Most people immediately think about Santorini and Mykonos when they hear the word “Cyclades.” However, the island group in the Greek Aegean Sea has many other wonders, including the island of Syros. An underrated Greek destination, Syros is home to Ermoupoli, the capital city of the Cyclades, great beaches, and multifaceted architecture. On this basis, here are the best things to do in Syros, Greece.
Welcome to Syros: the Underrated Capital of the Cyclades
When it comes to the best islands in the Cyclades for travelers, most people head straight for the usual suspects, overlooking some of the region’s lesser-known beauty spots. Syros is one of those.
The island’s strategic location right in the middle of the Cyclades made it a crucial maritime waypoint throughout history. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Syros’ shipyard and commercial harbor brought a lot of prosperity.
The historic wealth is still visible today, and the island showcases a diverse range of architectural styles. In this context, Italian, German, and other European architects designed the capital city of Ermoupoli (or Ermoupolis), creating a mix of neoclassical, Cycladic, and Western European buildings.
Today, Syros is the most populated island in the Cyclades (if you don’t count seasonal tourist workers) and the administrative center of the region.
What makes Syros a fascinating place to visit is that the island doesn’t totally rely on tourism like the rest of the Cyclades. As such, Syros feels more like a small city, not a typical tourist destination.
Is Syros worth a visit? Simply put, it’s undoubtedly among the best islands in the Cyclades for people who like authentic, lesser-known places.
On this basis, here are the top sights and best things to do in Syros, Greece.
The Best Things to do in Syros, Greece
You’ll find most of the top attractions in the capital of Ermoupoli. The best beaches in Syros are all a short drive away and easily accessible by car, scooter, taxi, or public transport.
The Promenade of Ermoupolis
The best place to start your Syros visit is undoubtedly the waterfront promenade of Ermoupoli, close to the ferry port.
The promenade is home to lots of quaint restaurants, cafés, and eclectic architecture. As such, it’s an excellent place to get a feel for the multifaceted history of Syros.
Syros Archaeological Museum
The government of the Cyclades dedicated various rooms inside the magnificent City Hall to the Archaeological Museum of Syros.
Finished in 1867, the City Hall has three different architectural styles, including Italian Renaissance design. Inside, the Archaeological Museum holds lots of artifacts from Syros, but also surrounding islands.
As such, a stop at the Archaeological Museum is a great way to dive deeper into the history of this fascinating region and admire a characterful building.
The Apollon Theater is one of the most famous landmarks in Syros and reflects the island’s Italian influence.
Designed by Italian architect Sambo in 1864, the theater drew its inspiration from the world-famous Scala in Milano.
Ano Syros: the Prettiest Town on the Island
The best things to do in Syros definitely include the island’s oldest town.
Ano Syros (“Upper Syros”) is the historic Roman Catholic quarter of Ermoupolis. Unlike other islands in Greece, Syros has a rich Catholic heritage, and Ano Syros is the epicenter.
Home to the 17th-century Convent of St. Jean, Ano Syros is an excellent place for history buffs and arguably the most picturesque town on the island. Thanks to its location overlooking Ermoupoli, it also offers stunning views over the island.
The Orthodox Quarter
The second hill in Ermoupolis that you shouldn’t miss is the Orthodox Quarter, home to some of the most striking churches in Syros.
In this context, the church of St. Nicholas the Rich and the Church of the Resurrection of Christ among the top places to visit in Syros.
The Vaporia Neighborhood
Once nicknamed the “Manchester of Greece,” Syros enjoyed wide-ranging economic prosperity thanks to its port in the 20th century. The Vaporia neighborhood reflects those high-rolling times, with lots of Italian-style mansions and other grand buildings.
Admiring these villas is one of the best things to do in Syros for architecture buffs, and after a relaxing stroll, you can head to the nearby beaches.
Relax on the Best Beaches in Syros
Syros has numerous tranquil beaches with crystal-clear water, making it an excellent destination to mix culture with holiday vibes.
Here is a breakdown of some of the best beaches in Syros:
- Galissas Beach: located 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) west of Ermoupoli, it’s the most popular beach in Syros with bars and other infrastructure;
- Agathopes Beach: situated 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) west of Ermoupoli, Agathopes is a sandy beach with tourist resorts in a family-friendly town;
- Azolimnos Beach: Like the other two, this is a popular spot among tourists and locals alike with beach bears and other tourist infrastructure;
- Finikas Beach: Finikas is the largest beach on the island with sunbeds, watersports, and resorts nearby;
- Armeos Beach: Armeos is a remote beach on the eastern side of the island without any tourist infrastructure. It’s the ideal place if you want to swim without crowds, but be aware that it’s nudist-friendly;
- Lotos Beach: Finally, Lotos is another secluded but beautiful beach without any amenities. It’s located close to the town of Kini, which has more tourism-orientated beaches if you need supplies.
Enjoy Traditional Cuisine in Syros
You’ll find plenty of great restaurants in Syros, notably in the capital of Ermoupoli.
Go on a Day Trip to Tinos, Mykonos, or Delos
If you’re staying in Syros, you might also plan a day trip to some of the surrounding islands.
In this regard, three destinations are recommendable:
- Mykonos: one day is not enough to see everything on the fabled party island, but you’ll get a glimpse of one of the most popular Greek islands.
- Delos: a small island with a lot of archaeological heritage and a famous ruin site. Delos is worth a day trip if you’re into ancient Greek ruins.
- Tinos: arguably the most worthwhile day trip: the island of Tinos is a famous pilgrimage site for Orthodox Christians and full of traditional villages, Cycladic architecture, and picturesque beaches.
All of these are reachable by ferry from the port of Syros. The journeys won’t take longer than 1.5 hours.
Where to Stay in Syros, Greece
Syros is small, and most attractions can be reached from the capital city of Ermoupolis by car, scooter, or bus. Base yourself close to the promenade in Ermoupolis, and all of the best things to do in Syros won’t be far away.
The island doesn’t have a lot of international hotel chains, but you’ll find charming local hotels or guest houses as well as a small selection of Airbnbs.
Top Things to do in Syros: Know Before You Go
- Syros doesn’t have an airport. You can get here by ferry from Piraeus (Blue Star Ferries is the best choice in my opinion). The second option is to take a ferry from Mykonos – Syros’ famous neighbor with an international airport.
- Syros is an affordable destination with great prices in comparison to the more well-known islands in Greece.
- 2-3 days will suffice to see the island of Syros, depending on how much time you want to spend relaxing on the beach.
- The island has a lot of infrastructures, so no need to worry about ATMs or other amenities.
- The most convenient way to get to the best beaches in Syros is to rent a car. There are buses and taxis, so it depends whether you only make one journey (not warranting the price of a rental car) or drive to numerous spots.