Syros or Syra is the geographic, administrative and commercial centre of Cyclades. With its unique historical path, its particular cultural wealth and its imposing natural environment, Syros emits today an incomparable radiation.The traveller sees coexisting in a harmonious and simultaneously fascinating way the traditional element with the cosmopolitan, the medieval with the modern urban, the Cycladic with the neoclassic, the catholic historical tradition with the orthodox.
Syros has an extent of 86 square kilometres and more than 20.000 residents, constituting the largest demographic island of the Cyclades.
Capital of Syros, and of Cyclades, is Ermoupolis, a marine city that fascinates any visitor from the very first moment, with its impressive two-storied and three storied neoclassical mansions, stretched out around the big natural harbour of the east coast, up to the two hills that dominate the city, with the catholic church of Agios Georgios and the Orthodox church of Anastasi at the top.
Ermoupolis was created in the Revolution of 1821 and fast developed into a big centre of trade between east and west. In 1826, residents of the new city adopted the name Ermoupolis dedicating it to the “kerdoos” Ermis (Hermes the profitable). With the passing of time, industries, workshops and Neorio shipyards were created in the city. The economic development of Ermoupolis resulted to a cultural blossoming and, thus, in the city of “kerdoou” (profitable), but also scholar Hermes, took shape for the first time a genuine Greek urban class. This is also seen in the architecture of the new city, where the style created, conforms with the beginning of romantic classicism and is strongly influenced by western models.
Homer call it Syrii and the most ancient traces of habitation come from the end of the Neolithic period, between 4000 and 3000 B.C. At the period of blossoming of the Cycladic culture (3200-2000 B.C.) the eminent culture of Syros-Keros (Chalandriani, Kastri, route 6) was developed. The newer historical course of Syros was signalled in 1207, with its occupation by the Venetians and the foundation of a medieval city (route 1). During Ottoman domination, it had exceptional privileges and at the Revolution of 1821 it was under French protection, constituting thus a safe shelter for the persecuted fighters, so that it met an astonishing commercial and cultural growth until the beginning of the 20th century.
Ermoupolis is today an open museum, a monumental architectural total that nothing similar is found in the rest of Greece!
The visitor, when leaving the coastal road at the point where he meets the statue of National Resistance and walking to the interior of the city, finds himself in a marvellous square of the 19th century, with the statue of the hero Andreas Miaoulis (1899), a marble music platform (1907), tall palm trees and a lot of cafes – an ideal meeting place of residents and visitors. One of the most important sights of the city is the Town hall, work of the German architect Ciller. It is one of the largest town halls in Greece. It is an impressive building, which resembles more of a palace. It is found in the north end of the Miaouli square. Three storied at the square, because of the elevation difference it becomes two-storied in the back street. The first floor is of Toscana rhythm, the second ionic while the two towers of Corinthian one.The town hall accommodates, apart from the municipal services, the land registry, the courts and the archaeological museum. The building of the club “Ellas” (1862-63) accommodates the intellectual centre Ermoupolis, a rich municipal lbrary, the room of art “Ermoupoli” and a big dance floor.
Near town hall we find the first high school of free Greece, which first functioned in 1833, and the municipal theatre “Apollo” 1862-64, with its impressive interior, that is an exact copy of the Milano Scala. Further up unfolds the district Vaporia, a genuine neoclassical architectural total with splendid urban mansions of the 19th century, with elaborate decor, marble investments and huge wood carved doors. The immense church of Agios Nikolaos (The rich)of 1848 dominates in Vaporia. Here you will also see the monument of the Unburied Fighter, work of the sculptor G. Vitalis (1880). In the church of Koimisis (1828) you will see the famous icon of Panagia , work of Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco). Metropolis of the Catholics is the church of Evaggelistria, since 1829 that follows the Italian models, and metropolis of the Orthodox is the church of Metamorphosis of Sotiras from 1824, with marble colonnades, elaborate iconostasis and a wood carved throne.
In the harbour of Ermoupolis, we find a neoclassical customs building since 1834, which accommodates today the art gallery of Cyclades, and the impressive in architecture “Loimokathartirio”, where in 1860 the shipyard base of Neorio was created. In the same region you will find Karnagio and Tarsanas for any wooden fishing ships repairments and constructions.
