As one of Europe’s most ancient cities, Nicosia has been the capital of Cyprus for the past 1,000 years. The city however, dates back to the Bronze Age when it was a renown cultural and commercial centre.
The name Lefkosia most likely derived from “lefka” (λεύκα - poplar), a possible reference to the trees that once lined the city. In ancient times, it was known by the name “Ledra” (Λήδρα).
The city flourished, as did the entire island, during the Byzantine Empire era, from the 4th until the beginning of the 12th century.
In 1191-1192, Cyprus was passed into the hands of Richard the Lionheart. It then passed down to the Lusignans (Franks) and later on the Venetians who repaired the city’s famous Walls. In 1571, the city came under Ottoman rule that lasted until 1878, when the Turkish flag was replaced by the British. In 1925, Cyprus was declared a British colony. After the fight for independence that lasted from 1955 – 1959, Cyprus was declared an independent state, and since 16 August 1960, Nicosia has been the capital of the island. As a result of the Turkish Invasion of the northern section of the island in 1974, Nicosia is today the last remaining divided capital of the European Union, of which Cyprus has been a member state since 2004.
With more than 228,000 inhabitants, seven municipalities and lying at the crossroads of three different continents, Nicosia is a cultural bridge between the past and present; the old, ancient town encircled by protective Venetian walls and the modern city with its contemporary architecture, shopping malls and stores. Old and New Town are linked by Eleftheria (Freedom) Square, famous for hosting meetings and events. Visitors of Nicosia have much to experience, both in the city and its surrounding countryside, from the historical museums and archaeological points of interest, Byzantine churches and cultural centres, to its fantastic markets and unique cuisine. “Magic” is but one word with which to describe the Nicosia experience.
Nicosia is a city that will reward visitors in search of ‘something different’. As a result of the various architectural influences that are visible throughout the city, one cannot help but be charmed by the manner in which past and present, traditional and contemporary have seamlessly fused together. The modern city centre will capture your imagination from the start, with its melting pot of influences that give the city a unique image. The city’s landmarks, museums, theatres, musical events and galleries both inspire and fascinate.
The streets of Makariou, Ledras, Onasagorou, Stassikratous and Mnasiadou offer shopping options that are comparable to many European countries. Nicosia also offers Cypriot and international culinary temptations in the many luxury restaurants that line its streets.
Once you have walked around the city of Nicosia, do not hesitate to escape to its surrounding areas. Short distances and modern road networks will facilitate your trip and afford you the opportunity to experience the wild beauty of the Cypriot countryside. From Machairas Forest and its historic monastery to the tip of the Troodos Mountains, there is much to discover. One place worth visiting is St. Panteleimonas Monastery (Ahera) that lies west of Nicosia and dates back to the 18th century. Also interesting is the Church of Varnavas and Ilarionos in the village of Peristerona, an excellent example of byzantine Cypriot architecture from the 9th century.
Although it was abandoned during the 19th century, Phikardou Village has been declared an important historical landmark and is a testament to traditional architecture and woodworks from the 18th century.
The village is also home to the Agricultural Museum. The village of St. Varvaras houses the last remaining workshop from the first Industrial Era, where homes and work areas were under one roof. It displays equipment dating back to 1920, including a flour mill, an olive crusher and a grape crusher. Taking a south-westerly direction, one will encounter the Royal Tombs of Tamassos. This village is known for the grand limestone statues from the 6th century that are displayed in its Archaeological Museum. Close by is the Holy Monastery of St. Heraklidou, built in 1773. During your expedition to the countryside, do not forget to sample some traditional delicacies and discover the culinary secrets of the Cypriot cuisine, famous for being the richest and most abundant of the Mediterranean.
The rich natural and cultural heritage of the region around Nicosia offers Walkers excellent opportunities for daylong expeditions. Two of the best walking routes in the area are Madari Circular Walk (13 km long) and the logistically more difficult route connecting the Unesco World Heritage churches of Stavros tou Agiasmati and Panagia tou Araka (a 7.5 km long linear route). The walks can be combined with stops at beautiful churches, picturesque villages and possibly watermills and/or medieval bridges.
Cyprus Walks Etc offers Guided Walking Trips in the region. For more information please visit this page
For more information visit the website of Nicosia Tourism Board here