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Nicosia Attractions

South Nicosia is the only city in Cyprus, which has no access to the sea, attracts tourists no less than beaches with golden sand and ski resorts. In the capital you can stroll through the winding narrow streets, taste the national cuisine, visit museums and religious sites, and when bored – just go to the Turkish half and continue to explore the local attractions.

History and features of the city

Nicosia is the only city in Cyprus that is not located on the coast.

Nicosia is an ancient Greek city-state, which during its existence was ruled by the Byzantines, the Venetians, the Turks and the British. The first mention of the city dates back to 280 BC. It was then called Ledra, later renamed Leucotheon.

The city became the capital of Cyprus in the eleventh century, when the Lusignan era began. In the 16th century the Venetians surrounded Nicosia with fortified walls. At this time the city began to take on a modern appearance. Later Nicosia was ruled by the Turks and the British, and in 1974 it was divided into two parts – Greek and Turkish, the boundary between them runs along the main street.

Behind the fortress walls of Nicosia stretches a modern city – the cultural and business center of Cyprus.

But tourists are more attracted to the old part of the capital, where a bizarre mix of Christianity and Islam, the traditions of different countries and eras.

Important information for tourists

The contradictions between Turkey and Greece have not yet been finally resolved on the island. Despite this, tourism in Cyprus is actively developing, it is safe for foreigners to visit the resorts and major cities.

Read about the main attractions of Cyprus here.

Russian citizens need a visa to travel to Cyprus. Those arriving by direct flights can apply for a pro-visa, which gives the right of a single entry and allows you to stay in the country for no more than 90 days over a 180-day period.

What is the best time to visit South Nicosia

In winter the temperature in the city does not fall below +15 ° C, and in summer reaches +35 ° C and even +40 ° C. The best time for a holiday – the off-season (especially May and September), when Cyprus is not too hot, blows a warm southerly wind, and rainfall is rare.

Popular attractions in South Nicosia

The main attractions of South Nicosia are within the fortress walls. The best place to start is at the Ledra Museum-observatory on the 11th floor of Sharolas. From the height you can determine the main points you want to visit, and build an approximate walking route.

Venetian fortifications and fortress walls

The Venetian walls are part of the defensive line surrounding the capital of Cyprus for several centuries. The first fortifications were built in the Middle Ages. In the Venetian era, in the mid-16th century, they were reconstructed.

The Venetian walls in Nicosia
Venetian walls.

House of Makarios

The Archbishop’s Palace, built under Makarios III, is a religious and historical monument and the center of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in Cyprus. The house is closed to the public and can only be viewed from the outside.

On the territory of the cultural and religious complex are the Museum of National Wrestling, Folk Art and the Library of the Archbishop, which can be visited by tourists.

Working hours: on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The entrance fee is 4 euros, children (under 12 years) – 2 euros.

Panagia Faneromeni Church and Square

The lively Panagia Faneromeni Square is located east of Ledra Street, near the Green Line separating the Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC.

The church at Panagia Faneromeni Square is one of the oldest active churches in Cyprus, a spiritual center and a symbol of the struggle of the Greek Cypriots against the Turks. Pilgrims go to the temple to pray to the icon of the Mother of God, which dates back to the 14th century.

Admission is free. Collective services are not held here (there may not be enough space for all wishing to attend, because the church is small), but believers can come and pray in front of the altar, ask for help or place a candle.

Arablar Jami Mosque

It is a Christian church converted into a mosque under Turkish rule. Services are not held there, tourists can view the religious site only from the outside.

The Arablar Jami is near Faneromeni Square, next to the Omeriye, another Muslim shrine built on the site of a Christian temple in the 16th century.

The mosque is active and open to the public. Religion does not matter, but women must have their heads, knees and shoulders covered and men must wear pants.

