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Things to do in Paphos: tourist attractions, museums and restaurants
Things to do in Paphos: tourist attractions, museums and restaurants
Evgenia Bravo
Author: Evgenia Bravo

Paphos is the main city in the south-eastern district of Cyprus, which is bearing the same name. According to Greek mythology, the very place where Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born is called Petra tou Romiou. This sea stack, better known as the Aphrodite's Rock, is located on the Paphos seashore and attracts a lot of tourists. The Sanctuary of Aphrodite, Aphrodite's baths and other places named after the goddess are also located in the Paphos area. The annual opera Paphos Aphrodite Festival is held at the city since 1999.

The modern city is divided into two parts: Kato Paphos, or the Lower Paphos, is stretched along the sea and houses most of the historical landmarks, and the Pano Paphos, or the Upper Paphos is where most of people live and work.

The history of Paphos can be traced back to the ancient Greece and year 300 BC. During the early orthodox period Christian disciples Barnabas and Paul came to the city to read prayers, important historical landmarks were built here under the Roman rule, and in the end of the 4th century the bishop's residence was moved to the city.

Then the destructive period of Arab invasion followed, that ended up by the annexation of Cyprus by the Byzantine Empire in 965. At the times of the Venetian and Ottoman rule, Paphos was frequently attacked from the sea and was finally almost ruined.

In the 20th century Paphos appeared among the main tourist destinations on the island, and in 1980 Kato Paphos was put on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Today guests of the city can walk among the remains of ancient Greek temples, visit the Tombs of the Kings necropolis and the place where Aphrodite was born, have a look at beautiful Byzantine churches and the legendary Paphos Castle. Apart from these (and many others) historical and cultural sites, there is a zoo, a diving center, several beaches and a lot of traditional restaurants and cafes at the city.

Cultural sites in Paphos

The Paphos Castle was built by the Lusignans after the Saranta Kolones Byzantine Fortress had been destroyed by the earthquake in 1222. The castle — two towers connected by the wall — was built of the hewn limestone. In 1373, after the year of defense, the castle had to surrender to the Genoese. In the end of the 15h century the building was entrenched, but less than 100 years later the Venetians removed the castle fearing that it will be taken by the Turks. In 1592 Turks reconstructed the fortress. During the British period of Cyprus history the island was used a salt warehouse.

Today the castle — the central tower and the yard behind the wall — is one of the main tourist attractions of the city. The annual Aphrodite Festival, dedicated to opera, is held here.

The Saint Neophytos Monastery is located 10 kilometers from Paphos. As the old legend puts it, Neophytos had wanted to be a hermit since then became a monk, but the abbot thought he was too young for it. Neophytos decided to travel to Palestine without money, but was arrested and put to jail in Paphos. When the monk was released from jail, he started to live as a hermit in a grotto not far from Paphos. 10 years later, he took first 10 novitiates and founded the monastery. In 1197, when the monastery grew too big and noisy for Neophytos, he made a new remote cell for himself where he died at the age of 90.

From the middle of the 18th century Neophytos' hallows are kept at the main church of the monastery. Monastery wall-paintings were created in 1183 and 1196, while the main church, dedicated to Virgin Mary, was built in the beginning of the 16th century.

There is also a museum at the monastery. It features icons, ancient ceramics, canonical manuscripts (including those written by Neophytos) and other objects.

The Kato Paphos Archaeological Park is an open-air museum next to the Paphos Harbour. Archaeological landmarks from the prehistoric times through the Middle Ages — four Roman villas (the House of Dionysos, the House of Orpheus, the House of Aion and the House of Theseus) with unique mosaic floors, the Odeon theatre and the ruins of the ancient city wall, an Agora, the Hellenistic-Roman Theatre, the Saranta Kolones Fortress (dates back to the 7th century), the old lighthouse, remains of the Limeniotissa basilica and other monuments — are located here.

Some of the sites in the Kato Park are far from each other, so we recommend to take a look at the map and plan the route before going there. Entrance fee to some monuments of the park is charged.

The Panagia Chrysopolitissa Church is also located not far from the Paphos Harbour. Built as an early-Byzantine basilica, it was turned into a Medieval Catholic church in the 13th century (Catholic and Anglican services are held here nowadays). Some of the first basilica floor mosaics are still available to the visitors.

It is believed that Saint Paul visited Paphos in year 45, was caught and sentenced to whipping. The punishment implemented next to the rock which is now called the Saint Paul's Pillar. The monument is located really close to the Panagia Chrysopolitissa Church.

Kouklia is the royal estate in 14 kilometers to the east from Paphos. Buildings from the 13th century and the Archaeological museum are a part of the complex. One of the main Kouklia landmarks is the Sanctuary of Aphrodite — scenic ruins dating back to the 12th century BC.

