Nicosia is an enticing city and the cultural heart of Cyprus. Divided between the Republican South and the Turkish-occupied North, the city is the world's last divided capital but is slowly becoming more united. Visitors today are free to travel between the two districts through a checkpoint, and both areas are home to a number of attractions. These include many great restaurants, fashionable clubs, intriguing museums and an Old City that is a labyrinth of narrow alleys leading to beautiful churches, colonial homes and mosques.
Start your visit by getting a panoramic view of the capital from the Shacolas Building. The 11th-floor of the tower is home to the Ledra Museum and Observatory. Brimming with astronomic delights, the museum also has many powerful telescopes through which visitors can see the charming cityscape and the capital's infamous ìGreen Line.î
To gain a solid understanding of the country and its history, head to the Cyprus Museum. It is the largest and oldest archaeological museum in the country and one of Nicosia's most visited sites. The gripping and thought-provoking exhibits outline Cyprus' history through ancient artifacts excavated from around the island. Other galleries showcase Mycenaean artifacts, Egyptian amulets and more treasures from around the world.
Selimiye Mosque interior Nicosia
The Selimiye Mosque is another must-see for anyone visiting Nicosia. Built in 1209, the mosque is one of the most important in the Turkish area of Cyprus and was the site of royal coronations until the late 15th-century when the island was invaded by the Venetians. The epitome of Gothic architecture on the island, visitors are treated to carved stone windows, ornate tile work and an exquisite main door.
Another fine example of Gothic architecture is the Haydarpasa Mosque, built in the 14th century. Today, the mosque has been repurposed as an art gallery showcasing a bizarre but fascinating collection of gargoyles and sculptures of human heads and dragons.
The Makarios Cultural Foundation is a sprawling complex with three exhibition spaces, including the popular Byzantine Art Museum. More than 200 icons are on display, including six Kanakaria mosaics.
The complex is also home to the European Art Gallery, showcasing over 100 oil paintings from the 16th century through the contemporary era. The Greek Independence War Gallery is the third museum at the complex, featuring copper engravings and paintings that tell the story of the 1821 Greek War of Independence.
Nicosia boasts a number of other fine museums. Visitors to the National Struggle Museum leave with a better understanding of the 1955-1959 independence movement. The House of the Dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios details Cyprus' ethnological history and culture in a beautifully restored 18th-century building. Hundreds of coins are on display at the Museum of the History of Cypriot Coinage, spanning more than 3,000 years of coinage history. Tucked away in the Old Town is the Cyprus Classic Motorcycle Museum, displaying nearly 150 classic British motorcycles made between 1914 and 1983.
One of the city's original gates, the Famagusta Gate, has been transformed into a cultural center that regularly puts on performances and exhibitions. The neoclassical Nicosia Municipal Theater is another cultural hotspot, hosting a number of concerts, plays and other events throughout the year.
Nicosia Geographical Location
Nicosia is located in the central south of Northern Cyprus on the Pedieos River and is the largest city in Northern Cyprus with a population of 85,000.
Turkish is the official language of Northern Cyprus but Greek is also common in addition to English as a second language.
Nicosia Predominant Religion
78% Greek Orthodox
The constitution of Northern Cyprus provides religious freedom
The official currency of Northern Cyprus is the Turkish Lira.
Nicosia experiences hot and dry summers with little rainfall. The winters are usually cool and comparatively wetter.
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