14 Unique Attractions In Nicosia, Cyprus

The Cypriot capital Nicosia is divided into two halves. The southern half of Nicosia (also called Lefkosia) belongs to the Republic of Cyprus, while North Nicosia (also known as Lefkoşa) is the capital of the non-UN-recognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

Nicosia Attractions

Nicosia Top Sights! Since 2003, the ability to visit both sides of the city has been greatly relaxed, and getting to Northern Cyprus and back requires just a quick pass with your passport as you walk along the green line of Ledra Street that divides the old quarter of the city in two.

This means Nicosia is a fantastic base for discovering the historic sites and tourist attractions to the north of the city, such as the fairytale castle of Agios Hilarion and the extensive ruins of Ancient Salamina.

To help you plan your time, here’s a list of the top attractions in Nicosia.

NICOSIA-Aerial travel guide cyprus visit

1. Cyprus Museum

This extremely well-kept museum should be at the top of your list of things to do if you’re interested in learning about the island’s ancient history. Its extensive collection of artifacts ranges from the Neolithic period to the Byzantine era.

Room 1 contains excavated finds from the Neolithic period, including a large number of steatite figurines. Room Two covers the Bronze Age, with many vases and jugs decorated with several adorable animals. Room Three displays Mycenaean artifacts from Ancient Curium .

Head to Room Four to see the highlights of the museum: a collection of votive figures (including Minotaurs, warriors and charioteers) from 7-6 BC, found at Agia Irini, near Morphou.

Rooms Five and Six are sculpture galleries with objects from a wide range of periods, while Room Seven contains a limestone female statue from Soli and a huge bronze statue of the emperor Septimus Severus.

Continue to Room Eight for exhibits of bronze tools and various weapons, as well as some statues of gods. The tiny stone seals are interesting, as are the Egyptian amulets and the green god from Egomi.

You will find representations of rock-cut tombs (2500 BC – 400 BC) together with the objects found in them, votive inscriptions and other grave goods in Rooms Nine and 10.

Then check out the marble statues from Salamis in Room 13 and the terracotta figurines in Room 14 before heading for the exit.

Address: 1 Museum Avenue

Nicosia Travel Guide Cyprus Top Things To Do

2. Venetian Fortifications

One of the most striking features of Nicosia is the impressive Venetian walls that surround the old city. Although significantly crumbling, much of their original three-kilometre length is still in place.

Famagusta Gate is the best preserved and is decorated with numerous coats of arms. The passage here leads out of the old town into the empty moat of the old town.

The Paphos Gate and the Rokas Bastion next to it are more interesting for their role in modern history. Here the UN neutral zone between the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus is reduced to less than 200 metres, and until 2003, this was the only place on the island where Greek and Turkish Cypriots could come together.

Today, the flags of all four countries in the unresolved dispute (Greece, the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey and North Cyprus) fly here as a reminder of the suffering of this island.

3. Büyük Han

Built in 1572, it is an excellently preserved example of the architecture of that period. They were used as accommodation and storage facilities for merchants as they passed through the town, often including stabling facilities for their horses (or camels) and sometimes recreational facilities such as restaurants and hammams (Turkish baths).

Büyük Han has been restored to its former glory, with the former bedrooms now housing a variety of shops, cafes and local craft studios, an ideal place for shopping. It is located in North Nicosia, a short walk from the green line of Ledra Street.

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus

4. Makarios Cultural Foundation: The Byzantine Museum

For anyone interested in Cypriot religious works of art, the Byzantine Museum located at the Makarios Cultural Foundation is an important stop in the city. Here, you will find a stunning collection (220 pieces) of Christian icons ranging in age from the beginning of the Byzantine era to the 19th century.

However, for many people with a special interest in this artwork, the highlight of the museum is the Kanakaria mosaics on display. These important works of art were stolen from a church on the Karpas peninsula after the Turkish invasion in 1974. In a story that could have come straight out of an art world thriller novel, involving art dealers and an Interpol operation, they were returned to the Republic of Cyprus in 1991.

5. Selimye Mosque

The most recognizable landmark in North Nicosia, the Selimye Mosque began life as the Church of St. Sophia and was completed after a 78-year construction process in 1326. It was converted into a mosque by the 16th century, when the Ottomans took control of the island.

