Traditional Kafeneia of the Cyclades

Whitewashed walls, Greek coffee poured from a copper briki, the sound of dice rolling across a tavli board, spontaneous live music, and handmade mezedes (at affordable prices). These are the traditional kafeneia of the Cyclades; picturesque gems where you will find friendly locals- offering a glimpse into their relaxed, everyday island life. 

O Megalos Kafenes – Tinos

“Megalos Kafenes” has been operating for over a century in the only square of Pyrgos (with the famous ancient plane tree) in Tinos. A hangout that combines the old with the new, thanks to the creative flair of architectural designer Dimitra Papadopoulou, who supervised its renovation. Enjoy the tranquility of the village and savor homemade sweets like galaktoboureko, orange pie with ice cream, and ekmek with a Greek coffee in the briki or salty mezedes with ouzo. 

A: Panormos/ tel. 2283 031647

Stou Stratou – Serifos 

In the heart of Serifos’ Chora, against the backdrop of the imposing City Hall and the church of Agios Athanasios, is the traditional café Stou Stratou, with its blue tables and chairs welcome visitors for a morning coffee on embers and a tasty omelette. In the afternoon you can taste homemade sweets (try their famous chocolate cake) and appetizers accompanied by ouzo or rakomelo from noon onwards. Spend a few minutes (or even hours) viewing the menu since that also features art and poetry (literally). 

A: Chora Serifos /tel. 2281 052566

To Kafeneio Tou Drakaki – Sifnos 

With more than 100 years of life, Drakakis’ kafeneio, in Apollonia, offers the ambiance of a Greece that is reminiscent of black and white movies. With tables spread across the paved central alley, you can enjoy a rakomelo with delicious traditional appetizers of Sifnos. Espresso coffee or filter coffee are unknown words here!

AApollonia/ tel. 6972123571

To Kafeneio Tis Charas – Schoinousa 

In the picturesque Chora, one of the oldest buildings hosts To Kafeneio Tis Charas. Famous for its rich breakfast made with local products from small producers- here you will taste fresh eggs and handmade sweets. In the evenings the rakomezes take centre stage, as you take part in the improvised celebrations featuring violins and lutes. 

A: Chora Schoinousa/ tel. 2285072026

Photodotis – Amorgos 

Away from the hustle and bustle of Chora, in an upper neighborhood, you can relax at Photodotis. This traditional kafeneio features white and shades of green, plus a courtyard with wooden and iron tables, where you can enjoy local products such as Amorgian xynomyzithra, pumpkin meatballs, and dolmades with fresh vine leaves; handmade sausage or hunkiar begeti with local veal- dishes that are all prepared with a lot of love! Often violin nights are also held here.

A: Chora Amorgos/ tel. 2285072059

Insights Greece - Traditional Kafeneia of the Cyclades

Kali Kardia (Bohoris) – Kimolos 

Kali Kardia or the café of Bochoris -as the locals call it- is a traditional trademark found on the main road of Kimolos’ Chora. Operating as kafeneio, tavern, and convenience store- here you’ll find classic black and white tiles on the floor, wooden chairs around marble tables, and a jukebox. You can try the same traditional recipes that have been used since 1920, featuring pure, fresh, and local ingredients only. Ouzo and tsipouro appetizers, plus some signature mom-cooked dishes are also on the menu. Tip: if you are after something sweet, order the orange pie or kataifi. 

A: Chora Kimolos/ tel. 2287051495

Kafeneio Nios – Ios 

In the picturesque square of Chora of Ios, under some pretty bougainvillea, lays Kafeneio Nios. Enjoy your coffee in the morning, varieties of cheese and cold cuts during the day, and (every day) live music (bouzouki, tomberleki, and baglama) will accompany your rakomela at night. 