A place you must visit is the unique industrial museum of Ermoupolis, which includes rare material from the industrial, naval and commercial life of the island. In Ermoupolis, one can find an effervescent, colourful and attractive market, with many shops, innumerable choices of accomodation, taverns with traditional food, many night life choices and, of course, the Casino.
Ano Syros is built on the hill of Agios Georgios that dominates above Ermoupolis,it is the medieval city of the island, and is mainly inhabited by the catholic community. The sightseer who will walk from neoclassical Ermoupolis to Cycladic Ano Syros, will travel through centuries in a few minutes, since suddenly he is found in a formal fortified medieval settlement: small houses stuck next to each other in a circular order-which constituted the defensive wall against the pirate raids, radial structure with narrow uphill cobbled streets, with high steps and innumerable branches, “stegadia” and “portopoules” – a built -up total that fascinates the visitor, who after a little while feels that he walks in a labyrinth! Only one street has somehow bigger width, and it is where the centre of the settlement (piatsa) takes shape, with the shops and the recreation centres. The metropolitan church of Agios Georgios (San Tzortzis) is built on the highest point of the hill – fortified to the east with a tall wall and to the north-west with a natural fortification that the precipice ensures. From here, view to Ermoupolis and to the harbour is panoramic! Next to the church, in the building where in the old days the “Ieratiki” School (1837) was placed, we find the Historical Archive of the Catholic Church of Syros, with heirlooms and rare manuscripts from the 16th century. Out of the sights of Ano Syros, the most distinguishable are, the abbey of the Capuchin monks with the church of Agios Ioannis (1635), the abbey of the Jesuits with the church of Panagia of Karmilou (1740) that has a library with thousands of books, historical documents, parchments and rare manuscripts, the church of Agia Triada and Agios Nikolaos the Poor (the only Orthodox churches of Ano Syros), the exhibition of the Historical Archive of Ano Syros, the Museum of Traditional Art, the exhibition of traditional professions and, of course, the Museum of Markos Vamvakaris, with personal objects and testimonies of the great local popular music writter, next to the square with his statue. In Ano Syros you will find taverns and rembetika corners that resemble as if they sprang up from another period and offer magical views.
Cemetery of Agios Georgios: It has been characterized as an “open air museum”, “ark of historical identity”, as well as the “most perfect museum in Greece”. Tomb plates with sculptural decor, work of Greek and foreign sculptors. Apart from the Orthodox cemetery, we also find the Catholic and Anglican cemetery.
Syros has appreciable churches, out of which the main ones are: The Metamorphosis, the Metropolis of Syros, which was built in 1824.
Agios Nikolaos (the rich), in the Vaporia district, Koimisis Theotokou, in the Psariana district, the Catholic church Evaggelistria etc.
In addition, one will find churches both catholic and orthodox in all villages throughout the island.
Galissas is the first coastal village that was developed (on the scope of tourism) on the island. It is offered for relatively quiet vacations, and has exceptional views from its 4th century observatory, that is found on the top of the hill above the village, with the chapel of Agia Pakous. Along with Hermoupolis, Galissas was the most important archaic as well as classical center of Syros.
Vari is a relatively big and overpopulated village with a closed for winds coastal area that during the last decade is investing in tourism infrastructure. Here is where we also find the oldest prehistoric settlements of the island of about 4000-3000 b.c.
At a close distance to Vari, we trace Chroussa, a village that does present a bit of the forestry element in contrast to the rest of the island. It is here where famous residents had some of their luxurious houses with most impressing being the one of D.Vafiadakis-an old Mayor of Hermoupolis-which was build in 1862 with the technical support of international specialists.
Foinikas broader region presents great historical interest as there are traces of human livication appliances from the early Cycladic civilazation as well as of the Classical and of Roman period.
Finally Halandriani, located in Apano Meria of Syros, is a necropolis with important findings of the early Cycladic civilazation.
Pankykladiko Archaeological Museum
It is accommodated in the Town hall in Ermoupolis. Its archaeological collection includes signs that Ioannis Kokkonis assembled in 1834. It was enriched with the important prehistoric discoveries of Chalandriani. Sculptures from the Hellenistic and Roman period, as well as signs and tomb columns are also exposed in the museum.
