Paris, Milan, London and NYC – all classic destinations when it comes to ‘style’. These fashion meccas are now closely followed by the trend-setting ‘ Ms’ – Madrid, Moscow, Marrakech, Monaco and Mumbai (Vogue even has a dedicated office there now).
But there is one ‘M’ that is catching up with the better known cosmopolitan ‘Ms’ – the mystical and magical island of Mykonos. Yes, this tiny Greek island can easily compete with all these thriving fashion cities when it comes to style, partying and shopping. Mykonos is still (for the time being) a bit of an ‘insider’s secret’. This is due mainly to the fact that the fashion buyers, celebs, the ‘well heeled’ and of course the style writers, who visit it to shop, often combine it with an over-due beach vacation and love the escapism and exclusivity it provides.
If you think that a tiny Greek island simply cannot come close to the top style cities, think again. Mykonos is a Greek island that is as far removed from the world of bargain, bucket and spade, Ouzo-swigging package holidays as you can get.
The island’s coast is fairy dusted with immaculate white beaches and strict laws mean that, unlike many of the other islands, properties have to adhere to building rules. Thus, no ugly high-rise apartment blocks or hotels. Property prices are as steep as the hills they are nestled in and it is certainly more expensive to holiday here than any of the other Greek islands, but for those wishing to visit for a stylish holiday it is worth it! It is also famous for being a gay friendly island – adding to its friendly, tolerant and forward-thinking ambiance.
Shopping for Gods and Goddesses
For 50 years Mykonos has maintained a reputation for being that great combination of being upmarket and yet, friendly and fun. The island’s capital Chora is where the main action for shopping happens and it is also the place to be seen and to do some addictive people watching in its Venetian style waterside cafes and bars. Chora is set amidst a magical maze of tiny lanes, lined with some of the best shopping I have discovered outside of a major city.
Nestled next to boutiques selling Gucci, John Ford, Westwood, Farhi, Prada are independent designers selling handmade jewellery, original beach-wear and sexy, party dresses. Of course, typical holiday ‘tat’ can be found easily too and they have their place for the day-trippers. But for high-end shopping, Mykonos has it all – handmade jewellery, leather goods and to make sure you are looking your best, Chora is also dotted with some great beauty salons.
Art lovers are spoilt too and there is clearly a serious art scene on the island with some buyers coming from the USA and Japan, spending small fortunes on exporting pieces back to clients overseas. Tiny galleries are dotted everywhere with works from emerging talents in Europe (sculptors, painters and photographers). Shop around the market areas and it is still possible to pick up a good piece of original art from smaller vendors without breaking the bank.
Going out in Mykonos – rubbing shoulders with Adonis and Venus
Going out in Mykonos is an ‘event’ and dressing down is not an option. Forget Ibiza, with its hippies and ‘drop out’ vibes and full-on clubbing. In the 60s and 70s Mykonos was a favourite with the seriously fashionable ‘drop-in’ set of international jetsetters (Jackie O, Liz Taylor, Barbara Streisand, Grace Kelly). These days the style-conscious including European celebs, artists, actors can be among the many faces sitting next to you in the legion of wonderful upmarket restaurants, bars and legendary nightclubs.
To get into the true Mykonos spirit – a lazy, long dinner is a great way to start the evening. Being island, the seafood is divine and highly recommended – especially if you are keeping off the carbs! I noticed that everyone was so very body conscious and with the island be famous for its nudist beaches, I soon understood why – chips or pasta everyday do not a beautiful beach body make!
A cautionary note, Mykonos is famous for being much cooler in temperature than other Greek islands thanks to the marvellous but extremely strong gusts of winds from the eastern coast – indeed, the island is dotted with cute, pastel coloured windmills. However, for those wearing flowing dresses and skirts, be warned! I learned on my first night to make sure one is wearing ones best frillies (knickers) as the gusts of wind really do leave little to your modesty.
MAMACAS – this place is smart and yet affordable. Famous for its huge plates of seafood. Do try their classic Greek meatballs too – amazing spicy tomato sauce!
Chora, 84600, Tel. +30 22890 26120
ONIRO CAFE/BAR – Oniro bar (“Dream bar”) is a work of art built with an islander’s loving care by local artist Zanni Kouka – it has the stamp of being cool but not pretentious. It also allows the visitor to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty in total comfort (constant air-con). Great for people watching and the obligatory strong Greek afternoon coffee after a day of sunbathing or shopping.
