Nicosia, North Cyprus
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall the world's only remaining divided capital city, Nicosia (Lefkosia in Greek and Lefkosa in Turkish) is the administrative capital of Cyprus. There has been much renovation and reconstruction in recent years, restoring and enhancing the character of this ancient yet vibrant and bustling city.
Celebrated for shopping as well as sightseeing, Nicosia's historic centre is a labyrinth of tiny meandering streets and alleyways, with a new surprise awaiting you around each corner. Much of the city's ancient centre is now pedestrianised, with a huge selection of restaurants and cafes to suit every palate and pocket.
Almost 3,000 years ago, the Assyrian king Esarhadon listed Ledra as one of the ten kingdoms of Cyprus, with the principal city (also called Ledra) situated where Nicosia is today. Ledra was later renamed Lefkotheon, but it was also sometimes known to the inhabitants as Ledron. During the Byzantine era the name gradually changed again, this time to Lefkon, which means 'poplar grove', due to the immense number of poplar trees that lined the banks of the River Pedeios, which flowed through the city. Except for a brief time during the Venetian era, Nicosia has been the island's capital since the seventh century AD. Arab raids had made many coastal towns hazardous, but Nicosia was far enough from the sea to escape the effects of these raids. In 1570 the Venetians built huge fortifications to encircle the city; these walls are 3.5 miles long, with eleven towers and three gates, called the Kyrenia, Famagusta and Paphos gates. Within these impressive walls there are numerous relics of the middle ages and later. Outside the walls there remains no hint of the medieval community that once existed there, as the stones from these buildings were used at different times to strengthen and restore the walls.
Today, the population of Nicosia is about 355,000. The city is split into Greek and Turkish sectors by the border between the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus and contains one of the border-crossing points at the Ledra Palace hotel, where any EU passport holder can pass freely between North and South. Staggeringly beautiful examples of Gothic and Ottoman architecture abound in the centre of the old city, and there are abundant opportunities for sight-seeing. A wonderful example, situated right in the city centre, is the Selimiye Mosque (formally the Cathedral of St Sophia). The Dervish Pasha Mansion, a wonderfully restored Ottoman house that was originally refurbished by the editor and publisher of the first Turkish language newspaper in Cyprus, is also well worth a visit. Also in the heart of the city,, the covered market (Bandabuliya) is a sensation for the senses, delighting the eyes and nose with an orgy of vibrant colours and the powerful fragrance of spices. Close by, the Buyuk Han (Great Inn), where the camel trains would stop to rest their animals, has been restored and the courtyard now houses many small craft and souvenir shops and the obligatory cafes. Take the time too, to visit the Saray Hotel, where the roof-top bar has a terrace that provides an enchanting 360-degree panoramic view over the city, offering a fascinating illustration of the differences between Northern and Southern Cyprus.
Nicosia is a working capital city. As an administrative centre for the government, as well as a hub of shopping and commerce, Nicosia has very little in the way of tourist accommodation other than business hotels, but the city is less than 30 minutes by car from Kyrenia. Nicosia can also be easily reached from Famagusta. Ask at our reception desk if you would like a tour of Nicosia during your holiday in Cyprus.
Top Nicosia Hotels
Merit Lefkosa Hotel
Golden Tulip Nicosia Hotel