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Travel guide to Syros Island – Greece

Syros island is the administrative and legal center of the Cyclades island complex, with Ermoupolis city being both the capital of the island and of the Cyclades.

Syros attracts far fewer tourists than Myconos or Santorin, but it has pretty much everything you might want on a Greek island: Seductive beaches, nightlife, history, old churches, a thriving port, and great food at reasonable prices. There are no large, beachfront resorts, but it’s a great place to experience Greek culture and hospitality.

 

  • Cooking classes

 

  • Guided trekking tours
  • Guided sailing tours
  • Qi Gong sessions
  • Horseback riding tours
  • Diving tours and lessons
  • Water sports
  • Scheduled ferries and local island-hopping boats make it easy to visit Paros, Naxos, Mykonos, Delos, Ios and even Santorini without having to stay there overnight.

In 1207 Syros was occupied by the Venetians. At that time, the first city was built on the top of the highest hill near the middle of the island. Its current name is Ano Syros. In 1566, the island was conquered by the Turks, but throughout the period of Ottoman occupation, it was under the protection of the Pope and France. During the 360 years of Frankish occupation, locals converted to Catholism. In 1617, however, the Turkish fleet destroyed the island. During the 19th century, Syros and Ermoupolis in particular, bloomed to become a great commercial, industrial and cultural centre. After the liberation of Greece from the Turks in 1821, the city continued to be at the core of the country’s commercial and cultural life.

Today Catholics constitute only 40% of the population and the great majority of the population are Greek Orthodox, because of the immigration of Greek refugees from Chios, Izmir, Psara, Cassos and Crete. Othodox and Catholics live side by side very peacefully. Intermarriage between denominations is very common in Syros. The fact that Syros is the only island that has almost equal amounts of both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches as well as congregations makes it unique amongst the Greek islands.

Ermoupolis, meaning “city of Hermes”, is the capital of the island of Syros, a city of unique history and architecture. The city stands on a naturally amphitheatrical site over one of the biggest and safest ports of Aegean, with neoclassical buildings, old mansions, marble and stone-paved streets, squares, churches, museums, mausoleums, and white-washed houses on the surrounding hills, cascading down to the harbor.
The city was built from scratch from 1821 to 1825 when thousands of refugees fled the islands of the Aegean, as a result of the Greek War of Independence. Very soon the city was the most important of the new free state, with a thriving commercial, industrial and shipping sector and a population of over 25,000 people, by far the biggest city of Greece of the time!

 

The name of the city was decided in a early referendum to honor the ancient Greek god Ermis (Hermes), who was flying fast to bring to people the messages of the 12 Gods and was also responsible to guide the souls of the dead to the underworld. It was Ermis who brought writing and science to people and he who was the protector of communication and commerce.

Until the beginning of the 20th century Syros was the head of the Greek maritime industry and also played a great role in the establishment of the first Greek Constitution. By the end of 19th century the importance of Athens and Piraeus started to rise and accordingly, the importance of Ermoupolis to decline. Some decades of population decline and excessive poverty passed before Ermoupolis enjoyed a new rise, especially since 1980. Today Ermoupolis is again a city of cultural and touristic importance, steadily gaining the favor of visitors wishing to enjoy the unique architectural landscape and the numerous important cultural events taking place all year round, but especially during summer, like theSyros International Film Festival or the Festival of the Aegean in the famous Apollo theater.

 

The Apollo Theater (also known as La Piccola Scala) is an important landmark and a symbol of island’s financial and cultural prosperity circa mid-19th century. Constructed between 1862-1864 it remains to this date one of the oldest indoor theatres of modern times as well as an architectural jewel of Syros. It is widely believed that the Apollo Theater was modeled after the famous La Scala di Milano Opera House in Milan; however, other influences are evident as well.

After the theater was built, more and more Italians would stay longer on the island, turning the Apollo Theatre into a home for hundreds of resident Italians. Opera performances occurred each summer like Tosca, Il Trovatore, La Boheme, to name a few. Theatrical productions and recitals occurred into the 1900s.

During World War II, the theater suffered damages from the German bombing. In the years following the war, the theater was never able to regain its former stature, even though several plays were performed there. During the later part of the 1950s the theatre was deemed unsuitable for performances, and in 1959 the municipality decided to renovate it. Unfortunately, the condition of the theater continued to decline and during the dictatorship years was abandoned.

Reconstruction work began in the 1980s. The theater was reopened in July 2000 after a long period of careful restoration with a team headed by architect Petros Pikionis under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, with contributions (assistance and oversight) by the Municipality of Hermoupolis. The velvet seats are back, the ceiling paintings are impressive-with them a sense of grandeur has returned. Today four levels of boxes oversee a wooden stage which is 18 meters wide and 9 meters deep.

Ano Syros is the first city that was built on the island  by the Venetians at the beginning of the 13th century on the hill of San Giorgio, north-west of Ermoupolis. Ano Syros maintains its enchanting medieval atmosphere. Innumerable steps between narrow streets and houses with coloured doors lead you to the top of the town, which makes for some adventurous exploration.
The medieval settlement of Ano Syros is not accessible by car, the town is serviced mostly by marble steps. The distance from the harbour up to the main entry point of the town is approximately 3500 metres. The Catholic basilica of San Giorgio dominates Ano Syros. The church was constructed during the 13th century. From here the visitor enjoys a panoramic view of the neighbouring islands of Tinos, Delos, Mykonos, Paros and Naxos.

 

Ano Syros is the birthplace of Markos Vamvakaris, the famous song writer. The great significance of Vamvakaris for the Greek music genre called “rebetiko” is reflected by his nickname as the “patriarch of rebetiko”.

 
Προβολή μεγαλύτερου χάρτη

There are many charter flights available to the neighbouring island of Mykonos. From there you can continue to Syrosby boat. Alternatively you can fly from almost any big European city to Athens and:

a. further fly to Syros using Olympic Air. Early booking is advisable, because of limited availability.

b. go to the port of Piraeus and get a boat to Syros (daily connections). It’s important to know that it takes about 2 hours to reach the port of Piraeus by Bus or Metro after you have landed. From the port of Piraeus you can buy a High-Speed Ferry ticket (the ferry to Syros takes about 3 hours). Collecting you from the port or airport of Syros is included in your holiday package.

Book your flight to and from Syros (JSY) or Athens (ATH) airport using the search engine form below:

 
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