Syros island Greece
Syros island, capital of Cyclades/ Photo 82847729 © Freesurf69 | Dreamstime.com

Syros: The aristocratic Cycladic island

Full history, grandeur, authenticity, culture, contrasts, cosmopolitan beaches, marvelous sweets

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OVERVIEW

Syros belongs to the Cyclades island group and is a separate regional unit of the South Aegean region. The capital of Syros island, Ermoupolis, is also the capital the Cyclades, and the South Aegean. Ermoupolis was built during the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s. The hillside coastal town was the principal port of Greece  and the first commercial and industrial centre of the country. North-west of Ermoupolis, on the hill of San Giorgio, is Ano Syros, the second town of Syros. Built by the Venetians at the beginning of the 13th century, Ano Syros maintains a medieval atmosphere. Vari is another town of Syros. Other villages are Galissas, Foinikas, Pagos, Manna, Kini and Poseidonia.

.AT A GLANCE

Regional unit’s capital: Ermoupolis Regional Unit’s area: 101.9 km2 Regional Unit’s population (2011): 21,507 Website: https://www.syros-ermoupolis.gr/

.MUNICIPALITIES

The only municipality of the regional unit is Syros-Ermoupoli.

.HISTORY

Syros, the Duchess of the Aegean, has a rich history and culture. The Cycladic island was first inhabited in the prehistoric times (4000 BC) and then in the Cycladic period (3000 BC). In later times, it appears to have been inhabited by the Phoenicians. The name Syros has its roots in the words “sour” or “osoura” which mean “rocky” in ancient Phoenician. Throughout history, the island was known as Syra, then Syros or Siros. Most historians are of the opinion that the island mentioned by Homer in “Siriyi” and characterised as “happy island” is Syros. Ancient Ermoupolis (The “City of Hermes” -fittingly named after the Greek god of trade) was built by the Ionians and was later inhabited by Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks, Franks and Venetians who left their cultural traces.  Since Syros had no active part in the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman rule (1821-1830), refugees from Chios, Psara, Kassos, Samos, Rhodes, Hydra and Smyrna found shelter here and built Ermoupolis. The coastal town of Ermoupolis saw unprecedented economic growth during the 19th centrury and emerged as the main commercial port in the eastern Mediterranean. Shipbuilding, maritime trade and commercial shipping,  tannage   textile industries, were the main sources of revenues. The second world war took a heavy toll on Syros and the local economy was left destroyed. Today the island is full of beautiful sceneries, grandiose and charm.

.TOP BEACHES

Galissas: Just five km from capital Ermoupolis,  Galissas beach is one of Syros’’ most popular swimming spots. Clear (Blue Flag-awarded) waters and fine sand.

Kini: Just nine km away from Ermoupolis, Kini is a wide, quiet sandy beach with relatively shallow waters.

Finikas: Situated on a bay in the southwest of the island, Finikas is a long, organized beach with golden sand and plenty of water sport activities,

Achladi: Situated 8 km away from Ermoupoli, Achladi is a pebbly sand beach with clear blue waters.

Delfini: If you’re looking for something quieter than neighbouring Kini, this is a great alternative. Pebbled rather than sandy.

.GASTRONOMY

Syros is heaven for epicureans. Try PDO-protected “San Michali“, a nutty and spicy cheese, Greece’s version of parmesan, the cold meat “louza” (cured pork with pepper, allspice, clove and cinnamon and air-dried ) and skordoloukaniko (garlic sausage). As for sweets, a true speciality of Syros is the “loukoumi” (the Greek variant of Turkish Delight), prepared from water, starch and sugar and flavoured with rosewater, pistachios, or almonds. The celebrated “halvadopita” (a softer kind of nougat sandwich) is a must-try.

.FEASTS, FESTIVALS & EVENTS

Rebetiko Festival “Syra of Markos Vamvakaris”: Dedicated to Markos Vamvakaris, a native son of Syros and father of Greek rembetika (urban blues), an underground music style that flourished during the twentieth century.  The genre occupies a similar place in Greek culture to that of the tango in Argentina, or to flamenco in Spain.

Animasyros: Launched in 2008, this is an international festival of animation, the largest festival of its kind in Greece and one of the largest in Europe.

Festival of the Aegean: An annual multi-disciplinary festival that brings opera shows, choirs singing, dance performances, theater plays and classic concerts. 

International Classical Music Festival of Cyclades: Reviving the european musical tradition of the 19th century the Festival  is known for its superb classical music line-up.

.RELIGIOUS SITES

Church of the Resurrection (Anastasis):  A majestic Orthodox Church of Byzantine style,  situated on the summit of the hill of Dili.  It was founded in 1873, and designed by the architect D. Elavteriadis. It was inaugurated in 1909.

Church of the Assumption of the Virgin: The second oldest church on the island was built behind the harbor in 1828. It houses a holy icon of the Virgin from 1562 painted by Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) during his young years.

Church Saint Nicholas: One of the most impressive edifices of Syros. Built in the late 18th century, the blue domed church sitting on a hilltop overlooking Ermoupoli’s port, is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, who is also the patron saint of Ermoupoli.

Catholic Church of Saint George: Situated on a hill in the town of Ano Syros, the mother church of the Cyclades’ significant Roman Catholic minority, was built around 1200 and it has been rebuilt several times after fires.

Capuchin Monastery of Saint John: Located in Ano Syros and dating back to 1535, the monastery  is dedicated to St. John the Baptist.

.KEY MUSEUMS

Archaeological Museum: Established in 1834, it is one of the oldest museums of Greece.  It houses findings from the settlement of Halandriani, dating to the 3rd millennium BC, exhibits from 600 tombs dating to the Hellenistic era, a black-granite Egyptian statuette from 730 BC, and some very fine Cycladic figurines.

Cycladic Art Museum: Founded in 1983 with the sponsorship of John and Helen Vati, the Museum  takes us on a historical journey through findings of Cycladic culture of the 3rd millennium BC. It hosts replicas of the Goulandris Museum in Athens.

Industrial Museum: A bit outside the centre, at Neorion by the shipyard, the museum is hosting a collection of over 300 tools, equipment and machinery from the Golden industrial era from various trades such as tanning, machining, textiles, book printing, shipbuilding, loukoumi-making, food packaging equipment, and much more.

Markos Vamvarakis museum: Housed in a house of Ano Syros, the museum captures the island’s artistic personality through the exceptional collections of Vamvarakis, one of the most crucial rembetika musicians in Greece.

.MAJOR EDUCATIONAL & RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS

University of the Aegean – Syros Unit
Department of Product & Systems Design Engineering

.TRANSPORT

Airport: You can fly in, as Syros has a small airport with flights serving Athens all year long, and occasionally Thessaloniki.
Port: You can reach Syros from Piraeus, Lavrio or Rafina. Syros is also connected to other Cycladic islands via ferry.

.ACCOMODATION

The majority of hotels are located in Ermoupolis. From luxurious resorts to budget-friendly options, you’ll find the perfect place to stay.


TO DO & TO GO