Discover a city steeped in history, rich in culture and with a passion for food
Divided in half since 1974, Cyprus’s capital is a fascinating and enticing city that bears witness to its many invasions and occupations – Crusader, Venetian, Ottoman, British. Enjoy fine museums, gilded churches and sophisticated dining. November, with the weather still balmy and the mass hordes departed the island, is the perfect time to wander and ponder this complex yet captivating metropolis.
WHAT TO DO
The preserved Old City, built by Venetian conquerors in the 16th century, is the main draw. Start the morning with a strong Greek coffee and spend some time exploring the citadel walls, the outline of which is Nicosia’s distinctive logo. The Old City itself is a network of alleys that lead you past crumbling colonial houses and jewel-like Orthodox churches. Stroll the route of the ‘Green Line’ to immerse yourself in the oldest and prettiest neighbourhoods or join a regular free walking tour. The sandstone Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion (+357 22 305316) is a perfectly restored merchant’s house with a tranquil courtyard. Don’t miss the Cyprus Museum (+357 22 865854) which houses a fabulous collection of archaeological finds.
WHERE TO STAY
The Hilton Cyprus hilton.com, Nicosia’s flagship hotel, has long been a meeting place for the great and the not always so good, and has the luxurious rooms, pools and fine dining you’d expect. The Classic Hotel classic.com.cy a chic mid- century-style block within the Old City walls, has fresh, modern rooms and marble bathrooms. For something more traditional, the Sandstone www.sandstonecyprus.com offers tastefully furnished rooms in an Old City house, with picturesque balconies, green shutters and pretty tiling.
WHERE TO EAT
Cypriots are passionate about food and it’s not hard to see why. The cuisine is not simply a mélange of Greek and Turkish, but has Middle Eastern influences too in its sumptuous stews, stuffed vegetables, cracked grains and pulses. Meze is the name of the game, so head to Zanettos Taverna www.zanettos.com a locals’ favourite, to savour plates of the best in town: specialities include smoked Cyprus sausage, meat marinated in grape and coriander, snails and grilled halloumi in pita. Afterwards enjoy fragrant Lebanese mahalepi washed down with Commandaria, Cyprus’s ancient dessert wine. For a taste of the Med inland, Pyxida pyxidafishtavern.com is a fabulous fish restaurant, offering fresh catch in a chic, modern setting – try the tuna carpaccio, seabass or grilled octopus. No Reservations noreservationsrestaurant.com has had rave reviews for its innovative take on local ingredients – sample dishes are stuffed zucchini flowers with bagna cauda or rack of lamb with garlic sour cream. You’ll surely want to sample some street food too: Sham Food (+ 357 22 333381) does lip-smacking shawarma.
Time running out
Café culture is central to Nicosia life, so head to Ledras and Onasagorou street or Makarios Avenue late afternoon for frappés and people-watching.
Currency is the euro. Time is two hours ahead of GMT. Flight time from Dubai is around 4.25 hours.
Emirates has direct daily flights from Dubai to Larnaca Airport, which is 40 kilometres from Nicosia. emirates.com
Visit Cyprus website is the official Cyprus Tourism Organisation guide and, full of things to do in Nicosia and further afield on the island. visitcyprus.com
The Handicrafts Centre (+357 22 305024) is brimming with traditional lace, embroidery, ceramics and pottery and aims at preserving these ancient crafts through its in-house artisans.