City guide: Nicosia, Cyprus | Private jet charter
Nicosia is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus and located in the province of Lefkosia in the north of this beautiful Mediterranean island. The country (and city) divided between South Nicosia (Greek occupied) and the North Nicosia which has been controlled by Turkey since 1974. The border is relaxed, though. Just show your passport, and you can cross the Green Line checkpoint at Ledra Street and experience life in the Turkish part of the island. As well as offering visitors extraordinary archaeological sites and architecture, Nicosia is a thriving modern metropolis with world-class museums, art galleries, pristine beaches, fabulous cafes and restaurants, and markets and retail to explore. Here are five Nicosia attractions to visit during your stay in the Cypriot capital.
Nicosia Old Town
You can easily spend an entire day exploring Nicosia’s delightful Old Town. For superb views and to get your bearings, head to the Shacolas Tower Museum and Observatory on Ledra Street – the main shopping and restaurant area. Ledra Street leads to the border with Turkey and North Nicosia and is worth exploring. But we recommend taking a detour into the surrounding alleyways to get an authentic experience of Nicosia’s Old Town. The architecture here is breath-taking: Ottoman mansions alongside the Omeriye Mosque, as well as the oldest church in Nicosia – the Panagia Chrysaliniotissa. Stop for strong coffee at Hurricane tea shop and authentic Cypriot food at Chandris on Pericleous Street. Then make your way into North Nicosia visiting the Büyük Han – an extraordinary Ottoman-era inn and courtyard – Arasta Sokak, and the Mevlevi Museum which has displays on the Sufis.
Don’t miss this beautiful museum on aptly named Museum Street. Thanks to numerous archaeological digs on the island, the Cyprus Museum is heaving with Ancient Greek antiquities dating from the Stone Age to the Byzantine era. Relics from the ancient tombs at Salamis are here, as well as other fascinating artefacts. Head to Room 1 for the Neolithic section; Room 2 has Bronze Age marvels, with Myceanaen treasures in Room 3. Figures, including warriors and minotaurs from Ayia Irini, are in Room 4, while the museums‘ sculptures are mainly found in Rooms 5 and 6. There are 14 rooms in total – all celebrating the rich cultural heritage of Cyprus
Nicosia’s circular Venetian Walls and 80m-wide moat were first built in 1567 to ward off invaders. Sadly the country was besieged only three years later by the Ottomans and many more times since then. Yet incredibly the walls have survived mostly intact. Five of the Venetian Wall’s heart-shaped bastions are located in South Nicosia, with a couple in the Turkish northern sector. In addition to these ancient city walls, Nicosia has three gates: Paphos, Famagusta and Kyrenia – all are worth visiting. The former moat around the walls is now used for concerts, sports events, public gardens and even car parks. A delightful and relaxing way to explore Nicosia on foot.
Nicosia Markets and shopping
Shopping in Nicosia is an Aladdin’s cave of pure magic. You’ll find the capital’s main shopping on Ledra Street, Onasagorou Street and the surrounding area. Follow these thoroughfares to the narrow alleys of the Old Town with its charming boutiques and cafes. Department stores tend to be located on Makariou Avenue, and there’s even a Debenhams and Marks and Spencer here. Stasikratous Street – parallel to Makarios Avenue – is the place to indulge in designer shopping in the area’s luxury stores. Nicosia also has a regular flea market on Yianni Koromia with over 60 vendors. And don’t miss the OCHI farmer’s market held around the Ottoman Bayraktar Mosque every Wednesday and Saturday. The freshest of seasonal, local produce is on sale here – as well as the uber strong Cypriot coffee brewed in its traditional copper pot.
Confusingly, 13th-century Selimiye Mosque – Nicosia’s main mosque – was formerly the Cathedral of Saint Sophia which explains its Gothic architecture and flying buttresses. Work began on building the cathedral during the Crusades, but the structure was never completed. During the 1500s, the island was occupied by the Ottomans who added the towering minarets and removed all traces of Christian relics. Selimiye Mosque is the burial place for many Cypriot rulers and contains four marble columns from the ancient site of Salamis – the most visited historical site in Northern Nicosia.
Getting Around Nicosia
The closest commercial airport to Nicosia is Ercan International Airport (ECN) situated in the Turkish occupied territory around 8 miles east of Nicosia. Taxis, a shuttle bus and intercity transport will connect you to the capital. Alternatively, fly into Larnaca International Airport (LCA), some 49km south of Nicosia. Taxis are plentiful here and take around 30 minutes to drive to Nicosia central. Alternatively, jump on the Kapnos airport shuttle bus which runs 24/7. The stop is outside arrivals; exit by the Upper Departure level and take a left. There are several car hire companies at Larnaca airport – the journey time to Nicosia via the A1 and A2 is usually under an hour in good traffic. Once in Nicosia, both north and south sectors of the capital are easily explored on foot or by taxi.
Best Time to Visit Nicosia
The best months to visit Nicosia are generally between April and November which offer good sunshine levels and little rainfall (usually!). The city experiences two climates: Mediterranean and semi-arid with an average annual temperature of 24C.
The coldest months in Nicosia tend to be January and February, with the most rain experienced in January and December.
Why Visit Nicosia
Nicosia is the world’s last divided capital city which makes for a fascinating exploration of Turkish and Greek cultures. Explore the famous Famagusta Gate – once part of the city’s three ancient entrances it is now a popular cultural centre. Nicosia’s museums are world-class, including the Byzantine Museum and the Mevlevi museum. The Venetian Walls protecting the Old City are a beautiful reminder of Nicosia’s military past, while the city has stunning beaches such as Coral Bay. Alongside its Mediterranean climate, visitors to Nicosia are guaranteed fabulous food, a vibrant historical legacy and very warm welcome.