At a glance
Also known as Nicosia to non-Greek speakers, the capital of Cyprus is the island’s largest city and the last divided capital in the world, since the Turkish invasion in 1974.
Nowadays, the “neutral” Green Zone with soldiers, barbed wire and barriers is a constant reminder of the division not only of the 1,000-year-old city itself but the entire island of Aphrodite. Standing on the outposts of the Greek-Cypriot part and gazing over the deserted Green Zone and beyond into the Turkish sector is a poignant and memorable experience, when visiting this enticing city.
Of course, nowadays it is easy to pass from one side to the other (the Ledra Street crossing, providing access to the north part of the city on foot, is the most convenient checkpoint) just by showing your passport, but still the feeling of division is very present. Despite this and the fact that for most visitors Lefkosia is primarily the administrative centre of the island – while also a business and commercial centre for the whole eastern Mediterranean and Middle East – the city has a cosmopolitan flair and much more to offer if you decide to spend time here. With its long and turbulent history, vivid cultural scene, picturesque Old City of hidden corners, lively day- and night-life, and green and fertile countryside with so many alluring villages (some of which have a very interesting story to tell), in Lefkosia you are not likely to get bored. What the city lacks in seascapes (it is not a coastal city), it more than makes up for in charm and things to do.
An absolute must is a visit to the Ledra Museum-Observatory on the 11th floor of the Shakolas Tower, which is the only spot in the capital where you can see the entire city, undivided as it once was, laid out before your eyes. Also highly recommended is a trip to the south of the Lefkosia region to get a glimpse of the ruins of the two ancient city-kingdoms, Tamassos and Idalion, once prosperous and important centres of antiquity.