Spain may have Ibiza; France, St Tropez. But the Greek’s response is Mykonos, a small island that combines both into one hedonistic extravaganza.
There are a few reasons I probably shouldn’t like Mykonos. It’s barren landscape. The persistent wind. The ludicrously expensive everything. But despite its misgivings (and my latest credit card bill), Mykonos may very well be one of my favourite places in Europe.
It’s an idyllic escape, designed for maximum enjoyment – from the glamour of its beach clubs, to the luxurious design of its resorts, to the fact that every waking moment is granted its very own soundtrack.
It also has one of the most charming old towns I’ve come across in Greece. The compact cobbled laneways of Mykonos Town (also known as Chora) zigzag in no discernible order, creating lots of little nooks that hide designer boutiques, bars and restaurants. And the contrast between the whitewashed cubed buildings and the brightly painted doors and draping bougainvillea makes it all remarkably picturesque. Basically, an Instagrammer’s paradise.
If you’re looking for an authentic Greek experience, Mykonos probably won’t be for you. But if stunning beaches, fine-dining, thriving nightlife and all round indulgence sound good to you, then Mykonos is going to be right up your alley.
Here are the beach clubs, restaurants and bars that we went to during the recent annual festival of me (a.k.a. my birthday).
Life’s a beach…club
It was actually on my first trip to Mykonos many years ago that I discovered that a beach, or at least a part of it, could essentially by privatised.
To an Australian, a beach club is a foreign concept. There, the principle that beaches are owned by all is firmly entrenched in our ethos. Having said that, the novelty of food and cocktails being brought to me while horizontal on a sunbed is an unnecessary luxury that I’ve quickly become accustomed to.
Beach clubs are common across Europe, but I think that Mykonos does the concept best. On this trip we went to:
JackieO’ beach club
Not to be confused with their bar in Mykonos Town, JackieO’ beach club is a “straight friendly” poolside/beachside affair. It’s laid-back oasis during the day, bona fide party by night, complete with drag queen shows.
Perched above Super Paradise beach, JackieO’ delivers a stunning view. It also has a great restaurant, where I had some of the biggest, and most delicious, prawns in my life.
In terms of sunbeds, you can choose to be on Super Paradise beach (a short walk from the main club), by the jacuzzi, or poolside. If you’re planning on staying for the drag queen shows, the poolside beds are where you want to be. These also have the best views, but just be aware that only a few cabanas here have shade.
JackieO’ Beach Club and Restaurant , Super Paradise Bay, 846 00
Sunbed reservations: yes
This boho-chic beach club is pretty spectacular. Set on a rocky peninsula with panoramic views out to sea, its aesthetic may convey rustic simplicity but make no mistake, no expense has been spared in its design.
The small, private beach here won’t make your ‘top 10 beaches of Mykonos’ list, but its laid-back bohemian vibe makes it a chilled way to spend the day. I particularly liked that the sunbeds weren’t tightly packed together, like at some other beach clubs.
As the sun sets, international DJ’s and live musicians serve up ambient tunes that usher in the night. It’s well worth hanging around for. Or you can just come for the evening’s festivities – but it’s a good idea to reserve a spot to ensure you get in, particularly on weekends!
Scorpios, Paraga, 84600 Mykonos
Sunbeds: from €30
Sunbed reservations: only cabanas can be reserved in advance (which includes a double sunbed and two single sunbeds)
SantAnna is a new beach club that’s clearly going for the party crowd. It’s reminiscent of Uschia in Ibiza, with its large seawater pool, private ‘islands’ and Ibiza-style dancers. While the party didn’t really hit fever pitch when we were there in early July, as word about SantAnna spreads and peak season kicks in, no doubt this will become one of the places to be for the well-heeled and beautiful.
You can chose a sunbed by the pool, or for a more relaxed vibe go for a beach sunbed, which is slightly removed from the action.
SantaAnna, Paranga Beach, Mikonos 846 00
Sunbeds: individual sunbeds on the beach from €50, plus €50 minimum spend
Sunbed reservations: yes
Nammos is the mainstay of the Mykonos beach club scene, and is famous (or infamous) for being the place to be seen. To give you a sense, Kate Moss had been DJ’ing there the day before we went. (No, that doesn’t make much sense to me either.)
It’s also getting a little big for its flip flops. At €60 a sunbed, it’s the most expensive, and if you’re an Average Joe like me, you can’t reserve a spot in advance, meaning you have to take your chances by turning up before 11:00.
Having said all that, there’s a reason it’s so popular. Psarou Beach where it’s located is beautiful, with fine sand and crystal clear water. It’s also protected in a cove, making it one of the few places to escape Mykonos’ infamous wind. Its restaurant is solid too, with some great seafood – just expect to pay premium prices.
Nammos, Psarou Beach, Mikonos 846 00
Sunbeds: From €60
Sunbed reservations: No (unless arriving by super yacht)
Eating out in Mykonos
It’s hard to believe that an island of just some 10,000 permanent residents could have so many good restaurants (during the summer months). But the influx of wealthy revellers from across the world means you’re spoilt for choice in Mykonos.
