Considered one of the most – if not the most – picturesque central residential settlements of the Cyclades island complex, Chora in Serifos boasts beautiful
specimens of traditional architecture, imposing ruins from the past scattered around its narrow streets and magnificent views over the Aegean sea.
Its glorious sight grips you as soon as the island comes into full view. With the ferry approaching Livadi, the lively port of Serifos, all eyes can’t help but wander upwards. Less than 5 kilometres away from the port and perched on top of a 230 meter high hill, Chora hovers above the island inviting its visitors to have a closer look.
Built amphitheatrically on the rocky hillside above Livadi bay, its houses crawling up all the way to the top, Chora follows the typical fortress settlement structure, very common in Cyclades during the Middle Ages. With the Aegean waters infested by pirates, the islanders seeked protection from raids and moved away from the shores, bulding their houses on higher grounds. The settlements where dense, with two- or three-storey, long and narrow faced houses raised in closed circuits. In 1434, a castle was built by the Michieli family, above the settlement’s ancient acropolis, its ruins still visible at the edge of Chora today.
Walking around Chora’s narrow, cobblestoned streets, the visitor can readily appreciate its architecture and the way it molds into the surrounding natural habitat, enclosing traditional residencies and churches. The winding paths are carved into the rock – nowadays regularly interrupted by asphalt – connecting Chora’s two main neighbourhoods: Ano and Kato Chora – meaning above and below settlement.
Ano Chora was the first to develop around the castle’s entrances or ‘lotzies’ as they used to be called. After the Greek Revolution was over and the danger of the pirates had passed, people squeezed into the narrow fortress settlement for ages, started looking for more space to expand their properties. So, they started building outside the castle walls, but kept the architectural structure they were well acquainted with, because of the hard terrain: the houses were still too close to one another and the streets remained narrow and labyrinth-like.
As a result, open public spaces in Ano Chora are almost non-existent, with the basic exception of the neighbourhood’s square, Pano Piatsa. Serifos’ famous Town Hall is located here, an impressive neo-classical mansion built in 1908, as well as Chora’s metropolitan church of Agios Athanasios. Further down the hill, another famous square, Plateia Mylon, offers the visitor the rare chance to admire three faithfully renovated traditional wind mills (there used to be 20 working mills at this spot once upon a time…). There are numerous shops, cafes and taverns around and Serifos’ Archeological Museum is also located in this area.
Descenting to the foot of the hill, Kato Chora develops around the impressive church of Evangelistria, which dominates its central square. Streets here become broader, connecting to the main route that meets the road to the port, passing by picturesque chapels, a local monument, the island’s Folk Museum and a cute theatre that hosts many performances, especially during the Serifos Festival.
Four churches mark the best spots to enjoy some of Serifos’ most magnificent vistas. Starting from below and going up the hill, you should not fail to visit Agios Ioannis Theologos, built inside a nook of the rock, in the very spot where an ancient temple of the Goddess Athena used to lie.
A little higher above, you can enjoy glorious sunsets from Agia Varvara and the Church of Christ, but you should keep your strength and make sure to hike to highest point of the hill to reach the chapel of Agios Constantinos. With its imposing location and spacious yard, it offers uninterrupted views over the entire island and beyond. Turn your head to the south and you’ll see Milos and Kimolos, to the north to get a glimpse of Syros and to the east for clear sights of Sifnos, Paros and Antiparos.
THE PLACES TO BE
- Stou Stratou: right in the middle of Pano Piatsa, it offers clear views of the Town Hall and must be one of the most photographed cafés on the island.
- Louis: old grocery store turned traditional snack bar, it gives off a homey and nostalgic feeling with its menu and retro décor.
- Myloi cafe: the oldest traditional café in Chora, it has been serving locals and visitors for more than 100 years.
- Thidyra: art concept store for some interesting souvenir options
- Aerino: cocktail bar with a jaw-dropping view over Cyclades
- Halidas bakery: mouthwatering smells will guide you there at the early hours of the morning
- Aloni: if you are a meat lover, this is the place you’ll get some of the best the island has to offer
- Pano Piatsa: an alternative – albeit inspired by traditional recipes – café and snack bar