This alternative Mykonos Town guide offers you a more traditional look at the Cycladic life of Chora and includes many hidden treasures.
CATCH THE SUNSET
Mikri Venetia (Little Venice), with its view of the windmills, is without doubt the most famous place from which to watch the sunset when you’re in the main town of Hora. The most sought-after tables are on the rooftop of the Galleraki Cocktail Bar, at the windows right at the back of the Kastro Bar, at the Caprice Bar, at Scarpa and at Bao’s Cocktail Bar.
Mykonos’ renowned Armenistis Lighthouse was one of the largest in the Mediterranean, and, in fact, received an award at the 1889 Universal Exposition of Paris for the ingenuity of its mechanical workings. It remained in service until 1983, helping countless ships make their way safely through the narrow sea passage separating Mykonos and Tinos. Today, the lighthouse constitutes a part of the Aegean Maritime Museum – Mykonos.
To reach its courtyard, visitors pass through the impressive interior of a traditional Cycladic sea captain’s house. Among the items on show in the courtyard are grave markers, copies of items found on Delos and Mykonos. Inside the museum, models of ships, antique maritime instruments and coins with nautical themes from the 5th century BC will certainly grab your attention, as will the ombrellino, or parasol, that belonged to Manto Mavrogenous, a heroine of the 1821 Greek War of Independence. (The Academy of Athens honored Giorgos Drakopoulos, a benefactor of Mykonos, for his efforts in establishing this museum.)
WHERE MYKONOS GOES
The last traditional Mykonian kafeneio in Hora has been operating non-stop since 1978; the sign above the door reads “Yialos,” but everyone knows the place as stou Bakogia (“at Bakogias’ place”). Every Sunday, after church services, locals gather and drink tsipouro, argue about soccer and politics, laugh and even sing together. At the peak of the summer season, some 200 eggs a day are prepared in their kitchenette.
Up until four years ago, Kyria Vasiliki (Kyria, the Greek term for “Mrs.”, is also a term of respect) had been at the frying pan but, since then, her daughter Asimina and granddaughter Vasiliki have taken over. Little meze dishes come and go, accompanying the ouzo and tsipouro. A definite must-try is the local cold cut louza, as well as the mostra – a rusk topped with local kopanisti cheese, chopped tomatoes and capers.
AT THE LOCAL MARKET
Early in the morning – before the first cruise ships arrive and Hora becomes inundated with tourists – head on down to the Gialos waterfront area to get a taste of the authentic everyday life of Mykonians. Fishing boats return with their daily catch between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning. Mykonians exchange their first greetings of the day as they mill around in front of the long marble slab, doubtless filled with rockfish or other creatures from the open seas.
Local farmers are there as well, and they, too, take up their positions, selling their limited produce from 8:00 in the morning until 12:00 noon. They set up their crates, displaying whatever their arid land has to offer – juicy tomatoes, little cucumbers and small melons, as well as sweet figs and apricots. A pair of boisterous ducks are the market’s unofficial mascots, while the island’s famous pelican puts in appearances on a regular basis as well.
A COLLECTOR’S DREAM
Chora is definitely ideal for world-class gallery-hopping. Artists recognized by the greatest museums around the world – including the Guggenheim, the Met and the Tate London – often select the island as the place to present their latest paintings, sculptures, photography and video-art creations.
The Rarity Gallery has gained many distinctions throughout the course of its 23 years of operation, and attracts visitors ranging from international collectors to ordinary tourists. This year, it added a new wing and is hosting video sculpture installations by Swiss visual artist MARCK.
This summer, the Dio Horia Contemporary Art Platform is presenting a group exhibition entitled “Dancing Goddesses,” which delves into the subject of what happened to the nearby islet of Delos when people no longer lived there. You can also make your way to the rooftop of the art space, where you’ll find a stylish café-bar offering a view over Hora.
Gallery Skoufa is a definite must if you’re interested in the work of contemporary Greek artists. There’s art beyond the galleries, too; you can view works by Mexican painter Luis Orozco – a permanent resident of the island – while enjoying a Greek coffee at the Notorious Food Bar or a cocktail at Montparnasse – The Piano Bar.
AND THE OSCAR GOES TO… “A NIGHT OF STARS”
The Cine Manto is a haunt for artists, an all-day café-restaurant and also the home of the island’s famous pelican – in other words, it’s a veritable safe haven from the luxury lifestyle of Mykonos and, at the same time, a rare green space in Hora. However, the main reason to visit Cine Manto is because it offers one of the top Greek summertime experiences: movies under the stars.
Tip: Give in to the tempting aroma of meat on the grill wafting over from the cinema’s snack bar, and watch your movie like the locals often do, with a souvlaki skewer in one hand and an ice-cold beer in the other
A TIGHT SQUEEZE
Do you think you can fit through the narrowest alley in Hora? You’ll find it running between the Panachra Church and a neighboring shop called Tracce Collection. The end of it that intersects with Panachrantou Street is only 34cm wide.
From this street, you’ll almost certainly enter it sideways, but as you advance, the little lane widens a bit, and you’ll come out onto Aghion Tessarakonta Street through an opening that’s a generous 64 centimeters wide. Few tourists notice it, but those who do realize that the alley is there usually form a line in order to snap squeezed-in selfies.