Art gallery of the Cyclades
From 1994 the Art gallery functions in the Transit Deposits, accommodates its own collections and hosts periodical exhibitions.
Cemetery of Agios Georgios
The Orthodox cemetery has been characterized as an “open air museum”, “ark of historical identity”, as well as the “most perfect neoclassical museum of Greece”. In the cemetery one can see tomb plates with sculptural decor, work of Greek and foreign sculptors influenced from the Classicism movement.
Industrial Museum of Ermoupolis
The centre of Technical Culture is overseen by the Centre of Modern Greek Research of the National Institution and by the Municipality of Ermoupolis.The Industrial Museum of Ermoupolis belongs to the centre. The museum has collection of old instruments from the factories of Ermoupolis and an archive of oral testimonies.
Exhibition of traditional professions
The Museum of the Municipality of Ano Syros, exhibits a collection of tools and domestic appliances.
Museum of Markos Vamvakaris
It is accommodated in the residence of the great local rembetiko composer, which was renovated in 1995. The collection of the museum includes personal objects and testimonies from the life of the composer.
Museum of Cycladic Art
It is found at the Intellectual Centre of the Municipality, next to the Town hall and includes copies of the Goulandri Cycladic Art Museum, which are connected with several educational programs that take place in the same space. Instructive texts as well as a rich supervisory material are included in the exhibits.
Ecclesiastical Museum of Ermoupoli
It is found in the church of Metamorphosis and includes portable icons and ecclesiastical objects.
1. Ano Syros.
It is found on the hill of Agios Georgios, above Ermoupolis. It is the medieval city of the island and is mainly inhabited by the catholic community. The view to Ermoupolis and the harbour is panoramic.
2. Towards Chroussa.
This is a route to a green village of the hinterland, with running waters, old mansions and splendid views. The catholic church of Panagia Faneromeni dominates in the settlement.
3. Tour to Posidonia or Delagratsia.
Delagratsia is a coastal settlement with neoclassical mansions and beautiful beaches that took its name from the catholic church of Pangaea (Madonna della Grazia). In the centre of this settlement we find the Orthodox church of Agios Ioannis (light blue coloured!!) and the catholic church of Agios Petros from 1860, on the hill.
4. Galissas-Agios Stefanos.
This is a marvellous route that leads to the picturesque chapel of Agios Stefanos, which is found in a cave (alternative, it is possible go with a fishing boat). The part of the island that is found north the conceivable axis of Ermoupoli-Finikas is named Ano Meria. It is a hilly region with stone fences, escalations and few valleys, which are all offered for walk, since there is a network of signed paths with amazing views. The region from the Siriggas Mountain to the western coasts (Natura 2000) has a lot of sources, steep rocky coasts, unexplored caves and small gorges (Shizomenes) and constitutes shelter for rare birds. The highest top is Pirgos, with an altitude of 442 m. Some interesting destinations of Ano Meria are:
5. Ferekydi Cave.
In Alithini (1 km from Ano Syros) and up north to Plati Vouni (5 km) there are caves where according to tradition, the philosopher lived from the 6th century B.C.
This is a path that leads to the Kastri hill, where we find relics of a settlement and a prehistoric citadel.
This is a route with intense uphill roads and marvellous views that leads to Grammata, to the western coasts, where signs, wishes and names of seamen who found shelter from the weather, carved on the rocks since the roman years.
8. The old cobbly path that used to route the village of Kini with Ermoupolis via Episkopeio has been recently (october 2010) declared as an under protection cultural heritage after years of captations. This unique beautiful path has been all cleared up while the relevant walking path signs have been set and numbered with the number of path 8.
An interesting bifurcation of the latter path is the also preserved path right behind of the monastery of Saint Barbara ( in the village of Kini) that leads through the Tripiti source to the small village of Danakos and from then on continues up to Galissas forming an indeed ideal walk through all neighbouring to Kini villages.
These signed paths lead to the rare rocks of northern Syros, among which we distinguish the eklogites: round dark rocks that stick out impressively to the landscape.
