lies roughly at the center of the island, with a rich history that
can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It only became Capital of
the island in the 11th century AD. The Lousignians turned it into
a magnificent city with a Royal Palace and over fifty churches.
it blends its historic past brilliantly with the bustle of a modern
city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls,
is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings
preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past. Yet this old
heart is split in two, leaving Nicosia the only capital city in
the world to remain divided by force.
new Nicosia developed outside the walls became a contemporary, business
and cultural center. Just a few miles away areenchanting places
of interest such as Byzantine churches and monasteries, archaeological
sites and charming villages.
a doubt, Nicosia the 1000-year-old capital of Cyprus should be on
every visitor's agenda. It lies roughly in the center of the island;
within easy reach of the other towns and a day in Nicosia will be
a day well spent.
old walled city of Nicosia is unique and definitely the place to
head for first. Encircled by strong fortress walls built by the
Venetians in the 16th century, the enchanting old city is scattered
with buildings and monuments of historical interest as well as little
shops, cafés and tavernas. The Nicosia Jewels Museum and the Municipal
Arts Center are both well worth a visit. The 'Levention' Municipal
Museum, with an imaginative presentation of the capital's history,
was awarded the title "1991 European Museum of the Year".
walk through the old city is to step backwards in time. Narrow streets
and old houses with ornate balconies jut from weather beaten sandstone
walls, smell of jasmine flowers in those long summer evenings, and
craftsmen in small workshops practice trades unchanged for centuries. 'Laiki Yitonia' - Folk Neighborhood - is a pedestrian
section, which has been carefully renovated to evoke the atmosphere
of past days. The two main streets of old Nicosia, Ledra and Onasagorou,
are lined with shops of every type, and both streets are pedestrian
to be missed is the unique Cyprus Museum, housing island's most
important collection of Cypriot antiquities and treasures from the
Neolithic Age to the Roman Period. In contrast to these ancient
finds is the State Collection of Contemporary Art, and on the other
side of town, just off the main Limassol road, is the Cyprus Handicraft
award winner is the city's renovated 'Pyli Ammochostou' - Famagusta
Gate - one of the original entrances to the old city, which won
the Europa Nostra award for its restoration. Many old churches are
to be found in this part of town, and other places of interest are
the Folk Art and Byzantine Museums, the Archbish's palace, the Cathedral
of Ayios Ioannis with its beautiful frescoes, the National Struggle
Museum and the intriguing house of Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios - a
fine example of l8th century architecture - which houses the Ethnological
far from these monuments is the infamous 'Green Line' that divides
the Republic from the illegally occupied area to the north. It has
been in existence since 1974 when Turkish
troops invaded the island and claimed 37% of northern Cyprus
as a breakaway pseudo-state that has since been recognized by no
nation, other than Turkey.
modern city that has developed outside the walls is a cosmopolitan
center of business and culture. Nicosia is regarded as the shopping
heart of Cyprus, with a variety of restaurants, discos and bars.
Within easy reach of the capital are such historic gems as the l2th
century painted church of Asinou, the picturesque monasteries (Makheras,
Ayios Iraklidios), the regal tombs at Tamassos, the ancient city-kingdom
of Idalion and the enchanting villages of Fikardou and Kakopetria.
main shopping areas in Nicosia are Arch. Makarios Avenue, the parallel
street behind it, Stasikratous Street, and Ledra Street. In addition
to shopping for handicrafts, embroidery, pottery and other local
made items, visitors to Nicosia might like to take advantage of
the capital's modern commercial centers to buy such items as the
latest design fashions, prescription eye wear, perfumes and liqueurs,
many of which are less costly here than in Europe.
Street is known for its attractive and rather expensive boutiques,
selling high quality clothes and shoes as well as silverware, fine
porcelain and imported oriental clothes.
you follow Makarios Avenue until the end and then turn right, you
will get to Eleftheria Square, which leads to the central part of
the town. Most of the shopping area in the old part of Nicosia is
now pedestrian way so it is easy to ramble through the zigzag streets
of the town especially Laiki Yitonia which is of particular interest
to travelers who want a taste of Cypriot culture. Laiki Yitonia
is a renovated eighteenth century enclave where local artisans and
craftsmen display their wares along cobblestone lanes. Here too
bougainvillea laced restaurants beckon with the aroma of roast lamb
and Greek coffee.
you go back to Eleftheria Square and follow the walls past the Town
Hall and Post Office you will arrive at Eleftherios Venizelos Square,
otherwise known as "OHI" square. There, an open market takes place
every Wednesday. It is particularly colorful and worth a visit.
is a good idea to shop around before buying and once you begin you
will realize just how much there is to see. Take your time and relax
while shopping. From shoes to spectacles to clothes, you are bound
to find something to suit your taste and pocket and at the same
time you will discover a little of the daily life in the capital.
shopping remember that in winter, shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs
and from 14.30-17.30 hrs. They are closed on Wednesday and Saturday
afternoon. In the summer, shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs and 16.00-19.00
hrs; again no shops in the afternoon of Wednesday and Saturday,
except sometimes in Laiki Yitonia.
Yitonia - A Brief History
oldest documentation we have concerning Nicosia within the walls,
dates back to 1567, when the Venetians took over the island, and built
the fortification with the eleven bastions, that one can still see
though, has a history dating long before that period, and has been
the capital of the island since 1192, when a French Royal family,
the Lusignans, made it their capital. They built an important number
of monuments, such as churches, monasteries, palaces etc. We also
know that Nicosia had 250 churches, and that the town was much larger
than the one built by the Venetians, who had destroyed a large number
of original buildings to construct the fortifications. Nicosia today,
has nothing really left of the French period, except the churches,
and what one still sees is the structure of the town after the Venetians.
town planning was a result of a way of living: narrow streets with
houses built next to each other. The buildings we see today basically
date from the end of the 18th and 19th centuries, and they have
all the characteristics of houses built within fortifications. Their
design is also proof that architecture has managed to combine both
worlds, the East and the West. Greek, French, Venetian and Turkish
details, all mix in a typical Cypriot expression. The basic materials
used for the buildings were wood, sandstone, and mud brick. The
combination of all these different materials gives us today an example
of fine architecture.
1960, old Nicosia still retained all these characteristics, which
gave the city its architectural character. In the next 20 years,
Nicosia experienced a series of transformations both in the natural
environment, as well as in the social environment, due to the demanding
pressure for the development of the city.
sudden change, found the city unprepared and unable to cope with
the new needs. As a result of this change, the sudden development
caused serious destruction to the historical character of the city.
The "green line" divided the walled city, and aggravated the situation,
by literally cutting in two the historical center, thus creating
a problem to the city itself, and to all those who had to abandon
their homes, because of the proximity of the green line. Gradually,
the old town, - that once was full of life and commercial activity,
is abandoned, and people look for solutions outside the fortifications.
old part of our city, our historical center, was withering away,
and problems within the walls just increased every day - traffic,
lack of green areas, difficult living conditions and other problems.
The Government of Cyprus, being aware of the problem the old city
faced every day, decided in 1977 to expropriate the area of Laiki
Yitonia, a small area not bigger than 1000 square meters. The main
aim was to breathe new life to the city within the walls, by creating
a nucleus with a very strong folkloric character that would combine,
commercial and cultural activities. The basic scope of our government
was to give a real example for the revival of the old city that
would guide the way to a development of Nicosia, that would also
safeguard in this way, its architectural character and its tradition.