An Insider Guide to Syros, Greece with Hotelier Oana Aristide

An Insider Guide to Syros, Greece with Hotelier Oana Aristide

Hotelier Oana Aristide invites us to explore Syros, a Cycladic haven to an off-beat community of creatives and craftspeople – and home to her family’s achingly cool boutique stay.

Read the story behind Hotel Aristide in
Volume 37: Craft.

mercantile hustle of Hermoupolis, Syros’s hillside harbour
capital, comes as a surprise to most visitors when they first set
foot on the Cycladic isle. Often overshadowed by its hedonistic
neighbour, Mykonos, travellers disembarking from the
two-and-a-half-hour ferry ride from Athens expect to find a sleepy backwater base
on the 32-square-mile isle. Instead, Syros greets them with an
atmosphere of urban cool. It’s less Mykonos, more Manchester.

Don’t believe us? Pull into port and you’ll immediately spot the
elegant architecture which distinguishes this diminutive Cycladic
island from classic Greek clichés; love-heart hued neoclassical
homes tumble down the capital’s two hills, interspersed by the
elegant skeletons of industrial construction. Shaped by a trading
history – 19th-century Syros once rivalled the Greek capital in its
international maritime commerce – the island lives up to its
industrious reputation with a bustling community of artists and
craftspeople. They are helping to shape its ever-evolving cultural
fabric and transform the former industrial island into an alluring
destination for not only summertime island hoppers, but also
nomadic Greeks.

Oana Aristide at her hotel in Syros, Greece
Green interiors at Levadia Hotel in Syros, Greece

Oana Aristide, left, and enviable interiors inside the
recently opened hotel.

Syros is now Greece’s artistic enclave, home to an off-beat,
creative clique.”It’s a lived-in place,” says Oana Aristide, the
new owner (alongside her mother and sister) of Hotel
, the island’s latest boutique stay. “Tourists adapt to
the rhythm of Syros, rather than Syros adapting to the rhythm of

Delayed by the pandemic, the Aristide’s nine-key hotel opened
this year in the well-heeled Vaporia neighbourhood of the capital.
It feels like the island’s lodestar. The family painstakingly
restored the elegant neoclassical mansion, formerly the Cycladic
Tax Office, into a sustainability-driven hotel with swoon-worthy
interiors. Keeping true to the character of the island, the hotel
hosts an art gallery, artists’ residence and workshop alongside its
rooms and restaurant.

We sat down with Oana to find out why Syros captured her
family’s attention, and to ask for insider info on where to visit
when we next head to Greece’s edgiest island.

Seductive Syros: A local’s guide to the need-to-know
restaurants, beaches and artistic enclaves

Bedroom interiors at Hotel Aristide
The roof terrace at Hotel Aristide on Syros, Greece

Bedside views in Hotel Aristide’s Tinos suite, left, and the
hotel’s roof terrace.

Describe the Syros vibe to us

Greek island meets urban cool. The island is atypical in that it
still has an industrial base, but also carries the legacy of a very
wealthy past in its palatial buildings, roads and pavements of
marble. You never really know if you’re in Venice, Manchester or

What’s the best time to visit?

September and October. It’s still hot but not too hot and it’s
not that busy. The sea is warm and the restaurants are still open.
May is also nice, although the sea is not very warm.

What’s the best way to explore the island?

Strolling through the capital Hermoupolis. If you want to get
out around the island, it makes sense to rent a car or a

Where should we base ourselves?

Vaporia, where the hotel is located, is the island’s
neoclassical neighbourhood overlooking a beautiful coastline. It’s
central, near the beach, and is an all round pleasure for the

Space to relax on the roof terrace of Hotel Aristide, in Syros, Greece
A bathroom at Hotel Aristide, Syros

Space to relax on Hotel Aristide’s roof terrace, left, and
one of the hotel bathrooms

A great place to grab breakfast?

Definitely our hotel. We use only local, organic ingredients and
serve dishes based on traditional recipes. Breakfast is served in a
garden, which is pretty rare on the dry Cycladic islands. For
coffee, I would suggest Plastico, a chic café that doubles as an art
gallery, run by a lovely Greek-Italian couple; it’s a local daytime

How about a low-key lunch?

Allou Yallou in Kini. They serve wonderful Greek
salads and seafood on the beach. A leisurely lunch is best combined
with a swim.

Where’s good for an evening drink?

a tiny bar in the picturesque Cycladic hilltop settlement of Ano
Syros, recently opened and is run by one of Greece’s top
bartenders. Or our rooftop at Hotel Aristide, for cocktails with
epic views.

Any other gourmet suggestions?

For casual dining, try Cantina Analogue and Laoutari. These venues are much cherished by
locals and hark back to Syros’s industrial heyday. Both offer
creative takes on local dishes and occasional live music.

For somewhere special, I’d recommend Mazi or
in Hermoupolis. Mazi serves seafood in a spectacular setting; a
bougainvillea covered ruin of an old pottery factory. Avantgarden,
tucked into a beautiful neoclassical garden, specialises in elegant
dishes with Cycladic ingredients.

The exterior of Allou Yialou, a reastaurant in Syros, Greece
Interiors at Allou Yialou, Syros

The white-washed restaurant Allou Yallou, perfect for a
low-key lunch.

Where can we find some sea breeze or fresh air?

We always advise our guests to take a dip early in the morning
at the ‘urban’ beach just below the hotel in Vaporia. The backdrop
of the neoclassical architecture is glorious and, in combination
with the clear water and the quiet time of day, it is something

The north of the island is a nature reserve, and great for walks
when it’s not too hot. Try the path from Kampos to the remote
Grammata beach. In summer we love full-moon walks – on clear
nights, the light and scents make it the closest thing to visiting
another planet.

We also arrange foraging trips and cooking classes with a local
expert in the northern part of the island. Maria is an
encyclopaedia of knowledge about Cycladic herbs and plants (and an
award-winning chef), and she organises these walks in a gorgeous
landscape in which participants collect local herbs, spices and
other plants which they then use for cooking.

A cocktail at Syros' tiny Theosis bar
Interiors at Theosis, a bar in Syros, Greece

Theosis, a tiny bar in Ano Syros, is run by one of
Greece’s top bartenders.

Where can we explore the island’s story?

At Hermoupolis Heritage. It’s a restored textile factory
that dates from when Syros was the mercantile capital of Greece and
a wander through its sepia-toned spaces provides a near time-travel
experience. You can book an evening tour, which includes a light

A tour of the island’s private neoclassical homes is a must.
Syros was, for about a hundred years, the mercantile and cultural
capital of Greece, and the island’s architecture shows this. The
island has some of the most beautiful examples of neoclassical
architecture in the Mediterranean. At the hotel we organise tours
of public and private buildings.

Tell us about a place only locals know…

Delfini beach is a wide sandy beach on the island’s west coast
that only has unpaved road access. Taxis refuse to go; even in the
middle of August, you’re unlikely to meet a tourist there.

Any must-visit artisan boutiques or creatives we can drop

Try Kriari
for fashion from contemporary Greek designers, and Chimera Craft for
curated artisanal ceramics from regional artists. Manos, at
Chimaera, also runs pottery workshops if you want to try your skill
at the wheel.

A book to read while we’re there?

The Great Chimera by M. Karagatsis is a Greek classic set on
Syros in the early decades of the 20th century – it has love,
adventure and local history. Also, I think any time is the right
time to read My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, even if
it’s set on Corfu.

Something to bring back as a souvenir?

Artisanal ceramics, a jar of capers – Syros is the caper capital
of Greece and, trust me, they really are much tastier than anywhere
else – plus a love for all things Cycladic.

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