Syros is known for its animal and dairy products. The famous local cheese is “San Michali”. It is a hard cheese and is produced exclusively in Syros by the co-operative milk factory. It is based on pasteurized cow’s milk. From 1996 it has been officially recognized as a product of name of origin. Exceptional “Kopanisti”, is also produced in Syros, which is made from fresh milk (cow primarily or a mix with sheep or goat milk) that has not been thermally treated. Syros produces the famous “maratholoukanika”. However, beyond all others, Syros is well-known for its sweets: chalvadopites and the famous “loukoumia” of Syros.
Syros holds many tasty surprises for its visitor: octopus in vinegar with sun dried tomato, fish with dry capers,atherina fried with onions, marathopita, strapatsada, and marvellous dairy products such as the leading “San Michali”- cheese that is produced exclusively in Syros, and the hard small cheese. Certain rare varieties of vine are cultivated on the island: white “avgoustiatis”, “katsano” and red “armeletousa”, “proniko” and “romeiko”.
Koumbemba with plumbs from Syros
(20 plums, 10 walnuts, ½ kilo mincemeat, 2 egg yolks, 1 cup of chopped walnuts and almonds, ½ cup pine nuts, 5 spoonfuls of crushed bread, 2 teaspoons onion juice, Parsley, Salt, pepper, 2 spoonfuls of lemon (juice), 1 cup butter, 1 glass of white wine, 1 glass of red wine, 1 glass broth)
Mix mincemeat,egg yolks, salt, pepper, 2 spoonfuls good butter, bread, juice of lemon and onion, walnuts, almonds (peeled),pine nuts and parsley.
Knead the mix and mould in big relatively conical meatballs.
Put the meatballs in the buttered baking pan, add melted butter and cook them in a hot oven for a quarter of an hour.
When they roast, poor wine and broth and leave them to cook, for a quarter of an hour.
Simultaneously you can prepare the plums as following: soak them in red wine,remove the stones and in their place put half a walnut.
You add them to a baking pan, until they are cooked and then serve the meatballs with the plums.
How to Arrive
Syros is connected with the Eleftitsios Venizelos airport. With conventional ferry boats and speedboats it is connected with Piraeus, and has daily coastal connection with Tinos, Mykonos and other islands.
For more information:
Port Authority of Syros, Tel. 22810 88888
Port Authority of Piraeus, Tel. 210 4226000-4, 210 4593140, 210 4593150
Port Authority of Rafina, Tel. 22940 22300
Port Authority of Thessalonica, Tel. 2310 531505.
GREEK TELECOME: 1440
Olympic Airlines, Tel. 210 9666666
Airport Syros, Tel.22810 81900
International Airport: www.aia.gr
Transport takes place with buses, taxi, rented cars and motorcycles, and with fishing boats that execute regular itineraries towards the most distant beaches.
For more information:
KTEL: 22810 82575
ΤΑXΙ: 22810 82818/86222
POLICE: 22810 96100
PORT AUTHORITY: 22810 88888
MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY: 22810 98200
HEALTH CENTRES: 22810 96500
LOCAL TRANSPORT: 22810 82575
On the third Sunday in August the Kakavia (Bouillabaisse) Festival is celebrated in Syros, (the traditional fish soup), while every September the “trygopati” (vine harvest stomping) takes place, (the traditional stomping of the grapes).
In south Ermoupoli we find the settlements of Manna and Ano Manna, with marvellous neoclassical pavilions, and Azolimnos, the closest beach to Ermoupoli, with many lodgings and taverns with local wine and local titbits.
On south-east Syros we find Vari, with its splendid beaches and the catholic church of the “Amiantos Silipsis of Theotokos” in the neighbouring Vounaki, that offers astonishing views to Vari.
Finikas, a coastal settlement on south-western Syros, has a safe natural harbour, an organised Marina and a cosmopolitan beach. Agkathopes, in the bay, is the biggest and most beautiful beach of the island, with rich sand and crystal clear waters. Galissas, in a picturesque landscape, is the cosmopolitan tourist village of Syros with the largest sandy beach, which livens up from locals and visitors during summer. Kini is a beautiful settlement in the bay, with a beautiful beach and famous fish taverns where one can also get a small boat which does trips to the more isolated or with no access beaches of Aetos, Grammata, Varvarousa and Delfini.
5 Blue Flag Beaches: Kini, Galissas, Angathopes, Finikas/ Psachno, Vari.