In this article, we learn from a local about Syros for families. Betty Chatzisavvidou shares her tips for families who want to visit the island: what to do, where to stay & eat, when to visit and more.
The island of Syros, located in the South Aegean, is the capital of the Cyclades. Syros has a cosmopolitan vibe, combines culture and the slow life of a Greek island and is attractive to many expats. Its main town, Hermoupolis, is stunning. Syros is also one of the places in Greece where Orthodox and Catholic religions co-exist harmoniously. After reading numerous articles and watching documentaries about life on the island, it has been on my “must-visit” list for a while now.
And this summer, we are finally visiting the island with our two young travellers.
While researching where to stay & what to do on the island, I came across Betty Chatzisavvidou who has lived on the island for many years with her family. We chatted over the phone about her adopted island, and she gave me an overview of Syros and its charms.
And then we thought, what about writing an article about Syros for families based on Betty’s insider knowledge? So that’s what we did.
This is the first of a series of articles with Insider’s tips on family travel.
Are you intrigued to know more about Syros? Then keep on reading:
- Could you tell us a few words about yourself and your background? Where did you grow up & when did you relocate to Syros?
My name is Betty Chatzisavvidou; I was born in Stuttgart, raised in Thessaloniki and live in Syros with my husband, Yiannis and our 6-year-old daughter. I moved to Syros in 2008 as I had my Master’s in Design of Industrial and Interactive Products and Systems, and today I am the designer behind “Monkey and Donkey”. At the same time, I work for Desquared as a UX/UI designer, and I am in charge of Cosmote’s App.
- What do you like most about life in Syros? Is there anything at all that you would like to change?
My relationship with Syros was a love-at-first-sight kind of thing much before it would happen with my local husband. And even though Syros is a small island (imagine that you can make a full round of the south part of the island in less than an hour), it can always surprise you with something new to reveal.
The beauty of Hermoupolis is unique and much different from the rest of the typical Greek cities. Its neoclassic buildings and the 100 factories built here almost whisper stories about life in the 19th century and the great people, their life connected to the island’s story. Except for the beauty, the best part for me is the quality of slow life one can have, while at the same time, both adults and kids don’t miss any kind of activity or events. Perhaps this is why so many people from different countries have chosen this place to call “home”.
The main difficulty of living in Syros is the poor transportation by sea and air to/from Athens and the rest of the islands.
- According to you, which is the best period for someone to visit the island? For low-season travellers, what would be the best period?
Syros is a quiet island, ideal for families. If you want to avoid crowded July and August, you can visit it during May, June, September, and early October. On the island, you can also find Boundless life for nomad families who would like to spend more time here while at the same time working and taking kids to their international school (Boundless Life started operating in Syros in 2022).
My favourite period is Spring, especially during Easter. In Syros, both Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic co-exist, and they celebrate Easter together every year. If you visit the island during Easter, seek to visit the church of the Prophet Ilias on Good Friday, where the custom of Epitaph takes place in nature. If you prefer a crowded celebration, the three Epitaphs that meet at the end on the main square of Hermoupolis is a very popular event, but not my favourite. The Epitaph of the “Anastasi” church offers you a great view through the alleys of the “Vrontado” neighbourhood. The bonus here is the people standing at their houses’ front door waving and welcoming everyone. The downside: too many steps to climb. Also, this is one of the most crowded periods.
- Which is your favourite family-friendly itinerary on the island? How would you spend an ideal day with your daughter or when someone with young kids visits you?
One of my favourite itineraries with my daughter and something I recommend to people with families is a walk in the historical center of Hermoupolis. Starting from the port, you can walk to the city center, perhaps have brunch at “Epta Syros Island“, then pass the city hall, go to Apollon theater and continue to the Vaporia area. From there, we may walk in the alleys taking the uphill road with directions to Kyveli’s Institute (if it is open, definitely worth going in and meeting Valentini Potamianou). This last part contains stairs and is not suitable for strollers.
A second itinerary I would suggest is by car.
If you love the countryside and need something else except the blue of the sea, you should visit Episkopeio have a walk there and then visit Chrousa village. A hidden gem in Chrousa, every Saturday morning (all year round except for May & September), is a field full of lemon and orange trees and any seasonal vegetable.
You can visit it to buy fresh supplies, while kids have the opportunity to play in nature. Across this place, there is a charming little church with a playground in its yard (quite strange, isn’t it?). It’s worth visiting and then walking in the area as well.
- Which are the island’s must-visits?
Must-visits in Syros would be:
-The historical center: spend some time in Hermoupolis and visit Apollon Theater, counting 160 years of history, the Town Hall designed by Ernst Ziller in 1876, Saint Nicolas church and “Vaporia”.
– If your kids are a bit older or know how to swim, diving from the concrete pier is breathtaking. The view of the city, while you swim at a lower level, is definitely my favourite experience on the island.
– Visit also Ano Syros and San Georges Monastery (definitely not with a baby stroller). Prefer to do this during the afternoon and ideally during the sunset, since most shops and cafes are closed in the morning and the sun is extreme with no shadows in the alleys. Consider taking a taxi to take you to the top; then it’s easy to come down the hill walking.
- Are there any family-friendly activities in Syros? If yes, could you tell us a few?