This fusion of ornate medieval church architecture and the simplicity of the mosque’s design has created a fascinating site with the soaring interior of this typically Gothic structure whitewashed and all icon details long since removed.

If you want to enter, bring a headscarf (for women) and dress modestly (no shorts or off-the-shoulder tops). The mosque is a five-minute walk from the green line on Ledra Street.

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus

6. Leventis Museum

Recently renovated, the Leventis Museum of Nicosia is housed in a beautiful mansion in the old town and presents the history of Nicosia through a carefully selected collection of ethnographic exhibits and artefacts. For history buffs, this is not to be missed and the museum won European Museum of the Year for its superbly curated exhibits that trace the city’s long and eventful past.

Among the exhibitions, you’ll find artefacts dating from 2300 BC to the Ottoman and colonial eras, with some of the most fascinating exhibits being the wonderful traditional costumes on display.

The museum also helps you understand the impact of British rule on Cyprus and the modern history of the city with the division of the island in 1974.

7. Old Town

Wandering around the old town of Nicosia is a delight.

Ledras Street is the main road through the old town and is full of cafes, restaurants and shops, leading right up to the green line of Ledras Street towards North Nicosia. To explore the northern part of the old town, you will need to bring your passport to pass through here.

Pass by Ledras Street in the alleys to see the Ottoman mansion architecture of the Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios House (20 Patriarch Gregory Street), who was the island’s dragoman in the late 18th century, and the Omerie Mosque (Trikoupis Street), which has a 14th-century Lusignan entrance.

Many of the small churches in the old town have rich interiors that are worth a look inside. Two of the best are Panagia Chrysaliniotissa (Archbishop Filotheou Street), considered the oldest church in Nicosia and believed to have been built in 1450, and Agios Ioannis (Archbishop Kyprianou Square), which contains colourful 18th-century frescoes.

Among the many private museums in the old town worth seeking out, don’t miss the collection of photographs and documents at CVAR (Ermou Street), which focuses on the island’s period under British colonial rule.

Then cross over to North Nicosia to continue your tour of the old town. Along with the two main attractions of Selimiye Mosque and Büyük Han, be sure to visit Bedesten (Arasta Sokak), which originally served as the church of St. Nicholas of the English and then became a market in the Ottoman era; the Mevlevi Museum (Girne Caddesi), which offers a number of well-researched exhibits on the order of the dervishes; and the Arabahmet neighborhood.

As you wander the alleys of Arabahmet, which are lined with Ottoman-era mansions, take time to visit the well-restored Armenian Sourp Asdvadzadzinare Church (Şehit Mehmet Huseyin Sokak), which dates back to the 13th century.

Nicosia, Cyprus…!

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus

8. Region of Mesaoria

Just west of Nicosia is the region of Mesaoria, dotted with tiny villages and ancient monasteries. If you have your own transport, it’s a wonderful experience outside the city.

About the villages here, Peristerona (30km west of Nicosia) is a picturesque place, worth a visit for its 10th-century five-tower church of Agios Varnavas and Hilarion , which towers above the surrounding traditional stone houses. Inside, the church contains important and well-preserved 16th century paintings!

Head south from here to visit the Monastery of Mahera !  Then head northeast for an excursion to the Monastery of Agios Heraclidios and the archaeological site of Ancient Tamassos , an old copper city dating back to the 6th century BC, both near the village of Pera.

9. Bellapais

One of the island’s most famous tourist attractions – thanks to the author Lawrence Durrell – Bellapais is a lovely village of humble whitewashed cottages spread across the hillside leading to the ruins of Bellapais Abbey below.

British author Lawrence Durrell wrote the book Bitter Lemons of Cyprus while living here, capturing Cypriot village life at the end of British colonial rule.

Although the village itself is incredibly picturesque, the main attraction is Bellapais Abbey, an old Augustinian monastery full of intricately carved arches and cypress trees surrounding it. There are panoramic views of the entire coastline of Northern Cyprus from the roof of the dining room.

There is no public transport to Bellapais, but you can hop on one of the frequent shuttle buses from North Nicosia in the direction of Kyrenia and then take a short taxi ride to the village from there.

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus

10. Kyrenia

The atmospheric port of Kyrenia (also known as Girne), 30 km north of Nicosia, is the vibrant coastal hub of Northern Cyprus. It is one of the best places to visit if you are looking for day trips from Nicosia.