The Archaeological museum features statuettes, household items, fragments of ancient mosaics and other objects discovered on the territory of the estate.

The Saints Constantine and Helena church built in the 12th century and closed on all days except the 21st of May — the Saints memorial day, and the Palea Enklestra cave chapel are also located in Kouklia. Visitors of the chapel can have a look at old wall-paintings created at the times of the Venetian rule in Cyprus.

The Paphos Archaeological Museum is located at Griva Digeni 43. A large collection of objects dating from the Neolithic age to year 1700 AD found in the Paphos area is exhibited at the museum. The museum also houses the ancient grave-stone with an inscription in Cypriot syllabary, the marble statue of Aesculapius and the Aphrodite's bust. Museum working hours are 8.00 am — 4 pm Monday through Friday. Admission fee is charged.

The Paphos Ethnographic Museum belongs to the Eleadis family. It houses a large collection of cultural treasures, most of which are connected with folk art. Visitors of the museum can take a look at Cypriot household items and working tools, costumes, laces, wooden furniture and other objects. The terebinthinate tree and the cave grave from the Hellenistic period are also exhibited at the museum.

The address of the museum is 1 Exo Vrisis Street, admission fee is charged. The museum is open every day since 9.30 in the morning until 17.00 in the evening on weekdays and since 10.00 am until 13.00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Museum of Byzantine Art in Paphos is located at the eastern part of the building which belongs to the metropolitan of Paphos at 5 Andrea Ioannou Str. The oldest of Cypriot icons — Agia Marina (the 7th or the 8th century), more than 100 Byzantine icons of 12-19th centuries, liturgical books, crosses, priestly vestments, wooden and silver objects are exhibited here. Working hours vary depending on the season; admission fee is charged.

The Maa Palaiokastro is a small museum not far from the Coral bay. The museum building was designed by Andrea Bruno, one of the famous European architects. The location of the museum is significant — it is where the first Greek people settled 1200 years ago, marking the beginning of the Hellenism era. The exposition of the museum is dedicated to the history of Cyprus colonization by the Mycenaeans. Entrance fee is charged, the working hours are Monday-Sunday 8.30 am — 4 pm.

The Chrysoroyiatissa monastery is located in the Troodos Mountains in 40 kilometers from Paphos. The monastery was founded by the monk named Ignatius, who discovered the icon of Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate on the seashore in 1152.

In 1821 abbot Ioakim was arrested and executed by the Turks for the help he offered to the rebels of the Greek War of Independence. Today visitors of the monastery can explore the large collection of icons and other objects of the devotional art.

Tourist attractions in Paphos

The Aphrodite waterpark is located at Poseidonos Avenue, Kato Paphos. It is the largest waterpark and water entertainment center in the district. Here children and adults can roll down different slides, climb to the top of the «Water volcano», explore the «pirate's ship», sail down the «lazy river» and swim in several pools, have a snack or drink something in one of the bars and cafes. There is also a special children's area at the waterpark. Other advantages of the waterpark are free Wi-Fi, lockers and full-time life guards.

There are 12 beaches marked with a «Blue Flag» in Paphos area. Some of a little bit more remote and secluded sand beaches up to 100 meters long can be found not far from the city — for example, next to the Aphrodite's Rock. Those who prefer gravel or even rocky beaches can also find such places next to Paphos. And one of the Paphos beaches has a very special attraction — here holiday-makers can see turtle nests.

The Alykes beach is located next to the lively streets of Kato Paphos. You can easily get to this beach by bike, public transport or even by foot. Sunbeds, sunshades and waterspots equipment is available for rent.

The Coral Bay in Pegeia village is considered to be one of the best in the district. It is a long sand beach with shallow water and all the necessary services. Beach rescue team is present at the beach every day from 11 am to 5.30 pm.

The Vrisoudia beach overlooks the city port and the Paphos Castle. It has a perfect location in the heart of Kato Paphos and is easily accessible by public transport. Beach rental service is available.

The Horse Riding Paphos ranch is located in Misogi village not far from Paphos. Riding lessons for children and adults are offered here; experienced horsemen can enjoy riding in nearby olive groves and almond gardens. In summer we recommend to plan and book a trip to the ranch in advance.

The Diving in Cyprus diving center have options for both beginners and professionals. Holiday-makers can see coral reefs and explore sunken ships in Paphos area — or just have a diving test in calm water to make sure that this sport is safe. Children are invited to the center if they are over 10 years old.

The Nick's Watersports Centre is located on the territory of the Amathus hotel at Poseidonos Avenue. Here visitors can try paragliding and water skiing, ride a waverunner, rent a sea scooter and try other active watergames.

