Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia) Cyprus is a unique city that offers many authentic and cultural things to do. The city is one of the last divided capitals in Europe which is split into two sides North and South. Controlled by two different governments Greek Cypriot and Turkish. What makes Nicosia more fascinating is a Venetian wall that surrounds the old town in the shape of a star on both sides.
In South Nicosia (the Greek side), you can visit things like Cyprus Museum, Famagusta Gate, and Shacolas Tower. In North Nicosia (Turkish side) you can see Selimiye Mosque and Buyuk Han. If you’re wanting to experience something different, then you can walk parts of the Green line that borders both sides of the city. A great way to understand the fascinating history and culture of this divided country.
I had been wanting to head to Cyprus for a few years, so when I booked a trip to Paphos and Larnaca, we took the opportunity to add on a couple of days to visit Nicosia. I’m so glad we did as it is such an interesting city, our only regret is not having enough days. We would have loved to have taken to take a trip to picturesque Kyrenia harbor or even go up to the Machairas Monastery.
⇒ Do you require a visa or need a covid test before going to Cyprus? You can check hassle-free and apply at ivisa
Things To Do Nicosia
Nicosia’s interesting history and cultural wealth mean there are plenty of authentic things to do. You can walk along the green line that divides the country in two; visit the multiple free museums on offer. If you are spending longer than a day, then you can take an exciting day trip to places like Larnaca or the mountains in the west.
There is no shortage of café’s, restaurants and bars too. To help you plan your trip to Nicosia, I’ve put together a list of interesting things to do.
Looking to discover other parts of Cyprus, please feel free to head to my Cyprus page
1. Have a traditional Cypriot Coffee
What better way to start your day exploring than with a Cypriot coffee and cake. Cyprus Café culture is an essential part of daily life. There is an abundance of café’s located all over Nicosia. I suggest Red Orange Kiosk & Espresso Coffee Bar, a family run business with good coffee and tea.
There are four ways of having your coffee in Cyprus: traditional coffee without sugar (sekto), and coffee with one teaspoon of sugar (metrio). As well as very sweet coffee (glico) or a cold instant coffee with ice and whipped milk cream.
Make sure to order a traditional Cypriot coffee with a delicious pastry or cake on the side.
2. Cyprus Museum
Cyprus Museum should be at the top of your list of things to do in Nicosia. Located just up the road from Paphos Gate just passed the Performing arts theatre. Considered to be one of the best museums in Cyprus and the oldest and largest archaeological museum in the country.
It is a great introduction to Cyprus with the artifacts dating from the Neolithic period right up to the Byzantine era. Its rich collection also demonstrates the turbulent history of what this tiny country has been through.
Address; Mouseiou 1, Nicosia, Cyprus
Additional Information for Cyprus museum
- Entry fee – €4.50 per person
- Located – on Museum street
- Opening Hours – Tue-Fri: 8.00-18:00 Sat: 9.00-17.00 Sun: 10.00-13.00
- Closed – Mondays
3. The Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR)
If you like art and history then add Centre of Visual Arts and Research (CVAR) of things to do. It houses a unique collection of paintings and artifacts that highlight the island’s multicultural past through the centuries.
Even if you don’t go inside the Centre of Visual Arts and Research, it is worth taking a walk around the area. As there are many up comping artist shops, cafes, and restaurants in the area. We took a break in one of the cafes here which was part of the Centre of Visual Arts and Research.
Address; Ermou 285, Nicosia, Cyprus
4. Archbishop’s Palace
Take a look at the Archbishop’s Palace, the official residence and office of the archbishop of Cyprus. Even though you will not be able to go into the palace, you can visit the other buildings located within the grounds.
They are the Cyprus Folk Art Museum, Byzantine Museum, and National Struggle Museum. As well as St John’s Cathedral which I hear is really nice inside. All are popular museums to visit while in Nicosia.
5. Shacolas Tower (Ledra Observatory)
Head up the Shacolas Tower Museum and Observatory, also known as Ledra Observatory. Here you can take in amazing panoramic views of both the north and south side of Nicosia. This is the best spot to get pictures of the Selimiye Mosque and the Turkish flag across the border. I use Sony mirrorless from their collection to capture the views.
There is a lift that will take you to the 11th floor of the Sharcolas Tower located just off the famous Ledras St. There are interactive maps to identify areas and buildings, a short video/pictures about the history, and a mini souvenir shop. It is only a small fee to go up but it is definitely worth it.
Address; Ledra Street 11th Floor of the Debenhams Building
Additional Information for Shacolas Tower
- Entry Fee – €2.50 per person
- Located – Right off Lidras Street
- Opening Hours – Everyday 10:00-17:00
6. The Liberty Monument (Memorial Park)
Take a look at The Liberty Monument located near the Venetian walls 100 meters walk towards Nicosia old aqueduct. It is a really interesting monument to see and worth a visit. The Liberty Monument symbolises the successful Cypriot struggle for independence from Britain from 1955-1959.
The large monument contains several statues representing various things. There is one atop of the structure, watching over another two statues who are pulling chains to open a prison gate, allowing prisoners to escape British rule.