Famagusta Gate and Aqueduct

The gates of Paphos and Kyrenia of the Venetian fort are in Turkish territory, the gates of Famagusta are in Greek territory. In the long tunnel under the arch is an entire exhibition hall, which houses the antiquities of the Mediterranean. The old aqueduct, an integral part of life in the old city, is just around the corner.

Famagusta Gate in Nicosia
Famagusta Gate.

The Old Town and the Laiki Gitonya neighborhood

In the old town, surrounded by fortifications, it is interesting just to walk around. The narrow streets here meander between old buildings, while trendy boutiques rub shoulders with colorful local stores, ancient mosques, and Orthodox churches.

To the east of Freedom Square is the Laiki Gitonia neighborhood, which preserves the traditional character of Old Nicosia. The area is always crowded. Laiki Gitonia is a popular walking route for locals and tourists alike.

Selimiye Mosque

The main mosque of the capital is located in the Turkish part of town (to get there is not difficult, you only need a passport to cross the border, they do not put stamps).

Selimiye is open to all comers, but a few rules must be followed when visiting the religious site:

  • to enter the temple without shoes;
  • talk quietly, don’t laugh, and don’t let the children make any noise;
  • wear a long skirt and scarf (women), pants (men).

Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa

The oldest Byzantine church on the island, according to some scholars, was built as early as the 5th century.

During the Arab raids, the religious site was destroyed, and in the 11th century locals found an icon of the Virgin Mary with a baby in her arms in the ruins. A new church was later erected on the same site.

St. Sava Church

Near the Laiki Gitonia area is St. Sava’s Cathedral. The main relic is an icon of the Archangel Gabriel. In the courtyard is a bust of Makarios III (the first president of Cyprus). To visit the site will be interesting not only to believers, because the religious site is a monument of architecture and history.

Freedom Monument

The Freedom Monument is a complex that includes 14 bronze figures of prisoners freed from prison by 2 partisans, as well as a figure of a goddess towering over them. The monument was erected in honor of the Greek Cypriots who fought for the liberation of the island from British influence. It’s worth walking around and taking a close look at the monument – it’s amazingly detailed.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist

The Cathedral of the Cypriot Orthodox Church is consecrated in honor of John the Theologian, to whom the crucified Jesus Christ entrusted the care of the Virgin. The temple is relatively small and has a laconic appearance (during Ottoman rule, no Christian shrine could compete with mosques, neither in height nor in architectural sophistication). At the same time the interior furnishings are strikingly rich.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist
The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.

Other attractions to visit in and around the city

After seeing the sights of South Nicosia, it is worth going to the northern part of the city. You can begin your acquaintance with the capital of the TRNC by visiting the Bayuk Khan inn. There are often cultural events (such as a wine festival), musicians.

Other interesting places in North Nicosia:

  1. House of the Lusignan era. The mansion was built in the XV century, belonged to a French feudal family.
  2. The Bayuk Hammam public baths, built on the ruins of St. George’s Church.
  3. The Venetian column on Ataturk Square. Its base is decorated with the coats of arms of titled families formerly residing in Cyprus.

Famous Museums of South Nicosia

After a walk along the pedestrian street Lidra, religious monuments and fortifications, you can go on a tour of the museums of South Nicosia.

To familiarize yourself with the exposition of each of them is better to allocate at least 3-4 hours.

Cyprus Archaeological Museum

The 14 halls of the Cyprus Museum showcase rare archaeological finds. The exposition is constantly being added to, because excavations are still being conducted in Cyprus.

The most interesting items that can be seen in the Cyprus Archaeological Museum:

  1. An anthropomorphic figure of a Pomossian idol found near Paphos. This is an exhibit from the prehistoric period – the twentieth century. B.C. The Pomeranian idol is one of the symbols of Cyprus.
  2. Large amphorae from the 8th to 7th century BC depicting mythological scenes surrounded by geometric or floral ornaments.
  3. A group of terracotta figures found by archaeologists and in an ancient sanctuary. The exhibition includes both miniature statuettes and figures of warrior-like warriors taller than a human being.
  4. Statue of Septimius Severus, dating from the Roman period. Scholars suggest that originally the ruler had a spear and a shield in his hands.
  5. Statue of Aphrodite Cyprida, made by ancient masters of white marble. It is interesting that Aphrodite not only “came out of the foam,” but also “born in Cyprus.

