NICOSIA (Lefkosa): The unchanged and timeless Turkish Cypriot Northern half of the city is in direct contrast to the busy, sophisticated Greek Cypriot Southern half, yet both sides have a charm and attraction of their own.
Places to go in Nicosia:
Kyrenia Gate (Porta del Proveditore)
Ataturk Square and the Venetian Column
Big Turkish Bath
The Great Inn
Selimiye Mosque (St Sophia Cathedral)
Sultan Mahmoud II Library
Lusignan- Ottoman House
Dervish Pasha’s Mansion
Arap Ahmet Mosque
Since 2004 EU citizens are free to cross from one side of the city to the other means that we can now all enjoy Nicosia as a whole and get a better understanding of the Cypriot people and a wider appreciation of Cyprus. If you travel from the South on foot you can cross at Ledra Palace which is centrally located for the main city shopping areas on both sides of the Green Line. Alternatively, if you prefer to come by car then the Metehan crossing is now fully open with two lanes and passport control on both sides to reduce waiting times.
You need a valid passport when you will cross the border. Also you will need to fill in a short visa form which is available from the passport control offices on the Turkish Cypriot half of the border. If you deside to croos the borfer by car, you need to take out Greek Cypriot car insurance if going from North to South and Turkish Cypriot car insurance if going from South to North! The insurances can be annual, monthly and daily basis.
The city has been divided effectively since 1963 when separate Greek and Turkish areas were identified; the Green Line was firmly established by a British Military Commander who famously took a map and drew a line with a green pen to divide the city for the sake of peace. The name for the border that divides the two Cypriot communities has been known as the Green Line ever since. The division became absolute and formalised in 1974.
A visit to North Nicosia would be incomplete without a visit to a hammam, the old and new markets and the Selimiye mosque. Hammams are traditional Turkish baths where you can have a steam bath and a massage. The new market is a fantastic place to pick up clothes, shoes and textiles for very attractive prices and where lots of genuine fake name-brand items are on sale at bargain prices. The shops display only a selection of their wares outside, so don’t be shy, venture inside and if you can’t find what you’re looking for just ask, chances are they’ll have what you need tucked away somewhere!
The shop owners in Cyprus are always very friendly and welcoming, they don’t mind if you’re just browsing and they’ll go out of their way to help you bringing you new items to try on or to consider. The old indoor market is a fantastic place to pick up fresh local produce, to try before you buy and to get a real feel for Cyprus.
Selimiye Mosque is located between the two markets and is probably North Nicosia’s most prominent landmark. You might be confused when you first see it because it looks like a cross between a Gothic church and a traditional Mosque...well, that’s because that is exactly what it is! The building started out life as a church in 1209 and became a Mosque in 1570 when it was stripped of its Christian decoration and two minarets were added by the Ottomans. You can actually go inside the Mosque to get a closer look at this fascinating building and it is well worth a peek. Be sure to remove your shoes though, and dress conservatively, remain silent as well and please don’t be tempted to take pictures when prayers are in progress.