7. Nicosia Old Aqueduct
Only 50-100 meters walk away from The Liberty Monument and on your way to Famagusta Gate in Nicosia’s old aqueduct. Built in the 18th century, the ancient Aqueduct is part of the old water supply system of Nicosia and is considered to be the oldest aqueduct in Cyprus.
Like Famagusta Gate, you don’t need very long here just enough time to take a few pictures.
8. Famagusta Gate
Take a walk up to the famous Famagusta Gate just up from Nicosia’s old aqueduct. It is the most splendid out of the 3 gates along the Venetian walls of Nicosia. Constructed under Ottoman rule Famagusta Gate was originally a gate in the Nicosia walls. Now it has been restored and houses the city’s Municipal cultural centre and exhibitions.
Famagusta Gate is the most impressive fragment of these old defences and is decorated with numerous coats of arms. Unless you are attending an exhibition inside, you only really 10-15minutes here to take your photos.
Right next to the Famagusta Gate is an information point. Great spot if you are wanting to find exactly where you are along the wall.
9. Paphos Gate
Another interesting unique thing to do is walk over to Paphos Gate and the Holy Cross Catholic Church. The gate is only 10m(30ft) from the Turkish Zone and it is here you can also see the old UN building and get right up close to the Turkish side.
10. Holy Cross Catholic Church
What makes The Holy Cross Catholic Church special is its position on the dividing line of the north /south of Cyprus. The entrance is opened on the south side but the rear door on the north side is sealed.
11. Walk along the Green Line
If you want to do something different that you most likely won’t do in any other country, walk part of the Green Line that cuts right through the centre of old town Nicosia.
The Green Line, also known as the United Nations Buffer Zone divides northern and southern Cyprus. It extends approximately 180 km across the island with various checkpoints along the way.
Where to see the Green Line walk
Start at the Paphos Gate and either head towards Ledra Street or go the other way towards Toufexis Park. If you are planning on visiting Selimiye mosque then you will need to go to Ledra Street. This is where the main entry point is located for crossing over to the North side of Nicosia.
We felt safe walking along the Greenline, even in the parts that looked a bit dingy.
If you want to learn more about this interesting divided capital then think about a private tour created personally for you.
12. Things to do in North Nicosia
Though the majority of things to do in Nicosia takes place in the southern part of the city. Cross over the border to the northern part of the Cypriot capital to see what it is like. The Nicosia border crossing is incredibly straightforward and only takes a few minutes.
Northern Nicosia is as safe as the southern side and many tourists cross the Green Line in order to visit Selimiye Mosque and Buyuk Han.
Cross the border at Ledra Street
The best place to cross the board is at Ledra Street Crossing, which is the most commonly used by tourists. It is also the closest to the main Selimiye Mosque. Make sure to bring along your passport as you will not be permitted to enter the northern part of Nicosia without it.
13. Selimiye Mosque
One of the most recognisable landmarks in Nicosia and one of the top things to do is visit Selimiye Mosque. It is located only five minute walk from the green line crossing at Ledra Street. And it is a good starting point for exploring the North side of Nicosia.
It was originally known as the Cathedral of Agia Sofia before later being converted into a mosque. If you like to go inside Selimiye Mosque, you will need to take your shoes off before entering. Females will be required to wear a headscarf, if you are not carrying one they are provided for free.
14. Büyük Han
After stopping at Selimiye Mosque head to Buyuk Han and wander around the market. Here you take in the smells of the spices and can pick up some yummy sweets. Büyük Han is a type of inn known as a caravanserai and is the largest in Cyprus.
It is where merchants and other travellers would stay and use it as storage while passing through. Büyük Han is two storeys and built around a central courtyard in the middle of which is a masjid, or small mosque.
The Büyük Han has been beautifully restored to its former glory and is considered to be one of the finest buildings in Cyprus. Today it is home to a variety of shops, cafés and is a centre for the arts, with galleries, studios, and workshops.
15. Laiki Getoria Pedestrian area
Head to the Laiki Getoria pedestrian area to fully immerse yourself in the culture and take in the atmosphere. You can enjoy an abundance of shops cafes and restaurants located within the streets. The pedestrian streets look colorful with their giant sails above them. They not only look pretty but are a great photo opportunity.
This is a good spot if you are looking for things to do at night in Nicosia.
While there are a lot of chain shops in the area there are a lot of local ones too where you can purchase souvenirs. Just off Onasagorou Street, you’ll find a dozen little shops selling everything from olive oil to souvenirs. You can even get paintings and sculptures all made by locals in Cyprus.
Have a drink along Ledra street
A great way to finish your day exploring is to head to Ledra street for something to eat or to enjoy a drink. It is not only popular with tourists but with the locals too, especially in the evening. We stopped off at Kafeneo Arsinois just off Ledra street and even though it was not a bar, they served good cheap local drinks.
Ledra Street is the main pedestrian street in the Laiki Getoria area and is super easy to find. There are numerous cafes, restaurants, and bars scattered along the street inviting you in. Zivania is a traditional alcoholic local drink if you are looking to try something local.
