The name Syros probably comes from the ancient name "Sour" or "Osoura" which meant rocky in ancient Phoenician language. Homer mentions Syros island in Odyssey as "Syrii". Archaelogical findings that came to light in the late 19th century at "Chalandriani" site, northeast on the island are thought to be of the 2800 BC era, the second period of the Protocycladic civilisation. The findings include graves, statuettes and various artifacts which are now found at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, at the Goulandris Cycladic Art Museum and the local Syros Archaeological Museum. Syros has been the birthplace of ancient philosopher, physicist and astronomer Pherekydes, mid 6th century BC. During these times, 2 cities existed on Syros. One located as today Hermoupolis (Ermoupoli) and more specifically at the Pefkakia-Psariana location and another one at today Galissas (ancient Galissos). Later, by the 5th to 4th century BC, Syros became a member of the Athenian Alliance and after a short period of tension during the 3rd century BC, Syros thrives again in the 2nd century BC. During the 1st century BC, Syros develops to an important naval hub. For the centuries to follow, Syros is a permanent target of the Pirates and its population decreases significantly. During the 8th century AD, Ano Syros starts to get built. On 1207 it is conquered by the Venetians, and during the 360 years of occupation, the local people have been converted to the Catholic doctrine. In 1566, Syros is conquered by the Turks, but during the whole duration of Turkish occupation, Syros is under the protection of France and the Pope himself. In 1617 the Turkish fleet destroys Syros. During the 16th and until the 18th century, Syros population has been around 2500 Catholic and 150-200 Orthodox Christians. During the 19th century, Syros had the biggest commercial, industrial and cultural in its history. More specifically Ermoupoli (Hermoupolis), which has been founded by refugess that came from Chios, Smyrni, Psara, Kassos and Crete. The Catholic influence is limited and Syros contributes financially to the the Greek revolution. In the middle of the century, Syros is already at its peak of economic and cultural development, which last until the end of the century. The German Occupation, the famine of 1941 and the bombings, destroy the social and economic life of Syros. The attempt to reconstruct Ermoupoli, once again in the long history of Syros, begins after the liberation.
History : Ermoupoli, capital of Syros Island and of the Cyclades island complex, is founded in 1821 by refugees that gradually arrive on the island from Asia Minor, Chios, Kassos, Psara and Crete. It is given that name to honor the ancient god of commerce Hermes ( Hermes = Ermis , Polis = City) Ermoupoli rapidly develops into a great commercial centre and becomes the most important port of the Eastern Mediterranean. In 1823, the first hospital of modern Greece is founded in Syros. In 1833 it becomes the capital of the prefecture and the first High School of modern Greece is founded by Neofitos Vamvas, a school where Eleftherios Venizelos has been a student. Many shipyards are built, which employ around 2000 people and around 80 ships per year are built there. The first greek steamboat is built in Ermoupolis Syros in 1854. At the same time, the banking and insurance markets develop. Industry is also thriving with most active sectors being tannage, soapmaking, iron metallurgy, flour industry, textile industry etc. The growing prosperity of Ermoupoli and Syros continues until the end of the 19th century when the population reaches 30000 inhabitants. But the changes that occured in the following years in maritime commerce, shake the economy of Syros and Ermoupoli starts to decline.
The city of Ermoupoli : As a capital of the Cyclades prefecture, Ermoupoli is host to many public services and administrative offices of the Greek government. Courts of justice, Prefecture Administration, South Aegean Region administration, Customs Office, Tax Office Fire Department and Directorates of Agriculture, Forests, Education, Commerce, Fisheries, Urban design etc. The area covered by the Ermoupoli Municipality is 926 acres and the population is around 13000 inhabitants. Social life in Syros and Ermoupoli, in contrast to the majority of the Cyclades islands, remains alive even during the winter season. Dozens of cultural, professional, athletic, artistic and charity clubs stimulate the interest of the inhabitants and the visitors to Syros island. Theatrical and Cinema events, music and dance festivals, lectures and sports evente, seminars and workshops and art exhibitions are some of the elements of the social life in Syros island.
Neighborhoods in Ermoupoli : Psariana, where the Kimisis (Assumption) Church is located and a little bit higher you can find Pefkakia. Neapoli, Taksiarchis and Ksirokampos on the road that leads to Ano Syros, near the Church of Saint George Vaporia, just next to Saint Nicolas church. Vaporia is the rich district with the imposing mansions that overlook the Aegean Sea and have a direct view of Mykonos island when the atmosphere is clear. Most of these mansions belong to shipowners and industry owners and their rooms are full of murals (wall paintings) and impressive ceiling paintings. Vrontado can be found just below the church of Anastasi (Resurrection) Dili on the top of the Dili hill probably got its name from "Dilios Apollo" where you can find the Anastasi church (Resurrection) Lazareta is the area around the old Quarantine building and is located at the south part of Syros port.
