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 most 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 travellers.
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.
The most popular day trip from Mykonos is a visit to the sacred island of Delos. Once the most important economic, religious and cultural place in Greece, a visit should not be missed. Check out my blog post on Delos for everything you need to know to make the most out of your trip.
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, delicious food with extravagant presentation
Nautilus – My second favourite restaurant in town! Contemporary Greek cuisine cooked to perfection
Kastro’s – Beautiful restaurant in the most insta-famous alley overlooking the sea
Sea Satin – Famously fun (yet expensive) fish restaurant by the sea with live music until late!
Avra – Mediterranean cuisine in a romantic garden
Interni – High-end and uber-trendy “to see and be seen” restaurant and cocktail bar
Ling Ling – Sister of London’s Michelin-starred Hakkasan, blurring the lines between restaurant and club
Koursaros – Expensive but delicious trendy fish and sushi restaurant
Kalamaki Mykonos – Cheap and cheerful souvlaki and salads, good food that won’t break the bank!
Meditarraneo – The best and most authentic Italian in town
Bougazi – The most famous place for crepes at any hour! Also the best way to end the night
Where to drink and dance
180 Sunset Bar – The best place to watch the sunset – recommend reserving a table with a view in advance
Little Venice – Collection of charismatic late-night bars by the sea, we like Caprice, Scarpa and Veranda best
Nightclubs – My top picks are Astra, Bonbonierre, Moni and Toyroom – guestlist or reservation often required
Remezzo – Large terrace bar with an indoor club – great view and venue – I had my wedding afterparty here
Hidden gem: Secret Cinema
Did you know that Mykonos has a cinema? If you can’t handle yet another party night, consider watching a film at the Cine Manto. It’s an outdoor cinema, where you can enjoy a souvlaki, beer, ice cream or even a cigarette while watching a film in this beautiful cinema garden.
Agios Ioannis (St. John) area
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
Pili at Manoulas Hotel – Another easy local lunch spot by the beach
Vasilikos at Bellissimo Hotel – Great local, casual dining option for lunch or dinner – try the tigania
Mini-market at Bellissimo Hotel – The only minimart for essentials and an ATM within walking distance
Delight Hotel Restaurant – Romantic, exclusive fine-dining restaurant at this 5-star hotel
Beefbar at Bill & Coo – Opened in 2018
The town of Ornos
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.
AB Supermarket – Small convenience store for groceries and essentials
Mykonos Bakery – Open 24/7 selling fresh Greek pastries, pies and sandwiches
Pro/Gress – A popular new, modern bakery with tasty pastries and sandwiches
Bowl – Serving avo toast and chia bowls for the health-conscious crowd
Lefteris – Fantastic family-style Greek taverna, no reservations required
Buddha Bar – Beautiful venue also perfect for a romantic dinner and drinks
Pasaji Mykonos – Nice seafront bar for drinks and shisha
Top Tavernas in Mykonos
If you’re looking for a more authentic Greek taverna experience, you won’t find it in town. Here are my top picks:
Limnios Taverna – My favourite spot for authentic Greek meze and lamb chops!
Fokos Taverna – Enjoy fresh mussels inside this beautiful building with stone walls and wooden ceilings
Kiki’s – Everything here is made fresh and on the grill, but be prepared to wait 1-2 hours for a table
Spilia – Higher-end taverna dining inside an iconic caveside location
Joanna’s Niko’s Place – Just before town, this busy seaside taverna is an increasingly popular pick
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.
Agios Sostis – Kiki’s Taverna – 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 – Fokos Taverna – Growing in popularity for its unspoiled beach and nearby taverna (unserviced)
South (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 4 pm the party starts. Things 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
This article was written by Lara Olivia and originally appeared on MissPortmanteau.com. Follow her adventures on Instagram. Club Elsewhere publishes travel and lifestyle design guides. Work with us here.
Lara Olivia is a Norwegian and Portuguese writer sharing all she knows about the good life on her blog, MissPortmanteau.com. Follow her @miss.portmanteau on Instagram.