Nicosia, known locally as Lefkosia, is the Capital city of Cyprus, and has the dubious honour of being the only divided city in the world. (With the possible exception of Jerusalem.) The Greek southern portion of the city draws more tourists than the Turkish occupied Northern section. A UN patrolled demilitarised buffer zone separates them, and transition between can be troublesome, although technically legal for EU citizens. Nicosia has managed to retain an authentic Cypriot character as it hasn't received the influx of tourists that the Coastal resorts have. Despite this, it is worth wandering through the narrow streets of the old city and enjoying the museums, churches and local arts and crafts.


The old town, enclosed by walls built by the Ventians in the 16th century is the best place to start an exploration of the city. Throughout the centuries, Cyprus has seen a variety of conquests, and the architecture of this area reflects the richness and diversity of its various populations. Byzantine, Venetian, Greek, Ottoman and other styles blend to form a distinctive and attractive set of labyrinthine streets. Where modern work has been done, it is tasteful and in keeping with the sense of history the area possesses. While exploring the area, it is best to remain on foot. Only then can you fully experience the saturation of history and culture. It also keeps you out of the way of the city's occasionally manic motorists.

Nicosia boasts a set of intriguing museums that deal with the various stages of the island's tumultuous history.

Displaying a variety of artefacts from the island's ancient history (Neolithic to Roman), the Cyprus Museum is located just outside the town walls and costs £1.50 (Cypriot pounds) for an adult entrance.

The Byzantine Museum is part of the archbishop's palace, and houses the island's largest collection of religious icons.

The Leventis Municipal Museum is arranged so that the visitor starts in modern day Nicosia, and gradually travels back through historical periods to the Chalcolithic period (3000BC). The museum's collection includes photographs, costume, pottery, jewels, furniture and many other objects. The museum occasionally holds exhibitions and lectures on the history of Nicosia. This museum won 'European Museum of the Year' in 1991. It is located within the city walls next to Eleftheria square.

Although 25 miles NE of Nicosia, the village of Ficardou is worth a visit to anyone with an interest in rural history. Much of the village has been preserved in its original state from the 18th Century. The Houses of Katsinioros and Achilleas Dimitri are the most popular in the village, and have parts dating back to the 16th century. Walking through this perfectly preserved village is like taking a step back in time.

Other museums worth a mention, with a political aspect, are 'The National Struggle Musuem' which revives the uprising against the British Empire in the 1950's,'Museum of Barbarism' which commemorates the violence between Turkish and Greek partisans in the 1960's from the Turkish point of view.

The Famagusta gate is in the walls of the old town, and was one of the 3 main entrances to the city. This is a wonderful example of Venetian architecture and its restoration won the 'Europa Nostra' award. It is in the vicinity of several small Greek Orthodox churches. Mosques dating from the Ottoman occupation may be found in the north of the city.

The Nicosia Municipality offer free tours of the Old city, which take in the different aspects of the city's 6000 year history. Each group is accompanied by a qualified English speaking tour guide. These walks are 2 hours 45 minutes long and are on foot, so sensible footwear is essential. They leave from the Cyprus Tourism Information centre in the 'Laika Geitonia' and are available throughout the whole year.


The historical heart of the old town is Eleftheria (freedom) square. This contains public buildings such as the library and post office. This square leads onto the Ledra, which is Nicosia's main commercial street. It contains familiar British chain brands such as Marks and Spencer, Woolworths and Body Shop. For more rustic wares, one should venture down the narrow streets that lead off from the Ledra. Here you will find artisans plying their trade in a traditional environment. Carpentry, pottery and other local crafts are available from family businesses and make for a refreshing change to malls and high streets dominated by chain stores.

Nightlife and Eating Out

The night life in Nicosia may be a little quiet in comparison to the resort towns of southern Cyprus. There are a variety of Café's and restaurants serving local cuisine. This usually consists of meze, which is a Turkish / Eastern Mediterranean version of tapas. Typically these are small servings of seafood, vegetables or cheese. Other restaurants are available, serving Italian, Indian and French food. Many of Nicosia's best eating establishments (particularly the ones frequented by the locals) don't open their doors until 8 or after, so don't be surprised if you're wandering around looking for an early dinner and nothing seems to be open.

Tourist Information


Nicosia's international airport has been shut since the Turkish invasion of Northen Cyprus in 1974. There is good road and rail access from the rest of Southern Cyprus, with most tourists arriving from the airports of Larnacna or Limassol.