48 hours in Old Nicosia

Whether you are looking for a sunny weekend getaway or you’re there for business, Nicosia will reward you with countless historical and cultural spots, authentic and infused Cypriot cuisine and a lively night scene. Nicosia (officially known as Lefkosia) has been the capital of Cyprus for more than a thousand years.

Founded right at the heart of the island, the city has been continuously inhabited for over 4500 years, thus making it one of the oldest capitals in the world. Nicosia is the political, financial and cultural hub of the country and a quite fascinating mix of cultures and civilizations reflecting the long and turbulent history of the island.

 Old Nicosia

Old Nicosia

Almost everything of interest lies within the unique star-shaped 16th century Venetian walls, an area known to locals as “Palia Poli” (Old City) or “Chora” to the older generations. Apart from Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, museums, galleries and artist’s workshops, “Palia Poli” is filled with hip cafes, lively bars and trendy restaurants, a fact quite impressive for a city so small.

 'Faneromeni' church

'Faneromeni' church

Nonetheless, probably the most fascinating fact of all is that the city bares the sad title of the last divided capital city of Europe. To sum up, Nicosia is a fascinating mix of vibrant street life, confronting division and rich history. So if you’ve got only two days to spend in the city and you’re wondering where to go and what to see, the following 48-hour itinerary will allow you to experience the local culture and visit most the city’s important sites and attractions.

Day 1

9-10.00am Kick-start the day the local way by sipping a Cyprus coffee while admiring the neoclassical facade of “Faneromeni School” at “Tria Fanaria”, one of the city’s oldest traditional confectioneries. Try a savoury pastry such as “halloumoti” or “eliopitta” and you won’t regret it. Bear in mind that Cyprus coffee is best sipped slowly and the thick layer at the bottom is not consumed!

Tria Fanaria .jpeg

10-2.00pm Walk along the 16th-century Venetian walls and take a selfie in front of the imposing “Famagusta Gate”, the largest and most beautiful of the three city gates. The Gate has been transformed into a Municipal Multicultural Centre so it’s not uncommon to catch an art exhibition inside. Head to the imposing Archbishop’s Palace and spend some time at the adjacent “Byzantine Museum” if you are into some serious religious art. See the stunning frescos of the small but truly magnificent “Agios Ioannis Cathedral”, or visit the free of charge “Leventis Municipal Museum” in Laiki Geitonia to find out more about the city’s fascinating history. If you fancy some more culture, you can visit “CVAR/Severis Foundation” in Ermou Street which houses a unique collection of paintings and artefacts that highlight the island's multicultural past.

Famagusta Gate.jpeg

2-4.00pm Lunch like a local in a “Mageirio” and taste dishes the Cypriot-mamma way. You can try “Evroulas restaurant” that is located inside Klokkaris arcade connecting Ledra and Onasagorou streets, “Shiantris” or “Mathaios” in the square behind Faneromeni Church. If you have a sweet tooth go to “Apomero” cafe and order the homemade “Portokalopitta” (orange phyllo pie) or “Galaktoboureko”. Take some time and explore the colorful streets of the Taktakalas neighborhood.

 ''Apomero'' cafe

''Apomero'' cafe

 “Evroulas restaurant”

“Evroulas restaurant”

4-8.00pm Stroll around Ledra and Onasagorou streets and stop in one of the street-side cafés in Faneromeni area for an old time classic Frappe (iced coffee) and of course people-watching. “Kala Kathoumena” is the most popular in the square and is usually full with youngsters and local artists alike. While you are in the area go to “Phaneromenis 70”, a shop with various items from local artists ranging from coffee coasters and vases to t-shirts and bags. Moreover, if you are looking for a more relaxing afternoon go to the “Weaving Mill” a space ideal for reading a book while enjoying your tea or coffee.

 Ledra street

Ledra street

8-10.00pm Its dinner time and you can’t leave Cyprus without trying “Mezedes”! Go to a local tavern and order “Cyprus meze” – a feast consisting of 15-20 small dishes. You will fall in love with “Halloumi” - the local squeaky cheese, the nutritious “Tahini” dip and “Sheftalia” - a seasoned minced meat sausage. Try “Aegeon”, a traditional tavern with a beautiful setting inside or if you want to have a special live-music experience, head to “Tsipouraki mezedaki” close to Famagusta Gate. The latter is a “Rebetadiko”, an all-time classic tavern where people enjoy their meal, sing and most of all appreciate the singer and bouzouki player. Don’t forget to order a bottle of local wine. Besides, Cyprus is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world.