The small harbour overlooks the large Byzantine-era castle and is surrounded by an old quarter of the town with winding alleys and Ottoman-era houses that are fun to explore.

First visit the castle with the Naval Museum, then stroll around the harbour side to see the Folk Art Museum in a restored carob warehouse.

Later, pass through the narrow streets to the Church of Archangel Michael (Cambulat Caddesi), with its collection of religious icons from churches all over North Cyprus.

Frequent shuttle buses run from North Nicosia to Kyrenia.

11. Agios Hilarion Castle

Built in the 10th century by the Byzantines, the castle is situated in an elevated position that has been a strategic advantage until modern times.

Follow the path (wear good walking shoes) from the lower fortress, where the garrison was housed, to the middle atrium, with its church and barrack rooms, then climb higher to the upper fortress, with its tower and royal apartments. From here, a series of stairs lead you up to Prince John’s Tower, with stunning views across the countryside.

It is located 36 km northwest of Nicosia. Agios Hilarion Castle is best visited by your own transport, as there is no public transport to the site.

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus
Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus

12. Famagusta

Famagusta (also called Gazimaǧusa), full of ruined gothic buildings, is the most beautiful town on the island, the bloody history of the siege and occupation of the town gives the air a sense of sadness…!

Surrounded by a mighty boundary of Venetian fortifications, the old town is full of gold-stone ruins of basilicas and remnants of palaces sitting incongruously among rows of ruined houses.

Right in the centre is the glorious Lala Mustafa Pasha (Central Square) mosque, once the Cathedral of St. Nicholas and a beautifully preserved example of Gothic architecture.

Nearby are the roofless ruins of the roofless St. George of Greece Church (Istiklal Caddesi), where faint traces of frescoes still remain in the apse.

Within the city walls are the haunted remains of St. Mary’s Church and the Carmelite Church (Server Sokak). From here, climb the Pulacazara Bastion of the walls to walk along them for stunning views across the city.

There are regular shuttle buses from North Nicosia to Famagusta.

13. Ancient Salamina

Together with Ancient Curium, Ancient Salamina is the most important archaeological site in Cyprus in the ancient kingdom, with a wealth of ruins to explore.

The gymnasium and baths complex, with its fine statuary and courtyard with large colonnaded walls, is the main attraction, but further into the extensive site are huge remains of two basilicas , a marketplace and a huge tank complex.

Almost all the ruins date from the city’s Greco-Roman and Byzantine eras, but the history of Salamis stretches back much further. It is said to have been founded just after the Trojan War and was under the Scythian, Persian, Greco-Ptolemaic, Roman, Byzantine and Arabic administration, reflecting the classical history of the island.

There is no public transport to the site, so it is easier to see it in your own car, or you can take a minibus from North Nicosia to Famagusta and hire a taxi for the short journey to the site. It is located about 73 kilometres east of Nicosia.

14. Castle Buffavento

Less visitable than the Castle of St Hilarion and more ruined, Buffavento Castle is a windy, rugged outpost of a ruin on top of a steep mountain peak to the east of Kyrenia.

The ruins here are not extensive, but they are in a picturesque setting, towering over the wooded slopes below. Hike from the bottom to the top for the best views across the coast.

Buffavento is believed to have been built during the Byzantine era and was once taken over by the Crusader Richard the Lionheart. Strategically it played an important role in guarding the coastline along with St. Hilarion to the west.

Located 52km northeast of Nicosia, the castle is best visited by your own transport as part of a day trip including Agios Hilarion.

Nicosia Top Attractions, Best Things To Do In Cyprus Tourist Map

Where to Stay in Nicosia for Sightseeing

We recommend these wonderful hotels and hostels with easy access to the city’s top attractions:

  • The Landmark Nicosia  : At this 5-star luxury hotel, guests will find spacious rooms, an excellent breakfast, an indoor pool and a wellness centre.
  • Gul Hanim House  : An intimate, family-run boutique hotel with welcoming owners, this property has atmospheric interiors with an aura of a bygone era and is conveniently located in the old town.
  • Centrum Hotel : This 3-star hotel is well located in the old town and offers air-conditioned rooms and tea and coffee making facilities.
  • Asty Hotel : This family-run budget hotel is like a home away from home! It offers a free shuttle service to the city, mini golf and a fitness centre, as well as free use of bicycles.

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