Mykonos is my favourite summer destination in the world. It’s a crazy/beautiful kind of place. The airport is one of the worst I’ve ever been to (although I hear it’s finally getting refurbished), and yet right across from it, is one of the most glamorous of all supermarkets, stocked to the brim with vintage champagne, caviar, and even a DJ booth.
On the surface, it looks a lot like any other Cycladic island. Rows of white-washed houses, turquoise waters lapping onto sun-drenched sandy beaches, boats dropping anchor for lunch at seaside tabernas… Except it’s the blinged-out version, with international DJs, billion-dollar yachts, celebrities and fine dining.
Mykonos has always been popular with the world’s rich and famous, ever since the 1960s when Jackie Kennedy Onassis, John Paul Gaulthier, and Grace Kelly became regulars. But only in recent years has it begun to cater almost exclusively to the wealthy.
What to Expect
The evolution of the island from then to now is a reflection of both its growth in popularity and the rise of luxury tourism. Everyone who has been or is going to Mykonos will have heard of Nammos at Psarou beach, which for years was the most glamorous, and by glamorous, I also mean expensive, place on the island. The restaurant famously pulled in one million euros in just one night, selling tickets at €1000 and up to see a washed-out Greek singer entertain for the night, or so the urban legend goes.
If making that kind of money is possible, what would you do? Continue to sell tsatziki and local wine in your taberna, or caviar and Dom making two or three times as much? So that’s basically what happened. When I returned in 2016, my favourite beach for spending a lazy afternoon lounging on (free) poofs and vibing to chilled-out beats got replaced with €50 sunbeds, staff in all-white uniforms, and a grand entrance complete with water fountains and valet parking. Panormos became Principote, and new places to compete with Nammos sprouted up.
But you don’t have to be a millionaire to have fun in Mykonos. Local tabernas and beaches that don’t cost an arm and a leg are still to be found, even if they are increasingly the exception, rather than the norm. The infamous Kiki’s Taverna at Agios Sostis, homemade cooking without using any electricity, isn’t going anywhere. There is also a beach hostel and campsite for younger, more adventurous travelers.
If you’re wondering how to pack for such a place, click here for some packing help and a checklist.
When To Go
Everyone wants to go to Mykonos, and most want to go at the same time. Fortunately, peak season lasts for only two months during July and August, when supply and demand do crazy things to the island. The roads jam up with traffic, parking becomes problematic, and advance reservations are required not only for tables but also sunbeds. The months on either side, however, are much more peaceful, accessible and affordable.
Where to Go
Mykonos is a small and often windy island. It’s worth checking the winds before heading out, and always bring something to cover up. If the winds are blowing in from the north, choose a beach on the south, and vice versa.
Renting a car is without a doubt the best way to get around. Quad bikes are popular but also very dangerous and contribute to traffic. Taxis are notoriously hard to get a hold of, with only 40 odd allowed on the island. There is also a bus service if you don’t want to drive.
Mykonos Town, also known as Chora, is the bustling 24 hour town centre. One of the advantages of staying here is that you don’t need to worry about transport at the end of the night. The disadvantage, though, is that it gets very busy and you’ll still need a way to get in and out to hit up the beaches.
The southwestern part of the island, such as Agios Ioannis, Ornos and around Nammos, Scorpios and Paradise, is the most popular region to stay. Another popular area would be north of Chora, near Panormos and Ftelia.
Mykonos Town (Chora)
Most tourists will spend their days on the beach and their nights in Mykonos Town. Everything is open until the early hours of the morning, including restaurants and shops. Nobody here (other than families of course) eats dinner before 10 pm, and you’ll need to make advance reservations for most places during peak season. The heat during the day makes shopping much more bearable at night, also the prices can be less intimidating after a few glasses of wine. Sunset is another popular hour to visit and photograph Little Venice and the iconic windmills.
(Left to right) Sea Satin, Kastro’s, Niko’s Taverna
Where to Eat
M-Eating – My favourite modern Greek restaurant in town, where the presentation is as impressive as the taste
Nautilus – My second favourite restaurant in town! Contemporary Greek cuisine cooked to perfection
Kastro’s – Beautiful restaurant in that insta-famous alley overlooking the sea, you know the one
Sea Satin – Famously fun (yet expensive) fish restaurant by the sea with live music until late!
