Nicosia, located in the centre of the island, has been the capital of Cyprus since the 11th century. A wonderful melting pot of cultures and civilizations, this is city longing to be discovered. The old part of town is beautiful, the smell of jasmine lingering in the air, as you walk in the narrow streets surrounded by beautiful 20th century houses, will make you fall in love with this city.
If you want to spend some days away from the beach, you should make a trip to the capital. Discover its history, visit its many museums, and see how the only divided city in Europe looks like. Nicosia is the face of modern Cyprus. A blend of modern culture, booming businesses, vibrant nightlife and a history of hundreds of years, Nicosia is one of the most interesting cities in the Mediterranean region.

Places to visit in Nicosia

Enter the old city centre through the Venetian Walls built in the 16th century to protect the city from the various invaders. The superbly reserved walls are three miles long and consist of 11 bastions and 3 gates: Porta San Domenico (Paphos Gate), Porta Guiliana (Famagusta Gate) and Porta del Proveditore (Kyrenia Gate). Your starting point will be the, under development, Eleftheria Square (Freedom Square). Start by a visit to Laiki Geitonia, a project that resembles a traditional urban neighbourhood and consists of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. In the same area pay a visit to the Leventis Municipal Museum, where a collection of architectural findings, traditional clothing and objects showcasing the history of Nicosia is exhibited.

From Eleftheria Square you can walk either, to Ledras or Onasagorou Street, two parallel streets. In both cases you will end up in Phaneromeni Square where the Phaneromeni Church built in the 1872, is located. Behind it there a small church with gothic, renaissance and byzantine elements, ‘Cross of Missirikos’ and next to it the historical Phaneromeni Gymnasium. If you walk 5 minutes you will come across the square and the building of the old Nicosia Municipality. In the same neighbourhood, it is a worth a visit to the beautifully restored Hamam Omerye Baths a 14th century building, functioning still as a hamam place and to the nearby Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios House, where a high official of the 19th century Ottoman domination used to live. Nearby there is the beautiful Famagusta Gate area. Walk around the beautiful neighbourhood, visit the Famagusta Gate and the Museum of Scuplture right below.

Laiki Geitonia
Laiki Geitonia in Nicosia Travel Guide
Cyprus Museum in Nicosia Travel Guide
The Cyprus Museum

Things to do in Nicosia

There are many things you can do in Nicosia, most of them on foot. In Ledras Street, visit the Shacolas Tower Observatory, where at the 6th floor you will have a panoramic view of Nicosia. At the end of Ledras Street, there is the checkpoint, where the Green Line that divided the country into two, used to be. Now, through that checkpoint you can cross over to the north of Nicosia, the occupied part. There are quite a few interesting museums in Nicosia. The Museum of Cyprus is the main archaeological museum on the island, where through artefacts (pottery, jewelry, sculpture etc.), you can revisit the history of Cyprus from the prehistoric times to the early Christian period. The Byzantine Museum, with a rich collection of Byzantine Art, the Ethnographic Museum with a good collection of 19th century and early 20th century folk art and nearby the Archbishop Makarios III Foundation Art Galleries, are located in the Archbishop’s Palace Square.

One of the latest additions in Nicosia is the A.G Leventis Gallery, hosting a private collection of Cypriot and world renowned artists. It’s also worth visiting the State Gallery of Contemporary Art, that houses the work of contemporary Cypriot artists. On the other hand if you want a more relaxed day in the capital, go shopping in Makariou III Avenue, Stasikratous and Mnasiadou Street, or even shop for fresh vegetables and fruit sold by local producers, in the OCHI open market that takes places every Saturday in the area of Bayraktar Mosque, on one of the 11 bastions of the Venetian walls of Nicosia.

