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Home » Nicosia Travel Guide: A Dual-Nation Capital Straddling History and Innovation

Nicosia Travel Guide: A Dual-Nation Capital Straddling History and Innovation

Once the vortex of a 1974 military skirmish, Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, retains a distinctive split personality between its Greek and Turkish hemispheres. As you traverse this intriguing capital, you find yourself shifting from the echoes of an ancient past to the pulse of a modern city – a timeline stretching from Byzantine churches, British-era colonial buildings, and Turkish minarets to the silhouette of avant-garde architecture, vibrant public spaces, and contemporary art galleries.

Locally known as Lefkosia or Lefkosha, Nicosia has been an important settlement since the fourth millennium BC. Its initial Greek inhabitants, arriving in the 6th century BC, established the city of Ledra, later rebranded as Lefkosia in the 4th century BC. A continuous dance of conquest saw the island shift hands from Persians and Romans to Byzantines and Crusaders. In the 12th century, the Lusignan dynasty, of Armenian-French lineage, assumed control, rechristening the city Nicosia, and crowning it the capital.

In the 15th century, Venetian rulers took the throne, constructing a formidable five-kilometer-long fortress wall encircling the city. This medieval marvel, complete with 11 bastions and three gates, remains intact today, its precinct commonly referred to as the Old Town.

The Ottoman conquest in the 16th century added Turkish influence to the island’s Greek population, and the city’s name morphed into the Turkish rendition, Levkos, later evolving to Lefkosha. Subsequent British rule in the 19th century expanded the city beyond the fortress boundaries, leaving a legacy of British-style buildings identifiable by their yellow stone walls, vivid shutters, large windows, and distinctive architectural details.

In 1974, the failed Greek Cypriot bid for unification with Greece triggered Turkish military intervention, resulting in a divided island and a bifurcated Nicosia – Greek Cyprus and the internationally unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

In the middle of the 20th century Cyprus gained its independence from Great Britain, and as early as 1974 the Greek Cypriots attempted to become part of Greece. Greek flags still remind us of this aspiration. Photo: Datingjungle / Unsplash.com

Nicosia now serves as a capital for both entities. This unusual circumstance lends Nicosia its unique character, as the border literally bisects the historic city center. Nicosians proudly claim that despite this split, their capital is continually becoming more habitable, a testament reflected in the 2023 Financial Times’ ranking of Nicosia as the top small European city for human capital and lifestyle.

Touring this city involves crossing checkpoints, but it’s a small price for the opportunity to witness the amalgamation of diverse cultures, histories, and eras. Nicosia’s authorities are heavily invested in cultivating tourism and attracting skilled professionals, resulting in an influx of fintech and IT firms making the city their home.

The Historic Nooks of Nicosia’s Old City

Crafted meticulously by the Italian architect Savorniano in the 16th century, the old city of Nicosia stands as a testament to the Venetians’ ingenuity in urban planning and fortification. As the Venetians braced for war with the Turks, they sought to shield their territories with robust defenses. Thus, Nicosia was conceived as an “ideal city,” a perfect circle encased within a moat, bolstered by an 11-bastion wall akin to a flower or star. Nicosia’s heart was the majestic St. Sophia Cathedral, from where the city’s arteries – its streets – radiated outward. The ambitious project necessitated the demolition of old walls, rerouting of a river, and a reconfiguration of existing structures.

However, these fortifications could not spare the city from falling under Ottoman rule by the end of the century. Preserved within the time-capsule of the Old City are relics of those epochs, including an ancient aqueduct, the Castelliotissa Hall, and religious edifices like the Omerje Mosque (formerly the Church of the Virgin Mary until 1571) and the Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. The 17th century introduced French-Byzantine-style structures, such as the St. John the Evangelist and Archangel Michael Tripiotis Churches, while the Ottoman reign is evident in the Hammam Omerier and the Hadzigeorgakis Kornesios residence, currently housing the Ethnographic Museum. Also scattered across the Old City are neoclassical British-era edifices, like the All Cyprus Gymnasium and the Faneromeni School.

The old town in its present form was built by the Italian architect Savorniano in the 16th century

Restoration work, financed in part by the European Union and the United Nations (“Revitalization of Old Nicosia: Partnership for the Future” project), has breathed new life into much of this historic center. However, some quarters still bear the scars of time. The government’s future roadmap includes infrastructural improvements, launching a university campus, and creating incentives for local business owners.

