The main town of Symi, commonly referred to by the same name as the island itself, is divided in two parts: the harbourside one, called Gialos, and the adjacent one on the slopes of the hills, called Chorio (village).
The entrance of the horseshoe-shaped port is dominated by Roloi, a clock tower. Right in front of it there is the statue of the fisher boy, Michalaki (little Michael), which seems to be welcoming the visitors to the island. The Town Hall, the cathedral, the square and the Naval Museum of Symi are the main attractions on this side. The latter lends an insight to the naval tradition of the island and boasts, amongst other things, exhibits representing the evolution of sponge fishing through the years. Visit the island’s main church Agios Ioannis with its marvelous pebble-stone courtyard and stone-built bell tower. Relax in a traditional cafe in one of Symi’s main squares - Kampos, Tarsanas, Skala - or enjoy shopping in the nearby stores.
Head to the upper part of the town to Chorio (aka Ano Symi) from a stony 500 steps stairway. The locals call it Kali Strata (good way!) with a wonderful walkway under the trees and a breathtaking view over Gialos. The charming colourful houses with their tiled roofs and the small alleys create a stunning locale. The interior of the houses are also of great interest; elaborately decorated ceilings, skylights, neoclassical decor on doors and windows as well as pebble stone floors are just some of the details you’ll see on these beautiful man made structures.
The highest spot of the town is Kastro (= castle) on the west, the remnants of a castle built by the knights of St John (14th c.). In its interior you will see the church Panagia (Virgin Mary) of Kastro.
Tip: The best time of the day to walk around the town is in the afternoon when the sunlight highlights the colours and the island's noble style.
At the location Myloi, visit Pontikokastro (the castle of mice!); there is a prehistoric tomb as well as remnants of old mills, used in the past for crushing grains into flour, yet some of them are households today. Behind the highest mountain of the island (560m) lies a beautiful cypress and pine tree forest.
The forest at Kourkouniotis is home to 120 byzantine wine presses of which eleven have been restored. The island held a fine tradition in winemaking up to the 18th c.
The most significant event is Symi’s Festival that hosts a large number of cultural events such as classical and modern music concerts, dance, theater, cinema, and literature evenings from July to September every year.