Best Things To Do In Nicosia

Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean, is notable for being divided into two parts. In the south, you’ll find the Republic of Cyprus, which represents the Greek half of the island. In the north lies the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is not recognized by the UN. Between them, the “Green Line” serves as a buffer zone that runs through the country, splitting the capital, Nicosia, in two.

Over the past twenty years, relations between these two areas have improved, allowing easy travel from one side to the other. This enables you to experience Nicosia’s charms, from the Mediterranean influence in the south to the architectural beauties in the north. To help you plan your visit, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Nicosia!

1. Explore the city center

Nicosia City Center

An old wall from the Venetian times surrounds Nicosia’s city center. Inside, you’ll find the most authentic part of the city. Narrow alleys are lined with old houses and charming restaurants. There are also shops selling lace and Aphrodite statuettes.

As you walk, waiters might offer you a free glass of Ouzo. You can sit on a terrace and try local food like spinach pie in a mezze feast. Some menus have up to 22 dishes to share! The Old Town has many of the main attractions you must see in Nicosia.

2. Visit the National Museum of Cyprus

The National Museum Of Cyprus In Nicosia

The National Museum of Cyprus is the largest in the country and a must-see when visiting Nicosia. It focuses on archaeology and showcases the history of the island’s settlement from the Neolithic period. The museum has 14 rooms arranged around a large square, offering a chronological journey from the first tools and figurines discovered to the Bronze Age. Plan to spend several hours exploring the museum fully!

3. Go to the Shacolas Tower Museum and Observatory

Shacolas Tower Museum And Observatory In Nicosia

Shacolas Tower Museum and Observatory is located on the 11th floor of the Shacolas Tower, which was once the tallest building on the island at 50 meters high. It was the only place that offered a view of the area under Turkish occupation. The museum features an exhibition on the city’s history, narrated through an audio guide and interactive maps. You can also observe the northern zone with powerful binoculars, including the two giant flags painted on Mount Pentadactylos.


4. Visit the Byzantine Museum

The Byzantine Museum In Nicosia

The Byzantine Museum holds the island’s largest collection of Byzantine art and is housed in a building that used to be the Archbishopric. The exhibits cover more than 1,000 years of history, featuring icons from churches all over the island, along with books and sacred objects. It’s one of the top things to do in Nicosia!


5. Discover the Folk Art Museum

The Folk Art Museum In Nicosia

Cyprus Folk Art Museum, or Museum of Popular Art, was founded in 1937 and is located in the former Bishop’s Palace. It showcases Cypriot folk art from the 19th and 20th centuries, with over 5,000 pieces including lace, pottery, weaving, and basketwork. Be sure to see the carved door of St. Mammas Church, which inspired the famous poem “Little Things of Cyprus.”


6. Visit the Leventis Municipal Museum

The Leventis Municipal Museum In Nicosia

The Leventis Museum aims to preserve and promote the Hellenic heritage of Cyprus. This museum features a permanent exhibition that highlights different periods of occupation, including Byzantine, Venetian, Ottoman, and British eras. Key attractions include a 2,700-year-old archaic vase, medieval ceramics, traditional costumes, and a Renaissance tapestry.


7. Explore the Great Inn

Büyük Hanin Nicosia

Known locally as “Büyük Han,” this unique complex is housed in a former Ottoman-era caravanserai built in 1572, which hosted travelers in merchant caravans. Renovated in 1990, it is now a cultural and social venue in the old town’s center. Located in the Turkish part of the city, it houses shops and restaurants and is a magnificent example of Ottoman architecture.


8. Stop at Selimiye Mosque

Selimiye Mosque In Nicosia

This mosque showcases the complex history of Cyprus. It stands on the former Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Sophia, believed to have been built on an earlier Byzantine church. The unique building features two minarets on a Gothic base. Dating back to 1570, after the city was captured by the Ottomans, the Selimiye Mosque is a must-see in Nicosia.


9. See the Venetian Walls and Fortified Gates

The Venetian Walls In Nicosia

Nicosia’s fortifications are among the best preserved in Europe. The original structures date back to 1211, but the current walls were built in 1567 by the Venetians to protect against Ottoman invasions. The walls span 5 kilometers in circumference. As you walk around, you’ll find 5 of the original 11 bastions and 3 monumental gates: Paphos, Famagusta, and Kyrenia. Exploring these walls is one of the essential activities when visiting Nicosia.


10. Discover the Nicosia old Aqueduct

Nicosia Old Aqueduct

Near the Liberty Monument lies the remains of an ancient aqueduct, discovered during the demolition of a private building. This small preserved section was part of a larger aqueduct that connected the Kyrenia Gate in the north to the Famagusta Gate in the east. It was used to transport water from the mountains to the city’s fountains.


11. Take a Break at the Pivo Microbrewery

 The Pivo Microbrewery In Nicosia

Pivo Microbrewery is a charming local spot located in a 100-year-old mansion with stone walls and marble archways. Here, you can enjoy a variety of unfiltered and unpasteurized beers such as pilsners, lagers, and IPAs, straight from the tank. It’s a perfect place to relax and taste local brews in a historic setting.


12. Stroll Down Ledra Street

Ledra Street Nicosia

Ledra Street is a symbol of Nicosia’s history and culture. Historically, it was the main commercial artery connecting the northern and southern parts of the city. Closed by barricades following the Turkish intervention in 1974, it reopened in 2008. Today, it is one of the seven crossing points of the “Green Line” between North and South. Walking down Ledra Street, you’ll experience a stark contrast between the chic boutiques and cafes of the South and the bustling bazaars of the Northern districts.


13. Visit Panagia Machaira Monastery

Panagia Machaira Monastery Nicosia

Machaira Monastery, located 40 kilometers from Nicosia, is a splendid day trip destination. Nestled in the mountains, the monastery blends harmoniously with nature while maintaining an impressive and solemn appearance. The beautifully preserved monastic church at the center of the cloister houses an icon of the Virgin Mary, said to have been painted by the evangelist Luke.


14. Discover Athalassa National Park

Athalassa National Park In Nicosia

Athalassa National Park, an 840-hectare green space just minutes from Nicosia’s city center, offers a perfect escape for nature lovers. With 20 kilometers of trails, it’s an ideal spot for a family picnic in the shade of endemic trees or a refreshing swim in the lake for the more adventurous. It’s a great place to relax and breathe in the fresh air.


How to get to Nicosia?

To visit Nicosia, the most practical solution is to take the plane. There are two international airports in the South zone, Larnaka and Paphos.

Paphos is located on the southwest coast, a two-hour drive from the capital. To get to Nicosia, it is best to fly into Larnaca, just 40 minutes from the city. You can then take a bus or opt for a rental car for your entire stay.

There is an airport in the northern area, Ercan, but it is not recognized by international authorities and requires transit through Turkey. In any case, we do not recommend starting your stay in the northern part of Cyprus, as you may have difficulty getting to the south.

Where to stay in Nicosia?

There is a wide variety of accommodations in Nicosia, from guesthouses to 5-star hotels. To fully enjoy your stay, we recommend staying in the city center, around the Selimiye and Omeriye mosques. This way, you will be close to all the attractions to visit in Nicosia.

If you want to stay in high-end accommodation, luxury hotels are usually located on the outskirts of the city, and you will need a vehicle or public transport to get around.

Read also: Where To Stay In Nicosia: Choose The Best Part.