The Gate of Famagusta is one of the three gates of the Venetian fortress of Nicosia. Behind the beautiful facade there is a spacious 35-meter corridor passing under the Karaffa Bastion. Photo: A.Savin / Wikimedia.org

One of the three gates punctuating the Venetian fortress of Nicosia, Famagusta Gate, owes its name to the region it faces. Behind its ornate façade lies a sprawling 35-meter corridor, nestled under the Karaffa bastion. Guard rooms flank the passage, culminating in a dome-shaped hall, distinguished by a ten-meter high ceiling. Today, the room’s resonant acoustics play host to concerts, exhibitions, and a variety of cultural events, continuing to add to the city’s vibrant history.

Nestled in the heart of the Laiki Gaytonia (Λαϊκή Γειτονιά) district, a helpful tourist office stands ready to guide explorers through the intricate tapestry of Nicosian life. Armed with maps and timely information about upcoming festivities, visitors can easily navigate the city’s vibrant rhythm. The Cypriot Ministry of Tourism frequently curates complimentary tours and immersive workshops; do remember to sign up in advance on visitcyprus.com or visitnicosia.com.cy to secure a spot in these popular events.

The Archbishop’s Palace, residence of the leader of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, offers an arresting contrast to the austerity of the Presidential Palace. Constructed post-Cypriot independence in 1961, the Palace echoes the legacy of Archbishop Makarios III, the first president of Cyprus and a staunch critic of British rule. Makarios III’s influence is immortalized in the names of streets, hospitals, and stadiums across the island nation. A pristine monument in his honor adorns the palace grounds.

Home to the Byzantine Museum and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist with its magnificent iconostasis, the Palace is a trove of spiritual and historical artifacts. The Museum of Folk Art, set in the medieval Gothic old Archbishop’s Palace, will delight connoisseurs of folk craft and architecture.

The Archbishop’s Palace is the residence of the head of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus. The residence was built immediately after Cypriot independence in 1961Photo: A.Savin / Wikimedia.org

Tales of discovery shroud the Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa, Nicosia’s oldest Orthodox church. Legend speaks of an icon of the Virgin Mary unearthed amidst flax fields at this site. Now housed in the Byzantine Museum for safekeeping, an image of this event, framed by stone-carved flax flowers, adorns the church entrance.

The Church of Panagia Chrysaliniotissa (1450) is the oldest Orthodox church in Nicosia. Photo: visitcyprus.com

Recovery finds its most luxurious form in Hammam Omerje. An Ottoman Empire relic, the 1570 bath complex recently underwent refurbishment. Now, it stands as a sanctuary offering traditional hammam experiences and a plethora of spa treatments for the weary traveler.

The Hammam Omerje bathing complex was built in 1570 and recently renovated. In the complex you can enjoy not only the traditional hammam, but also a variety of spa programs. Photo: A.Savin / Wikimedia.org

A gateway to Nicosia’s bygone eras, the Leventis Museum unveils the city’s evolutionary narrative through exhibits dedicated to distinct epochs. Displaying clothing, jewelry, dishes, and art objects, each room transports visitors to a different time. The museum’s centerpiece is a glass floor revealing the excavation of a medieval street. Jewelry enthusiasts will marvel at the collection of gold and silverware, a testament to Nicosia’s history as a jewelry hub. The museum offers free admission and an interactive book-quest for younger visitors.

Housed in a repurposed power plant, the Contemporary Art Center (NIMAC) champions the eclectic, vivid, and layered nature of contemporary art. NIMAC offers a café, an art salon selling books and artistic pieces, and spaces for exhibitions and workshops.

The Contemporary Art Center (NIMAC) occupies the building of the old power plant. The art center has several exhibition spaces, auditoriums for meetings and workshops, and a library. Photo: NIMAC

The Center of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) serves dual roles as a museum and cultural center, safeguarding Cypriot traditions and culture. The permanent exhibition showcases works from artists who visited Cyprus between the 18th and 20th centuries.

