Mykonos: The International Playground that Never Sleeps

This island paradise has an almost limitless supply of amazing surprises in store for its visitors; even for those who are summer regulars.


Mykonos gets more popular every year. From the picturesque island beloved by fashionable visitors in the 1950s and ’60s, when celebrities thronged its port, it has developed into a destination where everything is excessive.

The Covid pandemic has only temporarily slowed down the frenetic pace of the Myconian summer. Members of the international jet set, movie stars, fashion designers, supermodels, artists, celebrities and influencers have returned with a vengeance, making for good people-watching for all the other tourists flocking from around the world. Mykonos has always welcomed diversity, and never judged those who wished to reveal their true selves, even during less tolerant eras.

 

The island’s picturesque qualities may have faded by now, but Mykonos still has a certain magic. What if more and more new villas are appearing on its once barren slopes, or if its wild beaches are now athrob with driving dance beats? So what if rooms to let have been replaced by multi-star boutique hotels, and if, instead of mopeds, there are shiny black limousines carrying a stream of arrivals or departures to the airport or the port? Mykonos sweeps you up in its frenzy and makes you part of its myth. That is its real power.

You’ll encounter the island’s party mood across a multitude of restaurants, bars and beach clubs. Just open your map app and start dropping pins.

The Paraga experience

Scorpios reigns at one end of beautiful Paraga Beach, with comfy cushions for quiet moments, live music for nonstop dancing from sunrise until evening, and an exceptional restaurant, where chef Alexis Zopas has created a menu combining Greek cuisine with Asian influences, all served on impressive tableware; his ceviche with seafood, chili, coriander and olive oil is a must.

On the other end of the beach stands the hotel Soho Roc House, the first branch of the famous hotel chain in Greece, introducing a new sophisticated hospitality experience. The absolute calm around the swimming pool and restaurant comes as a surprise, and the outdoor gym is a highlight that invites you to get active no matter how enticing the sun lounger may be.

 

In the middle of the beach you’ll find the classic taverna Nikolas, which serves fresh fish, best enjoyed with a side of taramosalata. A few meters away, the beach club SantAnna features a restaurant with Greek and Mediterranean cuisine, a sushi bar, and a host of executive services as well as one of the island’s largest pools.

Super Paradise: A heavenly beach

Closely associated with the island’s golden party era, the impressive Super Paradise Beach stretches out from the JackieO’ Beach Club, Jean Paul Gaultier’s favorite hangout. Frequented by drag queens moving to its dance music, it attracts a lively and carefree, if rather elitist, crowd. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of chilled champagne and a wonderful Greek fusion menu created by the distinguished chefs Christoforos Peskias and Dimosthenis Balopoulos.

The red mullet ceviche with coriander, the Koilada shrimp with citrus tartare, and the fresh fish sashimi with soba noodles are all must-tries. The waitstaff wear the statement black Mykonos Boy T-shirts, on sale in the boutique, where you’ll also find items by denizens of JackieO’, such as English designer Neil Barrett. The black beach towels offered to swimmers at the pool are best-selling souvenirs. Currently, the owners are working feverishly to open a hotel.

Ftelia: Against the Wind

Located on the north side of the island, Ftelia is a favorite of surfers defined by the hippie-chic vibes of the beach bar Alemagou, which has put this beach on the list of must-visits on Mykonos. With its ethnic decor, carpets on the sand, tribal music, and boutique redolent of a desert scene, Alemagou stakes claim to the island’s boho visitors, who party until dawn at its legendary parties. Recommended from the kitchen are the seafood pastas, with sea urchin or bottarga.

New this year is The Sanctuary, serving Mediterranean cuisine and promising a calm refuge in the sand –in contrast to the powerful beats of the DJs at Ftelia Pacha across the small bay.

