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With its iconic white stone architecture, sapphire waters, and pulsing nightlife, Mykonos in Greece is a dreamy blend of history, culture, and hedonism. In particular, the Old Town, also known as Chora, captures the quintessential Greek charm and offers a plethora of fascinating attractions. Here’s how you can best explore this classic Mediterranean jewel.
An Intro to Mykonos Old Town
The history of Mykonos Old Town, also known as just “Mykonos Town” or “Chora”, dates back to antiquity. According to mythology, Mykonos was the location of the epic battle between Zeus and the Titans, named after Mykons, who was purportedly a local hero and grandson of the god Apollo.
During the Byzantine era, the island served as a crucial supply point, while the Venetians later established control in the 13th century, creating a bustling commercial hub. The unique architecture of Mykonos, characterized by cube-shaped, whitewashed houses, labyrinthine streets designed to confound pirates, and vibrant, colorful doors and balconies, started taking shape during this time.
Over the centuries, the island evolved, becoming notable as a refuge for artists and a place of bohemian lifestyle. Today, Chora retains its traditional charm while embracing modern luxury, presenting a blend of rich history and stylish sophistication. This juxtaposition adds to the unique allure that Mykonos Old Town exudes, captivating visitors from across the globe.
Top Things to Do in Mykonos Town
Begin your journey in Kato Myli, home to Mykonos’ famous windmills – a symbol of the island’s historical economic power. Set against the azure Aegean Sea, their white silhouettes make for an iconic landmark.
Out of 16 original 16th-century mills, seven have been well preserved, highlighting the efforts to safeguard Mykonos’ heritage. Previously used for grinding wheat, these windmills harness the robust island winds and remind visitors of their industrious past.
Although no longer active, the windmills captivate locals and tourists alike, evoking tales of strength, perseverance, and the timeless beauty of Mykonos.
From the windmills, stroll down to the enchanting quarter of Little Venice. This neighbourhood stands out with its brightly-painted balconies flirting with the glistening waves beneath.
Once upon a time, sailors built their homes directly on the water in Mykonos. Today they’ve been transformed into bars and restaurants that welcome tourists to enjoy the beautiful sunsets. Some of the tables are so close to the water that you’ll feel a splash of sea spray as you sit there.
Grab a cocktail at one of the waterfront cafes and soak in the view of the windmills as you enjoy the mesmerising sunset and the sound of waves crashing against the rocks. There’s really nothing quite like it.
Here are some of the best bars in Little Venice:
Kastro’s bar-restaurant: Directly overlooking the sea, Kastro’s is a historic venue offering a unique Mykonian ambiance with beautiful art pieces, exceptional crafted cocktails, and scrumptious bites.
Caprice Bar: Known as one of Mykonos’ most famous bars, Caprice offers a lively and vibrant atmosphere, magical sunset views, and a vast selection of cocktails and local drinks.
The Old Barber Shop: Distinct in character, this stylish cocktail bar captures the essence of Mykonos with its vibrant atmosphere and creative drink menu – all set in a renovated old barbershop!
Scarlet Mykonos: A classy destination offering a chic setting, exquisite drinks, and jazz tunes. It’s a perfect spot for an evening of relaxed luxury.
Breeze Cocktail Bar: This bar is beloved for its setting on the seafront, energetic environment, and wide selection of cocktails. Breeze ensures your night begins or ends on a high note.
Mykonos Harbor and Old Port
Next, amble over to the Mykonos Harbor and Old Port. Here, you’ll find a bustling, vibrant atmosphere filled with fishermen hauling in their day’s catch, idling catamarans, and lively tavernas. The harbor is the idyllic spot for leisurely walks and people-watching.
The Church of Panagia Paraportiani is a must-visit. Known for its architectural peculiarity and uniqueness, it offers a commanding view of the town, perfect for photo enthusiasts.
The distinguishing characteristic of this church is its unusual composition – it’s an astounding assembly of five individual churches interconnected, creating one cohesively architecturally splendid structure.
The oldest of these five churches is the Church of Agios Anargyros, originally constructed in the latter part of the 14th century. The remaining four, Saint Sozon, Saints Anargyroi, Saint Anastasia, and Virgin Mary Portiani or Portaitissa, were added gradually over several centuries, finally completed in the 17th century.
This unique ‘church within a church’ structure appears as if whimsically composed yet is rooted in deep faith, offering an interesting insight into Mykonos’s ecclesiastical history. Its whitewashed walls contrast beautifully against the blue sky and the cobalt sea, rendering it a favourite subject for photographers across the globe.
Located in the Kastro neighborhood, the highest point in the town, the Church of Panagia Paraportiani also offers commanding panoramic views of the charming white-washed houses of Chora and the surrounding seascape.
Mykonos Castle, also known as Kastro, is a historical remnant from the island’s Venetian rule in the 13th century. Though much of it now lies in ruins, the castle’s site offers majestic views of the Old Town and the azure Aegean sea. The ancient edifice exudes a sense of mystique and provides insights into the island’s rich past. Close to the castle, you’ll find the iconic Church of Panagia Paraportiani, adding to the overall allure of this historic area. A visit to Kastro is a step back into the enchanting history of Mykonos.