The labyrinthine lanes of the Old Town are a treasure trove of niche boutiques and creative workshops. At Desert Island Records, you can relive the nostalgia of vinyl, while Tochka Ceramics offers a unique array of ceramic creations. If you’re hunting for unconventional souvenirs, 37 Gallery is a must-visit.

Threading its way through the city, Ledra Street is a vibrant artery lined with an eclectic mix of shops and cafés. Beneath the shade of geometric awnings, you’ll find internationally familiar outlets like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Starbucks, interspersed with local gems like Crepa Crepe for some satisfying pancake indulgence, Papafilipou for a scoop of refreshing ice cream, and ToAnamma, a haven for traditional Cypriot cuisine.

An abundance of boutiques on Ledra offer everything from fashion and footwear to cosmetics and accessories. This is where emerging local brands rub shoulders with global favorites such as Pull&Bear, NYX, and H&M. A unique attraction on Ledra is the Shacolas Tower Museum, featuring a vantage point from where, for a modest fee of two and a half euros (2.68$), you can feast your eyes on panoramic views of the city.

Ledra is the main street of the city. On the pedestrian zone under the shade of triangular canopies there are many stores and cafes

Ledra Street’s charm extends beyond its bustling commerce and delightful dining. It is here, in the pulsating heart of the Old Town, that you’ll find the Ledra Checkpoint. This pedestrian-only gateway offers an intriguing transition from Greek to Northern Cyprus. For those intrigued by the contrasting atmospheres of the Greek and Turkish sides of Cyprus, this border crossing presents a captivating experience. Although queues can occasionally form due to tourist groups, the border crossing typically takes no more than a leisurely ten minutes.

Ledra Street is not only about cafes and stores, but because here, in the heart of the Old Town, you can cross the border and get to Northern Cyprus. The checkpoint is called “Ledra Checkpoint”.

A Stroll through the Turkish Side of Nicosia

The alluring mosaic of Turkish Nicosia, nestled within the Old Town, is best savored on foot. For a leisurely overview, however, consider the whimsical sightseeing train. Departing from the Municipal Market, these quaint, blue and white carriages serenade passengers with lilting music while meandering through the labyrinthine lanes of Lefkosha. Acting as both driver and guide, the operator provides a running commentary of the town’s unique points of interest. This is an ideal way to acclimate to this enchanting district and earmark those locations that you wish to explore in depth. The train offers the flexibility of hop-on, hop-off travel; allowing you to disembark, wander at your leisure, and rejoin the journey as you please.

The main attractions of “Turkish” Nicosia are within the Old Town, so it is easy to get around on foot

A towering testament to the region’s rich history, the Selimiye Mosque, originally known as St. Sophia Cathedral, is an architectural marvel. Its construction began in 1209 and continued for a staggering 100 years, culminating in the grandest Gothic temple in Cyprus and the coronation site for the Lusignans. However, the arrival of the Ottomans brought about a transformation, with the cathedral morphing into a mosque, adorned with minarets and other Islamic features. Despite its current state of extensive renovation and obscured exterior, the mosque welcomes visitors inside to appreciate its Gothic past juxtaposed with Ottoman influences.

After the conquest of Nicosia by the Ottomans, St. Sophia Cathedral was turned into a mosque by adding minarets and some other elements. Photo: A.Savin, An. Antoniou / Wikimedia.org

A short distance away, the Büyük Han Caravanserai unfolds a page from the Ottoman period. This square edifice encloses a spacious courtyard, its perimeter once serving as lodgings, a marketplace, and storage for goods. A diminutive mosque crowns the center of the courtyard. Over time, the Büyük Han has served as a sanctuary and a prison, but today its ambiance is decidedly more jovial, housing a vibrant ensemble of souvenir shops and craft stores. Considering the lower price tag on goods in North Cyprus compared to the south, this could be the perfect spot to pick up a keepsake or two.

The Büyük Han Caravanserai is a square structure with a spacious courtyard inside. The buildings on the perimeter served for lodging, trade, and storage of goods. Photo: MatthiasKabel / Wikimedia.org

The Old City in the Turkish quarter, in essence, is a sprawling bazaar. Streets brim with endless stalls offering a dizzying array of products. Local specialties to look out for include olive-based goods and carob powder. You’ll also find an ample selection of Turkish imports – from exquisite textiles to mouth-watering oriental sweets. This vivid tapestry of commerce forms an integral part of the area’s pulsating character, offering a sensory feast that is simply irresistible.