10.00pm End the day with a craft beer at “Pivo microbrewery”, a family owned microbrewery that was co-founded by four brothers in a charming old house of 1910 attached to the “Green Line”. Order one of the 5 beers offered and taste a fresh Cyprus beer without any filtration or pasteurization.

11.00pm If you are more the cocktails-type visit “Patio”, a beautiful renovated city house with a gorgeous inner patio or go to “Lost n Found” located outside the walled city, named one of the World’s 50 Best Bars in 2015 and 2016. Alternatively, you can enjoy your cocktail in “Silver Star” while mingling with the locals under the citrus trees.

 Patio lounge bar 

Patio lounge bar 

Day 2

9-10.00am Order Cyprus breakfast in “Hurricane” - the island’s first bakery to ever make Cypriot tyropitta (cheese pie) - or go for brunch in one of the contemporary cafe-restaurants that offer various dishes inspired by local gastronomy such as “The Gym” in Onasagorou Street, “DOT” close to Famagusta Gate or “Mouson” in the homonymous street leading to Faneromeni School.

 'Faneromeni' school

'Faneromeni' school

10-2.00pm Pass by “Pafos Gate” and walk outside the walls to visit the “Cyprus Museum”, the largest archaeological museum on the island. If you are more into the Fine Arts visit “Leventis Gallery”, a private art gallery which houses a collection of over 800 paintings from Cypriot, Greek and European artists such as Renoir, Canaleto, Signac, Monet and Chagall just to name a few.

2-4.00pm Head back to the old town and enjoy a sensuous experience at the “The Hamam Omerye baths”, a 16th-century Ottoman bath still in use today both as a hammam and a beauty spa. If you’re hungry after your remedy, grab a Lahmajoun (traditional Armenian thin piece topped with minced meat) or Halloumoti from “Avo” in Onasagorou Street. If you have extra time visit  Agios Kassianos and Chrysaliniotissa neighborhoods to discover the old Nicosians, some families live here for hundreds of years. Otherwise relax and enjoy your coffee at 'Pieto' cafe.

 Pieto Cafe

Pieto Cafe

 Onasagorou street

Onasagorou street

4-8.00pm Go to Makariou and Stasikratous streets for some window shopping or if you have time, head to the “Cyprus Handicraft Centre” in Strovolos for some locally produced, hand-crafted items like Cypriot lace, embroidery, leatherwear, mosaics, ceramics and pottery. Moreover, you can watch these products being made in various workshops. If you want to take back home some local herbs, spices, olives and other Cypriot products try “Agios Antonios Municipal Market or any of the “Bakali” shops.

9.00pm Have dinner in a tavern with some live popular Greek music, for instance in “Piroga” or “Mezostrati” both located in Evagorou Street just outside the walls where “Eleftheria Square” is being reshaped. Btw Cypriots don’t smash plates anymore while dancing as they swapped that with napkins. Don’t worry, its still fun!

11.00pm Go to “WSTD” or “Square” for some drinks and electronic beats with the youngsters of the city.

1.00am Discover how the locals dance the night out in “Box42” Club in Stasikratous Street or “Cafe Mercedes” at the end of Ledra Street. If you are more into the non-commercial underground music then “KlubD” is the place to be - go late as it stays open until morning.

Where to Stay

The 3RoomsHotel is a gem in the heart of the old city. A charming old mansion inside the walled city which transformed into a gorgeous small boutique hotel. Find out more in the article we featured the hotel back in December.

Extra Tips

- If you’re in town on a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, you can join one of the FREE guided walking (in English) and bus tours starting at 10:00 from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation information office at 11 Aristokyprou in the Laiki Geitonia (booking needs to be made in advance at +357 22674264).

-  If you want to visit the Cyprus Museum do it on a Tuesday or Friday and get the FREE Guided Tour. The guided tour starts at 11:00 and last about 1.5 hours. For further information and reservations: +357 22 889 600
 

 

The 'Cypriot' Aphrodite

Follow The Islander Stories for more Places & Spaces.