Nicosia, Cyprus

Cyprus perhaps inspired the legend about the birth of goddess Aphrodite, because it too emerged from the foam of the ocean some million years ago. Its capital, Nicosia, is probably the only area in Cyprus that can boast continuous habitation since the beginning of the Bronze Age (c. 2500 BC). During the first millennium BC, when Cyprus was divided into cities-kingdoms, Nicosia enjoyed neither the power nor the prosperity of other kingdoms along the coastline.

It was not until the dissolution of the cities-kingdoms at the end of the 4th century that Nicosia managed to take advantage of its geographical location, at the centre of the island. Especially after the Arab raids in the 6th century, people from the coastal cities moved to the centre of the island, near Nicosia. It was probably then that Nicosia became an administrative centre. But capital of Cyprus it became only later, around the 9th-10th century, when it was the seat of the Byzantine governor of the island.

After its siege by the Ottomans, the city was deserted. Nicosia revived around the mid-19th century, after the administration of Cyprus was officially transferred to the British Empire (1878). The signing of the Zurich and London Agreements in February 1959 led to the independence of Cyprus and the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus.

However, in December 1963, a constitutional crisis led Nicosia to be divided into Turkish and Greek quarters. The dividing line, which cuts through the city, was named Green because the pen used by the UN officer to draw the line on a city map was green.

Turkey invaded the island on 15.7.1974 and Nicosia thereafter remains the last divided capital city of Europe until today.

As for its name, Nicosia was initially known as Lefkousia. Most probably, the name “Lefkosia” (Nicosia in Greek) comes from Lefkos, son of Ptolemy I of Egypt, who rebuilt the city in the 3rd century.

Some highlights:

Cyprus Museum

Situated in Lefkosia (Nicosia), this is the main archaeological Museum of Cyprus and traces the long history of civilization on the island from prehistoric times to the early Christian period. Extensive excavations throughout the island have enriched the collections of the museum considerably and brought Cypriot archaeology to the fore front of international archaeological research. Here the cultural heritage of Cyprus, such as pottery, jewelry, sculpture and coins from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, Iron Age and the Greco-Roman period, is cherished and displayed for everyone to enjoy. Star exhibits include the statue of Aphrodite of Soloi, a gold jewelry collection and relics from the royal tombs of Salamis.The museum is a stop on the Aphrodite Cultural route.

Folk Art Museum

The Cyprus Folk Art Museum was founded by a few keen members of the Society of Cypriot Studies in 1937 and is housed in the premises of the old Archbishopric Palace. In 1961 the seat of the Archbishop of Cyprus was moved to the new palace. The Society then approached the Archbishop who graciously handed over the whole of the premises of the Old Archbishopric to the Society, to be used for its activities. It was at that time from 1962 to 1964 that extensive reconstruction of the building was carried out, at the very great expense of the Society with the help of His Beatitude Makarios III (Diamantis, 1973, 1).

A.G. Leventis Gallery

The A. G. Leventis Gallery brings the grandeur of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century to the heart of Nicosia, connecting the European continent with its south-eastern outpost by highlighting the unique relationship between art and its history. The Leventis Collections demonstrate that the celebration of beauty cuts across nationalities, historical periods and styles to constitute a shared inspiration evoked by artists to communicate with the viewer. Art unfolds in a space where, regardless of their origin, artists contribute to a better understanding of their own achievements and of European art more generally.

St. John’s Cathedral

Agios Ioannis, within the walled city of Lefkosia (Nicosia), is built on the site of the 14th century chapel of the Benedictine Abbey of Agios Ioannis, the Evangelist of Bibi.

Archbishop Nikiforos rebuilt the monastery chapel from its foundations in 1662. Dedicated to Agios Ioannis the Theologian, it remained a monastery until the 18th century when Archbishop Sylvester converted it into a cathedral, establishing it as the seat of the Orthodox Archbishopric in Cyprus.

Famagusta Gate area (for a walk in the afternoon)

Famagusta Gate, the most significant of the gates of Venetian Lefkosia (Nicosia), opened onto the road that led to the most important harbour town of the island, hence its name. It was originally known as ‘Porta Giuliana’ in honour of Giulio Savorgnano, the engineer who designed and erected the Venetian walls.

The gate has an impressive façade and consists of a large vaulted passage with a large domed room in the middle, 10.97 metres in diameter. On either side of the passage are oblong rooms for the guards.

Ledra Street Crossing Point (In Debenhams Store, Ledra street)

The crossing points cuts one of the island’s busiest shopping streets in two. It’s unnatural. It’s a divide that has split the Turkish Cypriot community from the Greek Cypriot community for decades. It divides the city of Nicosia in two, and from here, the border spreads outwards, dividing all of Cyprus in two.

Ledra & Onasagorou Street & Plateia Elefhterias (for a day walk and for shopping)

Pedestrian-only Ledra and Onasagorou streets, are lined with shops of every type. These streets lead to the most lively part of the old city with narrow streets, boutiques, and cafés.

Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia

The mansion at 17, Hippocrates Street, was in ruins and intended for demolition, until the Mayor of Nicosia, Lellos Demetriades, conceived the idea to establish a Historical Museum for the city. With demolition works still underway, the building was purchased by the A.G. Leventis Foundation in order to host the Historical Museum of Nicosia.

Also Visit

  • Panagia Faneromeni Church, Greek orthodox church,  Onasagorou str., Nicosia
  • Büyük Han or English: Great Inn is the largest caravansarai on the island of Cyprus and is considered to be one of the finest buildings on the island. Located in the capital of Cyprus, it was built by the Ottomans in 1572, the year after they had seized Cyprus from the Venetians.  Address: Asmaaltı Sk, Lefkoşa 99010
  • Hamam Omerye in Nicosia, Cyprus is a 14th-century building restored to operate once again as a hammam. Dating back to the period of French rule and located in the heart of Nicosia’s old town is Hamam Omerye. The bath was closed in 2012 for renovation but is now open again as an active Turkish bath and beauty spa. – 8 Tyllirias Square Nicosia 1016