Lonely Planet Highlights “15 Best Things to Do in Nicosia”

NEW YORK – The Lonely Planet (LP) shared it list of “15 Best Things to Do in Nicosia” (Lefkosia), the still divided capital of Cyprus. The historic city is “walkable” for all those eager to explore “its centuries of history, from Venetian, Byzantine, and Ottoman landmarks to residential districts enjoying a rebirth,” LP reported.

First on the list is “stroll Nicosia’s stunning new square, Plateia Eleftherias,” LP reported, noting that “after 16 years, in December 2021, Nicosia unveiled its reimagined central square,” designed by late architect Zaha Hadid, “renowned for adding sinuous shapes and beguiling curves to major projects across the globe, including Beijing’s new airport and a stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.”

Plateia Eleftherias in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo: Captain Raju, via Wikimedia Commons

Next on the list, “follow the Green Line,” the “300km (186 mile) UN-administered buffer zone and barricades that have divided the two parts of Cyprus –  Nicosia and North Nicosia – since 1974,” LP reported, adding that “it runs right through the heart of Nicosia, and following its zigzagging route makes for a fascinating walk.”

Third on the list, “see both sides of Nicosia from Shacolas Tower Observatory” which “provides a sweeping 11th-floor view across Nicosia and the mountain range beyond,” LP reported, noting that “placards in English below the windows call out specific buildings and neighborhoods, and trace the course of the Green Line as it bisects the city.”

Next, “be dazzled at the Church of Archangelos Michail,” dating to 1695, and “thought to have replaced an earlier Gothic church on the same site,” LP reported, adding that “its interior is a constellation of glitter from hundreds of gold icons, some dating to the 1400s, and its exterior is built in Franco-Byzantine style, which is a pastiche of Gothic elements from France and Byzantine details traditionally used by the Greek Orthodox Church. You can see influences from two different rulers: the Lusignans of France, who were active in Cyprus from the 12th-15th centuries, and the Venetians, who ran the show starting in the 16th century.”

“The Omeriye Mosque dates from the 14th century, when its site was occupied by the Augustinian Church of St. Mary, and its tall minarets date to the opening of the current structure in 1571,” LP reported, noting that “popular lore says this was the first place used by Turks for worship after their invasion the same year.” It is “a working mosque that serves Nicosia’s diverse Arab and Asian Muslim populations,” LP reported, pointing out that “non-Muslims may visit outside of prayer times, as long as they observe the clothing etiquette and remove their shoes.”

Agios Ioannis Church is next on the list. “The modestly sized” church “which dates to the 17th century” is “located in the courtyard of the Archbishop Makarios III Cultural Foundation,” LP reported, noting that “the church’s discrete exterior masks an opulent interior featuring elaborate 18th century frescos.”

Famagusta Gate in Nicosia, Cyprus. Photo: AncientNicosia, via Wikimedia Commons

The “beguiling Chrysaliniotissa Quarter” is “up against the Green Line dividing the city,” and “is a gentrified residential neighborhood on the edge of the Old City,” LP reported, adding that “decades of neglect had the unintended consequence of preserving its elegant early 20th century homes from redevelopment.”

“Today the area’s charms are fully appreciated and a wave of renovations have returned the facades to their lost glory,” LP reported, noting that “residents create tiny, lush gardens with little more than a few potted plants,” “the narrow lanes provide a restful escape from the busier byways of the Old City,” and “stop into the Chrysaliniotissa Crafts Centre, where you’ll find artisans creating traditional Cypriot craft objects in eight workshops surrounding a central courtyard.”

“Walk the 16th-century Venetian walls” which surround the Old City and date from 1567, “erected by the Venetian rulers to defend against Ottoman invaders,” LP reported, adding that “unfortunately, it didn’t work out: In 1570, the Ottomans landed in Larnaka and stormed the fortifications, killing over 50,000 inhabitants. But the walls have remained in place ever since.”

“Of the 11 bastions, five in Nicosia have been carefully restored, while another forms part of the dividing Green Line,” LP reported, noting that “the other five are in North Nicosia, where they slowly crumble.”

Famagusta Gate is “Nicosia’s most photographed feature” LP reported, adding that it dates to “the Venetian era of the 16th century,” and is “the best-preserved of the three original gates that once led into the Old City, with a timeless wooden door and a sloping facade that open into a tunnel leading through the rampart wall.”

“Beyond the tunnel on the right is a small open-air arena, where summertime concerts are held,” LP reported.

The 16th-century Hamam Omerye bathhouse is next on the list. “The ancient Romans were the inspiration for the Ottomans who popularized hammams: traditional bathhouses featuring a series of rooms where you can use hot and cold water plus steam for your ablutions,” LP reported noting that the restored facilities are open to the public for “a range of hot and cold baths, massages, body scrubs and treatments.”

“Ponder the charms of Laïki Yitonia,” is next on the list, and is “the only overtly touristy neighborhood in the Old City,” LP reported.

A visit to the Municipal Swimming Pool, the five-day-long Medieval Nicosia Festival in April, a traditional coffee at Haratsi- a traditional coffee shop dating from the 1930s, and shopping for exquisite art at Diachroniki Gallery round out LP’s list.


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