Today, I want to focus on Nicosia and its surrounding district. Most people think of Nicosia as just being the capital of Cyprus and offering little else. I was one of those people too – that is, until I decided to explore Nicosia and its areas first hand. This is what I discovered…
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Surrounding areas of Nicosia worth visiting
The city of Tamasos is rich in history, housing the royal tombs, the Macheras Monastery which is tucked into the Kionia slopes, and the Asinou Church that was built in 1200. From here, you can easily access the beautiful Troodos wine villages. Make sure to check out Omodos with its unique winery and the mountainous Platres with its fantastic tavernas and cafes.
Walking around Nicosia
Naturally, as the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia houses all the government offices and the Presidential Palace where our current President of the Cyprus Republic conducts national affairs. The palace itself is stunning and well worth a look, although you shouldn’t expect a palace in the British sense of the word! It can only be viewed from the outside.
The older part of Nicosia is known as the historical section. You can take a walk around the Venetian Walls which form an important feature of Nicosia. You will see the bastions on the walls that look like hearts and also the moat below the walls. If you follow the walls right the way around the city, you will come to the Gates of Venetian Nicosia, known as Famagusta Gate, whose design and construction is particularly impressive. You will also find the Green Line that has continued to divide northern Cyprus from its southern part since 1974, manned by the Turkish army.
As you continue your walk, you will find lots of small art galleries displaying the artwork of modern artists in Cyprus. You will come across Ayios Ioannis Church that is steeped in history and the Byzantine Museum containing Byzantine art from the Byzantine period in Cyprus. If you continue on from here you will come to Ledra Street and Onasagorou Street that are famous shopping streets of Nicosia. This is the most lively part of the old, historical town. You will find small restaurants and bars that are both traditional and modern – they are even open 24 hours in the summer months!
Moving away from the old town and into the new, modern Nicosia, you will find Eleftheria Square. It is the place to go to find shops with branded products, modern eating places and upmarket wine bars. Here you will find people of all nationalities and it is the hub of the city.
Nicosia also has a large and growing student population because of its universities and this has helped to create a young and vibrant atmosphere in the centre of the city. I asked some Cypriot friends about the Nicosia nightlife and they told me that cafes and restaurants are plentiful and full of life at both lunch and dinner. In the evening you can eat both Cypriot and international food here and then go to modern and attractive nightclubs or watch a concert with Cypriot or international singers. The food is high quality and it has received numerous international awards.
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Last, but certainly not least, you cannot leave Nicosia without a visit to its wonderful natural park. Athalassa National Park has 8,400 hectares of green expanses, and its sister park, Athalassa National Forest Park, contains woodland forest too. The parks have many nature trails that take you on tours through the wooded forest area and you can also walk along the shores of the beautiful crystal blue lake. You will find picnic areas where you can enjoy an open air picnic, and if you enjoy cycling, you can ride your bike along the numerous cycling trails.
There is also a bird observatory where you will find many different species of birds, including tropical ones like parrots, and you should also visit the botanical garden that has many different types of flowering and green plants. There are open air cafes that provide drinks and snacks so you can stay refreshed as you explore.
Nearby, you will find two other parks, Spyros Kyprianou Park and Acropolis Park, that are also great to walk around. Or, if you live in Nicosia, you can take your book and go for a quiet read in any of these parks.
While I was exploring, I also noticed open air yoga groups and keep fit classes going through their routines in the shady areas of Athalassa Park. As yoga is one of my own personal hobbies, I asked them if this open air activity happens a lot. They answered that it was very popular because of the naturalness of the environment, especially in the lengthy summer months.
All in all, you can easily spend a whole day in any of these parks because you will find so much to entertain you. And one more thing to mention – if you prefer to take the bus around the city of Nicosia and to visit any of the attractions, there is a very good bus service that is very cheap to use. It costs about two euros to go to any part of the city. This means you can visit all the attractions along a particular bus route.