20 November 2011 12:39

Street Map of Nicosia


By Rachel Chrysostom

Photos by Stefanos Kouratzis


Modern Nicosia is a busy town full of trendy cafes, upscale shops and, at times, aggravating traffic. The thought of manoeuvring through bumper-to-bumper cars merely to sit at an overcrowded café may not be the most appealing of ways to spend a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. However, there is a cultural side to the capital that is simply waiting to be discovered – on foot! We’ve taken a stroll through old Nicosia and have rooted out all the hidden treasures on offer, mapping them out to include rest-stops and meals, for the perfect way to get to know the cultural history of the Old Town. There are not enough hours in the day to do justice to all the places of interest we’ve selected, but that is deliberate, so that you can pick and choose the ones that strike your fancy.


Cyprus Museum

Also known as the Archaeological Museum of Nicosia, the Museum was first housed in a building on Victoria Street in the occupied part of town. Founded as a privately-run institution to protect the findings of the first excavations undertaken on the island, the museum’s committee was eventually forced to look for new premises for the exhibition and storage of the continuously-growing findings. The Cyprus Museum now consists of fourteen rooms surrounding a square central area, and is comprised of offices, a library, storerooms and areas for preserving and studying items in the collection, which follow a chronological and thematic succession. Bear in mind, the museum doesn’t offer only archaeological artefacts. It has recently opened its doors to contemporary art, with an exhibition by Cypriot artists Aggelos Makrides and Fanos Kyriakou ‘Synergy at the Cyprus Museum.’ This particular exhibition is only on until March 1st, but it is only the beginning of a number of others that are to follow. For more information contact the Museum at . It is located on 1 Museum Street. Opening hours are: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 8am – 4pm, Thursday: 8am – 5pm, Saturday: 9am – 4pm, Sunday: 10am – 1pm. The Museum is closed on Mondays. Entrance is €3.40.


Holiday Inn Peninsula Sushi Bar

If you’re looking for a quick, light and healthy bite after your tour of the Cyprus Museum, and one that will enable you to get back to your walk, pop into the Holiday Inn on 70 Regeana Street in order to visit Peninsula Sushi. In a similar fashion to UK-chain Yo Sushi!, Peninsula Sushi features the same conveyor belt-style method of picking and choosing whatever looks appealing. The cosy restaurant, big enough for a maximum of 20 persons, has a strict no-smoking policy, so you can enjoy fresh sushi quickly and comfortably, before heading back outside for further exploring. For information, contact: (Hotel front desk).


Levention Museum

After lunch, make your way to the Levention Museum. Founded in 1984 and named after its donor, Anastasios G. Leventis, the Levention Museum provides an in-depth look at the rich history of Nicosia, with exhibits arranged so that visitors are guided from the present days of the city, through to 3000 BC, representing over 5000 years of the capital’s history. The collections are of a wide range and include archaeological artefacts, costumes, photographs, medieval pottery, maps and engravings, jewels and furniture. Awarded the European Museum of the Year in 1991, the museum also hosts a small library with publications and other material on the history of Nicosia, as well as rare and old publications on Cyprus, open for researchers by appointment. Keep an eye out for the temporary exhibitions, lectures, educational programmes and other events which the museum organises and hosts every year.

The museum is located on 17 Ippokratous Street, Laiki Geitonia (next to Eleftherias Square). Open daily from 10am to 4.30pm, with free entry. Tel: , .


Laiki Geitonia

To take a break from museum-hopping, may we suggest a walk through the Laiki Geitonia, or ‘Old Neighbourhood,’ deemed the heart and soul of Nicosia. Covering an area of about 2000 square metres, and located not far from Eleftheria’s Square, upon entering the cobbled streets, you will feel as though you are stepping back in time to a completely different era. If you manage to ignore the tacky souvenir shops advertising their garishly-coloured wares, you will see firsthand the excellent results of the Municipality’s attempts to revive the beauty of the Old City. Most of the buildings have been carefully restored, following the elements of traditional Cypriot folk architecture, and it is simply a joy to walk down the narrow, picturesque streets to watch craftsmen at work and do a little shopping and sightseeing. If you’re looking to have a late lunch, the options in this area are boundless!



Another fast, healthy alternative is Chop’t. A completely new concept in what is traditionally a country of meat lovers, this trendy salad bar in Ledra Street is a gem in the island’s fast food industry. Customers can choose from a variety of salads and dips, or, if you’re feeling creative, you can make your own with the wide variety of ingredients and dressings on offer. If you’re feeling especially hungry, do try the Superstar salad, complete with chicken, salami and chickpeas, all drenched in Chop’t special house dressing. Chop’t can be found on 207 Ledra Street. Tel: .


Il Forno

Hailed by many as the best Italian restaurant in town, as well as a good value for money, Il Forno is the place to go if you want a hearty, sit-down meal after a long day of traipsing around the Old Town. Famed for both their pasta and pizzas, Il Forno uses fresh ingredients for all their dishes. Situated right in the middle of Ledra Street, it’s a great place to sit down for lunch, beneath the shade of the umbrellas, and watch the busy crowds bustling by. Tel: , 216 Ledras Street.



Chinese Quick Service Restaurant

If sushi is not quite up your alley, and yet you still find yourself craving good, quick Asian cuisine, another option is Bamboo. Located at 185 Ledras street, the extensive menu offers all the usual Chinese food options, as well as a Dim Sum selection, a snack box combo for those who simply cannot decide, and a special kid’s menu for the little ones. Tel: .


Hurricane Confectionary

An after-lunch coffee or dessert is a must, and for a taste of true Cypriot culture, take a rest-stop at the Hurricane Confectionary, located on Nikokleous Street. The establishment is one of those historical landmarks one hopes will never change. Upon entering, you will immediately get the feel of a traditional, old-fashioned coffee shop, with regulars sitting in ‘their’ corners, reading newspapers. The coffee shop has been around for more than 60 years, and it’s certainly worth having a cup of coffee there simply to sit and soak up some of the local culture. Do try any one of the delectable home-made goodies that draw customers in with their delicious aromas! Tel: .


Papaphilippou ice-cream

Finally, a walk around the Old City would not be complete without a taste of what some consider to be the epitome of Cypriot culture: Papaphilippou ice-cream. A local brand made from fresh ingredients, the ice-cream flavours on offer are all one-of-a-kind. From strawberry, made from fresh fruit, to pistachio and mastich-flavoured ice-cream, there is one flavour to suit all tastes. Alternatively, do what many of the locals do and simply ask for a cone of ‘everything’ and spend the next ten minutes trying to decipher the flavours before it melts all over you! Located right at the very end of Ledras Street.


Ayia Faneromeni Church

Rising up like an oasis amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, this impressive church, dating from 1872, is worth visiting if only to catch your breath, enjoy your ice-cream and enjoy the feeling of being transported away from crowded Ledras Street to the silent square where traffic sounds fade away and birdsong is almost audible. The Church was built on the site of an ancient Orthodox nunnery, and is the largest church within the city walls, built in a mixture of neoclassical, Byzantine and Latin styles. The church comes alive especially at Easter time, which is one of the biggest holidays for the Cypriot population, where people spill into the churches in vast numbers. Events are also frequently organised in the surrounding square, especially during the cooler summer evenings.


Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation

The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation was established in 1984, born out of the Bank’s wish to promote the Hellenic culture of Cyprus at a professional scholarly level. The Foundation has flourished since then and has now become the cornerstone of true Cypriot culture, with all manner of temporary and permanent exhibitions, as well as educational programmes, specialised lectures and seminars. For a comprehensive overview of this island’s cultural history, all you need to do is wander through the Foundation’s collections of Cyprus maps, rare historical documents, engravings and photographs, art collections from Cypriot artists, or simply pay a visit to the Foundation’s Reference Library, which stocks limited quantities of all noteworthy books of Cypriot authors. And if you would like to take a little piece of history away with you, pay a visit to the Agora, the Foundation’s shop selling copies of artefacts, facsimiles and books from the various collections. The Agora is open from Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 1pm. Tel: . The Cultural Centre is open from 7.30am to 2.30 pm daily, except on weekends. Tel: . It is located at 86-90 Phaneromenis Street.


The Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios Mansion

The mansion of Hadjigeorgakis Kornesios, or the Ethnological Museum, as it is also known, is considered to be the most important example of urban architecture from the last century of Ottoman domination still standing in Nicosia. It is situated near the Archbishopric, in the neighbourhood of Saint Antonios, where the wealthy nobles of the Greek community once lived. Kornesios himself was the official interpreter for the Sultan’s Council in 1779, a title which acquired him much wealth, and his grand home is quite a marvel to look at. Built in 1793, with local bloc-cut sandstone, it is a two-storey building bearing the monogram of its owner and the date of its erection. With a private hamam, servants’ quarters and carved wooden, gilded and painted decorations, it is on par with many of the opulent mansions of the Ottoman Empire. Opening hours are 8.30am to 3.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays; 8.30am to 5pm on Thursdays and 9.30am to 3.30pm on Saturdays. The mansion is closed on Mondays and Sundays. Admission costs €1.70. For more information, tel: .


Hamam Omerye

After witnessing such luxury and decadence, you may wish to partake in similar indulgence yourself. The Hamam Omerye is located nearby, where you can immerse yourself into the depths of a hot, steamy bath which will melt away all your worries and stress (and take the weight off your weary feet). The history of the site dates back to the 14th Century, when it stood as an Augustinian church, before it was converted into a mosque by Mustapha Pasha in 1571. In 2003, the Omerye Bath was restored, and now acts as a traditional Turkish Hamam, with qualified personnel offering all kinds of hamam treatments, from Hot Stones to Body Scrubs and Dead Sea mud treatments, in addition to the traditional hamam steam room. There are alternating schedules for men and women, and Mondays are set aside for couples, so make sure you call in advance to find out what day you should stop by. The Hamam is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am to 9pm, and 11am to 7pm on Mondays, and customers are provided with amenities such as towels, tea, water, sponges and a locker. Located at 8 Tyllirias Square. Tel: , .


The Nicosia Municpal Art Centre

Situated in the Old Electric House building which was donated to the Nicosia Municipality by the Cyprus Electricity Authority, the Municipal Art Centre has a continuously growing collection. Besides hosting a number of exhibitions throughout the year, the Centre also boasts various permanent exhibitions such as the Pierides Foundation of Modern Greek Engravings Collection which includes more than 200 original wood engravings, copper engravings, oxigraphies, lithographies as well as hand-made silk prints. Also on permanent exhibition are a number of significant works from the Pierides Museum of Contemporary Art in Greece, in a multi-patterned exhibition of some of the most distinguished Greek and Cypriot artists of the post-war period. All works are regularly alternated, so there will always be something new to see! The centre is located on 19 Apostolou Varnava Street. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 3pm and 5pm to 11pm, and on Sundays from 10am to 4pm. Admission is free. For more information on new exhibitions coming up, telephone .



It must be time for another coffee break. Erodos Café-Restaurant prides itself on being ‘unique in every way.’ And indeed it is. Located in what used to be an old quilt factory, the café-restaurant has been around since 1999, and, thanks to its prime location within Nicosia’s historic Venetian walls, and across the road from the Omeriye Mosque and Hamam, it is steeped in history and culture. More than just a place to sit and have a quick bite and a cup of coffee, Erodos also organises special events throughout the year, and can be booked for private parties every Monday. Tel: .


Famagusta Gate

A walk around the cultural treasures of Nicosia just wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the best-preserved and most photographed part of the fortified medieval town wall that once led the way into the City. Found in Caraffa Bastion, of Athinon Avenue, Famagusta Gate, with its impressive sloping façade leading through an imposing wooden doorway was renovated in 1981. Throughout its long history, the Gate has borne witness the turbulent past of Nicosia. And having served its once military purpose, and then its role as the entrance to the city, the Gate then fell into misuse, until the renovation restored it to its former glory, turning it into Nicosia’s Cultural centre, now welcoming all manner of events on the island, from art exhibitions to concerts and theatrical performances. During the hot summer months, a theatre is set up in the moat against the majestic backdrop of the walls, where the annual Nicosia Festival is hosted. The Gate can be visited Monday to Friday, from 10am to 1pm and 4pm to 7pm during the Winter months, and from 10am to 1pm and 5pm to 8pm in the Summer.