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About city Gallery Where to stay

Right now, Nicosia is probably the most unique capital in the world. The reason for this is the customs post, built in the middle of the city to separate the Greek and Turkish parts of the country, which came into being in 1974 during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

This peculiar wall, which is now a rather peculiar tourist attraction, was only opened in 2007, allowing the locals to move freely between different parts of the city. Before crossing over to the other side, everyone gets a perfunctory stamp in their passports. Despite goods being cheaper on the Turkish side, the Greek Cypriots rarely use this newfound freedom.

Figuratively speaking, the customs post is a wall which separates two different continents. The Greek Nicosia represents Europe – a sleek, well-maintained old town, young people from all over Europe, restaurant chains, euros and tourists. The Turkish side of Cyprus represents Asia – mosques, small Turkish restaurants, kebabs, Turkish liras, monuments for Atatürk, meandering old town streets, wide-open apartment doors, querulous families and hordes of kids, chasing footballs down old town backstreets. It’s a wall between Europe and Asia.

The Faneromeni church is the notable historic monument
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  The Faneromeni church is the notable historic monument

Many Greek Cypriots think that the other side, which they consider to be occupied territory, is populated exclusively by rude and vicious people. Even though this is exactly the view foisted upon tourists, it’s easily dispelled. Cyprus is characterized by a sharp opposition between right- and left-wingers – pro-capitalists and communists. The only thing that unites them is their mutual love of sports.

It’s hard to understand how a single city can have two separate sides, marked not only by differing currencies, languages and political views, but also religion.

Probably the only thing common to Northern Cyprus and the rest of the country is left-hand traffic. Despite having announced its independence from Great Britain in 1960, Cyprus decided to retain this particular piece of British heritage. The former occupation is also the reason why it’s easy to get by with just English here – 9 out of 10 locals speak it fluently.

The Nicosian Archbishop’s Palace hosts the famous Byzantine Museum - one of the most important museums of its kind in Europe. Here you can see some Orthodox Christian icons and various other religious works of art from the later Dark Age period between the 9th and the 16th centuries. You should also visit the Cyprus, Leventis Municipal, Ethnographical, National Resistance and Coin museums, among others.

Top view at old part of Nicosia
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Top view at old part of Nicosia

The Selimiye Mosque, which was built in the northern, Turkish-controlled part of Nicosia in 1209, is considered to be one of the capital’s symbols. In total, Nicosia has over 50 mosques and churches.

All roads lead to the main Ledra Street - this pedestrian avenue connects the southern, Greek part of Nicosia with the northern, Turkish part, and tempts passers-by with its small cafés, western shops, restaurants, ice cream parlours and other attractions.

Ledra street, a major shopping thoroughfare in central Nicosia
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Ledra street, a major shopping thoroughfare in central Nicosia

The Venetian Wall of Nicosia is another important piece of Renaissance architectural heritage that is worth a mention. This wall, built by Venetians during the period between 1567 and 1570, surrounds 4.8 km of the old town and is comprised of 11 pentagonal bastions, named after the 11 aristocratic families of Italy that financed the building process. The wall has three gates – Porta San Domenico, Porta Guiliana and Porta de Proveditore.

On 1st October, during Independence Day, Cyprus hosts many different festivals and other events. During the last five years, the first half of September has seen a three-day-long art and music festival, featuring over a 100 different artists. November is marked by the Rainbow Festival, which celebrates internationalism and opposes racism.

Where to stay

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