In the halls exhibited only a small portion of valuable artifacts. The building can no longer hold the collection, so some of the exhibits have been moved to other museums around Cyprus.

Leventis Art Gallery and Municipal Museum

The permanent exhibition covers a vast period from ancient times to the island’s independence from Britain in 1960. Each room is dedicated to a different historical era. It is worth paying attention to the 15th century Crusader sword, medieval ceramics, ancient maps showing how the topography of Nicosia has been refined over time, and a collection of jewelry. Admission is free.

National Wrestling Museum

The EOKA Museum was founded after the end of the National Liberation Struggle in 1959, when Cyprus was rid of British influence. The collection contains rare photos, documents, newspapers, and radio equipment of the Turkish Cypriots. Admission is free.

Byzantine Museum

The Byzantine Museum at the Cultural Foundation of Archbishop Makarios III includes works of Byzantine art from the IX-XX centuries, over 300 icons, the oldest of which date back to the XII century, church vestments and ritual objects. The cost of the ticket is 2 euros.

Byzantine Museum in South Nicosia
Byzantine Museum.

Other interesting museums in and around the city

In addition to historical monuments and the collection of antiquities, tourists can view a private collection of cars and motorcycles, including more than 150 models. Of interest is the Folk Art Museum, where you can learn how Cypriots have lived for centuries, how they kept house and what they cooked.

Popular entertainment spots

Near South Nicosia there is a zoo and a donkey farm, which is worth a trip with children. On the farm you can communicate with the animals, visit the house with a traditional interior, try the national cuisine.

There’s more active entertainment as well. For example, from January to April tourists go skiing on the slopes of Troodos, which is an hour’s drive from the capital of Cyprus, in the warm season – windsurfing on the beaches of Nicosia.

The observation deck on the 11th floor of the Shakolas shopping center and the Ledra pedestrian street

The Shacolas Tower is located in the southern part of the old city, at the intersection of Ledra and Arsinois streets. As a point of reference is the D’Avilla Bastion, where you can park your car.

The Ledra Observatory Museum is on the 11th floor. There are interactive screens on the observation deck, each displaying a map of the visible part of Nicosia with points of interest to visit. You can see the schedule of the facilities, listen to an audio tour, and read some informative stories.

The observation deck, which offers a beautiful view of the city, is open all year round. On weekdays and Saturdays the facility is open from 10 am to 5 pm (in winter) or until 19 pm (in summer), on Sunday – from 11. The ticket costs 2 euros. Children under 12 years of age pass free of charge.

Melios Zoo

The zoo began with a small collection of birds. Today the area is home to kangaroos, tigers, lions, pelicans, ostriches, deer, zebras and other animals. Lemurs walk freely along the walkways next to visitors.

Plan your visit better in the morning or evening, because in the afternoon the animals are not active because of the heat.

On the territory of the zoo there is a cafe with a large selection of hot and cold dishes, where you can eat after the walk. Nearby is equipped with a children’s playground.

The zoo is 12 km from Nicosia. From the highway Limassol – Nicosia turn to the village Agioi Trimithias and then follow the signs to Melios Zoo.

The latter works from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer and to 7 p.m. in winter. The day off is Monday. The cost of an adult ticket is only 3 euros, children’s – 2 euros.

Interesting excursions for tourists in South Nicosia

You can see the sights of the capital of Cyprus on their own or with a guide. The sightseeing tour (individual) costs from 40 euros, lasts 4-5 hours. The capital also offers gastronomic tours for groups of up to 4 people (cost – 180 euros). Pilgrimage tours (170 euros) to South Nicosia and the surrounding area are no less popular.

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