Last Updated on October 8, 2023
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Updated for 2022 / 2023
By Jim Ferri
For many travelers to the Greek islands, little Old Town Mykonos is still postcard-perfect Greece. Called Chora by locals (meaning “the town”), it’s the capital and largest town on the island of Mykonos, Greece’s party island.
It still has a vibrant nightlife stemming from its rise in popularity in the 1960s. Then the arrival of such celebs as Jackie Onassis, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, and others baptized it as one of the Mediterranean’s glitziest islands.
I didn’t travel to the Mykonos for the glitz, however. Not having enough time to travel about the island, I planned only to explore Mykonos Town during my three-day stay. If you don’t have three days, but only a limited time on the island, such as arriving on a cruise, you’ll likely enjoy the Mykonos Old Town Historic and Cultural Walking Tour. If you want to see more of the island opt for the Mykonos Island in Half a Day tour. Both are highly popular Viator tours.
My Introduction to Old Town Mykonos
My introduction to old town Mykonos began soon after my arrival by ferry from Santorini to the south.
Standing with a small crowd in the dock’s taxi queue, people became upset with a couple that left the taxi rank and flagged down a cab 50 feet up the street. When they yelled at the driver, he just shrugged and called back, “first come, first served!”
Ironically though, I was the lucky one only a few minutes later. Then a cab driver with two fares in the back, asked if there were any single riders in the crowd. When I raised my hand, he told me to jump in next to him.
He charged me €7 for the short ride to my hotel, which was a bit expensive. But he quickly compensated for the cost by giving me the lay of the land.
“The entrance to the city is there, just down that street,” he said, pointing to the right. “And your hotel is right here on the next corner. You don’t need a rental car or taxi or anything, since everything is within walking distance. And if you go to the airport, it’s only a 10-minute taxi ride away.”
He had me motivated. When we reached the hotel, I got my key, dropped my bags, and set out to explore Mykonos Town.
Mykonos Town: Postcard-Perfect Greece
I found that Mykonos Town really is picture-postcard Greece. It’s a little dreamlike place lapped by an incredibly crystal-clear sea and is rated as one of the best Greek islands to visit.
It has a charming and much-photographed port wrapped around a tiny bay. Nearby are five whitewashed ancient windmills that stand as seaside sentinels. After Santorini, I found it much smaller than expected and also a lot quieter.
More than anything, I immensely enjoyed just wandering about Mykonos Town’s jumble of sugar cube-like houses and narrow alleyways. On many of these islands such as Mykonos and Rhodes, the little, curving alleys were built to protect from pirate raids and the winds.
During the night, cruise ships quietly drop anchor offshore, readying to ferry cruisers early the next morning. You find groups of cruiser wandering the streets as early as 8am, although most shops don’t open until about 10:30. Almost like clockwork, the town then comes alive as Mykoniot shopkeepers drape colorful clothes on white walls all over town.
In Mykonos Town, a Museum, a Church, and Little Venice
I had read about the Folklore Museum on Mykonos and wanted to see it. But I had trouble finding it until I finally asked a restaurant owner for directions. Amazingly, he pointed out that I was standing almost right next to it.
The museum was near the harbor, and I was shocked at the dire state of the building, now closed. Although I went by it several times during the next two days, I never found it open.
Nearby was tiny Panagia Paraportiani, a famous white church consisting of four chapels, the oldest dating from 1425, the others from the 16th and 17th centuries. Both the church and the museum are on the same sliver of land as “Little Venice,” one of the most popular places in old town Mykonos.
Little Venice, officially known as Aléfkántra, has no connection to Venice in Italy. Like its Italian cousin, however, it is know for its clutch of brightly painted buildings whose balconies jut out over the sea. They provide a colorful backdrop to the many bars, cafes, and restaurants that line the shoreline between it and the town’s famous 16th-century windmills.
