One day you will grow tired of the hot and noisy beach life and will decide to bring your entire family to the island’s capital. Or perhaps you’ll be on a business trip and end up with some some free time on your hands. In this case we invite youfor a tour of Nicosia, at the end of which you will never have to wonder about the things to do in this city.
Let’s start with the most interesting travel routes inside the walled city of Nicosia. It’s a short tour, which will take you and your family only a few hours. But at the end, your experience on the island of Aphrodite will be significantly enriched.
Ledra — Faneromeni Square — Hippocrates street and the Laiki Geitoniapedestrian area — Church of Archangelos Michail Tripiotis (Solonos Street) — Ömeriye Mosque and former Abbey — Archbishop's Palace, Byzantine Museum, Folk Art Museum, National Struggle Museum (Square of Archbishop Kyprianos) — Ethnographic Museum (Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion) — Famagusta Gate.
Ledra — used to be Cyprus’ main trade street (bears the name of the ancient state, whose remains were recently discovered near Eleftheria square, in front of the City Hall building). During the independence struggle (1955), the British authorities called the street the «deadly mile». Today the street is famous for its boutiques and cafes located inside historic buildings. There is a checkpoint at the end of the street. If you are able to show documentation proving you are a legal tourist in Cyprus, you will be able to cross over to the Turkish part of the divided city (since 1963). This part of Nicosia is significantly different from the «Greek» part. You have until the end of the day to explore the life of Turkish Cypriots.
If you don’t have much time, you can simply enjoy the beauty of the historic center on both sides of the borderline, which you can explore through the windows of the Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory (the only high-rise building on Ledra).
Address: corner of Ledra and Arsionis street, 11
Working hours: 10:00 – 18:30.
After you turn to Nikokleus Street, walk towards a square in front of the Church of Panagia Faneromeni (1872). This is the largest church within the walls of Nicosia.
The marble tomb, which is located in the eastern part of the area surrounding the church, contains the relics of Archbishop Kyprianos and other priests executed by the Turks in 1821.
The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation is located in front of the church (Faneromenis street, 86-90). The Foundation is known for its exhibitions, concerts and lectures as well as its permanent exhibition featuring objects from the Pierides family and the Museum of Numismatics.
Right outside the gate of Faneromeni you will come across a small medieval church, called Stavros-tou-Missiriku. Later on a minaret was added to the church and it became the Arablar mosque.
When you cross Onasagoru Street (named after Onasagoras — the ancient ruler of Ledra), you will end up in the popular tourist area known as Laiki Geitonia (which literally means «people’s neighborhood»). This areais known for its medieval streets (which were restored relatively recently), souvenir shops and taverns. After you finish shopping for souvenirs and break for lunch at one of the many cafes or taverns, don’t forget about the «food for your brain».
Stop by the Leventis Museum (Ippokratous street, 15-17). Its permanent exhibition, housed on three floors, covers the history of Nicosia from 3,000 BC until the modern day. Its cutting-edge technology, programs for children, master classes, books and souvenirs will definitely leave a lasting impression.
Working hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 -16:30
Entrance is free
Moving on, we come across the Church of Archangelos Michail Tripiotis (Solonos Street, 47-49). The church was built by archbishop Germanus II (1695) and is a remarkable example of the Franco-byzantine style. The interior is equally impressive, with its beautiful frescoes and the tall, carved iconostasis.
The Abbey and the Ömeriye Mosque (corner of Trikoupis Street and Tillirias Square near the market) together with the Church of St. Mary, which used to belong to the Order of St. Augustine Order. With the arrival of the Ottoman Empire the church was reconstructed and turned into a mosque. The monks’ tombstones were moved to the Limassol Castle (1571).
The mosque is open during the non-prayer hours
Square of Archbishop Kyprianos — thanks to the great number of museums in this area, the square is a very popular spot among those who like history.
Archbishop’s Palace (the old building dates back to the 18th century, the rest of the complex is relatively new, 1950-60s);
St. John’s Cathedral (1662) — contains unique frescoes (1736-1756) and a gilded iconostasis (the church is open all year round).
Working hours: Monday-Friday: 08:00 – 12:00, 14:00 – 16:00, Saturday: 09:00 – 12:00 and during religious service
Archbishop Makarios III Foundation and the Museum of Byzantine Art (covering IX – XVI centuries).
Working hours: Monday-Friday: 09:00 – 16:00, Saturday: 09:00 – 13:00; Gallery working hours: Monday- Friday: 09:00 – 12:30, 13:30 – 16:00
The Cyprus Folk Art Museum features a great collection of folk art covering a period from the 19th – 20th centuries: carved wooden objects, pottery, lacework, national costumes, etc.
Working hours: Monday-Friday: 09:00 – 16:00, Saturday: 09:00 – 13:00
Nearby is the Pancyprian Gymnasium Museum (corner of AyiaIoanna and Thiseos streets) — the oldest school in Cyprus (founded in 1812). The museum’s twelve halls are dedicated to Cypriot weapons, maps, archeology and many other subjects.
Museum is closed on Sundays, all other days: 09:00 – 15:00
Entrance is free
The National Struggle Museum — is open only on business days (08:00 – 14:30). Entrance is free. Across the street from this museum is a monument dedicated to the National Struggle. It symbolizes the island’s independence from Britain.
When you reach the monument, simply look around you and you will see the remains of another rare monument — the Roman aqueduct.
Find the time to stop by the Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion, located nearby (Patriarchou Grigoriou Street, 20). The museum is dedicated to a famous Cypriot dragoman (meaning «translator» or «mediator»). This architectural monument was created in the Venetian style (18th century), won the «Europa Nostra» award (1988) and houses an ethnographic museum.
Working hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 08:30 - 15:30, Wednesday: 08:30 - 17:00, Saturday: 09:30 - 15:30
Closed: Monday, Sundayand on national holidays
Museum is open to visitors all year round
We finish our tour of Nicosia’s historic past in front of the Famagusta Gate (1567 – 1570). The gate once led to Famagusta city and is now a fragment of the fortress wall (of the Caraffa bastion). The gate is now often used for open-air exhibitions, seminars and concerts. Entrance is free.
Working hours: Monday-Friday: 10:00 – 13:00, 15:00 – 20:00
Things to consider:
When planning your trip, don’t forget to find out the exact working hours of the places you want to visit.
Wear comfortable shoes (or bring them with you), because you will be doing a lot of walking on old streets.
Don’t forget to bring water: Nicosia is different from the seaside and if you spend a whole day outside, you will be dehydrated.
There is a tourist information desk (belongs to the COT — Cyprus Tourist Organization), located in Laiki Geitonia. You can pick up a free map, ask for information, sign up for a free tour of the city (offered twice a week: on Mondays and Thursdays), and find out about the upcoming events and festivals, which are a frequent occurrence in Cyprus.
Address: Aristokyprou, 11
Telephone: +357 22674264
If you want to grab lunch, finding a place shouldn’t be an issue. Despite the relatively high prices (for Cyprus), Nicosia’s selection of eating joints includes anything from traditional cafés to restaurants. You can find something anywhere in Nicosia, but there are particularly many places to pick from on Ledra and in Laiki Geitonia. Prices range between 5-8 euros per person (for fast-food joints) and between 12-18 euros (for restaurants).
If you want to learn more about the many cafes and restaurants located in Old Nicosia, please visit our reference guide.
Have a great tour!
Written by Evgeniya Kondakova.