The Paphos zoo is located at St. George, Peyia Paphos and is open all year round. More than 500 animals and about 100 birds, including endangered species, live at the zoo. Some of the birds you can meet here are flamingos, parrots, birds of prey, cranes and touracos, some of the animals — tigers, elephants, kangaroos and giraffes. There is also a restaurant, an exhibition hall, the Museum of Natural History, a gift shop, a mini-farm with domestic animals and a theatre for trained animals at the zoo.

If you find yourself among the fans of one of the most unhurried sports in the world, Paphos, with his 5 gold-clubs — the Elea Golf, the Minthis Hills Golf Club, the Aphrodite Hills Golf Club, the Secret Valley Golf Club and the Marios Golf Park — may the place for you.

The Elea Golf club is located on the territory of the Elea estate. The gold course was designed by sir Nick Faldo, a professional golfer, who managed to take maximum from the natural landscape. During the game golfers can enjoy scenic views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Such companies as EcoTour Adventures Cyprus, Chris Andreou — Buggy, Jeep and Quad Bike Safaris, Jimmys Jeep Adventures, TT Isle of Man Rentals & Tours, STS Motor Rentals offer quad and jeep tours in Paphos district. Different routes and durations are available.

The EcoTour Adventures company has been in this business for 15 years already. Jeep drivers are also perfect guides who are always happy to share their knowledge of history, culture and nature of the region. Tours include a visit to a traditional village and to the Aphrodite's baths, lunch at a tavern, walk at the Avakas gorge, swimming and snorkeling (from May to October).

The Paphos Atlantis Cruises company organizes boat tours from Paphos. Sunken ships and giant turtles can be seen from illuminators of the boat. Swimming at the sea is also a part of the program. The duration of the tour is 1,5-2 hours.

The Cosmic bowling club in Paphos is located at Ap. Pavlou Avenue. There are 12 lanes and a cafe-bar at the club. Bowling competitions are regularly held here.

The Lockdown Paphos and the Mindgame are two Paphos escape quest rooms. Participants can choose one of several plots. Team work and brainstorms should help them to find the keys from the locked room for 60 minutes.

The Mingame rooms are located in the basement of an old mansion at 25 Martiou 4, while Lockdown quests can be completed at Shop 1, No.4 Parmenionos Street.

Restaurants and cafes in Paphos

The Cavallini Italian restaurant is located in Kato Paphos at 68 Poseidonos Avenue. Classical Italian cuisine — pastas, pizzas, rizotto and desserts — are on the menu. Guests can also try steaks, fish and chicken meals here. The wine menu is available.

The Gabor restaurant is located on the first floor of the same house. Sets of mini-appetizers and mini-sandwiches are offered to all the guests as a complement here. Such dishes as duck in sweet sauce, a salad with octopus, a vegetarian salad with orange and avocado, cold soups and many others are on the menu.

The Vineyard Tavern is located not far from Paphos, in Letimvou village. Cyprus and British cuisine — meze sets, roasted halloumi with carob syrup, shrimp tempura, Yorkshire pudding and home-made desserts — is served here. Vegetarian meals and local wine are also available.

7 St. Georges Tavern Greek restaurant is Paphos is located at Anth. Georgiou M. Savva 37. Home-baked bread with raisins, jam, various appetizers (anchovy, jerked beef, pickled and smoke products), fish and meat meze, kleftiko and other traditional dishes, innovative desserts (for example, warm pie with date honey) are served here. Guests of the restaurant can also try home-made organic wine, zivania and Cypriot coffee.

The Old Town restaurant specializes in Cypriot and Mediterranean cuisine. Cooks use only local seasonal products and grow herbs in the garden on the territory of the restaurant. Fish carpaccio with raspberry sauce, tomatoes stuffed with anchovy, pickled octopus with olive oil and oregano, pasta with lobster, duck with chili and honey and many other dishes are on the menu. Almost all dishes can be served «in small» as a part of a meze set. Address of the restaurant is Georgiadi Kyproleondos 5.

The Jayanta is an Indian restaurant in Paphos located at Theoskepastis 7. Here guests can have curry with chicken (both spicy and not spicy versions are available), samosa, biryani, kima and other traditional Indian food.

The Alea restaurant and bar is located in Kato Paphos (5, Poseidonos Avenue). Breakfasts are served here, along with salads and light lunch meals. The bar offers wine, beer (nuts and chips are free) and a few cocktails. Djs play at the bar on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Suite 48 restaurant is also located at Poseidonos Avenue, on the territory of the Amfora hotel. Visitors can enjoy their lunch or dinner on the beach, under palm trees. From time to time dance parties and concerts are held at the restaurant. A broad selection of smoothies and fresh fruit and vegetable drinks is on the menu.

The Gabriel's Tavern is located in Kouklia (Michalaki Christodoulou 1B). This is a Greek cafe with traditional interior, which serves salads, meze sets, different sauces, hummus, sheftalies, moussaka, chicken and pork kebabs, different desserts and drinks.