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Most visitors to Cyprus bypass Nicosia in the rush to reach the coast, but this historic capital has hidden depths. Ringed by a towering Venetian wall, and split in two by a more modern fortification — the Green Line imposed by the UN in 1974 — this is a city of stone alleyways, markets, ancient churches and museums full of ancient treasures. While tourists are the focus elsewhere on the island, Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia) is a place for locals, with lively nightlife, and a surprisingly vibrant art scene, best experienced in small galleries and arts centers in the backstreets. Culturally, the city mirrors the island — the Greek south of ...

Most visitors to Cyprus bypass Nicosia in the rush to reach the coast, but this historic capital has hidden depths. Ringed by a towering Venetian wall, and split in two by a more modern fortification — the Green Line imposed by the UN in 1974 — this is a city of stone alleyways, markets, ancient churches and museums full of ancient treasures. While tourists are the focus elsewhere on the island, Nicosia (also known as Lefkosia) is a place for locals, with lively nightlife, and a surprisingly vibrant art scene, best experienced in small galleries and arts centers in the backstreets. Culturally, the city mirrors the island — the Greek south of Nicosia has a bustling, modern edge, while the dusty, Turkish north seems to float in a vanished summer from the 1970s. Despite the obvious military presence, crossing between the two sides is usually a formality for tourists, but the cultural divide is quite striking. While there are some eye-catching sights, the best way to experience the city is to wander at leisure through the lanes on either side of the Green Line. The package excursions to the museums and the restaurants of Laiki Geitonia do not do Nicosia justice. The nearest airports are Larnaca in the south, or Ercan in the north.

Joe Bindloss
About the Expert

Joe Bindloss has written more than 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Time Out and other publishers, with a focus on Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and island nations.

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Joe Bindloss for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Divided capital, Central Cyprus, on the River Pedieos
  • Language: Greek, Turkish
  • Currency: Cyprus Pound
  • Research: Wikipedia | Wikitravel

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    June to September, when the island basks under cloudless skies, or springtime, from April to May, to avoid the heat.