Most of the Old City on the Turkish side is one big bazaar

Between Two Worlds: The Buffer Zone

The divide between Greek and Turkish Cyprus is embodied in a slender swathe of a buffer zone under the auspices of the UN. This region, originally designated to facilitate peacekeeping and separate conflicting parties, has paradoxically evolved into one of the island’s most militarized areas, often inciting disputes and provocations. Marked by barbed wire and signs forbidding passage and photography, it’s an eerie testament to a conflict frozen in time. Yet, numerous photo reports and videos have managed to seep from the buffer zone onto the internet.

Fifty years ago, due to relentless shelling, residents fled their homes abruptly, leaving behind dishes on tables, cars on streets, and goods on window sills. What remains today are vestiges of this hasty exit – smashed windows and crumbled walls.

Between Greek and Turkish Cyprus there is a narrow strip of buffer zone under UN control. It was created for peacekeeping purposes in order to physically distance the parties to the conflict from each other.

However, legal access to this forbidden territory is granted through the House of Cooperation situated in the heart of Nicosia. This institute hosts events and workshops that foster intercultural cooperation. Not far from this site is the once-glamorous Ledra Palace Hotel, which lost its allure almost instantly due to its unfortunate placement in the buffer zone between the ‘two worlds’. You can take a guided stroll to the House of Cooperation and witness the former grandeur of the hotel from the Ledra Palace checkpoint on Markou Drakou Street. Just remember to carry your passport.

The buffer zone is fenced on both sides with a barbed wire fence, on which signs prohibiting passage and photographing hang.

Beyond the Fortress Walls: Unearthed Bounties and Artistic Treasures

In Cyprus, the soil is abundantly fertile, making the Farmers Market at Oxi Square a treasure trove of fresh produce. From the summer yield of peaches, figs, melons, and exotic fruits like mangoes, guavas, and pitahayas, to the winter harvest of citrus fruits, bananas, and avocados, and not forgetting the springtime strawberries, medlars, carambolas, and cherries, the market is a riot of color, flavor, and texture. Be sure to visit on Wednesday or Saturday mornings for the freshest picks.

All the tastiest local fruits and vegetables are sold at the central farmers’ market. Opening hours: Wednesday and Saturday mornings. Photo: Luigi Guarino / Wikimedia.org

Art enthusiasts would find the Leventis Gallery a rewarding visit. Housing works by esteemed Cypriot artists, the highlight is Adamantios Diamantis’s monumental painting ‘The World of Cyprus’. The artist spent three decades capturing traditional Cypriot society in his sketches, culminating in a canvas that stretches 17.5 meters. The gallery also boasts a French collection featuring the works of Renoir, Monet, and Chagall, and a Greek collection. Keep an eye out for wall panels with buttons, pressing them reveals hidden paintings, an innovative measure taken by the gallery to shield sensitive artworks from harmful light exposure.

The first floor of the Leventis Gallery is dedicated to the works of Cypriot artists. On the second floor is the French collection with works by Renoir, Monet and Chagall. The floor above is the Greek collection. Photo: Leventis Gallery

The Cyprus Museum, the country’s principal archaeological museum, is a window to the ancient civilizations that once graced the island. Its collection spans the prehistoric to early Byzantine periods. A notable exhibit is the Pomos Idol, a cross-shaped figurine dating back to the third millennium BC. This idol, depicted on Cyprus’s 1 and 2 euro coins, is thought to represent a fertility goddess. The statuette’s pendant, an identical miniature figure, evokes Christian symbolism of wearing a cross, despite predating Christianity by three millennia. Other similar artefacts hint at depictions of a mother and child or the unity of masculinity and femininity – tangible evidence of Cyprus’s storied past.

The Museum of Cyprus is the main archaeological museum of the country. It contains artifacts of the earliest civilizations that lived on the island. Photo: A.Savin, Carole Raddato / Wikimedia.org

Nicosia: Urban Oasis with a Modern Twist

Beneath the venerable walls of Old Town Nicosia sprouts Freedom Square, a lively hub of contemporary aesthetics contrasting its medieval surroundings. Once a defensive moat, this site has been transformed into a vibrant public space flourishing with fountains, pathways, cafes, and playgrounds. Although the park’s completion is still in progress, it already hosts winter moon park events and summer concerts, drawing crowds from all corners.