Saint Nikolaos Church
Saint Nikolaos Church, located at the harbor of Mykonos, is a beautifully preserved 19th century Orthodox church. A testament to traditional Cycladic architecture, its white exterior contrasts strikingly against the blue sea backdrop. Framed by the bell-tower and accented by religious frescoes, the church creates a serene atmosphere amidst the vibrant harbor activity. This active place of worship also offers spectacular sunset views, making it both a spiritual and visual sanctuary on the island.
Enjoy Greek Food at Nikos Taverna
If you want to try some traditional Greek food, drop by Nikos Taverna, a stalwart in Mykonos’ Old Town. Known for its excellent Greek cuisine and warm hospitality, it’s the perfect place to relish mouthwatering seafood and local dishes like Greek salad, tzatziki and Mykonian pie. This place is often packed on summer evenings, with a lively ambience and plenty of outdoor seating for dining al fresco.
Visit Scandinavian Bar
The island’s nightlife is legendary, and not to be missed is the popular Scandinavian Bar. With its vibrant atmosphere and great music, it’s an essential stop for night owls looking to dance the night away. The bar is located in the heart of Mykonos Town, and it’s open until the early hours. It’s a great place to meet new people and enjoy some of the best cocktails on the island.
180 Sunset Bar
Settle in at 180 Sunset Bar after a long day of exploration. This bar is located above the town and has a large terrace with floor cushions where you can sit and enjoy an exquisite view of the sunset. Combine this with a heady menu of cocktails, and a chilled ambience and you have the perfect spot to end your day.
During the summertime, the bar hosts DJs, singers and musicians, with regular live performances. On the menu you’ll find plenty of fresh seafood, plus nibbles such as Greek mezze and cheeses.
Wander the Streets
Mykonos Town is a labyrinth of narrow, winding paths dotted with cute souvenir shops, high-fashion boutiques, and vibrant cafes. Every turn is a pure delight!
Devote some time to wander down Matoyianni Street, which is one of the most photogenic streets on the island. Everywhere you go in Chora you’ll find opportunities to have your photo taken with colorful doorways and whitewashed buildings.
Art enthusiasts should visit Rarity Gallery, the first established contemporary art gallery on Mykonos. It hosts works from international artists and offers a blend of pop, surreal or hyper-real art. The gallery is located in the heart of Mykonos Town, just a short walk from the port. It’s open daily from 10am till late night and admission is free.
Have Dinner at one of Chora’s Best Restaurants
Mykonos old town is packed with restaurants so you’ll be spoiled for choice, but these are some of the best rated ones:
- M-eating: A renowned destination for upscale dining, M-eating impresses with its seasonal menu, blending traditional Greek flavors with contemporary techniques. The restaurant’s intimate al fresco dining area sets the perfect atmosphere for a memorable culinary experience.
- Avra Restaurant: Housed within a bustling garden, Avra is an exquisite fusion of enchanting ambiance and delectable Mediterranean cuisine. The diverse menu offers a mouthwatering mix of Greek, Italian, and Asian-inspired dishes, ensuring there is a palate pleaser for everyone.
- Kastro’s Bar-Restaurant: Famed for its waterfront location in Little Venice, Kastro’s serves superb traditional Greek cuisine, using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Paired with tantalizing cocktails and an extensive wine list that complements the culinary experience, Kastro’s is a must-visit.
- Eva’s Garden: A hidden oasis in the heart of Mykonos Town, Eva’s Garden serves a combination of Greek and Italian-inspired cuisine, generously garnished with local flair. This family-run restaurant offers a charming garden setting that will transport you into a world of relaxed indulgence.
- To Maereio: Nestled in a cozy alley, To Maereio offers warming home-style Greek cooking, with an emphasis on local produce and seasonal flavors. The low-key atmosphere, complemented by excellent service and delightful dishes, make for an enjoyable and satisfying dining experience.
Where to Stay in Mykonos Old Town
If you plan on staying in Mykonos Old Town, here are some of the best options:
Mykonos Blu, Grecotel Exclusive Resort: This luxury resort offers cycladic-styled bungalows and private villas, with stunning views overlooking the exquisite Costa Smerelda.
Belvedere Hotel Mykonos: A boutique hotel combining elegant accommodation with world-class dining and a central location. It boasts a world-renowned sushi restaurant and an on-site spa.
Kouros Hotel & Suites: Located on the outskirts of Mykonos Town, this 5-star hotel offers magnificent sea views, stylish suites, and a fine dining restaurant.
Poseidon Hotel Suites: Overlooking the Mykonos windmills, this charming hotel provides comfortable rooms, excellent service, and a pool area perfect for relaxation.
Hotel Rochari: A family-friendly hotel featuring a large pool area, comfortable rooms and easy access to local attractions. It offers panoramic views of the town and the Aegean Sea.
Immersing yourself in Mykonos’ Old Town is an absolute immersion into the soul of this Mediterranean gem. Its allure lies in its ability to create a harmonious balance between old and new, historical and contemporary, tranquillity and vibrant energy – irresistibly captivating in every sense.
Plan your visit today, and fall in love with the charms of Mykonos Old Town!