece
The Cappuccino version of the Freddo Espresso

Visit a Neighbor

Syros Greece is located in the south Aegean Sea and is surrounded by all of the other Cycladic Islands.  29 of the 220 Cylcades are inhabited. These islands are all relatively close to each other.  In fact, from the top of Ano Syros, you can see 6 of them.  

Along with Santorini, one of the most well-known Cyclades islands is Mykonos – famous for its great beaches and nightlife.  Mykonos is easily reached from Syros within an hour by ferry.  

Tinos is another nearby island, and can also be reached in less than an hour.  

Visiting either makes for a great day trip

We took a day trip to Mykonos.  As I did with all our island hopping in Greece, I used FerryHopper to help find the best ferry options for the day.  Our trip took 75 minutes, with a stop at Tinos on the way over.  45 minutes non-stop back.  We had 6 hours on the island

Which was more than enough.  The main town – simply called Mykonos Town – is small, very touristy, but still picturesque.  

A street in Mykonos town lined with souvenir shops

We ate lunch in Little Venice where the small seaside homes of former sea captains have been converted into restaurants and shops…

Little Venice in Mykonos Town

We visited the island’s famous windmills where I battled with Instagrammers for people-free shots…

Closeup of the  windmills on Mykonos Island Greece

We visited the island’s famous church called Panagia Paraportiani, one of the most photographed in the world – where I resumed my battle with Instagrammers for people-free shots…

Panagia Paraportiani church on Mykonos Greece

We spent our last two hours on the island tucked away in the quietest cafe we could find.  

Mykonos is touristy, crowded, and beautiful. I’m glad we went. But I must say, we were happy to return to Syros at the end of the day.

 Eat Under Bougainvillea Ceilings or Harborside

Many of the restaurants in Syros are located in quiet back alleys, shaded by a roof of bougainvillea or grape vines or other beautiful foliage.  What a charming setting in which to dine!  We visited two other islands while in Greece, and I feel that Syros was the winner for beautiful alleyway dining. 

Bougainvillea rooftop over outside dining in Syros Greece
Dining outside at To Mikraki under the bougainvillea in Ermoupoli Greece
This was one of our favorite tavernas on Syros called To Mikraki, where I ate this for lunch one day….
Greek Salad, Olives, Grilled Sardines at To Mikraki in Ermoupoli Greece
Greek Salad, Olives, Grilled Sardines. I don’t think eating gets much better than this!

Syros has some great harborside options as well.  On the quieter north side of the pier, you can dine at tables located directly seaside and watch the sailboats dock next to your table.  

Dining Harborside in Ermoupoli Greece
Mrs. TT gets the spotlight as she gazes across Ermoupoli harbor
A Sailboat leaving Ermoupoli Syros Greece
A sailboat sails away from its docking right next to our table

Where we Stayed in Syros

I’m a big fan of vacation rentals especially for extended stays in a single location. And Syros Greece has a great selection on Airbnb.  

We stayed in a newly refurbished 2 bedroom apartment, centrally located, 7 flights of city stairs above the town square.  Yeah, 7 flights.  But that’s part of the charm of Syros.  Plus, we were able to burn plenty of calories every day – allowing us to eat even more great Greek food. 

The front of a vacation rental on the upper streets of Ermoupoli Greece
Our vacation rental – recently and beautifully restored

Two things we especially loved about this place.  Mrs. TT had a dedicated workspace elevated above the apartment’s entryway.  

A elevated office in a Syros Greece vacation rental apartment

And our host Anastasia was perhaps the nicest most accommodating host we’ve ever had.  She picked us up from the ferry pier and helped us with our luggage through the walkways and stairways of Ermoupoli.  Did the same thing on the day we left.  Offered to come clean midway through our week. And gave us a long list of local dining recommendations – all spot on.

The immediate neighborhood wasn’t perfectly picturesque like you might imagine on a Greek Island.  But I didn’t care.  I prefer the authenticity.  And it was safe. 

Syros also has a large selection of hotels in Ermoupoli and in the various small beach towns around the island.

And What About The Internet?  

Our wifi speed ranged between 15-35 at Anastasia’s place. This was pretty much the same as our speeds in Athens. I did decide to test our wifi luck by staying on another Cyclades Island for a week – the nearby island of Paros. Our speeds stayed mostly in the teens there, occasionally popping up into the 20s.

The internet did cut out from time to time on Syros, but this happened everywhere we went in Greece, and happened to us less in Syros than even Athens.  

During those times, our cellular hotspots served as the perfect backup.  And my cellular speed in Syros (through Greece’s Cosmote network via my T-mobile International Pass) approached 60 mbps at times. 

Bottom line – choosing Syros for optimal connectivity was indeed the correct choice.

Final Thoughts

Syros Greece is a wonderful place to visit, and stands alone on its own charms, not just its adequate wifi.

There is an authenticity about staying in Ermoupoli Syros that we loved. Sure, like any Greek island, there are tourists. I’m one of them, right?

But I felt that it was the perfect place to start our Greek adventure. A picturesque neoclassic city spilling down to the sea. More local shops than souvenir shops. Back streets that weren’t perfect… and that made them perfect. Friendly locals who help us navigate our first week in Greece. And plenty of things to do!

The Thorough Tripper takes a photograph from a ferry while leaving Syros Greece
Leaving Syros

If you would like to read more about our adventures in Greece, then check out my post about Lefkes Greece and its Byzantine Road on Paros Island. Or my post about our 2 day trip to magical Meteora.

Or if you would like to read about another underrated location in Europe, then check out my post on Marsaskala Malta

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