Sightseeing : The Miaouli Square, with the statue of Andreas Miaoulis (1889) in the centre and the marble platform for the Syros Philharmonic (1907) showing embossed representations of ancient god Apollo and the 9 Muses. Syros City Hall. The most imposing structure in Ermoupoli, took 22 years to complete. Its founations were set in 1876 and completed in 1898. The architect was Ernest Chiller and the mayor of Ermoupoli D.Vafiadakis. The Ermoupoli City Hall is open to the public in the morning and sometimes of the year in weekends. Syros Archaeological Museum, is located inside the Syros City Hall, in its northeastern side, its entrance being on the Em. Benaki street. You can find various exhibits, ranging from the Proto-Cycladic to the Byzantine era. Entrace to the Syros Archaeological Museum is free of charge and the telephone number is 22810-88487. The Cyclades Historical Archive, is found on the first floor of the Ladopoulos building, right on the left of Ermoupoli City Hall. The archives are rich in information as early as 1821 (Greek War for Independence) and they are open to any researcher or visitor. The Cultural Centre of Ermoupoli is located on the first floor in the building right on the right side of Syros City Hall. In the same building you can also find the Cycladic Art Museum with exhibits replicas of the Proto-Cycladic civilisation. On the ground floor, with entrance from Themidos street, you can find the "Art hall Ermoupoli". The Public Library of Syros is housed in the ground floor of the Cultural Centre as well. It boasts 35000 books, some of which are very old and rare. In the small terrace in front of the building, there are busts of famous Syros historical personalities Em. Roidis, G. Souris, Dim. Vikelas, Tim. Ampelas, Rita Boumi-Pappa. The first High School of modern Greece opened its doors in 1833 in Ermoupoli. Eleftherios Venizelos and Petros Protopapadakis have been students of Syros High School. The building is today used by the "University of the Aegean". The Church of Metamorphosis of Jesus is located at the end of the granite-paved street, around 200 metres to the left behind the Syros City Hall. It was in the terrace of this church, where the first inhabitants of Ermoupoli gathered and officially named the city as "Ermoupoli". The church is rich in icons and relics. In the southern entrance, the grave of Anthimos Gazis (1828) can be found. The Church of the Assumption (Kimisis) was built in 1829 and is host to the famous icon of "The Assumption of Holy Mary" by El Greco (Dominikos Theotokopoulos). The building of the Maritime School of Syros can be found by the port next to "Kymata" beach. The first Greek Telegraph Office used to operate there in 1858 and employed 160 people. The impressive Syros Customs Office buildings and Warehouses by the port have been built in 1861. Now except the customs office , they also house the "Cyclades Picture Gallery" which was founded in 1994. The Catholic church of Evagelistria, is found at the end of Protopapadaki street and has been built in the early 19th century. The Apollon theatre was built in 1864 by design of P.Sampo and enjoyed years of glory until the German occupation, when it was almost completely destroyed. In the latest decades, there have been consecutive attempts to restore the Apollon theatre and today it is functional as a theatre again. The Church of Saint Nicolas, lies just a few metres far from Apollon theatre. The construction finished in 1905 after works of 61 years! It is a magnificent church that every visitor must visit. In the small garden the lies the monument of the "unburied soldier" or "unknown soldier", which is the first monument to be built for the unknown soldiers that fought for freedom. It is a work of the sculptor G.Vitalis (1880). You can also find there the busts of "Rethymnis" brothers, which were the main benefactors for this monument. The Cemetery of Saint George is located in the Neapoli area. It is separate in 3 parts: One with the simple gravestones, the second which is still in use today and the third which boasts a multitude of tomb monuments and vaults, small chapels, statues, busts and looks more like an open museum rather than a cemetery. It is definitely worth a visit. If you decide to visit this cemetery, you can also find the Catholic cemetery of Syros and the British cemetery of Syros in walking distance. The church of Anastasi (Resurrection) is found on top of the Dili hill, which is the right one as we look from the Syros port. The left hill, where Ano Syros lies, has the Catholic church of Saint George on top. The Syros Karnagio (shipyard for small boats) and Tarsanas (shipyard for small boat repairs) are places where wooden boats are being built and repaired and are located next to the major shipyard of Syros, Neorion shipyards. The Quarantine House, is located at Lazareta area and is a huge building constructed in 1837 in order to quarantine the travellers and shipmen that arrived to Syros at times when cholera and other deadly diseases hit Europe. During the Cretan Revolution for Independence in 1866 it was used as a shelter for the Crete refugees and in the end of the 19th century as a prison.
