JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH GALATIA SAVVA FROM NICOSIA, CYPRUS!
Tia is a Greek Cypriot travel blogger as well as a dancer/choreographer. Her biggest passion is traveling far and wide to exotic destinations. She is always on the lookout for affordable luxury and places to spoil yourself without breaking the bank. Tia has danced in the pouring rain in China, chased sharks in Belize, got lost in NYC, climbed mountains in Costa Rica, and bathed elephants in Thailand. She has eaten her way through Italy and Dubai, found Nemo in Egypt, beach hopped the Greek Islands and stood in awe at the waterfalls in Bali. She believes that life is way too short to only learn one culture, food or language and her ultimate goal is to see as much of the world as she possibly can for as long as her legs can carry her! Her website inspires wanderlust and provides detailed ultimate guides to various Destinations.
Nicosia, or Lefkosia is the largest city and the capital of Cyprus which as of 2004 is a member of the European Union. It is also the only city on the island that is not surrounded by sea. An established international business centre and the financial capital, it is the 32nd richest city in the world in relative purchasing power. What is lacking in seaside beauty it’s making up for with rich diverse culture, beautiful architecture and of course the unique fact that it is the last remaining divided capital city on earth.
Which is the best time to visit Nicosia?
Nicosia and Cyprus in general are great to visit anytime of the year due to our long, hot summers and mild short winters. We only get about a month of spring before it turns to full on sunshine! With Nicosia being the capital of Cyprus and the only city not surrounded by sea, it can get extremely hot, which is why visitors tend to prefer traveling to Nicosia in the months of October- December and March-April-May. Those months are still warm but not boiling hot and one can still enjoy walking around for hours without being too uncomfortable.
Summer: Temperatures in the summer (starting from April and lasting through to October) vary from 25-45 Celsius during the day and warm and humid evenings that never go below 25 degrees. Rainfall is rare during these months.
Winter: (November to February) vary from 11-16 Celsius with the nights being cold and crisp and going as low as 6 degrees Celsius. Rainfall – 3-11 days of the month.
Spring: March is our official spring month, with slightly crisp but sunny days. Temperatures range from 16-19 and rainfall occurs for approximately 7-10 days of the month.
Which is the most convenient and favoured transport of Nicosia?
There is no Metro either over ground or underground in Cyprus. The 3 main means of transportation are personal cars (please bear in mind that traffic moves on the left hand-side of the road, not on the right), buses and taxis.
Nicosia is the type of city that is best enjoyed walking around so I would suggest renting a car so you can be independent and make your own schedule as you go along.
For a more budget friendly option you can take advantage of the relatively new bus system in town and supplement with a taxi on occasions. Buses in Nicosia have have various connecting routes especially in key stops around the old part of town where a lot of sightseeing and shopping takes place. For fares, routes, updated schedules and destinations please click here. You can also use Intercity buses which connect Cyprus cities together and are quite convenient! It’s a great cheap alternative if you would like to enjoy a day in another city like Larnaca, Limassol, Ayia Napa or Paphos.Visit their website with fares, times and schedules here. There is also a Smartphone app you can download for easy access which can be found in the link above.
Taxis in Nicosia are quite expensive in general and should not be used multiple times a day – if you require frequent car access I would recommend renting a car. Taxify is a great taxi option. Access via an app and find a taxi within minutes at the tap of a button.
What are the different modes of transport available from the airport to the city?
There are 2 airports in Cyprus. The closest to Nicosia is Larnaca International Airport which is a 25 minute drive from Nicosia. Paphos Airport on the other side of the island is 2hr drive from the city. The most used form of transportation is Kapnos Airport shuttle as it is cheap, reliable and runs regularly and through most hours of the day and night. Visit their website here . For their timetable and fares, click here.
TIP: Kapnos has a designated pick up spot which means that they will not be picking you up from your chosen accommodation so you will need either a taxi or a bus to get to the pickup spot.
Which are the top must visit places in Nicosia?