Brought to life in 2005, this daring project by renowned architect Zaha Hadid sparked controversy for its ultra-modern design clashing with the city’s historical fabric. However, it symbolized a much-needed revival for the once neglected Old Town and served as a beacon for investment. By the park’s inauguration in 2021, the Old Town had been revitalized, its streets spruced up, and modern business districts and pedestrian zones sprung up outside the fortress. Now, Freedom Square is an integral part of the cityscape, a jewel sparkling against the backdrop of Nicosia’s rising skyline.

Freedom Square, a new park built directly under the walls of the Old City by the famous architect Zaha Hadid

Just beyond the old city walls, the Municipal Garden unfolds as a serene retreat. Festivals, picnics, and yoga classes find a home on its verdant lawns, while palm-lined avenues, a cactus garden, and strutting peacocks create a charming atmosphere. Among the paths, you’ll encounter busts of notable figures. Extending across from the garden, a park stretches throughout Nicosia, varying from a slender riverside strip to expansive parklands dotted with bridges and pathways, offering the ideal setting for cycling or strolling.

The municipal garden begins just outside the walls of the old city – the park is small but cozy, with a palm alley, a cactus garden, fountains and peacocks. Photo: ΣτηρίζωΚύπρο / Wikimedia.org

Engomi Park, a little further from the city center, is a meticulously maintained sanctuary housed within the Kykkos Monastery grounds. Framed by a lively fountain, the main alley offers access to the monastery building. An enticing citrus orchard lies behind, with orange, mandarin, and lemon trees practically brushing against the paths, their fruit free for the plucking. Engomi Park is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with two bird houses, one housing larger species, including ostriches, and another dedicated to smaller birds, like parrots.

On Nicosia’s outskirts, the Atalassa National Forest Park sprawls out as an expansive haven. With two main recreational areas, cafes, playgrounds, and observation points for wildlife viewing, it caters to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. The park also features over 20 kilometers of hiking trails and bike paths. Despite restrictions on fires and foraging, visitors can enjoy their meals at the provided tables. Boasting eucalyptus groves, pine forests, and poppy fields, Atalassa provides a cool respite from the city bustle, no matter the season.

In Athalassa Park, there are two main recreation areas with cafes, playgrounds, and observation points for local fauna. Photo: Athalassa National Forest Park

Map of Nicosia and surroundings

For this guide we made a detailed map on Google Maps with all the destinations from this guide.

Food: A Taste of Nicosia

In the world of Cypriot cuisine, the meze reigns supreme. An array of assorted meat or fish dishes accompanied by side dishes and appetizers, the meze is a meal of grandeur, arriving in numerous waves and indulged over several hours. Whether it’s souvla, the Cypriot take on kebab, kleftiko, tender young lamb slow-cooked to perfection, or moussaka, a rich medley of minced meat and vegetables baked with a creamy béchamel sauce, there’s a dish for every palate.

Beyond meat, the Cypriots cherish their olives, consumed in astonishing quantities and even embedded whole into fluffy buns. Among the cheeses, the versatile haloumi and anari hold sway; the former fried or baked into pastries, the latter savored at breakfast with a drizzle of honey.

For an authentic Cypriot dining experience within the castle walls, a visit to St. George Tavern is a must. Here, you’ll find traditional meze, home-style desserts, and refreshing lemonade, often accompanied by live music. Kathodon Greek Restaurant, popular among tourists and locals, dishes out delightful meze and souvlaki at the Ledra checkpoint.

A complete collection of typical Cypriot cuisine. Photo: Cyprus Tourism CH / Wikimedia.org

If you’re looking for an unconventional culinary adventure, Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro Nicosia in the CVAR museum and cultural center serves dishes that might initially seem peculiar, such as pita with salty cheese and sweet baked pears, or an orange muffin drenched in caramel. Rest assured, these are all classic Cypriot recipes.

The Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro Nicosia is the right place to go if you want to spend an evening with a glass of wine and taste unusual Cypriot cuisine. Photo: Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro Nicosia

For the best souvlaki in town, make a beeline for Piatsa Gourounaki, while Pyxida serves an irresistible array of fish meze and other seafood dishes. Craving for something sweet? Join the summer queue for Papafilipou’s famous ice cream. Other noteworthy eateries for brunch include The Silver Pot, The Boys at Number Five, and Get Fresh. The best part? You can get your favorites delivered via Foody or Wolt.

Venturing into the city’s northern part reveals a predominantly Turkish culinary scene with more modest prices. The Krubera cafe serves an excellent kebab and baklava duo, Kelebek restaurant perfects the doner, while Sabor specializes in European, mostly Spanish, fare. For coffee aficionados, Tipica, located on the first floor of a historic building in a tranquil street, offers excellent roasts. Alternatively, Ovis is an excellent spot to sip a coffee while catching up on work.

Ovis is a cool place to work on your laptop and drink coffee

Stay in Style: Nicosia’s Eclectic Accommodation Options

To truly absorb the essence of Nicosia, choosing accommodation within a leisurely stroll from the Old Town is recommended. While public transportation in Nicosia could use some sprucing up, cabs can be heavy on the pocket, and city center parking is akin to a strategic puzzle.

Poised a whisper away from the castle walls, MAP Boutique Hotel offers high-tech rooms and a complimentary breakfast at the in-house restaurant. Although the gym and spa require an additional fee, the price – starting from 190 euros (203.34$) per night – ensures an indulgent stay.

MAP Boutique Hotel

Within the vicinity, the more budget-friendly Urban Habitat Executive Suites beckons, with rates beginning at 60 Euros (64.21$) per room excluding breakfast. Their unique offering includes innovative capsule rooms available for just 18 euros (19.26$) per slot.

For a vibrant, communal stay, consider Nex Hostel, a mere 10-15 minute stroll from the Old Town. With dormitory beds priced at 25 euros (26.76$), it boasts a well-equipped kitchen, luminous rooms, and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic city views.

For a more cost-effective option, consider crossing over to the Turkish side where historic charm meets affordable prices. Nestled in the Old Town’s historic buildings, charming hotels like Valide Hanım Konak and Nicosia Eagle Eye sit on the fortress border, a brief ten-minute amble from the checkpoint. With rates from 45 euros (48.16$) per night, inclusive of breakfast, these intimate hotels exude a unique, atmospheric ambiance.

The newly restored Djumba, mindful of its historic interiors, is another intriguing addition to Nicosia’s vibrant hotel scene, offering guests a slice of history in its richly appointed rooms.

Photo: Nicosia Eagle Eye Boutique Hotel

Wandering Beyond Nicosia

Kakkaristras Canyon

Just ten kilometers from the bustling city of Nicosia lies the geological wonder that is Kakkaristras Canyon. Here, fossilized shells embedded in the slopes tell the intriguing tale of how Cyprus rose from the sea. About two million years ago, as the Troodos and Pentadactylos mountains emerged, rains eroded them, with sediment settling in the ocean and uniting the two islands that would become Cyprus. As a result, the area of the modern canyon morphed from a coastal region to a hilly plain, causing a sudden mass extinction of marine life whose fossil imprints are visible today. Take a leisurely hike through the canyon, but avoid the heat as the trail is open and unshaded.

On the slopes of Kakkaristras Canyon, layers of fossilized shells can be seen. From these findings, scientists study how the island of Cyprus manifested itself from the sea. Photo: Bioheresis.com

Reaching Kakkaristras by public transport involves a change of bus, from number 4 at Solomos Square to number 29 at Nicosia General Hospital, ending at the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute. The trip will cost around four euros (4.28$) one way, while a cab ride will set you back approximately 18 euros (19.26$).

Aes Ambelis Winery

Nestled 30 kilometers from Nicosia, the Aes Ambelis Winery encapsulates the essence of Cypriot viticulture. Tour the vineyards, learn about the fermentation and aging process, and then taste eleven different types of wine, including the famous dessert wine, Commandaria, in a tasting hall overlooking the mountains. Afterward, extend your journey with a nature walk along the beautiful Pikrovrisi Tis Merikas trail.