The town is so small you can’t help but pass Little Venice time and again during your wanderings. It’s also de rigueur for visitors to sit at one of its little cafes and enjoy the evening sunset as the sea and sky run through their pallets of pastels.
Order a nice cold Greek white, and settle in for the show.
The Archaeological Museum in Old Town Mykonos
On the other side of the port, I found the Archaeological Museum, set in a Neo-Classical building. In addition to being a respite from the sun’s heat and glare, it’s an interesting place with a collection of 6th-7th century BC ceramics and Roman and Hellenistic carvings. It’s also home to artifacts from Delos, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country.
(If you’re interested in visiting Delos and enjoy sailing, you may find the All inclusive Delos & Rhenia Islands sailing tour a relaxing way to spend a day.)
It’s tiny as museums go, so small that when I asked the woman at the entrance about the collection’s age, she left her post and took me back to an exhibit. She showed me a small pot from the 12th century BC and eight small objects, including a mirror from the third millennium BC. The mirror had a piece of ivory around it, and people would put water in it to see their reflections. If you’re interested in discovering authentic Mykonos beyond the normal tourist sites, you may find Discover Authentic Mykonos a great way to spend part of your day.
Lunch and Dessert Harbor-side in Mykonos Town
Although the Archaeological Museum was only about a five-minute walk from the crowded restaurants that line the inner harbor, I decided to visit one of the less-crowded waterside cafes near the museum. Shaded from the noontime sun by my table’s umbrella, I enjoyed the cooling breeze and a simple (and wonderfully fresh) Greek salad.
I soon set off walking around the little harbor, which like Little Venice, seems to be a hub of constant tourist activity. In the few minutes it took to reach the far side, I came across a little fisherman’s chapel.
Two rocks were keeping the doors open, and inside candles burned in front of religious artwork. Not far away, I could see more religious art for sale outside a gallery.
Right across from the chapel was City Hall, with a little gelato shop next to it. Its outside tables were filled with people enjoying mid-afternoon gelatos and yogurt. I made a quick stop to indulge in my post-lunch dessert.
A Good Restaurant, a Good Price
I spent much of my time on Mykonos meandering the whitewashed alleys of the old town. The remainder of the time I spent wandering about checking for the right places to relax or have dinner, one of the joys of travel.
On my second evening, I found the restaurant D’Angelo, set in a little piazza. I stumbled across it while walking up the main street from the seaside windmills.
I recalled seeing good ratings on TripAdvisor, where many commented on the excellent food, large portions, value, and the staff’s friendliness.
Finally, II decided to find out for myself. After looking at the posted menu, I turned towards the tables. Immediately I was given a warm greeting by a smiling young woman. I later discovered she was Canadian and the wife of the chef, a local from Mykonos.
There were six other people at the outdoor tables at the time, and she offered me a couch that I found very comfortable.
I had ordered bruschetta to start my meal, and when it was brought to my table, my mouth dropped as I recalled those TripAdvisor ratings.
I found it so big – four large slices of bruschetta piled high with tomatoes – that halfway through, I said to the waiter that it was too much food.
“Well, eat slowly,” he replied, “the sun is still up.”
I laughed at first and then did as he suggested, slowly getting more into the unhurried rhythm of life on Mykonos with every bite.
“I’ll have another wine, please…”
If you go:
The hydrofoil ferry from Santorini to Mykonos is a 2½ hour ride, with fares starting $40-50 per adult, one way, depending on the season, level of booking, etc. There are also sailings to/from several other Greek islands. Be aware that sailings are sometimes canceled in bad weather or high winds.
A good place to check ferry service and schedules is on the Greek Travel Pages, which is frequently updated. Book online through companies such as Direct Ferries or Ferrryhopper. You made need to book a month or more in advance in high season on some routes to popular islands such as Mykonos and Santorini.
Of course, not everyone sets off for Mykonos from another island in the neighborhood. Many travelers fly in from Athens, a 35-minute flight with a fare of $23-106 as of this writing.