A: Chora Ios/ tel. 2286092164

Ermoupoli, the Most Aristocratic Town of the Cyclades

Without a doubt, the majestic capital of Syros and the prefecture of the Cyclades will fascinate you. From the moment the ferry approaches the port of Ermoupoli, you will sense the incomparable beauty.  

If Ermoupoli was a woman, she would be an aristocratic one at that, modern and at the same time traditional, with the charm of a past era. Some days you will see her walking in all her beauty and in a classy manner; dressed in a long gown, carrying an umbrella to protect her pretty skin from the sun. You will discover aspects that reveal her delicate elegance, her sweet romance, and her gentle origins. On other days she will inspire you with her independence, strength, and will for life and adventure. Then you will catch her smiling at the countless flashing lights from the decks of the ships like a movie star. The lady of Ermoupoli begins her day with a coffee at Ermou Street, then swims in vast green-blue waters at Asteria beach, tastes traditional flavours during a late lunch before wandering the small charming streets like a young child in a candy store. And when the sun is preparing to dive into the sea, she slowly rides her bicycle along the pretty promenade, where everything looks beautiful and few things stand out; the stunning architecture, the warm sun, and the magic of the sea. 

Insights Greece - Ermoupoli, the Most Aristocratic Town of the Cyclades
Wander around the most beautiful town in the Cyclades

In the afternoon you would find her devouring loukoumia (Greek sweets) at the square, under the imposing building of the Town Hall. Then she tests her luck at the casino. She would also be a culture lover and find joy in the theatre, museums, painting, and photography exhibitions. She would read Roidis and Manos Eleftheriou and she would listen to Markos Vamvakaris. After all, he wrote a song for her, the famous “Frankosyriani” with the Greek lyrics “Mia fountosi, mia floga echo mesa stin kardia. Les kai magia mou cheis kanei fragkosyriani glykia” – “I have a flush, a flame in my heart. As if you did magic on me, sweet Frankosyriani.” (Catholic girl from Syros).

The city of Ermoupoli is the lush fruit of the hard labor of local refugees who came to the island after the Revolution of 1821 from Chios, Psara, Kassos, Kydonia, and Smyrna. Syros was another “land of promise” for them because the war had not touched the island as it was under the protection of France. Ermoupoli means “The City of Hermes”, the God of commerce and in fact, it was the primary port of Greece. During these years the population reached 14,000 and Ermoupoli had one of the first post offices in Greece, a hospital, an opera house, the oldest high school in Greece and a private school for art and culture, a municipal orchestra, the historical Neorion Shipyards, an orphanage, a sanitarium and much more. But above all, it had the most amazing 19th-century architecture, very different from the rest of the Cycladic islands. In other words, “Greece was reborn in Syros,” as the late politician Eleftherios Venizelos once said. 

Insights Greece - Ermoupoli, the Most Aristocratic Town of the Cyclades

The first landmark you should definitely visit is the majestic Syros City Hall, designed by famous German architect Ernst Ziller, the most impressive Town Hall of all Greece. Its inviting design draws architecturally on three different styles: Tuscan, Ionic, and Corinthian. It dominates the historic Miaoulis square, one of the largest marble-covered squares in Greece, since 1898. The Town Hall now houses the courts, the land registry, the archaeological museum, and other various public bodies and municipal services.

Another significant attraction of the city is the Apollo Theatre, an extraordinary building of 1864 that is said to be a miniature of the Milan Scala but in reality, it’s the colour that connects the two theatres. The Apollo Theater first opened its doors with an Italian theater troupe, which among other performances staged the famous Italian opera La Traviata. Apollo’s stage has hosted great operas and operettas and also holds local amateur theatrical plays, cultural events, and the annual ‘Ermoupolia’ summer festival.

And this is just the start. The Cycladic Art Museum, the church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the church of Agios Nikolaos, the church of Resurrection, the Industrial Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the Vaporia Quarter will make you realise why this place is a living museum and Syros is an island for all seasons.

Images by Polina Paraskevopoulou © (Copyright)