4 Things to Do in Nicosia Cyprus
Old school meets new school meets Turkey meets Greece meets the European Union.
Nicosia, Cyprus is a fascinating and sometimes confusing place to explain to tourists.
Before we landed our house sit in Nicosia we did our routine travel spot homework until the routine became very non-routine. Things got political. Quickly.
Make no mistake about it; Nicosia is a fun town dripping with history, culture
s and flavor. Oh yeah…..the place is also the last divided capital on earth.
How it works: Turkey rules North Cyprus, and Northern Nicosia, and the EU rules Cyprus (called South Cyprus for differentiation purposes), and Southern Nicosia, but Cyprus and Southern Nicosia carry a strong Greek influence.
Now that we have the geopolitical lesson out of the way let’s dive into things to do Nicosia.
1: Wander Around the Ledra Street Crossing Point (and Cross it)
Venetian Walls built in the Middle Ages.
The last divided capital in the world.
A heavy Turkish influence on the northern side of the border.
A strong Greek feel to the South.
Enjoy the jambalaya of cultures, countries and time travel around the Ledras Street border crossing.
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 Nicosia became the last divided capital city in the world. Turkey controls North Cyprus, and hence, Northern Nicosia, while the EU controls Cyprus, and Southern Nicosia.
We walked toward the crossing – from Southern Nicosia – a few time during our stay. One of the more impressive sights are the aforementioned Venetian Walls. Imagine these barriers creating a formidable fortress to elicit hopelessness in invading armies.
After cruising by the walls you find the popular Ledras street area. Good eats, great shopping and small, narrow, side streets with a strong European vibe form tributaries off of the main strip in the area.
I enjoyed a fine Greek hamburger while watching pedestrians make the cross into both sides of Nicosia.
Note; Turkish citizens are not allowed to pass from northern Nicosia to southern Nicosia. I learned this lesson after a Turkish airline lost my bags. I had to hustle to the pedestrian crossing and meet the representative at the border to collect my bags. No worries though.
2: Get Some Cardio at the Park
Visit one of the parks in Nicosia – especially as the sun begins to set – to enjoy some cardiovascular activity after your Greek bakery feast (see below).
Nicosia routinely registers temperatures from 100 F to 105 F during the high season. Do your cardio, whether a light walk, jog or run, after the sun begins to set, as the locals do.
By 6 PM you can wander out of the air conditioning to face the warm, dry desert conditions of Cyprus. Stretch out and either walk to the park or grab a ride (or drive) to your park of choice.
Kelli and I enjoyed our evening walks at Athalassa National Park. This place was a 2 minute jaunt from the home where we did our 1 month house sit. Perfect location.
We’d stroll over and do 45 minutes of brisk walking around the pines, fields and streams snaking through the area.
Things were a bit dry during the hot season so the park resembled more kindling than green, lush paradise but it was a much appreciated respite from the low key but still busy scene in Nicosia.
3: Visit a Greek Bakery
Nicosia hosts a collection of phenomenal Greek bakeries guaranteed to tickle your taste buds.
Kelli and I were often spotted buying one of the many halloumi products which dominate Cypriot cuisine in these spots. I also fell in love with authentic Greek yogurt via these bakeries, tasting the dramatic difference between the Western version I consumed in America versus this dyed in the wool, real deal, hearty, tasty and nutritious fare.
Various Greek sweet treats – baked fresh daily – are advertised as you enter the bakery. I dare you to turn down flaouna or Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts. Go ahead. Just try to do so. I couldn’t, after spending just a day in Nicosia.
Grab yourself a few moist, delicious brownies on the way out of the store. Just in case you are Jones-ing for a sweet Greek treat late at night.
The bakeries we visited also offered a wide range of savories and some Western style chips and sweet treats, if that tickles your pickle.
4:Spend Time at the Bazaar in Northern Cyprus
After you pass over the Ledra Street border crossing make sure to visit the Bazaar.
This place feels like stepping back centuries, with its classic, old school sign beckoning you to enter and feel the Middle Eastern influence.
Our trip to the bazaar was a bit like journeying through the Souq Waqif in Doha, Qatar. Not quite the same heavy Arabic feel and certainly smaller but you had some bartering, buying and bickering going on too.
Grab a bite to eat or enjoy a coffee from one of the many cafes in the area. Make sure to snap a few shots; the different feel between North and South Nicosia is palpable, with heavy Turkish and Greek influences forming a stark contrast as you cross the border.
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