Experience an authentic Cypriot dinner
If you are wanting a more authentic experience then I suggest heading to a mayiria.,old town eateries that serve traditional meals that they would have at home. You can find them located just off Ledras street in the Laiki Geitonia area. The best bit is that they are reasonably priced.
Two of my favourite Cypriot foods to try are souvlaki (grilled meat kebabs) and fried halloumi cheese. Personally, I can never have enough of either. I recommend a lovely place called Xefoto, the food was good and reasonably priced. Vegetarian options were available there too.
16. Accommodation in Nicosia
There is accommodation available in the new part of Nicosia and in the old part of the walled city. Most of the top sites to see in Nicosia though are based in the old part of the walled city. Meaning this area is a great base if you staying in Nicosia
We stayed at Hostel Xanthis for two nights before moving on to Paphos. While we don’t usually stay in hostels when we travel this one had everything we needed. We couldn’t argue with the price or the position of the hostel either. Located within the walled city and within walking distance to the sites in Nicosia’s old town.
Check availability for places to stay in Nicosia
17. Getting to Nicosia from the resorts
Catching the Bus to Nicosia
Catching the bus to Nicosia from one of the beach resorts, like Larnaca, Limassol, or Ayia Napa is easy. There are several buses every day with some more frequent than others. The bus line routes are serviced by a company called Intercity Buses
The central bus station is only 500 meters from the start of my free self-guided walking tour starting point D’Avilla Bastion.
Driving to Nicosia
Alternatively, if you have hired a car to get around Cyprus there is a car park near the walled city. It is located at the Tripoli Bastion, which is near the Paphos Gate. Travel Supermarket has a free and easy fast comparison on car hire, which you can pick up at any Cyprus airport. Just like in Hammamet and Tabarka Tunisia, it is easier to get around by car than by public transport.
18. Extra things to do in Nicosia
OCHI Farmers Market
In Nicosia on either a Wednesday or Saturday then take a visit to the OCHI farmers market, open from 6 am to 4 pm. Located on 11 bastions of the Venetian walls of Lefkosia (Nicosia) in the area of Bayraktar Mosque.
It’s a great cultural experience watching the locals interact and one to add to your things. Here, you’ll find all kinds of fresh products from fruit and vegetables to eggs and nuts produced by locals.
Do a cultural food tour of Nicosia
I am a big fan of doing food tours in various countries, as not only do you get to try new foods, you learn something and they are a great cultural experience. You can try things like shaftalia (grilled sausage), fried halloumi cheese, and souvlaki (grilled meat kebabs). This would be a great option as an addition if you are visiting the farmer’s market.
I recommend this Traditional Food Tour within Wall City, where you will try traditional Cuisine & Cultural Flavours.
If you have the time, head up to Machairas Monastery, located in an idyllic location in the Cypriot hills. The authentic and historically beautiful Machairas Monastery is considered one of the most important religious sites in Cyprus.
The Machairas monastery is dedicated to the Virgin Mary icon believed to be painted by Luke the Apostle. They say it was smuggled by a hermit secretly from Asia Minor to Cyprus. The monastery is a central church enclosed by a rectangular courtyard with cloisters all around, it is visually appealing.
19. Things to do outside of Nicosia
There is plenty of things to do outside of Nicosia if you are staying longer than a day, like heading to Machairas Monastery. Below is a selection of guided tours that you can book in advance and might be interested in doing;
- Take a guided full day tour to Famagusta and Ghost Town Tour
- Spend half a day doing a tour to St. Hilarion Castle & Bellapais Tour
- Go up the mountain to the UNESCO World Heritage Agios Nicolaos tis Stegis and picturesque Kakopetria
Related things you can do from Nicosia
20. Tips for visiting Nicosia
- I used a DJ Eyewitness pocket guide book as a reference while in Cyprus
- Office de Tourisme in the city centre, next to the Palais de Justice on the Boulevard du Musée.
- English adaptors are used in Nicosia Cyprus
- It can get really hot, so best to carry stainless steel water bottles to keep hydrated.
- Nicosia is a wonderful city that is well worth visiting and exploring.
- Wear good breathable Walking Shoes for getting around the sites in Nicosia.
- We felt safe walking around Nicosia city in both day and night.
- Looking for a coworking space then Ygantourgeio TheWorkplace is a good alternative.
⇒ Do you require a visa or need a covid test before going to Cyprus? You can check hassle-free and apply at ivisa
21. Is Nicosia worth visiting?
Many visitors who come to Cyprus head straight to the Mediterranean coastline and skip the capital city. However, Nicosia is worth a visit even if just for a day, you will be surprised how much there is to do there.
As I said earlier, our only regret is that we didn’t stay longer to head to Famagusta and Machairas Monastery. With so many authentic cultural things to do and discover Nicosia is a great add-on to your trip to Cyprus. Head here for more amazing activities in Cyprus before you go.
Thank you for reading this article about Nicosia Cyprus there are so many cultural and authentic things to do. This divided country is such an interesting and beautiful place to visit.
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⇒ Please feel free to head to my Mediterranean page, if you are wanting to read about other locations.
Have you been to Nicosia Cyprus before? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below or if you know any other places to see.