2 November 2014

Nicosia Travel Guide


This is slightly different to our usual guides, as it covers a capital city that many would never consider visiting, as Cyprus is very much seen as a resort destination. However there is much to see and very little information about the practicalities, ironic as most Cypriots speak English, and many things are similar to the UK, not least the plug sockets and driving on the left!

Getting to Cyprus

Direct flights from London airports:
Cyprus has 2 main airports, Larnaca and Paphos.
From Heathrow, you can fly BA to Larnaca – from Terminal 5, and often Club Europe can be a very cheap upgrade that gets you lounge access and better meals.
Ryanair flies Stansted to Paphos, and Easyjet flies Gatwick to both Larnaca and Paphos. BA also has some flights from Gatwick to Larnaca.
Cyprus Airways flies Stansted to Larnaca, and for middle-of-the-night flights, you can always try Monarch from Gatwick and Luton.

Getting to Nicosia

Larnaca Airport:
There are not a lot of options. Taxis are around €50. There is no public bus, and Cyprus does not have a rail network.
The Kapnos Airport Shuttle runs every hour, and is only €8, but drops you at a car park on the outskirts of Nicosia, from where you would have to take a taxi (which they also run).
There is meant to be wifi on the bus but it is password protected and the driver did not have the password.
Another option is the shared taxi service which picks up people as a group and drops them at their individual hotels. Prices from €11 per person, not personally used, but a big company in the city.

Paphos Airport:
Kapnos also run a shuttle from here, but only at 11am, 7pm and 11.30pm. It takes 2.5 hours and you are really advised to fly into Larnaca.

Hotel

Number 1 on TripAdvisor is Asty Hotel, which Adam stayed at many moons ago. It’s a budget hotel, expect to pay around £50 a night including breakfast. It’s about 15 minutes walk to the city walls, so not ideal for everyone.

The Holiday Inn is poorly rated and does not seem to match the usual quality of the brand, so we’re not recommending it. Nearby is the Classic Hotel, which is inside the city walls on a busy street, so may be noisy. Pay around £70 a night.

For luxury, expect to pay £200 a night at the Hilton Cyprus, 20 minutes walk out of town along the main high-end shopping street.

Tourist Information

Within the city walls is a small pedestrianised area full of gift shops called Laiki Geitonia. The tourist office is here, but is very small and can offer a map of the city. There are free walking tours within the city walls on Thursdays at 10am (recommended, lasts 3 hours), and bus tours on Mondays at 10am (also recommended, need to book). These go to Kaimakli and Chrysaliniotissa, two outlying suburbs of Nicosia, a visit to the Mayor's house and art collection, several churches and craftsmen's workshops, and also views of the Green Line, with historical background.

Sightseeing

The Leventis Museum is in Laiki Geitonia, in a pair of mansions that have been modernised. It has many artefacts from the island, pottery and jewellery, as well as a history of the city to British times. Free, and has a nice cool courtyard ideal for relaxing and snacking.

The Leventis Art Gallery is one of two brand new skyscrapers to the south of the city walls (the other was designed by Jean Nouvel). Over three floors, it houses a family’s collection of French (mainly classical), Greek and Cypriot art. €2 only.

The State Gallery of Contemporary Art, on the corner of Leoforos Stasinou and Kritis, just south of the City Wall, has many modern Cypriot artists. Some figurative, some historical, some reflecting op art and sculpture, it gives a broad sweep of artistic styles. Free.

The Shacolas Tower is above the Debenhams store on Ledra, and has a panoramic view from the 11th floor. €2 to enter, there are touchscreens and photos and videos of Nicosia through the ages.

The Postal Museum is at 3B Agiou Savva St, and has displays of Cypriot stamps, explanations of historical background, and a 'post office' with a badly-coiffured mannequin. You can also buy stamps for your postcards here.

The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation is in the first bank building on the island, backing onto Ledra but with the entrance on Faneromenos. It has permanent exhibitions on bank notes and coins, and temporary exhibitions about the island.

The complex of buildings based around the Archbishop’s Palace have many interesting sights. As well as the Cathedral of St John, there is the Folk Art Museum, and the Byzantine Museum with an impressive display of icons.


Shopping

Inside the city walls is the main street Ledra. As well as a Debenhams (see above) it has Next, McDonalds, Starbucks and a post office at the north end (open 9am to 3pm).
There is a non-threatening checkpoint into Northern Cyprus, with free passage between the two halves of the city, but have your passport handy. We’ve never been across but there is a similar range of tourist sites and shops.

Running south-east from the southern city gate is Archbishop Makariou Street, with more expensive fashion shops, and some British brands like M&S and TopShop. You’ll be underwhelmed by the choice and prices.

The Mall Of Cyprus is a medium-sized shopping complex out of town. It has an IKEA and a Carrefour supermarket, a food court and the usual high-end shops.
To get there, catch a 158 or 160 bus from the bus station at Solomon Square, just inside the southern city wall gate. Tickets are €1.50 each way for a 20 minute journey. Get off outside IKEA (the first stop after the bus turns off the motorway). The bus stop back is on the other side of the road and is labelled Nicosia 158 160. Buses run regularly twice an hour.
(Limassol has a bigger and better mall if you are driving.)

Eating

Have the tastiest lunches and take home the best Cypriot treats with a visit to ZORBAS, a chain of bakeries. Fresh savoury and sweet pastries, cakes, ice cream, and gift boxes of baklavas are all good value. Although most branches are in the suburbs, there is one close to the city walls, at 24 Digeni Akrita Avenue, two blocks from the south-east gate.

You can also get nice pastries in the Food Hall in the Debenhams stores on both Ledra and Arch. Makariou.

The streets Diagorou running into Themistokli Dervi to the south-west of the city walls have TGI Fridays, Wagamama, Ocean Basket (cooked fish and also sushi), Souvlaki Bar, and a bit further on, a large Starbucks. The best of these is the souvlaki restaurant, with massive meze and kebab plates for under €10.

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