The sound of splashing surf and local live bands set the soundtrack to these venerable wine and cocktail spots, where you can sample the island’s kitrón liqueur on Naxos.
The largest of the Cyclades, Naxos makes frequent appearances in Greek mythology. Zeus was brought up on the island, according to legend, and Naxos’ tallest mountain is named after him – plus the countryside is dotted with ruined temples to other Greek gods, including Dionysus, Demeter and Artemis. Historical monuments aside, Naxos features some of the Cyclades’ best nightlife, concentrated mostly in Naxos Town – the capital – and the southwestern beaches. Here are the best bars to live it up like the gods.
Tucked away down an alleyway near the Agios Spyridon church in the maze of tiny pedestrian lanes of Naxos Town, this is the only true wine bar on the island. Grab a seat at the handful of outdoor tables and consult the two French proprietresses about their constantly changing selection of wine by the glass from all over Greece and France, hand-picked by them during their travels.
It’s well worth detouring to the arty village of Chalkio, in the mountainous heart of Naxos, to try the locally renowned kitrón liqueur that’s still produced here – as it was back in 1896 – from the lumpy, lemon-like citrus fruit. Wander among the antique distillery, sample the three different varieties of kitrón or head around the corner to the eponymous distillery-owned bar to try their Ketrópolitan, Caipikitró and other original takes on classic cocktails.
This simple scattering of tables overlooking the white-sand Plaka Beach, south of Naxos Town, serves single-origin coffees and Greek and Mediterranean dishes by day. Come sundown, it morphs into a buzzy bar, attracting a good mix of young locals and visitors with its original twists on classic cocktails, made with fresh fruit juices. Once a month, Yazoo holds full-moon parties out on the sand, with pounding dance beats mixing with the sound of splashing surf.
If your house features wooden carvings from southeast Asia, excellent sushi and crowds of young Greeks dancing to mainstream club tunes by guest DJs into the wee hours beneath the stone arches of the open-air terrace, then yes, this bar feels exactly like home. Besides excellent views of Naxos Town’s harbour and castle, the classic and original cocktails are expertly mixed and the mojitos stand out.
Just below the Castro (castle), on a tiny lane in Naxos Town, this arty, gay-friendly cafe-bar is a mellow background-jazz-and-coffee spot during the day, with views of the marina and Naxos’ medieval fortifications from its outdoor terrace, encircled by a centuries-old stone wall. After dark, a potent mix of Afro-Latin beats and classic cocktails keeps the mixed crowd of locals and visitors on their feet.
A block from the waterfront in Naxos Town, one of Naxos’ most popular bars wears many hats. Come here for coffee during the day, watch football on the big screen over a pint whenever a match is on, or join the night owls over shisha, cocktails featuring locally produced tipples – nameless village wines, kitrón and raki – and a wide selection of top-shelf spirits for a themed music night.
Mellow lounge music wafts from the whitewashed balcony-raised terrace of this sophisticated restaurant-bar, found on the main pedestrian drag in Naxos Town. Apart from the signature 520 Spritz, made with spiced oleo saccharum (a citrus-peel syrup), it’s the signature cocktails, made with fresh fruit, that are the big draw here: Salty Lips (tequila, Aegina-island pistachios, pink grapefruit, orange juice) and Tonga (vodka, mandarin, mango, vanilla) are top-notch choices. It’s worth booking ahead, since it’s popular with locals and visitors of all ages.
On the seafront in Naxos Town, near the Old Market, Swing is the only molecular-mixology bar in the Cyclades. You could go solely for the experimental Jelly Mojito or Melon Bubble, served on spoons, or check out the sunset views from the outdoor terrace with a more conventional cocktail in hand, while listening to swing tunes. Bear in mind that seating is limited, so come early or sidle up to stand.
If you want to see more of Greece beyond Naxos, check out some historical sites or beautiful beaches in Athens. There are plenty of boutique hotel options in the capital that you can book through Culture Trip. In addition, check out some authentic Greek restaurants for a bite to eat and a range of hotel options to round off your stay.
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