Famagusta Cyprus was one of the hottest tourist destinations in the Mediterranean region in the 1960s and 70s. That changed with the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Greek Cypriots fled the city, leaving it to the Turkish conglomerates, and the tourist activity ceased. These days, Famagusta remains much like it was in 1974, its Varosia resort area being a verifiable ghost town. A more somber city there might not be, but that doesn't mean that travelers should leave it off the list. An array of historical attractions give credence to the city's more glorious past, and visitors who are interested in history can also visit nearby destinations including the ancient city of Salamis. Farther north is the wildest and least populated part of the country, not to mention the best beaches in the land.
There are lots of reasons why Famagusta Cyprus is worth a visit. For starters, the city maintains a considerable amount of beauty even while many of its buildings are either crumbling or left unfinished. The most historical buildings can be found in the Old City, and they include the Famagusta Cathedral. This glorious structure is the finest example of the Lusignan Gothic style of architecture in all of Cyprus, and it dominates the Old City skyline. Work commenced on the building in and around 1300 AD, and the Cathedral of Rheims in Paris served as a model. When the Ottomans invaded Cyprus in 1571, the Famagusta Cathedral became a mosque, and it has served as such ever since. The same can be said about its sister church, which is the Church of Agia Sophia in Nicosia. Non-Muslims are generally allowed to enter the Famagusta Cathedral, or the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque as it is locally known, when prayer sessions aren't taking place.
Admiring the main cathedral is one of the top things to do in Famagusta, and visitors to the Old City can also examine the old Venetian Walls. Built in the early sixteenth century, these impressive walls define the Old City boundaries. Whereas many of Famagusta's historical structures were ruined during the Ottoman invasion in 1571, the walls managed to hold due to their strength. On the northeastern side of the walls is Othello's Tower and Citadel, and this medieval fortress is also not to be missed when exploring the Old City. Built in the twelfth century, this citadel was meant to protect the city and its deep natural harbor. The Venetians reinforced Othello's Tower and Citadel in the late 1400s, and they certainly left their mark on the structure. Over the main gateway, visitors will find the sculpture of a winged lion. This is the historical badge of Venice.
As far as the Famagusta attractions are concerned, the cathedral, the Venetian walls, and the citadel reign supreme. These attractions offer fantastic insight into the city's medieval glory days. Long before Famagusta Cyprus became a tourism hot spot in the twentieth century, it was a vibrant thirteenth-century trading center. The lifestyle for many during the 1200s was a very lavish one, though things changed quickly in the fourteenth century. The city declined rapidly, and once the Ottomans arrived, it was all but left to crumble until the tourism boom of the 1960s and 70s. It's a bizarre history, really, and few cities in the world are harder to define when it comes down to it. That's part of the reason why a vacation to Famagusta can be so rewarding. There's also the fact that amazing destinations such as Salamis and the Karpas Peninsula are so close.
Much like the Tombs of the Kings near Paphos and the ancient city of Kourion on the southern coast, the ancient city of Salamis is one of the best Cyprus archaeological sites. As such, visiting it on the side is easily one of the top things to do in Famagusta. Among the ruins at Salamis are a theater, a gymnasium, and a number of Greco-Roman columns. The bulk of the relics that have been uncovered are from the Roman period, though some findings date as far back at the eleventh century BC. The ruins at Salamis are extensive, and as such, visitors should plan on spending at least half a day exploring them. After they explore the ruins, many visitors head to the beach that can be found along the site for some swimming and relaxation. True beach enthusiasts, however, will head further north to the quiet Karpas Peninsula, as this is where the best beaches in Cyprus are arguably found. Golden Beach lies at the end of the peninsula, and it is especially beautiful and quiet.
The list of things to do in Famagusta is more or less limited to daytime pursuits, as there isn't much in the way of nightlife. This is regardless of the fact that a university can be found here. As such, those looking to relish in some nighttime fun might pass on a stay at one of the Famagusta hotels in favor of a stay in the nearby resorts of Protaras or Agia Napa. Protaras is more of a family and couple's destination, whereas Agia Napa is where the younger and wilder crowds usually go to unwind.