From Psarou to Panormo

Psarou Beach is like the Las Vegas of the Cyclades; the world-famous Nammos restaurant is the jewel in its crown, with an endless party mood, top-quality service with heaps of champagne and anything else you may desire. Here, people get close to one another both literally, since the distance between the sun loungers is minimal, and metaphorically, as everyone is in the mood for fun and socializing.

Guests are usually dressed in leading fashion brands; if you’ve come unprepared, you can always stock up at Luisa Beach or the boutiques at the Nammos Village shopping mall. If the party scene on the beach isn’t for you, head to Alfiere for a relaxing glass of spumante and some pizza, or drop in for a look at the modern art in Eden Gallery. For more luxury, head to the other side of the island to check out Panormos Beach and the club-restaurant Principote, with VIP spaces, a sushi bar, and a shisha experience worthy of Dubai glamour.

Party cool

Things are much calmer at Aghios Ioannis, where the winds are mild and the swimming is great. You can indulge in shellfish at Hippie Fish or take a dip at newly upgraded Pili Beach. Meat eaters should try the BeefBar, where award-winning chef Dinos Fotinakis has created a gyro from Kobe beef that complements the signature mashed potatoes found in BeefBars around the world. The day menu includes seafood, with grilled lobster one of the highlights. At the renowned Bill & Coo, theres a patio for relaxed afternoon lazing and a beach for hotel guests.

For those in search of calm, understated luxury and delicious meze, the place to be is Pere Ubu, at the hotel Kalesma in Aleomandra, with lovely views over the village of Ornos and music by in-house DJs.

 

In the same area, the gourmet Nero Nero restaurant at the hotel Kivotos is fine dining at its best in one of the island’s first boutique hotels. On Lia Beach, the Liasti resort serves Mediterranean cuisine; those in the know mostly go for Massimo’s delicious pasta. Before or after your meal, you can relax on the sand in comfortable pillow loungers by the sea. You can also try snorkeling off Lia with help from the professionals at Go Dive Mykonos.

At Aghia Anna Beach next to Kalafatis, the water is a turquoise hue. In addition to great swimming, you can also indulge in a meal at the taverna Spilia; generous servings of delicious lobster spaghetti arrive in a dreamlike setting ideal for large groups and families.

On Ornos Bay, the Santa Marina Resort beach is idyllic make a reservation for a sun lounger and umbrella or one of the large cocoons. The spa services in the hotel are highly recommended, too. Here, you’ll also find Buddha-Bar, part of the international bar restaurant chain, as well as Mykonos Social, featuring a menu created by chef Jason Atherton.

Old Mykonos

Elia and Kalo Livadi beaches don’t maintain a waiting list; instead, they’re perfect places for some swimming and good food without the huge crowds of other spots. The seabed of Elia rewards those who bring a mask and snorkel. The family-oriented taverna Agrari Beach, on the beach of the same name, serves homemade Greek cuisine and the best portokalopita, a syrupy orange cake, to finish up. Fokos Taverna on Fokos Beach in the northeast of the island is a step back in time, in the best way. If you’re lucky, there’ll be a serving of pastitsio left. If not, Marissa can help you choose something else; I recommend the calamari with white beans. Everything here is cooked simply and is delicious; Chronis does wonders on the grill. Should you visit on a windless day, Fokos is one of the best beaches on the island, and relatively untouched.

On the way to Fokos, you’ll see a sign for Rizes Folklore Farmstead, a traditional rural home with tables outside and wonderful Greek food. It’s perfect for children; they can safely engage with the animals and try riding the horses. You can also ride to Fokos Beach with Mykonos Horseland. Bring a beach umbrella with you when you walk to Aghios Sostis Beach. Alternatively, come by sea with Mykonos Kayak as you explore the wild beauty of the coast. Don’t be surprised by the huge queue for Kiki’s, an eatery that has remained unspoiled since the 1980s but arrive early, as it closes in the afternoon.