Ledras Street : Nicosia not only is the Cypriot capital, it is also the last remaining divided capital city on earth. Diverse, eclectic and with an interesting mix of old and new, Ledras Street is as symbolic as it gets. This major shopping avenue is the road that links the Turkish occupied North Nicosia with the Cypriot occupied South Nicosia. The pedestrian street is easily accessible by foot (5 minute walk) from Eleftheria square – where there are bus stops too. Once there, stroll the streets, do some window shopping, have a look at street art, dive into the numerous little side streets for hidden cafes and shisha bars, or dine in a wide range of quaint bars and restaurants serving an array of traditional foods. The street is hugely significant in terms of history too as it was reopened as a crossing point between the two sides in 2008, a marker of progress between the two communities on the island.
A cultural visit to museums in Nicosia : The city has a plethora of museums, the most important one is the Cyprus Museum. More info about the city, museums, festivals etc can be found in on VisitCyprus website or the local tourism board website VisitNicosia.
One of the most historic museum in Nicosia is The Leventis Municipal Museum. It is situated within the old city walls. The Museum is home to an extensive collection of Cypriot works of art like costumes, jewels, photographs and maps as well as archaeological artifacts, medieval pottery, engravings and furniture.
What are the best day trips for nature, culture and history from Nicosia?
Paphos Sightseeing Day Trip (2 hours drive) : The town of Paphos has a plethora of great historical attractions that make an excellent diversion for days when you want to do more than flop on the beach. If you are interested in Greek mythology, Paphos sights are a must as many of them are directly linked to the 12 Gods of Olympus.
Top Sights to visit are:
‘’Petra Tou Romiou’’ aka Aphrodites Rocks which according to Greek Mythology is the birthplace of the goddess of Love Aphrodite. You can swim there too –so pack a swim suit !
House of Dionysus: The mosaic pavements of the House of Dionysus are among the finest to be found in the Mediterranean and are the top tourist attraction in Paphos. Discovered accidentally by a farmer ploughing his fields, the mosaic artwork here is excellently-preserved, with vibrant natural limestone colors, and depicts scenes from Greek mythology. Various famous mosaics have found a home at the House of Dionysus.
Tombs of the Kings : Dating back to the 4th century BC, these impressive underground tombs, are carved out of solid rock, and are clearly influenced by Egypt. and all sporting a distinct Egyptian influence. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was a burial ground for ancient Paphos during the Greek and Roman periods and are well worth the trip. To read more about it you can visit the govt. website here.
Have an adventure at Akamas (2 ½ hours drive) : Akamas is undoubtedly one of the most breathtaking places for natural beauty in Cyprus, boasting Jaw dropping scenery and views. According to Greek mythology this is where the Goddess of love Aphrodite met her lover Adonis and various sites within the region, such as Fontana Amorosa, Love’s Spring, and the Baths of Aphrodite, are all linked to the mythical 12 Gods of Olympus. Akamas is an adventure waiting to be experienced and is best explored with a 4×4 vehicle. Visitors can admire the vast range of flora and fauna here and, if lucky, even catch a glimpse of baby sea turtles being hatched, as the nearby Lara Bay is the common nesting area.
Visit the Baths of Aphrodite in the Latsi Area –The location is linked to the Aphrodite Hiking Route) – a natural pond where the Goddess of Love was supposedly bathing herself ! Stay in the area of Latchi and choose a tavern to enjoy some of the best and most fresh fish mezedes on the island – with breathtaking views to boot. Later on Grab a glass bottom boat and venture to Blue Lagoon – one of the most crystal clear waters in the region and a favorite location amongst locals and tourists. Snorkel the Area, swim in the sea and marvel at the beauty around it. A gorgeous excursion not to be missed! To know more click here.
Agrotourism at its finest, The Villages Kalopanayiotis and Kakopetria (45 minutes drive ) : Discover quaint little villages like Kalopanayiotis and Kakopetria and get to explore the little cobbled streets, olive groves and vast open views. Explore little food Tavernas, visit little rivers and breath some much needed mountain air. In Kalopanayiotis Village, don’t miss the chance to spoil youself and Visit the luxury spa retreat Casale Kalopanayiotis – for its fantastic spa services. Blissful !