Chora, 84600, Tel. +30 22890 24045
CAPRICE BAR – Located in the Venice section of Mykonos, it is right on the water and offers a pastoral setting either inside or on tables outside right over rushing waves. Mykonos’ famous windmills are just to the left, adding value to the view. Cocktails cost a touch more here than most other bars in town and I can vouch that the lively attitude inspires multiple trips to the bar. The fruit drinks and zesty margaritas for which it is famous are 8-9 Euros. A beer is about 5 Euros.
Chora, 84600 Tel. +30 22890-23541
In the 80s and 90s Mykonos became renowned as not only a number one gay destination (it is a fabulously tolerant, grown up and friendly place for both straights and gays) but an exclusive party and clubbing destination too. Today, its nightlife remains wonderfully free-spirited, sophisticated and ouz-ing (pardon the pun) with style-conscious Gods and Goddesses. The nightlife is marketed as among the best in Europe and I have to agree. Clubbing here is not cheap but it is worth it – especially for those who have ‘been there done that’ with Ibiza. During the summer Mykonos attracts the top producers and DJs to its renowned clubs and beach bars. Well-known nightclubs are Space Dance, Paradise and the gay bar Pierro’s. Famous beach bars are Cavo Paradiso, Super Paradise and Tropicana. All should be frequented at least once if you can take the pace. The fun starts from midnight and don’t expect to make breakfast (no one does – a strong coffee at midday is usually the order of the day).
Mykonos has accommodation right across the board budget-wise. For those wishing to indulge book the Theoxina – known as one of the island’s most glamorous hotels. The hotel has a very cool, modern ambience and works of art are dotted around the key public areas. Treat yourself to a spa treatment and burn off some calories in the Bhealthy gym. Prices start at 150 Euro.
On the medium range, check out The Harmony Hotel – a boutique hotel with all the extras you would expect, including fluffy slippers, free wifi and fresh juices and smoothies. Prices start at 115 Euro in high season but contact them direct for low season deals.
For those wishing to save their pennies for shopping and clubbing and so opt for a more budget-minded place to stay, check out Hotel Jason – it is a three star and family run. Located between the beach and Mykonos town centre Chora – you get the best of both worlds at a good price (average 65 Euro per night).
Getting to Mykonos… in style of course – cruise it
Flights to Mykonos from the UK are plentiful and reliable (3h 50 mins journey time average). But for those who wish to experience not only this island but a wonderful collection of nearby islands and destinations it would be criminal not to indulge yourself in one of the absolute best forms of transport into the port of Mykonos – a cruise liner.
There are several options to be had and I highly recommend you work with your travel agent on chosen ports and disembarkment choices. I made my way to Mykonos aboard Thomson’s fabulous Celebration cruise-liner. Starting in the port of Marmaris in Turkey, I spent the next few days enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes the Aegean sea with stops along the way that included the Greek mainland town of Nafplion and the beautiful island of Crete.
Having cruised before with various experiences both good and bad, I was simply blown away by the level of comfort and hospitality on board the Celebration. The ship’s handsome (British) captain and his team of over 500 staff ensured that every one of the 1,300 passengers’ were given a trip of a lifetime. The staff were so attentive that it was hard not to feel completely worry-free the whole trip through. A daily news update direct to each cabin (newsletter) created a real sense of friendliness and continuity – we were never short of things to do and opportunities to indulge the ship’s facilities – from a gym to an internet area, and even a casino.
Excellent organisation and attention to detail means that once checked into your cabin on board the Celebration (wonderfully roomy by the way) that your only initial concern is whether to sunbathe on the top deck or while away a few hours in the ship’s fabulous spa centre. The quality of food was truly impressive and for those going fully inclusive, a great range of drinks and cocktails give the Celebration a ‘love boat’ luxury feel – but without the sting of a luxury liner’s price ticket!
I expected the vast majority of passengers to be middle-aged and above but in fact the Celebration had a good all-round age mix and the ship’s nightly entertainment catered for all tastes – from really well presented and professional cabaret ‘show’ nights to clubbing till dawn. It was hard not to feel completely spoilt for choice each night. Fun indeed is to be had – after one particularly cocktail-packed night of revelry with my shipmates, I even found myself joining in a group ‘skinny dip’ in one of the deck pools at 3am – watched closely by the ship’s safety conscious crew – thankfully! Well, they do say what happens on the cruise stays on the cruise.
Thomson Cruises offers a seven night Aegean Discovery cruise onboard Thomson Celebration from £781 per person. This price is based on two adults sharing an outside cabin, return flights from a selection of UK airports, accommodation on a full board basis, ship transfers and all taxes. For more information or to book visit www.thomson.co.uk/cruise or call 0871 231 3253. Flights to Mykonos from major UK airports are available at: www.thomson.co.uk/flights.
by Collette Walsh