12 Reasons Why You Should Get Lost in Nicosia, Cyprus

Enjoy fresh air and nature in Nicosia
Enjoy fresh air and nature in Nicosia | © dimitrisvetsikas1969 / Pixabay
Photo of Maureen Murori
Writer26 April 2018

From superb beaches to beautiful landscapes, through to delicious cuisine and a vibrant cultural scene, Nicosia in Cyprus is the place to visit if you want a truly remarkable Mediterranean experience. If you’re planning a trip, here’s our pick of the top things to see and do in town.

Enjoy a free city tour

You don’t have to pay to enjoy a tour in Nicosia. The city’s tourism department and licensed tour guides take visitors beyond the gates of the city into traditional neighbourhoods in scheduled excursions in small city buses free of charge. You will get out of the bus and explore some neighbourhoods on foot.

Your guide will give you valuable insights that you could never hope to get from any travel magazine, notably about Cyprus’s vibrant politics, especially the Green Line. The tours are offered on either side of the buffer zone dividing south from north Cyprus. Check with the relevant offices for suitable days and times.

Explore the old town which has some ancient structures that tell the story of its early inhabitants | © dimitrisvetsikas1969 / Pixabay

Walk in the Old City

You will find most of Nicosia’s sites in the Old City – take a walk here to see the picturesque star-shaped wall that surrounds the city. The fact that a number of buildings are dilapidated and crumbling only adds to the ‘old’ feel that highlights the city’s ancient history.

Enjoy traditional Cypriot cuisine

Due to its unique location, Cypriot cuisine has Southern European, Middle East, and Balkan influences. You will also find Arabic, Turkish, and Greek as well as international dishes here.

Watch an emotionally-charged whirling dervish performance

Immerse yourself in Nicosia’s culture by going to a whirling dervish performance, an emotionally-charged Sufi-Islam spectacle. Watching the dancers whirl, you would think they will end up tumbling on the ground out of dizziness. On the contrary, the end is as majestic as the beginning, or even better. You can find them at the Mevlevi Tekke or the Selimiye Square.

An emotionally-charged whirling dervishes performance | © Vladimer Shioshvili / Flickr

Visit St. Hilarion Castle

Spend an hour of your time in Nicosia at the St. Hilarion Castle and explore the fragmented walls, towers, and stairways in this culturally and historically significant site.

Take a bath at Hamam Omerye

Your visit to Nicosia is not complete until you have taken a traditional Ottaman bath, and the best place to do it is the Hamam Omerye, which was donated by Lala Mustafa Pasha. You can also get spa treatments here.

Relax at the Athalassa National Forest Park

Take some time off your schedule to relax at the Athalassa National Forest Park, the biggest green area in the city. You could cycle, picnic or simply walk. Spend your spare time here to relax and plan for your next destination.

Enjoy Cypriot coffee

No visit to Nicosia is complete without the traditional and very strong Cypriot coffee in a street-side cafe. Whatever your taste, sweetened, medium or unsweetened, this local beverage goes well with local sweets such as baklava.

Enjoy a cup of local coffee with traditional sweets | © Glavo / Pixabay

Have a drink at the Pivo Microbrewery

The Pivo Microbrewery in the heart of Nicosia offers a selection of beers including pilsner, American IPA, dark lager, and Bavarian Weiss. Ever wanted to have your beer straight from the maturation tank? Then Pivo Microbrewery is where you should go to quench your desire.

Shop until you drop

Nicosia has great variety when it comes to shopping, from the traditional shopping district on Ledra Street and its sidestreets where you can buy shoes, shawls, fabrics, and jewellery, to big chains like Zara and Marks and Spencer on Makariou Avenue.

Learn about the history of Nicosia in the many museums

Nicosia has been continuously inhabited for some 4,500 years. If you want to learn about Nicosia and its vibrant history, pay a visit to the many museums found here. The Cyprus Museum gives you a glimpse of Cypriot archaeology from as far back as the 9th millennium BCE. The Byzantine Museum has one of the biggest and best Orthodox icons collections as well as other artworks, mostly from the 9th to 16th centuries. The Leventis Municipal Museum – the 1991 European Museum of the Year recipient – has amazing exhibits from as far back as 2300 BC. Other museums worth visiting are the Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre, the Ledra Observatory Museum, and the Cyprus Classic Motorcycle Museum. If you are into classic motorcycles, this space hosts machines from as far back as 1914.

Sculptures displayed at the Cyprus Museum, Nicosia | © Sergey Galyonkin / Flickr

Take in the ancient places of worship

There are several ancient worship places in Nicosia, among them the Cathedral Church of St Ioannis where you can find spectacular paintings including The Doubting of Saint Thomas. Many of the paintings found here are unique to Cyprus. Other religious spots of note include Panagia Chrysaliniotissa, which is the 15th century Byzantine church; the 16th century Araplar Mosque; and the Omerye Mosque, which was originally an Augustinian church.

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