Ano Syros today : The modern city of Ano Syros, built in the Middle-Ages on the hill of Saint George overlooking Ermoupoli. Going up the thousands of stairs and walking in the beautiful alleys, you can enjoy a unique experience. The municipality of Ano Syros, one of the first in Greece, comprises of Piskopio, Alithini, Malia, Kini, Agios Dimitrios, Finikia, Mitakas, Papouri, Chalandriani, Plati Vouni and Saint Mihali. All the northern part of Syros island, around 50% of the total surface of Syros and the smaller island Gyaros, roughly 12500 acres. The permanent population of Ano Syros is around 1700 inhabitants, which are employed in agriculture, stockbreeding, beekeeping, tourism and shipping. Ano Syros municipality is in constant development and is participating in numerous European projects. In the medieval settlement of Ano Syros, there is no room for vehicles, since the alleys are less than 2 metres wide and there are stairs everywhere. The distance from the port of Syros to the main gate of Ano Syros is 3.5 km and the road leading there is a typical modern city road, plus some parts which are paved with granite rock, a traditional road-paving technique. There used to be 7 gates to Ano Syros but today only 3 remain. In Ano Syros, there is no central square like in Ermoupoli, and the point of reference is the central alley called "Piatsa"
History - Sightseeing : The Ano Syros catholic church of Saint George is found on the top of the hill. The first building was constructed probably by 1200 AD and the modern renovated church in 1834. Next to the church lies theHistoric Archive of the Catholic Episcopate, which used to house the Hieratic School (Ieratiki Sxoli) in 1837. The Historic Archive of Ano Syros is of significant value as 16th century manuscripts can be found there. The Ano Syros Municipality Archive which has been kept for centuries and shows the great level of organisation of the first municipality of Greece. The Capuchins Monastery together with the church of Saint John which was built in 1635, the Jesuits' Monastery with the church of "Panagia Karmilou" built in 1581 and a library with thousands of books, historical documents and parchments. The church of Saint Sebastian and the Cemetery of the Angels (used to be cemetery of unbaptised children). At the tallest point, of the hill, lies the bust of ancient Syros philosopher Pherekydes. The cave, which used as his winter residence, can be found in "Apano Meria" after "Kyperoussa" area. In previous times, Ano Syros and Syros was full of windmills. Remains of one of them can be seen next to Pherekydes' bust in Ano Syros. The only orthodox christian churches in Ano Syros is "Agia Triada" (Holy Triad) and Saint Nicolas "of the poor". The museum and bust of Syros popular composer and singer Markos Vamvakaris can be found also in Ano Syros where there is a square named after him. Other places worth seeing is the old French hospital, the exhibition of traditional professions, the exhibition of historic archives and the Folk Art Museum of Ano Syros.Restaurants - Entertainment - Shops In Ano Syros, you can find 45 taverns, small cafes, bars, bakeries, grocery stores, traditional textiles and of course the usual souvenir shops.
Restaurants - Entertainment : Restaurants, taverns, cafes, bars, bakeries, patisserie can be found throughout the island and usually stay open all year round, unlike the rest of the Cyclades islands where they operate only during the tourist season.
Hermoupolis (inside): The following beaches are located next to one another. They are not organised and most people prefer beaches outside Ermoupoli... unless they are in a hurry. Kymata (means Waves): Behind Kanari Square by the port. This is a pebble beach Saint Nicolas: Just below Saint Nicolas church. To access this beach, you can walk down wide stairs. This is a pebble and sand beach. Taliro: At the "Vaporia" area, behind the Syros Police Headquarters. To access this beach, you walk down stairs. This is a pebble beach. Vagelidi:At the "Vaporia" area. To access this beach, you can walk down paved stairs and a small path. This is a pebble beach.
Outside of Hermoupolis (at the villages, easy access, many of them organized) : Kini beach, Lotos beach, Delfini beach, Azolimnos beach, Santorinioi beach, Fabrika beach, Vari beach, Achladi beach, Megas Gialos beach, Ampela beach, Komito beach, Agathopes beach, Dellagrazia beach, Voulgaris beach, Finikas beach, Kokkina beach, Galissas beach, Agia Pakou beach and many others.
North Beaches (access by boat or easy path, beaches of special beauty) : Varvaroussa beach, Aetos beach, Marmari beach, Lia beach, Gria Spilia, Grammata beach, Glisoura and many others.