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Top 10 Things to do in Nicosia

Our Top Ten things to do in Nicosia - Don't leave until you've experienced the best Nicosia has to offer

Nicosia lies in the hot, dry centre of Cyprus and due to the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island is the world’s only divided city. It’s the island’s commercial and cultural hub and is a great place to shop.
1 Shopping in Laiki Geitonia
 Shopping in Laiki Geitonia
This area of the city in the old town has narrow winding alleys filled with traditional restaurants, art galleries and boutiques nestled between traditional houses typical of the colonial urban architecture of the island. For browsing in a bohemian atmosphere, full of the sights and sounds of the Eastern Mediterranean, an afternoon is well spent here. The renovation of the area earned it the ‘Golden Apple’ award from travel writers, preserving its character whilst making it accessible to all.

2 The Cyprus Museum
The Cyprus Museum
The largest and considered to be the best museum on the island, the Cyprus Museum charts the history of the island from the Neolithic era 7000 BC to the end of the Roman occupation in 395 AD. The collection varies with the time period but includes, terracotta bowls, porcelain figures and statues including the famous Aphrodite of Soloi from the first century AD. Also of interest are the collections of jewellery and coins from the periods. There are many reconstructions which give the visitor more of an idea of life at the time including a royal tomb from Salamis.

3 Cross the Border to Northern Cyprus
Cross the Border to Northern Cyprus
Crossing the border used to be frowned upon by the authorities but the opening and renovation of the Ledra Street crossing now makes a trip into the northern part of the city much easier.
Almost immediately you’ll be hit by the ‘third world’ feel of the place with dirty dilapidated streets and the air of poverty that pervades many of the people. Sights to see include the Buyuk Han former caravanserai, now galleried shops and cafes and the Selima Mosque, formerly Nicosia’s St Sophia Cathedral.

4 Walk the Venetian City Walls
 Walk the Venetian City Walls
Extending 4.5kms around the city, these impressive battlements punctuated by eleven bastions and three gates give good views over parts of the city. Built by the Venetians in the 16th century they were designed to protect against Arab attacks on the city. The capital of the island had already been moved inland to protect the country from coastal raiders but in the 15th and 16th centuries the attackers became bolder and started moving inland.

5 Famagusta Gate
Famagusta Gate
Now housing the Municipal Cultural Centre, Famagusta Gate was originally a long tunnel built by the Venetians that led into the city via a wooden gate. Virtually identical to the gate at Iraklion on Crete it is a typical example of Venetian architecture from the time. Completely renovated in the eighties, the main area now forms a hall for exhibitions and concerts. A smaller room regularly hosts art exhibitions. The area around the gate has followed the theme and is now an artist’s district, well worth a visit.

6 Mesaorian Plain
Mesaorian Plain
Nicosia is built at the northern end of the Mesaorian Plain, the last geological feature to rise from the sea in the formation of Cyprus. It’s worth visiting at different times of year for the variety of vistas it offers. In springtime, it is green and carpeted with wild flowers, reminiscent of an alpine meadow then, months later it is transformed into a searingly hot dustpan. Years ago a visit to the plain would have seen camel trains crossing, what is effectively a desert in summer, taking fruit from the coastal regions and salt from Akrotiri and Larnaca.

7 Archbishop Makarios Cultural Centre (The Icon Museum)
Archbishop Makarios Cultural Centre (The Icon Museum)
The centre, founded by the late Archbishop Makarios holds the largest and most valuable collection of icons in Cyprus. One hundred and fifty exhibits span twelve centuries from the 800s to the last century. The collection is fascinating, not just for its beauty and religious significance but also for the way the icons display the changing forms of the art over the centuries. Notable examples are Elijah being fed by ravens and Mary holding the dead body of Christ. The museum also holds the 6th century mosaics stolen from the Panayia Kankaria church in the Turkish occupied north but returned following a lengthy court battle. You can sometimes visit the Archbishop’s Palace where in the Archbishop’s bedroom, the heart of Makarios is stored.

8 Cathedral of St John
 Cathedral of St John
A small, insignificant cathedral housing stunning paintings depicting biblical scenes including a magnificent picture of the Last Judgement above the entrance. The ceiling is completely covered in exceptional work by the 18th century artist Filaretos. There is a marble bust commemorating the sacrifice of Archbishop Kyprianos who was hanged by the Turks in retaliation for an outbreak of Greek nationalism. He is also famous for founding Cyprus’ prestigious high school, the Pancyprian Gymnasium.

9 Ömeriye Mosque
Ömeriye Mosque
The largest mosque in southern Cyprus, it is used by resident Muslims as a place of worship. Originally the Church of St Mary, it was converted to a mosque after the town was captured by the Turks led by Lala Mustapha Pasha in the 16th century. It is open for visitors but please respect Islamic customs by removing shoes before entering. Once inside you can see the remains of Gothic tombstones used as building material in the floor of the mosque and can climb to the top of the minaret for stunning views across the city.

10 Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios House
Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios House
For a glimpse of life in Ottoman Cyprus it’s well worth a visit to this building in the street of the same name. It was owned by a dragoman, the liaison between Greek residents of Cyprus and their Turkish rulers. Despite doing a good job for the Turks he was arrested and executed by them. The house received a Europa Nostra Prize for the sensitivity of its restoration and is set out as it would have been in Turkish occupation times. There are Anatolian style columns in the house and Islamic lattice work decoration. The walls are covered with carpets and kilims and the building also has its own hammam – a Turkish bath. There is a small ethnological museum that can be visited too.

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