Nicosia is the best city in Cyprus if you want to enjoy some urban exposure. Also known as Lefkosia, this fascinating capital is essentially split in half, the northern side filled with Turkish Cypriot communities, and the southern side home to Greek Cypriots. The modern parts of Nicosia are mostly found on the southern side, while the northern side offers a more traditional look at things. While the modern trappings of the capital of Cyprus lend themselves well to tourists, it is the Old City that arguably holds the most allure.
For most tourists, exploring the Old City tops the list of things to do in Nicosia, partly because of the well-preserved Venetian walls that surround this district. These walls were built in the sixteenth century, and they have remained relatively unchanged since they failed to keep Ottoman invaders out in 1570. Both the walls and the moat that was built at the same time are in excellent condition, at least on the southern side. On the Turkish occupied northern side, they are more dilapidated. Car parks can be found near the wall on the southern side if you are renting a car and need a place to put it. The southern side is also home to some concert venues that are used for various events.
The Old City in Nicosia can be found in the heart of town, and it offers an ideal complement to the city's more cosmopolitan modern districts. The streets are narrow in the Old City, and they are mostly lined with old homes, small work and craft shops, and a number of other historical attractions. One of the top attractions in the Old City is the Famagusta Gate. Of the three original gates to the historic district, the Famagusta Gate is the best preserved. Lovingly restored in 1981, this relatively large structure now serves as the Nicosia Municipal Cultural Centre, and it hosts various concerts and exhibitions.
After checking out the Famagusta Gate, many visitors to the Old City in Nicosia take some time to admire the many other historical structures, such as the Omeriye Mosque and the Faneromeni Church. The Omeriye Mosque was established in 1571, and it sits on the site of a fourteenth century Augustinian church. As is true at many mosques across the island, it is possible for non-Muslims to enter the Omeriye Mosque, provided that they dress respectively and avoid official prayer times. As for the Faneromeni Church, it was built in 1872 and looms large over Faneromenis Square. This square used to be the center of town before Eleftherias Square assumed that role in the mid 1970s.
The Omeriye Mosque and the Faneromeni Church can both be found on the southern, or Greek side of the Old City. Before visitors cross the line into the Turkish sector to see what it has to offer, they might make a stop at the Cyprus Museum. Arguably the best museum in Cyprus, the Cyprus Museum contains an array of fascinating relics that offer insight into the country's storied history. Highlights at the museum include the sixth and seventh century terracotta figures and the Egyptian statues that date back to around 400 BC.
Crossing over to the Turkish side of the Old City in the capital of Cyprus, museum buffs can also take in the excellent exhibits at the Turkish Museum. This museum focuses more on the Turk history of Cyprus, and it is housed in a former monastery from the seventeenth century. Another attraction on the northern Turkish side that deserves a look is the Selimiye Mosque. This historic edifice is the main landmark on the northern side of town, and it was consecrated as a church way back in 1326. Upon the arrival of the Ottoman invaders in the 1570s, the church became a mosque. The Gothic structure of the interior hints at the fact that the Selimiye Mosque was once a Christian church.
The historical attractions in the capital of Cyprus are numerous, and many visitors choose to take them in while enjoying a walking tour. Taking in historical attractions isn't the only option when it comes to things to do in Nicosia, however. Outside of the Venetian Walls, this largest city in Cyprus is quite modern, and visitors can find a number of alluring shops to duck into. Makarios Avenue is where shoppers might want to spend the bulk of their time, as this glitzy stretch of road boasts some of the city's best designer, chain, and local shops.
Dining is also one of the top things to do in Nicosia, as the city is home to some very good restaurants, and there may be not better place in Cyprus for nightlife. Many Cyprus tourists spend the bulk of their days hanging out on beaches and enjoying other outdoor pursuits before venturing inland to the capital to enjoy the dining and nightlife scenes. When it comes to Nicosia nightlife, it is important to note that fashionable attire is expected. Those who don't dress up will have a hard time fitting in at the clubs and bars.
The capital of Cyprus has a lot to offer travelers, and many tourists look to base themselves at one of the Nicosia hotels when visiting the island. The relatively small size of Cyprus means that getting from Nicosia to the coast doesn't take very long, and travelers who base themselves here will also find the central location to be ideal for side trips to the mountains. Whatever you have in mind for your Cyprus holiday, the capital city can make an ideal base for various reasons, and if nothing else, it warrants at least a day on the itinerary if you truly want to get an idea of what this Mediterranean island is all about.