In simple Greek

Mykonos has an interior as well as a coastline; in the village of Ano Mera you can see a side of the island most tourists miss, a world where children ride their bicycles around a village square while their parents relax in small groups nearby. If you’re on the island on August 15, make sure to attend the traditional paniyiri (local festival) in this square.

After walking around Ano Mera, head to Vangelis for meat, Tsaf for fish, Odos Araxame for Greek food, or Oti Apomeine for home-cooked dishes and suckling pig. At Koutsothanasis Bakery, you can pick up snacks to go, as you can at the Tyrokomio Mykonou, which sells some of the creamiest yogurts you’ll ever taste. At Mykonos Farmers Dairy in Aghios Lazaros you can try local delicacies, join a tour or take cooking lessons to learn traditional recipes. High up in the village of Aghios Stefanos, Limnios Tavern has lovely views, great meze, ribs on the grill, and Greek wine and music. The traditional atmosphere might make you forget you’re on cosmopolitan Mykonos.

Hora: The classics

Following a period when the beaches had won the food wars, Hora is gaining ground with top-notch options. You can swim at the town beach after enjoying a leisurely breakfast at one of the many spots in town. Next to the town hall, you’ll find Jackie O’ Cantina which serves vegan and gluten-free crêpes, including an Indian version with dough made from fermented rice and lentils. Noema Restaurant is nestled in a lovely courtyard hidden among the narrow streets; guests of this luxury destination are exceptionally stylish. Star chef Athinagoras Kostakos has created a menu based on Greek dishes with clever twists, and the music, whether live or a DJ set, is different every night. The courtyard of Coya Restaurant is ideal for Latin American soirées and Peruvian flavors bundled into small, tasty dishes. Parties with fireworks and late-night table-dancing are not unlikely.

The legendary Japanese fusion restaurant Matsuhisa reigns at the Belvedere Hotel, with dishes created by chef Nobu, who visits often. Signature dishes such as miso-marinated black cod and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno are consistently popular. Lovers of Italian cuisine should head to Catari, with its lovely balcony and a 1950s feel. Together with Na’Verace at Drafaki, they serve the best pizza on the island.

 

Filmgoers will love Cine Manto in the heart of Hora. The first screening of the day is always a children’s movie.

I advise a stop at Aroma Bar, where everyone goes to find out which famous people have arrived on the island or to have their photo taken by paparazzi. If you’d rather avoid such large numbers, head instead to the Windmills for photographs with an iconic view, followed by dinner and drinks somewhere in Little Venice or fish and fun at Mykonos by Gryparis, next to the sea.

On a hill above Hora is the 180° Sunset Bar, with lovely cocktails and amazing sunset views.

Into the night

No matter how many new places open, the nights in Mykonos will always belong to a select few. The newly opened, ultra-stylish JackieO’ Mykonos Yacht Club has live parties featuring famous singers such as Barbara Tucker. Its unique decor and its views are best enjoyed with a champagne cocktail in hand. The Astra Bar at Tria Pigadia was designed by the legendary Minas, an inspired creator of Greek jewelry; it remains the hippest bar with the best music on Mykonos. 

The most serious indoor club, with an amazing sound system, is Void; if you prefer a sexy cabaret atmosphere, good food and live shows, head to Lio.

 

Last but not least is the clubber’s haven, Cavo Paradiso on Paradise Beach, where you can dance to music spun by star DJs until sunrise; bring your sunglasses for the walk home in the morning. The 1990s superstar David Morales celebrates his birthday here every August. 

Trips not to miss

Kapari beach is ideal for afternoon swims, and it’s the perfect place to admire the sunset as you gaze out toward the island of Delos. It’s also worth reserving a day for a boat trip to the island of Rinia, a paradise that offers tranquil vistas and unforgettable dips in emerald waters. You’ll certainly want to visit Delos to admire the antiquities. Laurent of L’o Yachting Mykonos can take you there, and ensure you a unique experience.



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