Nicosia - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Nicosia


The bustling city of Nicosia (Lefkosia) in the northern interior has been the capital of Cyprus since the 12th century. It stands today as Europe's only divided city, being split in two by the 'Green Line', a United Nations buffer zone that divides the government-controlled Republic of Cyprus in the south from the Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.

The modern city centre of Nicosia is surrounded by elegant tree-lined suburbs, but the favoured tourist sector is the old town, which is being extensively renovated. The old town is a picturesque fusion of 16th-century walls, pedestrian precincts, pavement cafes and squares, brimming with charm, character and sightseeing opportunities. There are many things to see and do in Nicosia, with a variety of museums, performance venues, cinemas, restaurants, bars and nightclubs to choose from.

The city, on the Mesaoria Plain, is centre of the Nicosia District that includes the valleys of Solea and Pitsilia and parts of Marathasa with its mountain villages, orchards, hill resorts and plethora of Byzantine churches and monasteries. These are within easy reach making a pleasant day trip from the city.

Information & Facts


Nicosia enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with abundant sunshine year round. Long dry summers and mild winters are separated by short autumn and spring seasons. Summer is a time of high temperatures with cloudless skies, but the sea breeze creates a pleasant atmosphere in the coastal areas. Winters are mild, with some rain and snow on Troodos Mountains.

Getting Around

The Nicosia Bus Company services routes all over the city, all starting from Solomos Square terminal in the centre. Buses run every half hour or so, with less frequent service at weekends. The Nicosia Municipality runs free yellow buses in the old city. There are numerous taxi companies, operating metered cabs, which can be ordered by telephone or hired at the Eleftheria Square taxi rank.

The majority of Cypriots speak Greek, and a small percentage speaks Turkish. The Greek Cypriot dialect differs from mainland Greece. English, German and French are spoken in tourist areas.

The currency was changed to the Euro (EUR) on 1 January 2008. Major credit cards are accepted at most establishments. Money and travellers cheques can be exchanged at banks, open from Monday to Friday. There are ATMs spread throughout the island, operating 24 hours a day.

GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).

The largest collection of icons on the island of Cyprus is displayed in the Byzantine Museum in the Old City of Nicosia. The icons date from the 9th through to the 18th centuries. The museum also contains an art gallery exhibiting oil paintings, maps and lithographs that give visitors insight into Cypriot culture and history.

The Cyprus Archeaological Museum was established to collect, study and display archaeological artefacts from all over the island. Some of the exhibits are as old as 8,500 years. The museum is arranged in chronological order. The first hall contains pottery and implements from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods whilst the other rooms trace the history of Cyprus through the ages from the Bronze Age, Hellenic Period, Mycenaean times, and Roman Period to the early Byzantine. A unique feature of the museum lies in the basement, where several graves rest in a dark cellar complete with skeletal remains and grave adornments that have been reconstructed.

The colourful collections in this museum represent Cypriot folk art of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and include wood carvings, jewellery, woven goods, tapestries, embroidery, pottery and national costumes. The museum is housed in the Old Bishopric in a 15th-century Gothic building that used to serve as a Benedictine Monastery and then became the palace of the Archbishop.

The walls that completely encompass the Old City date from the Venetian occupation in the 16th century, and have a circumference of three miles (5km). Eleven heart-shaped bastions are interspersed along the walls, which have only three gates, in the north, south and east. One of the gates, the Famagusta Gate, has been restored and serves as the Lefkosia Municipal Cultural Centre, used for exhibitions, conferences, lectures and occasional performances. The gate's vaulted passage leads on to the moat encircling the Old City, which has been planted to create a garden.

The Orthodox Cathedral in the Old City was built in 1662 by Archbishop Nikiforos, dedicated to Saint John the Theologian. The 18th-century wall paintings show Biblical scenes and illustrate the discovery of the tomb of Saint Barnabas at Salamis. The Cathedral's prize features, however, are the iconostasis of carved wood covered with gold leaf, and the magnificent double-headed eagles.

Tamassos, 13 miles (21km) south-west of Nicosia, was an ancient city kingdom renowned for its rich copper works. Recent archaeological excavations at the site have produced some exciting finds in the Royal Tombs. These were six limestone sculptures, two representing life-sized sphinxes and four lions, in a crouching position. The sculptures are believed to date to the 6th century BC when Cyprus was under Egyptian control. Visitors to the site can also see the Agios Irakleidios Monastery near Politiko village.

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