Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, is a place of rich history and cultural significance. Known as the last divided capital in the world, Nicosia is the southeasternmost of all EU member states’ capitals and has been continuously inhabited for over 4,500 years.
The city’s history is marked by its strategic importance, with influences from various civilizations including the Byzantines, Venetians, and Ottomans. Today, Nicosia is not only a political center but also the financial capital of the island, boasting a rich blend of architectural styles and cultural heritage.
The city’s division, marked by the Green Line, remains a poignant symbol of the ongoing political complexities in the region, with the northern part recognized only by Turkey. The city’s unique geographical position, historical significance, and vibrant urban life make it a fascinating destination for travelers seeking to explore the multifaceted nature of Cyprus.
Table of Contents
Attractions and Things to do in Nicosia
1. Selimiye Mosque (St. Sophia Cathedral)
The Selimiye Mosque, originally known as St. Sophia Cathedral, is a prominent historical site in Nicosia. Built during the rule of the House of Lusignan, it exemplifies Gothic architecture. After the Ottoman conquest, it was converted into a mosque.
Travel Tip: Visitors are welcome to explore the mosque, but it’s essential to dress modestly and observe the customs of the mosque, especially during prayer times.
2. Venetian Walls of Nicosia
The Venetian Walls of Nicosia are well-preserved fortifications built in 1567 by the Venetians. The walls took the shape of a star with eleven bastions, designed for better control and defense.
Travel Tip: Walking tours are available to explore the walls and learn about their history. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
3. Famagusta Gate
Famagusta Gate is one of the three gates in the Venetian Walls of Nicosia. Built in 1567, it serves as a historical reminder of the city’s past and is now used as a cultural center hosting exhibitions and events.
Travel Tip: Check the local event schedule to catch a cultural event or exhibition at the gate during your visit.
4. Buyuk Han
The Buyuk Han, or Great Inn, is a historical caravanserai and a significant example of Ottoman architecture. It has been restored and is now a thriving cultural center with shops, galleries, and cafes.
Travel Tip: Spend some time exploring the shops and galleries, and don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a traditional Cypriot coffee in one of the cafes.
5. Leventis Municipal Museum
The Leventis Municipal Museum is dedicated to the history of Nicosia and offers a comprehensive overview of the city’s past through various exhibits and artifacts.
Travel Tip: Allow a few hours to explore the museum, and consider taking a guided tour for a more in-depth understanding of Nicosia’s history.
6. Ledra Street
Ledra Street is a bustling shopping street in Nicosia, known for its shops, cafes, and vibrant atmosphere. It’s also significant for being a crossing point between the Greek and Turkish parts of the city.
Travel Tip: Enjoy shopping and dining along Ledra Street, and be mindful of the border crossing procedures if you plan to cross to the other side of the city.
Unique Activities in Nicosia
1. Sherlock Holmes Murder Mystery Game
Dive into a thrilling murder mystery game set in Nicosia. Play the role of a detective and solve the intriguing case of a murder inspired by Sherlock Holmes. This activity offers an engaging and interactive experience, allowing you to explore the city while solving puzzles and riddles.
Day Trips from Nicosia
1. Kyrenia (Girne)
Nestled on the northern coast, Kyrenia boasts a picturesque harbor and a historic castle, offering a glimpse of Cyprus’s rich history. Discover the Shipwreck Museum inside the castle, which showcases one of the oldest shipwrecks ever recovered.
Travel tip: The coastal road to Kyrenia offers panoramic sea views; consider renting a car for flexibility in exploring this scenic route.
2. Troodos Mountains
Experience the lush landscapes of the Troodos Mountains, where winding roads lead to traditional villages, Byzantine churches, and monasteries. In the heart of these mountains lies the Kykkos Monastery, known for its opulent golden decorations and historical significance.
Travel tip: Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring a jacket, as temperatures can be cooler in the mountains compared to the coastal areas.
The city of Larnaca boasts beautiful beaches and the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque, a significant pilgrimage site sitting by a salt lake. Dive enthusiasts can explore the famous Zenobia shipwreck, one of the top dive sites in the world.
Travel tip: If visiting during winter months, you might be lucky enough to witness the migration of flamingos at the salt lake. Don’t forget your camera!
Where to stay in Nicosia
Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus, offers a wide range of accommodation options, catering to various preferences and budgets. With 188 hotels available, visitors can choose from luxurious 5-star hotels to budget-friendly options. Whether you’re traveling for business, leisure, or a romantic getaway, Nicosia’s hotels provide comfort, elegance, and convenience. The city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and strategic location make it a popular destination for tourists and business travelers alike.
1. Best Reviewed Hotel
MAP Boutique Hotel (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Located in Nicosia, MAP Boutique Hotel provides express check-in and check-out, allergy-free rooms, a fitness center, and free WiFi.
