Nicosia also known as Lefkosia is the largest city in Cyprus and is also the islands capital city. Nicosia is rich with culture and history and today is the worlds last and only divided capital city. The barbed wire and guardtowers of the Green Line cuts the city into two, with the northern side being the capital of Northern Cyprus and the southern half being the capital of the Republic of Cyprus.
The airline I work for fly to Larnaca and recently I was lucky enough to be rostered a trip there with a 24 hour layover. We stay in Nicosia so I decided I wanted to go and explore some of this city in the short time I had there and wanted to make the most of it.
As I only had a short time in the city, I spent the morning sunbathing at the hotel and then my colleagues and myself ventured out and got a taxi into the centre as we were only a few minutes drive away. We explored the main streets, had the most delicious late lunch and crossed over into the Turkish side of the city. I really liked the atmosphere of Nicosia the locals were all so friendly both on the Greek and Turkish side of this split city.
I really want to come back and visit Cyprus on holiday as I feel this island has so much to offer and I would love to visit the coast and some more of the historical monuments and natural sights.
Sights & Activities
Faneromeni Church is located in the old part of Nicosia, and its one of the oldest churches on the island. It is thought to have been constructed in 1222 as part of a Cistercian monastery for women. The church had to be completely rebuilt in 1715 due to the damage it suffered during an earthquake.
The church is located on a small square which has lots of little cafes and restaurants near by. The inside of the church is very grand with lots of large chandeliers and ornate detailing. This is one of the main historical sites to see in the city centre and is an absolute must when wandering around the city streets.
Ledra Street & Onasagorou Street
Ledra Street and Onasagorou Street are the two main shopping streets in Nicosia and are the busier streets of the capital filled with many big name shops, restaurants and cafes. The streets are also filled with lots of local cats which the locals seem to look after pretty well. Both of these streets are pedestrianised and it is the most lively part of the old town. Most tourists tend to visit these streets as they are another of Nicosia’s top sights.
Ledra Street Check Point
The Ledra Street Checkpoint cuts one of the busiest streets into two with passport control kiosks. It’s a divide that has split the Turkish Cypriot community from the Greek Cypriot community for decades. From the checkpoint the border spreads outwards dividing Cyprus in two. The crossing was closed for many years only several points were opened up in 2003, but in 2008 Ledra Street opened up its checkpoint allowing people to walk across the border. Today it is a symbolic of how divided the island of Cyprus still is to this day.
Crossing the divide should be something that all visitors should witness to understand some more of how life is in the worlds only divided capital. When crossing the border make sure you take your passport as you need to show it when leaving one side of the divide and show when entering into the other side. We went late afternoon after our lunch and the border crossing was pretty quiet and it was also on a weekday, I have read that on a weekend the checkpoint can be busier and sometimes might have queues, so try to aim to cross first thing in the morning or late afternoon.
Once crossing over into the Turkish side of Nicosia you can straight away see the difference of culture to the Greek side. I really enjoyed exploring the narrow streets and small shops and market stalls.
There was lots of street art around this part of the capital too, and several mosques to see, one of the largest and most grand mosques of the capital is Selimiye Camii mosque with its gothic architecture it really stands out. Just across from the mosque is Bandabuliya which is an old covered market that has been running since the 1930s and is a major landmark in the area, it has undergone some renovation recently to ensure it can continue running and to retain its original features.
You could easily spend a full day wandering around the streets and sights of this side of Nicosia, we only spent a few hours and saw so much and was great to see many of the locals too.
Food & Drink
To Anamma is a small Greek restaurant located on the famous Ledra Street in Nicosia. There is outdoor seating at the front, but what really makes this little restaurant special is it’s pretty little courtyard outback which is decorated with lots of greenery and has a relaxed atmosphere. The staff are so warm and friendly and couldn’t do enough for us and even catered for me being vegetarian.
They have a meze option on the menu for €14.50 per person which includes Greek salad, breads, tzatziki, halloumi, grilled vegetables and grilled meats etc all finished off with a dessert. The food was honestly some of the best Greek food I’ve ever had, and it just didn’t seem to end just when we thought all the food had came out they just kept delivering more. They swapped my grilled meat for grilled vegtable skewered and cous cous which was really great of them to do.
If your in Nicosia then make sure to add To Anamma to your itinerary and make sure you go hungry as you will be given so much food if you opt for the meze option.
When planning your trip over to the Turkish side of Nicosia be sure to catch one of the Whirling Dervish Performances which run daily Monday to Saturday between April through to September, I unfortunately discovered that they had this traditional dance after I had visited and wish I could have caught one of the performances.
If your a crazy cat person like myself then go prepared and take some cat food along with you to feed the many street cats, we took some of our leftover food from the restaurant to feed them which they seemed very happy with.