On the island, besides spending time at the beach, you can find a lot of beautiful playgrounds. One of the biggest is at the athletic center where you can also arrange to book a tennis court with a teacher (Athletic Center contact phone: 0030 22810 84505. You can find more playgrounds next to Metamorphose church (most for babies and toddlers), Chrousa (a village on the south of the island) and Galisas (a beach resort located approximately 5 km from Hermoupolis).
Also, check if the children’s public library organises something for kids, usually on Friday afternoons (unfortunately not during summer). You can visit the equestrian club and enjoy a ride with horses. During summer, don’t miss watching a children’s movie at the open-air cinema Pallas.
- Are there any family-friendly restaurants and cafes?
The most family-friendly places I would suggest would be in:
Kini: The taverns where you eat at the beach while having a break from swimming.
Galissas: Anassa, for drinks and food next to their outdoor playground or while mothers have pool pilates on Saturday morning. Also, Green Dollars is an alternative rock cafe offering a light food menu with a playground suitable for toddlers (sometimes music is quite loud).
Poseidonia: Perroquet Tranquille, the French bistro with the little garden.
Hermoupolis: Less family-friendly restaurant but a nice place to visit nevertheless would be Cantina Analogue. Visit this place for drinks and food that adults will appreciate – the food is delicious, but the flavours might be too complex for kids. Avoid coming here when an evening event is organised because it gets too crowded.
Another restaurant worth visiting would be Mazi: the food might be complex for kids, but it has a gorgeous yard. Brunch time could be easier for the whole family.
- What is the best location for a family to stay in Syros?
If the main goal of your trip is to enjoy the sea I would suggest booking your accommodation in one of the villages that can offer you at the same time some cafes and tavern choices and essential market options (grocery-bread).
Galissas is one of them – check Anassa for accommodation in bungalows or camping.
Another choice is Kini: the beach is beautiful and there is a variety of taverns. Kini is in the island’s west part, which means the sunset is gorgeous and early night walks at the pier are ideal.
A third option for the same reasons would be Foinikas. For lunch head to “Filomila” offering Mediterranean cuisine, with local ingredients from the Cyclades – this is the best place to eat “magiritsa” (a Greek soup made from lamb offal during Easter) on Holy Saturday too.
If you are a city lover, you should stay at Hermoupolis – parking might be an issue though.
- Other activities you would suggest considering?
For kids, the best beaches are Kini, Galissas, Finikas, and Vari. For me, the best experience is diving from the pier at the Vaporia area of Ermoupoli (for kids who know how to swim and parents who are not afraid).
Other lovely, less crowded beaches are: Kokkina, Achladi, Fabrika and Santorinious, Delphini
Beaches by boat: Aetos, Varvarousa, Grammata. Check Syros Adventures (not suitable for babies)
Suggested car itinerary: North Syros (aka Apano Meria) for great views of the eternal blue and other islands.
Hiking in nature is also possible for families who love this outdoor activity.
- Are there any interesting festivals & events?
Syros has lots of events and festivals. During the covid period, they had to pause, but now they started happening again. I would suggest visiting Syros today (Greek only) to check what is going on from time to time.
Other sites where one could check information about events/festivals in English are the following:
Anima Syros: 26.09 – 01.10.2023 (there are some screenings for kids as well)
- Where would you go to find good coffee and good pastries/ice cream?
“Epta Syros” – a great place for brunch (Instagram)
Pizza “‘Amvix” , Ermoupoli
Take-away pizza from http://giancarlopizza.gr/
“Daidadi” (next to Pizza “Amvix”)
“Ntanos” bakery also has good ice cream and outdoor seating (Ermoupoli & Foinikas)
Django Gelato Syros at Ermpoupoli market: good quality raw materials, no added colours. “We make 100% natural, handmade gelatos and sorbets only from the finest and seasonal ingredients. We are a part of the zero waste and slow food movements,” the founders state on their website.
Armadillo café: Ermoupoli market, right across Django Gelato Syros (Facebook)
Corner Cafe -vegan, Ermoupoli market, also offers fast food and smoothies (Instagram )
ΟΚΙΟ, Ermoupoli Seaside (Facebook)
Sirianon Kafepoteio, Ano Syros: best time to visit is during sunset and evening (Facebook)
- What practical advice would you give to families visiting Syros with their kids?
If you plan to visit Syros with kids the first thing you should consider is transportation: Decide if you want to bring your own car, rent one here or use public transportation. Public transportation during summer is regular but very poor during all the other seasons (less than three routes per day). Renting a car is not expensive, but book it earlier if you come during August. Accommodation is easy with a lot of hotels or Airbnb choices.
There is no need to bring medicines just in case. You can find anything here, and if you are in need, you can even visit the public hospital. For young babies, bring a baby carrier apart from a stroller. If possible, bring or buy a sun umbrella and beach chairs as it is difficult and expensive to rent this kind of equipment at the beach – unless a beach towel is all you need!
- Are there any websites or social media accounts that are useful when organising your family trip to Syros?
Syros today for festivals and events program, theatre and cinema, transport information, hospital and pharmacies.
Thank you, dear Betty, for all the great tips and knowledge you shared with us!
I hope you enjoyed this “Syros for Families” article. Stay tuned for more.
Photos: all photos are kindly provided by Betty Chatzisavvidou
You can connect with Betty here:
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