Bakalo is traditionally where we have dinner on our first night in Mykonos – its laid-back, friendly vibe is a welcome reinduction into island life. The traditional cuisine here comes with modern twists, but still remains faithful to those fond memories of your favourite Greek meal. Try the homemade moussaka, or the lamb shank that falls of the bone. Or the delicious zucchini fritters. What the hell, try it all. Everything’s delicious.
Bakalo, Lakka, Mykonos Town, +30 2289 078121
Avra is somewhat of a Myconian institution. Its classic Greek fare, served in a charming traditional courtyard under a canopy of colourful bougainvillea. It’s a simpler affair than many of the other restaurants on this list, but still offers reliably good food, making it a sound option when the night doesn’t have to be spectacular.
Avra, Kalogera 27, Mykonos Town, +30 22890 22298 (call to make a reservation, don’t email)
From the outside, Interni doesn’t look like much. But once through the entrance, you’re transported into one of the most stylish venues in Mykonos Town.
There’s no denying Interni is spectacular, which is why the open air restaurant remains a favourite amongst the glamour crowd. (We sat next to Lindsay Lohan when we were there, but don’t let that put you off…)
The food is good – but the high prices do take the shine off a bit. Still it’s worth experiencing at least once. Try and get a table later in the evening – from about 11:00pm, it cranks up the party vibe.
Interni, Matoyiannia, Mykonos Town, +30 22890 26333
M-eating might not have Iterni’s stunning setting, but I’ll go out on a limb and say the food here is some of the best on the island. (And being Mykonos, it’s therefore priced accordingly.)
M-eating serves up contemporary, creative interpretations of Mediterranean classics. Even the humble Greek salad, complete with feta foam, was art on a plate. My favourite was the sous vide lamb, which was out of this world.
M-eating, 10 Kalogera str., Mykonos Town, +30 22890 78550
Pavillion at Myconian Utopia
If you’re in the Elia Beach area (a good beach to go to in it’s own right), consider dinner and drinks at the Mycnonian Utopia hotel. It’s position high above the beach (like, really high, don’t attempt to walk it) gives it a breathtaking view, and everything about it oozes style. The food is very good, and while not cheap, certainly much better value for money than many restaurants in Mykonos Town.
Pavillion at Myconian Utopia, Elia Beach, Mykonos, +30 22890 76060
Mykonos is renowned for its spectacular sunsets. Many watch the sunsets from Little Venice in Mykonos Town, but for the very best vistas, take on Mykonos’ steep hills and venture a little higher.
180º Sunset Bar
With killer views over the old port and out to the Aegean Sea, there probably isn’t a better spot to watch the sunset than 180º Sunset Bar. It has a similar bohemian vibe to Scorpios, and also gives the sunset its very own soundtrack. The haunting music is perfectly synched to the sun’s disappearance, making it a surprisingly powerful experience.
Get there early or consider reserving a table (requires a minimum spend) if you don’t want to contend with the crowds of Instagrammers risking life and limb for the perfect sunset snap.
180º Sunset Bar, Castle Panigirakis, Axioti 310, Mikonos 846 00
Sunset has never been so gay! The Elysium is Mykonos’ gay hotel (or straight-friendly, as they bill themselves), which of course means sunset here comes with plenty of glitter. The view from the terrace bar is magical, and once the sun goes down, the drag queen shows kick off. Its loads of fun and a great way to start a party night, no matter your orientation.
Elysium Hotel, School of Fine Arts District, Mykonos Town 846 00
Many of us will probably never be able to afford a room at the exceptionally chic Belvedere Hotel, but you can still have a taste of what life could be like at its poolside bar. Watch the sunset from the hotel balcony, and then kick-back with delicious cocktails in this remarkably beautiful setting. And with a pop-up Nobu restaurant on the other side of the pool, it also makes for some fascinating people watching.
Belvedere Hotel, School of Fine Arts District, 84600, Mykonos
Getting around without a hire car
Making your way across Mykonos is notoriously difficult if you don’t have your own transport. There are only some 35 official taxis on the island (literally), which means you can expect a long wait for a taxi at peak times.
There are plenty of private drivers that will chauffeur you from point A to B. We found Royal Luxury Transport Mykonos to be fantastic – fast, punctual and reasonably priced (especially if you can split the cost amongst a group). Most hotels can also arrange transfers on request.
If you want to arrive in style, try DS Mykonos – a limo service with a classic Citroen DS. Vangelis, owner and driver, transports you back in time, from his remarkably well-maintained car to the on point 1950’s soundtrack he’s created. As La Valse à Mille Temps reaches its hectic climax, you can’t help but picture yourself in an old Hollywood film cruising down the Amalfi Coast. (‘cos you know, Mykonos isn’t glamourous enough…)
Mykonos also has a bus network that goes to the main beaches. You can find the destinations and timetables here.
Quick tips when visiting Mykonos
If you’re looking for more beach holiday ideas, try my posts on Skiathos or Portofino.