Nicosia (officially called Lefkosia) is the capital of Cyprus, a large and vibrant city that is packed with historic sights, fantastic shopping and restaurants, and a clutch of interesting museums. Most of these are located in the Old Town, which is a wonderful place for a stroll and a traditional Cypriot coffee at one of the timeless cafés. Out of town, you can head to the hills and explore the spectacular Troodos mountains, home to the island’s highest peak, Mount Olympos, a slew of charming villages, monasteries and painted churches. And if you’re in the mood to hit the beach, you can hit the vibrant resort of Larnaca, about 45 minutes away by car.
Nicosia’s main attractions are clustered in the pretty Old Town, which is enclosed by a star-shaped city wall built by the Venetians. You could wander the ancient streets, popping into the charmingly old-fashioned shops and cafés, admire the old city gates, or visit one of the many museums. Best among them are the Cyprus Museum, which exhibits a treasure trove of archaeological finds from across the island, and the House of the Dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios, which is set in a magnificent 18th-century mansion. The Municipal Arts Centre, set in a beautifully converted power plant, is also worth a visit. You could also take a wander along the Green Line, which divides the city’s Cypriot- and Turkish-controlled areas.
Nicosia boasts a wide range of restaurants, from cosy little taverns to plush award-winning dining establishments. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to tuck into delicious local fare, including popular dishes such as moussaka (layers of aubergine, meat and béchamel sauce) and stifado (a slow-cooked beef stew with wine and herbs). There’s also lots of seafood available, including grilled sea bream and sea bass, as well as the Mediterranean favourites of squid and octopus. Cypriot wines have been produced for millennia, and there are plenty of delicious labels to sample with your meal.
Nicosia is a wonderful place to holiday with the kids, particularly if you want to show them something a bit different from the standard fun in the sun. Your kids will enjoy exploring the fascinating Old Town, with its narrow streets full of wood-carvers and other traditional shops. Some museums leave kids cold, but there are plenty that they might enjoy in Nicosia: the Classic Motorcycle Museum has a huge collection of vintage British motorbikes, and you can enjoy fantastic views from the top of the Ledra Observatory Museum. You could take a day trip to the fantastic, family-friendly beaches at Larnaca, which also offers boat excursions along the coast.
Action & Adventure
The magnificent Troodos mountain range spreads west of Nicosia, and offers a host of fantastic activities that will get your adrenaline flowing! Much of the region is protected as in the superb Troodos National Park, which contains a wealth of unique flora and fauna. It’s a wonderful place to explore on foot and boasts some exceptional hiking and mountain biking routes, which range from easy nature walks to some demanding long-distance hikes. You could also try your hand at paragliding, climbing and canyoning around Mount Olympos, the highest mountain in Cyprus, where you’ll also find a small winter ski resort.
The nearest beach resort to Nicosia is Larnaca, one of the island’s biggest and most vibrant towns. You’ll find plenty of gorgeous beaches (along with a charming historic centre), as well as lots of bars, clubs and shops. The main beach, Phinikoudes, is shaded by palm trees and boasts a 2-kilometre-long stretch of golden sand. Every possible amenity can be found there, from sunbeds to water sports, plus a small water park for the kids. The McKenzie beach, just south of the town centre, is another popular and well-equipped beach, ideal for families with young children.
Nicosia is a vibrant city, kept buzzing by a sizeable student population. You’ll find plenty of lively bars and clubs, whether you want to kick-back in an old-fashioned tavern or prefer to dance all night in a fancy club. Many of them are concentrated in the Old City, with a range of nightspots to suit all ages and tastes. These get going late, in true Mediterranean fashion, but there are lots of mellow cafés that fill the gap between supper and going out. You’ll find more nightlife options along Makarios Avenue, which is the main shopping street, but also has plenty of upmarket bars and cafés. If you fancy some serious clubbing, the nightlife mecca of Ayia Napa is about an hour’s drive away.
In Nicosia, you can explore the romantic narrow streets of the Old Town, visit one of the traditional hammams for a massage (make sure you pick a mixed session), dine by candle light at a courtyard restaurant, and then drop in to one of the stylish cocktail bars. If you’re culture buffs, you can take your pic of wide choice of fascinating museums and historic sights, and, if you’re in the mood for some mountain scenery, take a day trip into the stunning Troodos National Park. And, if you want to hit the beach for the day, Larnaca is just a short drive away!
Nicosia is a fascinating city, with a wealth of history and culture to explore. Most of its most interesting sights are located in the Old City, which is still enclosed by walls erected by the Venetians in the mid-16th century. You can explore the ancient streets, still full of old-fashioned shops and cafés, and visit some of the city’s top museums. The Cyprus Museum contains an amazing repository of ancient treasures, some dating back millennia. For contemporary art, visit the Municipal Arts Centre, which is set in handsomely converted (and award-winning) power plant. Further afield, you could visit the magnificent painted churches in the Troodos mountains, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.