Welcome to Nicosia, Cyprus!
Nestled in the far corners of the Mediterranean, Cyprus is a treasure trove of history and a land full of natural beauty. An ancient city that holds a history dating back over 4500 years ago, Nicosia has developed into a modern, sprawling metropolis. After landing in Nicosia International Airport, most tourists overlook the capital city and would rather head to one of the coastal towns packed with energetic nightlife and a seaside allure, but they miss out on the city’s captivating sights and sounds. As a result, Nicosia has retained an authentic local feel that worldwide locals can immerse themselves into. This is an insider’s guide to Nicosia.
Explore the Divided City
One thing to know about Nicosia is that it is the last divided capital in the world, with a Greek Cyprus to the south and a Turkish to the north. Seeing two different countries in one city is a fascinating sight, differing cultures separated by a couple of meters of no man’s land. In the heart of the city is a shopping street lined with global brands and local boutique shops. Ledra Street seems to be a normal shopping epicenter of a city, but the pedestrian street leads you to the imposing barricade that served as a UN buffer zone seemingly out of nowhere. It serves as a stark reminder of the country’s complicated past that is slowly healing. Pedestrians can freely cross borders, with tensions easing in the area. If you are crossing between borders don’t forget to bring your passport!
Worldwide Local Tip: Sample the local craft beer at the Pivo Microbrewery, the sole brewpub in Nicosia. A family operated business ran by 3 brothers who took a pilgrimage to the Czech Republic to perfect their craft. Using local ingredients, the menu rotates to include seasonal ingredients and brewing conditions. Situated in a charming old manor house, the wooden decorations and stone arches provide a rustic, local feel.
Feel the Strength of the City at Famagusta Gate
Visit the remnants of a Venetian fortification in the heart of the city. The 3-kilometer walls were built by the Venetians to protect the city from Ottoman invasion and is mostly still intact with the Famagusta Gate as the cultural centerpiece of the ruins. The ruins have been turned into a cultural center holding significant exhibits and local performances.
Worldwide Local Tip: Locals love to laze around cafes in the midst of the scorching heat of the Nicosia weather. Hide away in one of Nicosia’s more quirky cafes and knock back a zesty cocktail or a refreshing beer. The Pieto Cafe is tucked in a pedestrian alleyway and can be easily missed, but its leafy interior design and a chill atmosphere will surely cool you down and make you glad you didn’t walk by.
Art and Culture in Nicosia
In Nicosia, time stands still when you view a cultural show at the Mevlevi Tekke, in the Turkish north of Nicosia. Head here to watch a Dervish performance. Usually lasting around 30 minutes, Dervishes wearing long white robes and cylindrical hats spin on the spot to hypnotizing music and vocals. In a mesmerizing display of local tradition, the performers use the whirling movements as a form of meditation that is connected to the Sufi form of Islam.
Worldwide Local Tip: A delicious and inexpensive way to taste your way around Nicosia is by grabbing a souvlakia or a gyro from one of the many local, family-run kebab houses. A hearty wrap stuffed with grilled meat and salad, with one serving being enough to be a full meal.
Have a Wonderful Time in Nicosia!
Basking under the perpetual sunlight of the southern Mediterranean, Nicosia is a hidden gem amongst popular beach and party destinations. A city without the crowds of tourists, worldwide locals can share stories with Nicosia’s residents where a tale of two cities becomes one memorable experience.