Enjoy a Cypriot coffee in the old quarter of the city, indulge in a fine mix of international cuisine, and explore the northern part of Cyprus, where time seems to have stood still. Nicosia is a seriously underrated European destination.
Words by Liam Carter
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean, renowned worldwide for its hot climate, sunny beaches, nightlife destinations, and world class resorts and for some reason, its capital, Nicosia or Lefkosia, is often overlooked as a quality city destination.
Just two and a half hours away from Malta, Nicosia, a Venetian-walled city offers a unique experience to holidaymakers. It is the world’s last divided capital, as since the coup’d’etat of 1974, the state of Turkey has illegally occupied the
northern area of Cyprus which includes also parts of the capital. There are plenty of crossing sites
from one zone to another; one of them is in Ledra Street, the Republic of Cyprus capital city’s hub, and also a popular shopping destination.
Start your day here by heading for a traditional Cypriot coffee or the ever popular frappe. While you’re at it, forget the calories and get yourself a
fine local pastry to accompany your caffeine.
If there’s one museum that you should definitely visit in Nicosia, it’s the Leventis Museum. There is no entrance fee and unlike similar museums, this one regularly hosts top quality exhibitions that take you through the history of Nicosia and Cyprus as a whole.
It is also in this area that you’ll find many shops, restaurants, and bars. If you’re hungry, I would seriously suggest sitting down for a traditional meze in one of the traditional Cypriot (and Greek) tavernas. This is the best way to experience the culinary delights Cyprus has to offer. If you fancy something else, Nicosia is widely regarded as a hub for multi-ethnic cuisines: During my time here, I was particularly impressed with AVO, a local Armenian joint which sells delightful traditional Halloumi pies and the famous lahmajouns.
After recovering from your highly likely food coma, head down towards the Green Line at the bottom end of Ledras Street, which is one of the seven crossing points and a
United Nations Buffer zone. This crossing, which is accessed solely by pedestrians, will
lead you to the northern part of Cyprus, currently illegally occupied by Turkey. Although the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is not officially recognised by the UN Security Council, people cross the borders for work and leisure and both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can move freely. Walking through here will serve as an eerie reminder to the problem of Cyprus, as streets historically considered as the city’s commercial hub lie derelict with guards and barbed wire separating both sides.
Once crossed over, you’ll instantly notice the abrupt recast of the city; Greek has turned into Turkish… Turkish typography and the Turkish flag are just about everywhere, traditional windowed shops are remade into typical Turkish bazaars and the popular Greek gyros transformed into kebabs.
Be on the lookout for the dondurma guys serving traditional Turkish mastic ice cream with a side of antics. Prices here are approximately 50% cheaper than the southern part, and although the official currency is Turkish Lira, almost everyone accepts payment in euro.
Make sure you visit the courtyard of the Büyük Han, an Ottoman caravanserai where traders and travellers historically met. On the other hand, should you be interested in going off the beaten track, Northern Cyprus will definitely fulfil all of your desires. I would highly
suggest visiting Girne or Kyrenia, a beautiful horseshoe shaped harbour sitting aside a Venetian era castle. Here, you’ll be dazzled by the stone buildings lining the harbour
and the dining tables sitting right at the water’s edge, making it a perfect end to your trip.
KEEP IN MIND
1. The Kapnos Airport Shuttle is the ideal way to get from Larnaca Airport to Nicosia.
2. The official currency of Cyprus is the Euro, however, in the illegally occupied north, the official currency is the Turkish Lira. Although you can use Euros in the northern area of Cyprus, the Lira is not accepted in the southern part.
3. Be careful when renting a car; the insurance policy for a car rented in the north won’t cover you for an accident in the south and vice versa. If you still decide to cross, obtain an additional insurance policy once you cross either side.
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine