The capital city of Cyprus, Nicosia, is a fascinating place with a rich history dating back thousands of years. Unlike other European capitals, Nicosia has been inhabited continuously since the Bronze Age.
Today, this vibrant city is a blend of old and new, with ancient buildings and ruins alongside modern architecture.
This is also a great place to sample the local cuisine, go shopping, and enjoy the nightlife. In this post, I’ll share with you 14 Top Tourist Attractions And Things to Do in Nicosia that are sure to make your visit memorable.
Things To Do In Nicosia
1. Venetian Fortifications
As you would expect from a city that was once ruled by Venice, Nicosia is surrounded by a set of impressive fortifications. The most interesting part is the Venetian Walls, built in the 16th century and stretch for almost 3 kilometers around the old city.
There are three gates in the walls. The Famagusta Gate was the most important and was once the main entrance to the city. It’s adorned with the coat of arms of Venice and is guarded by a pair of mighty lions. On the other side of the city, the Paphos Gate is much smaller and less decorated. And finally, there’s the Kyrenia Gate, which gets its name from the fact that it was once the entrance to the city of Kyrenia.
You can walk along the top of the walls (the views are excellent) or take a guided tour of the bastions and gates. And if you’re feeling energetic, you can walk the entire length of the walls, which takes around an hour. There’s also an excellent audio guide available if you’re interested in learning more about the history of the walls.
I walked the length of the walls and then took a tour of the bastions. I found it fascinating to learn about how the fortifications were built and used over the years. If you’re interested in military history, or if you just want to see some impressive architecture, I recommend a visit to this fortification.
Read More: 15 Best Things to Do in Cyprus
2. Ancient Salamis
As one of the top tourist attractions in Nicosia, Ancient Salamis is an absolute must-see. This ancient city was once the capital of Cyprus and was founded around 1180 BC. It flourished as a major trading center until it was abandoned during the Arab invasions of the 7th century.
Although much of the city is now in ruins, there is still plenty to see, including an extensive archaeological site with a theater, agora, gymnasium, and baths. Don’t miss the interesting Museum of Ancient Salamis, which contains a wealth of artifacts from the site.
Public transport to Salamis is very limited, so the best way to get there is by car or organized tour. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes as there is a lot of walking involved in exploring Ancient Salamis.
There is no better place to get a feel for the history of Cyprus than Ancient Salamis. So, if you are interested in history and archaeology, this is definitely one of the best places to visit in Nicosia.
3. Buyuk Han
Buyuk Han is a beautifully restored 16th-century caravanserai in the heart of the Old City. It was built by the Ottomans in 1572 and served as a stopover for traders and their camel caravans on the long journey.
Today, Buyuk Han has been restored to its former glory and is one of the top tourist attractions in Nicosia. It now houses a number of shops, restaurants, and cafes, as well as a craft center, where you can watch artisans at work.
I had the opportunity to wander around the market, admiring the jewelry, pottery, and textiles. I also enjoyed trying to haggle with the vendors over prices. (I’m not very good at it, but it’s all part of the fun). After I had my fill of shopping, I retreated to one of the many cafes in the market for a refreshing cup of coffee. And as I sipped my drink and watched the world go by, I couldn’t help but think that Buyuk Han is one of the most atmospheric places in Nicosia.
Overall, this is one of the best Nicosia attractions if you’re interested in Ottoman architecture. Even if you’re not, it’s worth popping into for a coffee or a bite to eat.
Read More: 15 Best Things to Do in Paphos
4. Selimiye Mosque
If you’re looking for things to do in Nicosia that will give you a taste of the city’s Ottoman past, then a visit to Selimiye Mosque is a must. This beautiful mosque was built in the 16th century by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan and is one of the finest examples of Ottoman architecture in Cyprus.
The mosque is situated in the north of the city, close to the walls of the old city. It’s a large building, with four minarets and a huge central dome. The interior of the mosque is equally impressive, with intricate tile work and a beautiful marble mihrab (prayer niche).
If you’re interested in learning more about the mosque, there are guided tours available. These tours will take you around the mosque and explain its history and architecture. I highly recommend taking a tour if you can, as it really brings the building to life.
Word of Caution; wear modest clothing if you want to enter the mosque. This means covering your shoulders and knees. Females should also cover their hair with a headscarf.
5. Cyprus Museum
The Cyprus Museum is the largest and most important archaeological museum on the island. It was founded in 1882 and houses impressive artifacts from the Neolithic period to the Byzantine era.
The museum is divided into 14 rooms, each of which covers a different period or theme. The highlight for me was room four which contains a collection of votive figures found at Ayia Irini from 7-6 BC. These figures are incredibly well preserved and provide a fascinating insight into the beliefs and practices of the ancient Cypriots. Other rooms worth seeing include room 10, which contains a collection of rock-cut tombs with objects found in them. And room 13, which houses marble statues from Salamis.
Overall, I highly recommend a visit to the Cyprus Museum if you’re interested in archaeology or history. It’s definitely one of the top tourist attractions in Nicosia that is worth a few hours of your time.
A visit to the village of Fikardou is a must for anyone interested in traditional Cypriot life. This pretty mountain village, which lies in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and experience some of the island’s more traditional customs and traditions.
This village was inhabited from the 400s BC until the early 19th century, when the villagers abandoned their homes. They moved out because they found this place to be too inaccessible for habitation. Although most of the villagers now live in Nicosia, I spotted about three residents who live here, keeping alive the village’s historic past.
Today, this village is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a number of well-preserved traditional Cypriot houses. Visitors can also see the remains of the old stone houses, as well as the village’s ancient church, which dates back to the 18th century.
If you’re looking for things to do in Nicosia that are a bit off the beaten track, then a visit to Fikardou is definitely worth considering. This traditional Cypriot village is a great place to learn about the island’s history and culture.
7. Kyrenia City
Kyrenia is a beautiful city in North Cyprus that is known for its Venetian architecture, its lovely harbor, and its Byzantine churches. There are also a number of excellent Byzantine museums in the city.
One of the top tourist attractions in Kyrenia is the Kyrenia Castle, which was built by the Venetians in the 16th century. The castle is now a museum and is well worth a visit. Another top tourist attraction is the Bellapais Abbey, a 12th-century monastery that is one of the most beautiful buildings in North Cyprus. Other top sights in Kyrenia include the Shipwreck Museum, Folk Art Museum, Church of Archangel Michael, and many more.
And if you’re looking for fun things to do in Kyrenia, I recommend taking a boat trip from the harbor or visiting one of the city’s many beaches. The city has a number of excellent restaurants, cafes, and bars, so you’ll definitely find something to your taste. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, there are a number of hotels in Kyrenia.
I had a great time exploring Kyrenia, and I highly recommend it as a top tourist destination in North Cyprus. There’s something for everyone in this city, and you’re sure to have a great time.
8. Athalassa National Forest Park
Athalassa National Forest Park is one of the top tourist attractions in Nicosia and a great place to spend a few hours if you enjoy being outdoors. The park covers an area of 840 hectares and is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
There are several hiking trails of different lengths and difficulty levels, so you can choose one that’s right for you. These trails take you through forests of pine, oak, and wetlands. Keep your eyes peeled for the many birds that live in the park, including warblers, woodpeckers, and kingfishers. If you’re feeling energetic, you can also cycle in the park. There are several picnic areas if you want to stop for a bite to eat and a playground for the kids.
I recommend starting your visit at the park’s visitor center, where you can pick up a map and get some helpful information from the friendly staff. The visitor center also has a small museum with exhibits on the park’s history and ecology.
Athalassa National Forest Park is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some time in nature. It’s also one of the best places to see autumn foliage in Nicosia. So if you’re visiting in September or October, make sure to add this spot to your list.
Read More: 14 Best Beaches in Cyprus
9. Leventis Museum
Just a few steps from the Cyprus Museum is the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia, another top attraction in this historical city. This museum is devoted to the city’s history, culture, and art, and it’s housed in a beautifully restored neoclassical building.
The museum has an excellent permanent collection that covers a wide range of topics, from the prehistory of the island to the British rule. I was particularly impressed by the exhibits on the Ottoman era, which did a great job of bringing to life what life was like in the city during that period. Other highlights include the section on Byzantine art, with its icons and other religious artifacts, and the section on folk art, with its traditional costumes and embroidery.
The museum also has a series of temporary exhibitions that change regularly. When I visited, there was a fascinating exhibition on the history of the city’s banks, which traced the development of this important industry from the late 19th century to the present day.
All in all, I had fun exploring this museum, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the history and culture of this historic city. In addition, its central location makes it one of the most convenient places to visit in Nicosia.
10. Ledra Street
One of the most famous streets in Nicosia is Ledra Street, which was once the dividing line during the 1974 Turkish invasion. This street was closed off for 40 years and only reopened in 2008.
These days, it’s still a busy thoroughfare, but the shops are aimed at tourists rather than locals. There are plenty of international chain stores, as well as local shops selling Cypriot souvenirs and products. You can find everything from clothes and shoes to jewelry and cosmetics. And if you get tired of shopping, there are plenty of places to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat.
I didn’t do any shopping on my visit to Ledra Street, but I did enjoy window-shopping and people-watching. I also stopped for a coffee and a pastry at one of the cafes.
At the top of Ledra Street is Ledra Palace Hotel, which was used as a UN Buffer Zone headquarters during the period of hostilities. It’s now a luxury hotel, but you can still see some of the bullet holes in the walls. Close to the hotel is the pedestrianized Old Market area, which is worth exploring for its trove of traditional shops and handicraft stores.
In general, Ledra Street is the perfect place to relax and do some shopping if you’re looking for a break from sightseeing.
11. Makarios Cultural Foundation
The Makarios Cultural Foundation should also be high on your list of places to visit in Nicosia. The foundation aims to promote Cypriot culture and heritage through a series of events and exhibitions. It is named after the country’s first president, Archbishop Makarios III.
The highlight of this foundation is undoubtedly The Byzantine Museum, which is one of the best in Cyprus. The museum contains a superb collection of about 300 pieces, many of them from the Byzantine era up until the 19th century. There are also frescoes, manuscripts, and other religious artifacts on display.
I was particularly impressed by the Kanakaria Mosaics, which were stolen from a church in the north of the island in 1974 and returned to Cyprus in 2015. There is also an art gallery on the premises, which hosts regular exhibitions. When I visited, there was a small but interesting exhibition of contemporary Cypriot art.
This foundation also has a library and a conference center. The Library, which is open to the public, contains a valuable collection of books and manuscripts. And the conference center is used for a wide range of events, including lectures, seminars, and concerts.
Overall, if you are interested in learning more about the country’s culture and heritage, the Makarios Cultural Foundation should not miss your list of Nicosia attractions.
12. Hilarion Castle
If you love castles, then a visit to St. Hilarion Castle should definitely be on your list of top tourist attractions in Nicosia. This imposing Crusader castle, perched high on a rocky outcrop, was built in the 10th century and served as an upland hermitage. Later on, it was used as a fortress to protect the island against Arab coastal raids.
Although it was originally quite small, St. Hilarion Castle underwent a number of expansion and renovation projects over the centuries. Today, much of the castle is in ruins, but there are still some interesting things to see, including the several buildings, courtyards, towers, and secret tunnels.
One of the highlights of this castle is the magnificent views it affords over the island and the sea. The views are simply breathtaking, making the climb up well worth the effort. So, make sure you bring your camera.
I recommend wearing comfortable shoes and taking plenty of water with you as there are a lot of steps to climb and very little shade. Also, be aware that there is no public transport to the castle. So you will need to either drive or take a taxi.
13. Pivo Microbrewery
If you like beer, then a visit to Pivo Microbrewery should definitely be on your list of things to do in Nicosia. This is a great place to sample some of the best craft beer in the city, and there are always new and interesting flavors to try.
This brewery specializes in four main styles of beer: Pilsner, dark lager, Bavarian Weiss, and American IPA. They also experiment with different flavors and ingredients to create seasonal and limited-edition brews. So, whether you’re a beer lover or just looking to try something new, you’re sure to find something to your taste at Pivo.
One of the things that I really like about this place is that they offer a range of beer tastings and tours. This is a great way to learn about the brewing process and taste a variety of different beers. This is also a great place to come for a bite to eat. They have a menu of hearty pub-style food, and it pairs perfectly with their beers. So if you’re looking for unique Nicosia attractions, then a visit to Pivo Microbrewery is definitely worth adding to your list.
14. Folk Art Museum
Folk Art Museum is an excellent place to visit if you want to get a feel for what everyday life was like in Cyprus before the tourist hordes arrived. This small but perfectly formed museum is located in a 15th-century building in the old city and displays a range of objects used in traditional Cypriot life.
Some of the highlights include a display of agricultural tools, an impressive collection of brass coffee pots, an old loom, and a traditional Cypriot kitchen. But it’s the smaller details that I found most fascinating, such as the coffee grinders, the tobacco pipes, the copper pans, and the wooden clogs. Other exhibits include embroidery, costumes, lace, pottery, basketry, metalwork, folk painting, woodcarving, and leatherwork.
Another plus for this museum is its building. Originally, this was a Benedictine monastery. And today, you can still see some of the original features that date back to the 15th century.
I loved getting a glimpse into the everyday lives of Cypriots’ past at the Folk Art Museum, and it really brought the island’s history to life for me. Even if you’re not particularly interested in folk art, it’s well worth popping into this museum for a quick look around.
And that’s it for my list of the top tourist attractions in Nicosia. Whether you’re interested in ancient history, Venetian fortifications, or simply exploring a new city, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy in this fascinating city. Do you have any other suggestions? Let me know in the comments section below.