Have a mountain escape at Troodos Mountains (1 hours drive) : Troodos is the largest mountain range in Cyprus, located in roughly the center of the island, so can be accessed in approximately an hour’s drive by most cities including Nicosia. Its highest peak is Mount Olympus, also known as Chionistra, at 1,952 meters, which hosts four ski slopes and the only skiing centre in Cyprus. You can visit Cyprus Ski’s website to know more.
After you have fun conquering the slopes, discover the nature trails In Troodos National Forest Park. In total there are 10 trails within the Park making up a grand total of 57.6km. One of said trails has been designed to be accessible by wheelchairs. All trails are well maintained and signposted. Discover the various nature trails of the Troodos park here. Picnics are also allowed or you could drive to any of the neighboring villages for convenience.
It is also worth mentioning that in these mountains you can find many gorgeous painted old churches which are a fantastic example of Byzantine Art on the island. Ten of those churches have been put on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for their historical significance and beauty.
Bask in the sun at Ayia Napa/ Protaras (1 hours drive) : Experience the most beautiful beaches in Cyprus. Crystal Clear calm eaters and long stretches of gold sand. No tourist has been left unimpressed with this region! Choose from cosmopolitan and exclusive beach bars like Nava Beach Bar for a taste of the high life- the busy and party central beach of Nissi Beach or opt for a calmer setting like Konnos Beach, Fig Tree Bay and Gliki Nero. Other gorgeous beach options are Makronisos beach and Ayia Thekla. Its heaven on earth, its Cyprus at its best! Distance: approximately an hour’s drive from Nicosia
The most fun packed day at Waterpark Ayia Napa : Spend a family day with endless amounts of fun and get the tan of your life at the No1 Waterpark in Cyprus. Inspired and decorated by Greek mythology its boasts over 18 fun packed rides suitable for all ages alongside 6 restaurants for food and beverages. A full day out, that’s definitely worth the trip! Distance 1 hours drive from Nicosia. For more information you can visit their website.
Which is the most celebrated holiday in Nicosia?
There are various celebrated holidays but these are the top 4:
Green Monday : It is held 50 days before Easter and marks the beginning of Great Lent. We typically spend the day with family and friends having picnics and feasts of fish and vegetable dishes – no meat is consumed on Green Monday and many people continue with this fashion for the whole 50 days until Easter Sunday.
October 1 – Independence Day of Cyprus : This holiday is celebrated throughout the country on a large scale, with a military parade at the Presidential Palace and Mass celebrations and concerts that are continuing well into the night
Most celebrated Event of the year –
Carnival – Usually takes place in February the carnival weekend is a Grande affair and a big street party. The carnivals capital is without a doubt the neighboring city of Limassol but Nicosia also hosts its own Carnival event – The Aglantzia Carnival and the Limassol Carnival.
What is the most loved local food, savory and sweet of Nicosia?
Greek and Cypriot food is one of the most celebrated and loved cuisines in the world! There is so much to be enjoyed from home style dishes like mousaka and koupepia (vine leaves stuffed with mince meat, rice and herbs) to Greek Salads, Souvla (chicken,pork or lamb large meat pieces cooked in skewers on coals) kleftiko (an old traditional dish or pork and potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked in an old style clay oven for a minimum of 6 hours) pourgouri (bulgar wheat cooked with onions and tomatoes), fried eggs and zuccini, sheftalies (spiced mince meat wrapped in Panna and cooked on hot coals) Cyprus kebab and dozens more!
Traditional desserts are also plentiful and share similarities with Eastern European Countries such as baklava, Pourekia, Machallepi and many more. In fact there is so much to try it can get quite overwhelming.
That’s why the most local loved food and my personal favorite is the almighty ‘’Mezedes’’.
