Cyprus is another interesting destination in the Mediterranean whose rich culture is a melting pot of European, Asian and African influences. The island offers many appealing facets that draw all kinds of visitors to the area. The long sandy shores provide a haven for the beach-loving tourists while the archaeological sites fascinate the history enthusiasts. Its thriving nightlife is a treat for those who love to party but those who seek laid back tranquility can find refuge in the island’s idyllic small villages.
Cyprus really offers something special for everyone and its capital, Nicosia, is just one of the many worthwhile destinations to explore when visiting the area. Unlike most other capitals in the world, Nicosia is not as popular among tourists compared to its more famous neighbors. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that the city does not have the stunning beaches and legendary party atmosphere of Agia Napa or the spectacular landscape of the Karpas Peninsula. However, what the city lacks in natural beauty it makes up for in glitz and glamour as well as in rich historical attractions. So, it is worth giving it a chance to make a good impression because there is much to discover, experience and enjoy here.
Nicosia is located right smack at the heart of the island and is considered to be the last remaining divided capital in the world. The existing division between northern (Turkish) and southern (Greek) Cyprus is fortunately not that conspicuous to tourists – aside from the Green Line border – thanks to the somehow cordial relationship between the two governing groups. However, visitors coming from non-EU member states should enter by way of the southern entry points to freely roam around the island. It is also highly recommended to get up-to-date information from the locals on the condition of border crossing before you visit the Turkish side of the island.
Southern Nicosia is also referred to as Lefkosia to distinguish it from its northern counterpart, which is called Lefkosa. This part of the island is oozing with a cosmopolitan vibe brought about by its chic restaurants, fashionable shops and avant-garde atmosphere. The bustling stretch of Makarios Avenue, in particular, is popular among those who are looking for a bit of retail therapy because of the extensive selections of designer and luxury goods on display.
On the other hand, those who are passionate about bygone eras should start exploring within the Lefkosia’s Old City whose 16th century Venetian wall – shaped like a snowflake – is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Cyprus. Strolling around the delightful historical site is one of the more pleasant ways to pass the time in Nicosia.
Also, go ahead and hit the museums for a more insightful look into the island’s past. You do not want miss a visit to the Cyprus Archaeological Museum to experience its impressive display of 2000 terracotta figures of warriors and demon-servants dating back to the 7th century B.C. Other exhibits worth seeing include the limestone lions and sphinxes from the Tamassos necropolis south of the capital and the sculpture of Aphrodite, among others.
If religious icons are of interest to you, make sure to visit the Byzantine Museum and the remarkable 15th century church of Panagia Chrysaliniotisa. But, if folk art is more your passion then the Ethnographic Museum is a better fit for you. Art loving tourists will be glad to visit the Makarios Cultural Foundation to admire its vast collection of 16th-19th century artworks from European masters such as Rubens and Van Dyk, to name a few.
You can also spend your time getting pampered at the luxurious Turkish bath of Omeriye Hamman – just make sure you are visiting on the day designated for your gender to avoid disappointment. If you do not want to miss out on something touristy, check out Laiki Yitonia, which is a rather lovely village and makes for a wonderful sightseeing stroll if you don’t mind the abundance of tacky restaurants with overpriced food.
Finally, for a good view of the city, head to Ledra Museum-Observatory. It is located above Ermes Department store and offers sweeping views of Nicosia as well as Cyprus’ infamous Green Line.