Lefkosia (Nicosia), the island’s capital, combines both old and new in a busy modern commercial and business center and a centuries-old culture.
The center of the city is its old quarter surrounded by a Venetian sandstone fortress wall with a moat and heart-shaped bastions. Almost everything of interest lies within the historic walls, where a labyrinth of narrow streets reveals churches, mosques and evocative colonial-style buildings. The Mosques and palm trees give an oriental atmosphere to the old city. Wander round narrow streets with overhanging balconies and the beautifully restored pedestrian precinct with craft shops, cafes and restaurants. The country’s best museum is also here, housing an extensive archaeological collection. Make sure you stop off at St John’s cathedral with its frescoes and the marvelous museum of Byzantine icons. In the evening catch a concert in the moat or an exhibition at the Famagusta Gate, one of the three original entrances into the old city, which has now been restored and is used as a cultural center.
The new town spreads beyond the walls with a modern Europeanized center of high-rise buildings, office blocks, shops and pavement cafes, expanding into suburban residential areas. It is an enticing city and is ideal for experiencing what modern Cyprus is all about.
The city has been labelled ‘the last divided capital’, a reality that, although still present, is slowly changing thanks to 24-hour checkpoint crossings into its Turkish northern half – North Nicosia.