- Price: €167 per night
- Rating: 9.4 (Superb)
2. Most Luxurious Hotel
Hilton Nicosia (★ ★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: Conveniently located in the center of Nicosia City, Hilton Nicosia offers top-notch service, comfort, and amenities.
- Price: €152 per night
- Rating: 8.5 (Very good)
3. Budget Hotel
Delphi Hotel (★ ★)
- Description: Delphi Hotel is conveniently located in the center of Nicosia, right across the square of Solomon and the central bus station, offering air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi.
- Price: €75 per night
- Rating: 7.5 (Good)
4. Hotel for Family
Centrum Hotel – City Center (★ ★ ★)
- Description: Excellently located in the center of Nicosia, Centrum Hotel offers elegant and spacious accommodation with free WiFi and a buffet breakfast served in an open-air terrace.
- Price: €88 per night
- Rating: 8.4 (Very good)
5. Hotel for Couples
Cleopatra Hotel (★ ★ ★ ★)
- Description: In the heart of Nicosia, the 4-star Cleopatra Hotel offers stylish accommodation, a lounge bar, two restaurants, a fully equipped gym, a Ballroom, meeting rooms, and a swimming pool.
- Price: €84 per night
- Rating: 7.3 (Good)
6. Hotel for Solo Travelers
NEX Hostel (★)
- Description: NEX Hostel offers quiet accommodation, warm showers, lively common terrace accessible from each room, charging point, and individual light for each bed.
- Price: €21 per night
- Rating: 9.0 (Superb)
Did you know? Facts about Nicosia
- Nicosia is the divided capital city of the Republic of Cyprus and the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, regarded as the last divided capital in the world.
- The city has been continuously inhabited for over 4,500 years and has been the capital of Cyprus since the 10th century.
- In 1567, the Venetians built the new fortifications of Nicosia, which are well-preserved to this day, taking the shape of a star with eleven bastions.
- On 1 July 1570, the city came under the rule of the Ottomans, and the siege led to the death of some 20,000 residents and extensive looting.
- Nicosia was the seat of the Pasha, the Greek Archbishop, the Dragoman, and the Qadi during the Ottoman rule, with significant cultural influences from both Greek and Turkish traditions.
- The city came under British rule on 5 July 1878, and the Venetian Column, erected around 1550, was restored in 1915 in the middle of Saray Square.
- Nicosia was divided into Greek and Turkish Cypriot quarters with the Green Line in 1963, a division that still exists today.
- On 3 April 2008, the Ledra Street crossing was reopened, allowing movement between the Greek and Turkish parts of the city for the first time since 1974.
- From 30 October 2016, Nicosia became the only capital city in the world that had two time zones, though this was later reverted.
- Nicosia has a hot semi-arid climate, and on 4 September 2020, the city recorded a temperature of 46.2 °C (115.2 °F), the highest temperature ever recorded in Cyprus.
FAQ about Nicosia
What is the Climate Like in Nicosia, Cyprus?
Nicosia has a hot semi-arid climate with long, hot, dry summers and mild winters. Most of the rainfall occurs in winter, and snow accumulation is rare. The highest temperature ever recorded in Nicosia was 46.2 °C (115.2 °F).
What Historical Sites Can I Visit in Nicosia?
Nicosia is rich in history, and visitors can explore sites like the Venetian walls, St. Sophia Cathedral (now the Selimiye Mosque), Famagusta Gate, and the remains of the old city-state of Ledra.
How is Nicosia Divided, and Can I Cross Between the Parts?
Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world, separated into Greek and Turkish Cypriot quarters by the Green Line. There are crossing points like the Ledra Palace and Ledra Street crossings that allow movement between the areas.
What is the Time Zone in Nicosia?
Nicosia follows the Eastern European Time (EET) zone, with UTC+2 as the standard time and UTC+3 during Daylight Saving Time (EEST).
What are the Main Economic Activities in Nicosia?
Nicosia is the financial capital of Cyprus and a major international business center. Apart from its legislative and administrative functions, the city is known for trading agricultural goods and producing luxury items and metalware.
How Can I Explore the Venetian Walls of Nicosia?
The Venetian walls of Nicosia, built in 1567, are well-preserved and form a star shape with eleven bastions. You can explore the walls and visit the three gates: Kyrenia Gate, Paphos Gate, and Famagusta Gate.
What is the Population of Nicosia?
As of 2016, the population of Nicosia was approximately 55,014 in the South and 61,378 in the North, with urban areas including additional municipalities.
What Languages are Spoken in Nicosia, Cyprus?
The main languages spoken in Nicosia are Greek and Turkish, reflecting the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. English is also widely understood and spoken, especially in tourist areas.