CITY GUIDE: Nicosia
Currently the only divided capital in the world, Nicosia is the island’s financial capital and main business centre. Elegantly combining local heritage with contemporary flair, Nicosia is constantly evolving, as it has been for over 2,500 years.
Steeped with history, the country’s capital city was previously fortified with large stone walls and gates by the Venetians and, amongst the most notable landmarks which they left behind – Famagusta Gate still proudly encircles this thousand-year-old city. Travellers visiting this iconic landmark can wander their way through narrow stone streets and be greeted by local jewellery and handicraft shops, charming tavernas, century-old churches and much more.
The walls surrounding Nicosia have, including Famagusta Gate, two other gates – Kyrenia Gate and Paphos Gate.
Within the walls, the historical centre has been exceptionally preserved; however, the modern city has continued to grow and this contrast cannot be more evident than through Ledra Street. Historically known as the busiest shopping street the capital possesses, guests visiting Ledra seemingly stream in and out of its adjacent streets which lead to the liveliest parts of the old city with boutique shops, bars and art-cafés. A standout landmark in its own right, Ledra, which stretches approximately one kilometre, connects the south and illegally occupied north parts of the city.
East of Ledra Street, Faneromeni Square hosts numerous historical buildings and monuments such as Faneromeni Church, Faneromeni School, Faneromeni Library and the Marble Museum.
Presently, Nicosia’s main square is Eleftheria Square which is currently under renovation. Connecting the old with the new, guests can find the main shopping streets such as Stasikratous Street, Themistokli Dervi Avenue and Makarios Avenue.
Furthermore, those with a passion for history and art can also be within their element as the Cyprus Museum holds many of the island’s priceless treasures from the first stirrings of the Neolithic Age through to the Romans. Additionally, art takes a new perspective here with many modern Cypriot artists showcasing their work, many of whom have now gained recognition on a global scale. The Archbishop’s Palace includes a Byzantine museum which contains the largest collection of religious icons on the island while the Leventis Municipal Museum is the capital’s only historical museum and revives Nicosia’s past with its present.
Other notable museums include the Folk Art Museum, National Struggle Museum, Cyprus Ethnological Museum and the Handicrafts Centre.
Nicosia also embraces all religious faiths as it is home to an Armenian archbishop, a small Buddhist temple, convent and Maronite archbishop. Labelled as the second most important country worldwide for the Maronites (after Lebanon), Cyprus also witnessed the Pope reside inside the convent during his visit in June 2010.