The Capital of Cyprus Nicosia - Lefkosia
Nicosia is a name only used by non-Cypriots. The real name of the capital of Cyprus is Lefkosia and Cypriots and locals would only use Lefkosia. A mixed up place, Cyprus!
Location and History of Lefkosia
Nicosia lies roughly at the centre of the island, with a rich history that can be traced back to the Bronze Age. It only became capital of the island in the 11th century AD. The Lousignians turned it into a magnificent city with a Royal Palace and over fifty churches. Today it blends its historic past brilliantly with the bustle of a modern city. The heart of the city, enclosed by 16th century Venetian walls, is dotted with museums, ancient churches and medieval buildings preserving the nostalgic atmosphere of years past. Yet this old heart is split in two, leaving Nicosia the only capital city in the world to remain divided by force (5.4.2007) and still divided.
The new Nicosia (Lefkosia) developed outside the Venetian walls, becoming a contemporary business and cultural centre. Just a few miles away are enchanting places of interest such as Byzantine churches and monasteries, archaeological sites and charming villages. Without a doubt Nicosia, the 1000-year-old capital of Cyprus, should be on every visitor's agenda. It lies roughly in the centre of the island; within easy reach of the other towns. A day in Nicosia will be a day well spent.
The modern city that has developed outside the walls is a cosmopolitan centre of business and culture. Nicosia is regarded as the shopping heart of Cyprus, with a variety of restaurants, discos and bars. Within easy reach of the capital are such historic gems as the l2th century painted church of Asinou, the picturesque monasteries of Makheras, Ayios Iraklidios, the regal tombs at Tamassos, the ancient city-kingdom of Idalion and the enchanting villages of Fikardou and Kakopetria.
The Old City
To walk through the old city is to step backwards in time. Narrow streets and old houses with ornate balconies jut from weather-beaten sandstone walls, smelling of jasmine flowers in those long summer evenings, and craftsmen in small workshops plying their trades unchanged for centuries. 'Laiki Yitonia' - Folk Neighborhood - is a pedestrian section that has been carefully renovated to evoke the atmosphere of past days. The two main streets of old Nicosia, Ledra and Onasagorou, are lined with shops of every type, and both streets are pedestrian only.
Not to be missed is the unique Cyprus Museum, housing the island's most important collection of Cypriot antiquities and treasures from the Neolithic Age to the Roman Period. In contrast to these ancient finds is the State Collection of Contemporary Art, and on the other side of town, just off the main Limassol road, is the Cyprus Handicraft Center.
The old walled city of Nicosia is unique and definitely the place to head for first. Encircled by strong fortress walls built by the Venetians in the 16th century, the enchanting old city is scattered with buildings and monuments of historical interest as well as little shops, cafes and tavernas. The Nicosia Jewels Museum and the Municipal Arts Center are both well worth a visit. The 'Levention' Municipal Museum, with an imaginative presentation of the capital's history, was awarded the title "1991 European Museum of the Year".
A Divided Nicosia
Not far from these monuments is the infamous 'Green Line' that divides the Republic from the illegally occupied area to the north. It has been in existence since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the island and claimed 37% of northern Cyprus as a breakaway pseudo-state that has since been recognized by no nation other than Turkey.
The Nicosia property market is possibly the most under rated in Cyprus by most foreign investors who are considering purchasing property in Cyprus. Nicosia is the largest town in Cyprus, centre of government, the business centre and housing the Cyprus stock exchange, all of which adds up to growth, demand and capital appreciation.
The main shopping areas in Nicosia are Archbishop. Makarios Avenue, the parallel street behind it, Stasikratous Street, and Ledra Street. In addition to shopping for handicrafts, embroidery, pottery and other local made items, visitors to Nicosia might like to take advantage of the capital's modern commercial centers to buy such items as the latest fashion designs, prescription eye wear, perfumes and liqueurs, many of which are less costly here than in Europe. Plastic surgery has recently been on tourist wish lists as well, simply because it costs half the price of Europe, with no waiting! Stasikratous Street is known for its attractive and rather expensive boutiques, selling high quality clothes and shoes as well as silverware, fine porcelain and imported oriental clothes. If you follow Makarios Avenue until the end and then turn right, you will get to Eleftheria Square, which leads to the central part of the town. Most of the shopping area in the old part of Nicosia is now pedestrian way so it is easy to ramble through the zigzag streets of the town especially Laiki Yitonia which is of particular interest to travelers who want a taste of Cypriot culture. Laiki Yitonia is a renovated eighteenth century enclave where local artisans and craftsmen display their wares along cobblestone lanes. Here too bougainvillea-bedecked restaurants beckon with the aroma of roast lamb and Greek coffee. If you go back to Eleftheria Square and follow the walls past the Town Hall and Post Office you will arrive at Eleftherios Venizelos Square, otherwise known as "OXI" square. There, an open market takes place every Wednesday. It is particularly colorful and worth a visit. It is a good idea to shop around before buying and once you begin, you will realize just how much there is to see. Take your time and relax while shopping. From shoes to spectacles to clothes, you are bound to find something to suit your taste and pocket and at the same time you will discover a little of the daily life in the capital.
Shopping Times in Nicosia
Before shopping, remember that in winter shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs and from 14.30-17.30 hrs. They are closed on Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. In the summer, shops open from 8.30-13.00 hrs and 16.00-19.00 hrs; again, no shops open in the afternoon of Wednesday and Saturday, except sometimes in Laiki Yitonia. New European opening hours may change these schedules in 2007, but if in doubt, check before reaching for your plastic, that the shops will be open. Update 2012 August: With the European shopping hours coming in the practice in Cyprus, many shops, but not all, are open till 10pm. Check first.