Near the winery Aes Ambelis begins a very beautiful nature trail Pikrovrisi Tis Merikas, where you can continue walking in mild weather. Photo: Pikrovrisi Tis Merikas

Petrides Farm Park

For a delightful family outing, the Petrides Farm Park, also 30 kilometers from Nicosia, beckons with two levels of fun. The upper level houses a zoo teeming with farm animals, while the lower level is a medley of indoor and outdoor playgrounds, rides, and cafes. Get hands-on with a pony, feed piglets, or watch goats having fun on a slide. Entrance costs four euros (4.28$).

Navigating Nicosia: Public Transport and Taxi

Just a few steps beyond the ancient city walls, the bus station hums with life as both city and intercity buses commence their daily routes. No matter how far you travel within the city, the fare is a flat two euros (2.14$), with buses adhering to a schedule that expands its intervals during weekends and holidays.

Just outside the walls of the old city there is a bus station, where city and intercity buses start their routes

However, city cabs come with a heftier price tag; a tour around the city will likely cost between 12-18 euros (12.84–19.26$). To hail a cab, we recommend the Bolt app. Keep in mind that like many of us, cab drivers also enjoy their off time outside work hours.

Tips

To ensure a seamless journey in Nicosia, here are some handy tips:

Festivities: The largest celebrations on the island are undoubtedly Christmas and Easter, with preparations commencing a month in advance and festivities spanning several days. Christmas, celebrated on December 25, is followed by Boxing Day on the 26th, with the city adorned in twinkling garlands, Santa Claus figures, and reindeer. However, don’t expect a white Christmas in the city; for that, you’ll have to venture into the mountains. December is rife with vibrant fairs, open houses, and parties, with gift exchanges a common practice.

Easter, in April, comes with long weekends, painting and hiding eggs, burning of the Judas effigy, and sumptuous post-Lenten feasts. Traditional treats like christopsomo bread, kurabiedes cookies, and vasilopita cake at Christmas, and flauna buns and zoureki at Easter, can be found in bakeries like Zorbas or Pandora.

Working Hours: In Cyprus, work and rest hours are distinctly defined, differing significantly from those US or UK. For instance, most pharmacies and clinics close on weekends (the Cyprus Pharmacy Guide app lists the duty pharmacy), while most Turkish-side museums remain shut on Sundays. During public holidays, nearly everything closes, excluding bakeries, many cafes, and small local stores, ensuring that no one goes without food. As most government offices and banks close post-lunch and many cafes only open in the evenings on weekdays, it’s wise to check the working hours of your destination before heading out.

Language: Besides their native Greek, many Greek Cypriots are conversant in English. However, don’t be surprised to hear a sprinkling of “ne” (yes), “daksi” (okay), and “siga-siga” (slowly) even when they’re speaking a foreign language.

Currency: The Greek part of Cyprus uses the Euro, while Northern Cyprus accepts both Euros and Turkish Liras.

The currency in the Greek part of Cyprus is the euro. In Northern Cyprus both euros and liras are accepted.

SIM-card: Cyprus boasts several mobile phone operators with similar tariffs. The easiest option for tourists is to purchase an eSIM, such as Airalo.

Best Time to Visit Cyprus: Navigating Seasons and Climates

Summer is the peak season for traveling to the Cypriot island, though it’s also when temperatures are at their zenith. From August to mid-September, temperatures regularly rise above 40 degrees Celsius during the day, providing no respite even as night descends. Therefore, when planning a summer vacation, it’s critical to opt for accommodations and dining spots that offer air conditioning, which may be hard to find, especially within the Old Town.

For a more comfortable getaway, consider traveling to Cyprus between May to July or late September to October. During these months, the island is still immersed in its bathing season, with the sea temperature hovering around a delightful 23 degrees Celsius, and daytime air temperatures reaching approximately 28 degrees. When night falls, temperatures remain mild, circling around 20 degrees Celsius.

However, if you opt for a winter visit to Cyprus, heating becomes a crucial factor in choosing accommodations, as sleeping in the chilly 10-degree nights can be uncomfortable. Yet, the island’s winter days are often pleasant for exploring, provided you manage to avoid the rainy days, which are quite common during this season.

From March to the end of April flowers bloom in Cyprus

Author: Tatyana Nurgalieva

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