Interni – High-end and uber-trendy “see and be seen” restaurant and bar
Ling Ling – Sister of London’s Michelin-starred Hakkasan, blurring the lines between restaurant and club
Niko’s Taverna – A bit touristy but still a highly popular Greek restaurant in town
Kalamaki Mykonos – Cheap and cheerful souvlaki and salads, good food that won’t break the bank!
Catari – Popular Italian restaurant with delicious pizzas and bruschettas
Bougazi – The most famous place for crepes at any hour! The best way to end the night
Where to Drink and Dance
Little Venice – Collection of charismatic late-night bars by the sea, we like Caprice, Scarpa and Veranda best
Nightclubs – Astra, Bonbonierre, Moni, Toyroom, Void – guestlist, reservations or “knowing someone” required
Remezzo – Large terrace bar with an indoor club – great view and venue, we had our wedding afterparty here!
Agios Ioannis (St John)
This is my little slice of Mykonos, where I got married and where I always stay. Agios Ioannis (St John) is considered an up-market, residential neighbourhood with a great selection of hotels. It’s family friendly and a top choice for people looking for some peace and quiet.
Hippie Fish – My favourite all-day beach bar and restaurant with delicious Greek food and fresh sushi
Kapari Beach – An unserviced, beautiful beach with gold-tinted waters you’ll have to climb down to reach!
Vasilikos at Bellissimo Hotel – Great local, casual dining option for lunch or dinner – try the tigania!
Pili at Manoulas Hotel – Another easy local lunch spot by the beach
Mini-market at Bellissimo Hotel – The only minimart for essentials within walking distance. For groceries, visit Ornos
Delight Hotel Restaurant – Romantic, exclusive fine-dining restaurant at this 5 star hotel
The small town of Ornos is on the way to Agios Ioannis. It’s a lovely spot for buying groceries, eating at a taverna, or as an alternative to going into town.
Mykonos Bakery – Open 24/7 selling pastries, pies and sandwiches
Lefteris – Fantastic family style Greek taverna, no reservations required
AB Supermarket – Small convenience store for groceries and essentials
Pasaji Mykonos – Nice bar for drinks and shisha
Wolves of Kitchen – A popular steakhouse, Salt Bae style
Buddha Bar – Beautiful venue perfect for romantic dinner and drinks
New Port (Agios Stefanos)
Lastly, Agios Stefanos is worth a visit for its fantastic taverna, Limnios, with excellent quality food and great views. And who doesn’t love an Irish pub?
Limnios Taverna – Our favourite spot for authentic Greek meze and lamb chops!
Matthew’s – Another popular local taverna nearby
Dublin Bar – An Irish pub selling homemade Greek food
Best Beaches and Restaurants:
Mykonos has around 23 different beaches, each one offering its own unique experience. Most beaches have a bar and restaurant and sunbeds for rent, although there are also a few unserviced beaches with no sunbeds or facilities.
Read first the beach name, followed by its restaurant.
Agios Sostis – Kiki’s Taverna / Unserviced – No sunbeds, no music, but the most famous taverna!
Panormos – Principote – Stunning up-market luxury beach, worth calling ahead to reserve a spot
Ftelia – Alemagou – Very cool little boho-chic beach bar and restaurant with great cocktails, one of my favourites
Fokos – Unserviced – Growing in popularity for its unspoiled beach and nearby taverna
Southern Coast (west to east)
Agios Ioannis – Hippie Fish / Pili – My favourite, close to home.
Kapari – Unserviced – A beautiful little beach in Agios Ioannis, just a short walk past the church
Psarrou – Nammos – Most popular with celebrities and yacht owners! But they allow us common folk in too
Paraga – Kahlua – Great beach and after 4pm the party starts! Can get a bit wild…!
Scorpios – Trendy place near Paraga, a beach club without beach access! Parties Thursdays and Sundays
Paradise – Tropicana / Cavo Paradiso – Bachelor parties and other kinds of debauchery, headline DJs
Super Paradise – For everyone and anyone, letting go and getting messy
Jackie ‘O – Next to Super Paradise, up-market restaurant and gay beach club
Elia – Elia Restaurant – A family friendly long beach, although not one I frequent
Kalo Livadi – Solymar – Lively popular restaurant by this popular long beach
Agia Anna (by Kalafatis) – Spilia – Cute beach with a quirky restaurant in a cave (reservation required)
Lia – Liasti – Another nice family friendly beach, no music and a little pebbly
What is your favourite place in Mykonos?
*Post updated on 18/06/2018