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Shopping in Nicosia

The traditional shopping district runs along the pedestrian-only Ledra and Onasagorou streets within the medieval walls of the city, and are lined with shops of every type from traditional jewellers shops, to shoe and fabric shops. Laiki Geitonia is a pedestrianised neighbourhood that has been preserved in its original architecture, and is the best quarter if you are after souvenir shops. Makarios Avenue has been transformed into a commercial district with big chain shop, like Marks and Spencer and Zara. Stasikratous runs parallel to Makarios Avenue, has evolved into a mini local version of Bond street, with top designer names such as Armani and Versace stores. All the above are within walking distance of each other.

There are medium size department stores like Debenhams on Makarios Avenue, and right at the entrance of Nicosia you will find the Mall of Cyprus, with an attractive mix of retail stores and international brands such as, Zara, Benetton, Topshop, Public and Intersport. You will also find cafes and restaurants like Starbucks, TGI Fridays, McDonalds and a Cineplex.

Shops in Nicosia open at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and are open till 7:00 or 8:00 in the evening. On Wednesdays most shops close in the afternoons. and on Sundays all shops are closed. During the summer most shops close between 1:00 and 4:00 pm due to the hight temperatures.

Don’t forget to try some local wines and spirits, and maybe take a bottle or two back home as gifts.

Accommodation in Nicosia

Nicosia is the financial hub of the island and hotels tend to cater more for business travellers. You will not find as many accommodation choices as the rest tourist destinations along the coastline of the island.

There are a few hotels and plenty of small boutique hotels and apartments near the charming centre of the town to choose from. Most apartments offer accommodation for a minimum of four guests and can be surprisingly good value for money.

If you are looking for accommodation near the centre, during fairs or conferences, you should book well ahead. Good hotel choices include the Hilton Nicosia, the Cleopatra Hotel, the Almond Business Hotel, the Classic Hotel, the Centrum Hotel, and the MAP Boutique Hotel. If you are looking for homes with more privacy have a look at the Central Park Residence, the Manolia City Residences and the Angel Suites.

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Places to eat in Nicosia

Being the capital, Nicosia has various options that can accommodate all tastes. In downtown Nicosia, along Ledras and Onasagorou streets and in the streets around them, there are numerous restaurants. Traditional kebab houses, taverns, casual Italian restaurants, Middle Eastern ones, modern bistros, bar-restaurants, high end restaurants and so on. Most of them are open for lunch and dinner. You will be spoilt for choice. Note that one of the most beautiful – and less busy- areas to enjoy either lunch or dinner is Famagusta Gate a few minutes walk from the old town centre. Casual eateries, the only vegetarian-only place in the capital, a restaurant inside a museum, industrial-chic bistros are some of the places worth checking out in that part of town.

If you end up in the modern part of Nicosia, there are restaurants in the streets and avenues around Makariou Avenue. For example the Th. Dervi avenue, is the so called ‘brunch street’, because there are at least five beautiful places serving breakfast, brunch, coffee and lunch there. Although there are a lot of restaurants in the modern part of Nicosia, you will need a car to get to most of them. Nicosia is famous for its many traditional kebab taverns where you will enjoy ‘souvlakia’ (kebab), ‘sheftalia’ (minced pork with spices wrapped in caul fat) cooked over charcoal and of course Mezze.

Nightlife in Nicosia

People in Nicosia, get off work in the afternoon and drop by their favourite wine or cocktail bar for a drink, before heading home. That’s why in the last five years, the wine bars have increased and the cocktail spots have been popping in various spots in the city. Most of those places operate inside beautifully restored traditional houses in the old part of Nicosia. Onasagorou street, in the old town, has been booming lately with bars and restaurants. However, there are drinking holes, in almost every corner of the old town.

Excellent pubs, bar-restaurants, wine bars serving wine from around the world (do try the Cyprus wines, especially the ones made with local varieties), small bars specialising in craft beers, tapas bars and so on. If you are a dance lover, most of the dance clubs can be found in Engomi Area, with 20-25, being the usual age group. On the other hand, for a more quiet night, check out the pubs around Nicosia, serving a variety of beers and pub food. And if you would like to see how many of the locals spend their Saturday nights, go to one of the live music spots. That is, if you like Greek music!

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