Mezedes in Cyprus is an experience not to be missed. 40+ ‘’small’’ and mouthwatering dishes of all the plates I have mentioned above and then some. Doesn’t get much better than that! Over half of those dishes are involving meat. Vegetarians can opt for ‘’Fish Meze’’ – which involves only fish and no meat. Fish meze can be found in different taverns – If a menu offers both fish and meat meze it is not usually any good and certainly not authentic.
Tip: Due to the huge amounts of food, Mezedes is best enjoyed at a slow pace. Allow a minimum of 2 hours for dinner and arrive hungry as a bear! Prices are Aproximately 20-25 euros per person and you do not even need to order- just say the magic word ‘’mezedes’’ and watch them go to work!
Meat Meze Restaurant Recommendation: Zanettos Traditional Tavern
Fish Meze Recommendations : Paragadi Fish Restaurant
Is Nicosia a vegetarian friendly city?
Cyprus is a meat loving country. Traditional Recipes are almost always using meat and/or animal products so you might have to miss out on those but you will always find something on the menu you can really enjoy and people are often happy to make variations on your dish to suit your dietary needs.
Vegetables and fresh herbs are plentiful in our cuisine and are also used in many dishes. During the fasting seasons (40 days before Christmas and 40 days before Greek Easter) there are many vegan and vegetarian variations of traditional dishes that can be found in restaurants across the city.
Best Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant in Nicosia: Ingas Veggie Heaven. It remains closed on Sunday & Monday. From Tuesday- Saturday it can be visited between 9:30- 5pm.
Best Vegan bakery/Dessert House : Constantinides Bakery specializes in flourless, sugar less desserts from cakes to traditional sweets to pancakes and mousses. Mouthwatering, innovative and oh so modern. Open 7 days a week 8am-10 pm.
Alternatively, you can find classic restaurants that are vegetarian friendly on TripAdvisor.
Where to head for shopping in Nicosia?
Nicosia is packed with places to shop and find one-of-a-kind items to treasure forever.
For Art lovers: Head to Diachroniki Gallery for paintings, antique maps, etchings, prints and sculptures. You can spot here collections from all corners of the earth. Tel : +357 22680145 / Opening Hours: Monday- Saturday 10am – 7pm
Staart shop and Phaneromenis70 also offer items from local artists.
For Vintage Lovers : Head to Collective which is the best secondhand store for lovers of all things vintage – fashion, accessories and homeware. A fun and fresh collection that is not to be missed. Opening Hours: Monday- Saturday 11am-7pm
For Handicraft Shopping: Get to Cyprus Handicrafts Centre to get your hands on traditional Cypriot lace and embroidery at smaller prices as well as ceramics, pottery, mosaics and leather products. Address: Leoforos Athalassis 186 / Tel: +357 22 305024
Local Food Shopping : Ayios Antonios Municipal Market – This market sells a small but delicious spread of Fruit, vegetables, cheeses, spices and bakery goods all produced locally. Address: Leoforos Evgenias& Antoniou Theodotou / Hours: Monday –Saturday excluding Wednesdays
High Street Fashion: Ledras street (South Part) for a large selection of shops and high street brands. Ledras street (North Part of Cyprus) on the same road as the South Part, Makariou Avenue, Nicosia Mall and the Mall of Cyprus are also great options for shopping.
Luxury Shopping: Stasikratous Street (which runs parallel to Makariou Avenue) is a road comprised for the luxury shopper – with many Internationally prestigious brands including Armani, Dolce & Gabbana and more.
What is the local craft or speciality of Nicosia?
Nicosia and Cyprus in general have plenty to offer in the souvenirs markets. Below I am listing the most popular items every tourist cant resist taking home with them
If you are staying in Nicosia for a few days you must visit the Open Market “OXI (pronounced Ohi) market” for local food shopping in the open area.
Halloumi Cheese – 100% Cypriot and loved all over the world. This brined product is made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk and can be eaten either ‘’raw’’ or cooked on the grill
Olive oil and Olives -Cyprus is in top-20 countries where olive trees are grown. There are more than 2,5 million olive trees on the territory of the island; more than 10 thousand tons of olives are gathered from them each year. Olive oil production in Cyprus goes hundreds of years and is closely connected not only with our cuisine, but also with our culture, history and economy of the island. The olive branch – the official symbol of peace, is even presented on the coat of arms of Cyprus.
Traditional Cypriot Sweets : Galaktopoureko, Pourekia, Machallepi, Mpaklava and Daktila. Find everything you need and more at the famous Zorbas Bakeries. With hundreds of shops around Nicosia all you need to locate in the one closes to you!
Cyprus Wine: Cyprus wines are a must for almost all tourists..There are plenty of wine-making villages in Cyprus, where visitors can not only try incredible local wine, but also buy some for the friends and family. It is also possible to talk to the owners of home-wineries, organize wine tasting and explore museums dedicated entirely to wine.
Silver – If you want to buy unusual bracelets, necklaces and earrings made from filigree silver covered with white, which local silversmiths braid from thin silver wire, head to Lefkara village where they are sold at every corner. Lefkara is where the Cypriot needlecraft was born and is 56 kms away from the city of Nicosia. You can also opt for dishes, vases, jewelry boxes and other interior design items covered with filigree silver.
Lacework and Embroidery : the famous ‘’Lefkaritika’’ are lace designs used for decoration, and tablecloths etc. They form complicated geometric patterns,and have identical shapes on both sides Lefkara is on the UNESCO Heritage List. Tourists can buy Lefkara embroidery in one of the numerous shops in the village.
Pottery made by Cypriot artists is quite famous too.
Which are the best streets of Nicosia worthy of taking a stroll on?
Faneromeni Square, is a historical and beautiful site located within the historical Venetian walls of Nicosia (Cyprus was conquered by the Venetians). The square is surrounded by various neoclassical buildings with Greek and Cypriot Greek architectural influences. It hosts a number of historical buildings and monuments including the Marble Mausoleum, the Faneromeni Church, and School, as well as the Faneromeni Library. Explore every nook and crony of the square, visit the library, have a moment’s peace in the church, and explore the little shops, street graffiti and cafes Choose a seat, order a coffee and enjoy some of the best people watching activities!
Onasagorou & Ledras Streets is where the magic happens . As mentioned before, this old part of town is busy from day to night. In the daytime, the great little cafes and restaurants welcome you in for brunch or a traditional Cyprus coffee. You can do shopping, take in the views, discover cute little backstreets and adorable old houses and visit churches. Street art can also be found on Ledras Street.
From late afternoon, delicious cocktails, and shishas come to life and the two streets and their surrounding neighborhoods get busier and busier into a steady buzzing area where you can spend your evenings in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere in this district that is so favored by locals. Keep an eye out for announcements of events featuring the coolest DJ’s on the island.
Laiki Geitonia is a zone in the old part of Nicosia (like ALL my 3 must see roads!) Its narrow cobbled streets are chock-full of traditional Cyprus architecture, quaint antique shops, churches and the restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops. You will take great pictures there ! For more things to do in the old town of Nicosia, check out the 48 hour Nicosia itinerary by Theislanderstories.
Can you suggest a place from where one can get the best view of the city?
Head to ‘’Shacolas Observatory”, the highest building in the walled city, for 360 degree view of the city. Touch screens show the vast and rich architecture of Nicosia and videos show the towns history. Hours: Monday to Sunday – 10 am to 8pm
Would you suggest any shows in Nicosia to music or art lovers?
There are many events taking place in Nicosia – Cyprus Film Days, Cyprus International Fair, the Rainbow Festival – and also some Ballets and musicals etc but many are seasonal and vary.
For both annual and seasonal events, click here.
For concerts, click here.
How difficult it is to travel in Nicosia without knowing the local language?
Not difficult at all. In Nicosia, and all of Cyprus English is widely spoken by both the younger and the older generation! This is in part because of the huge number of tourists that visit per year, and also because Cyprus used to be an English Colony until 1960 when it gained its independence after 82 years of British Control.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in Nicosia?
For taxis: Taxify
For Food and Info: TimeOutCyprus
For buses: CyprusBus