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CYPRUS FOR THE WINTER HOLIDAYS: WHAT TO DO AND WHAT TO SEE

NICOSIA

PART 1

You think that Cyprus is only a summer destination, No, it is not! I visited this beautiful island during my winter holidays and found a lot of interesting things to do and where to go during the winter!

By the way, since I had an excellent local guide (my boyfriend) I managed to see all the most interesting and worthwhile things on the island, to visit the most delicious Cypriot tavern, take a walk through the medieval castle, check the acoustics in the Ancient Amphitheater,ride on the Ferris wheel in the two Christmas parks, cross the Occupied Cypriot-Turkish border, “update” my wardrobe, visit the modern “Ghost town” and walk along one of the most beautiful seafronts . Excited? Check below how to do this for yourself!

GENERAL INFORMATION

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Cyprus has 2 main airports – Larnaka International airport and Paphos International airport. We reached Nicosia from Larnaca Airport by the Kapnos airport shuttle bus ( 8 € per person). Everything was pretty quick and convenient. After receiving the luggage, we found a ticket kiosk and in 25 minutes we arrived in the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia. There are other options to take a taxi (40-50 €) or to rent a car from the airport.

Along with the Greek language (with Cypriot accent), I would call the national language English also. Imagine, here Cypriots speak English more often than Greek! By the way, the Russian language (to my joy) is also widespread. Almost everywhere there are signs and menus in 3 languages.

The national currency in Cyprus is the Euro. Credit cards are accepted everywhere. Although Cyprus is part of the Schengen zone, it is not in the European Union. Therefore, check in advance, if you need a visa. Internet – I didn’t have any problems with it, as my Greek number works throughout all Europe.

The weather temperature in winter in Cyprus can range from comfortable 18-20 degrees in the daytime, to a cool 5-7 degrees in the evening. In the Troodos Mountains in January, you can see the snow and go skiing, the temperature can even be below zero degrees. In winter, it often rains, so the umbrella is worth taking too. During my stay in Cyprus, it only rained a few times, and it was mostly sunny and quite warm in the afternoon, but in the evening, it was impossible to go out without a sweater and coat.

In general, the Cyprus cuisine reminded me of the Greek one with a light touch of Arabic influences, although they also have specific dishes that I liked a lot.

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The first thing you will be served on the table is the meze. Your preferences will not be asked here, basically, it is a mix of meat, fish or vegetables. This is a mandatory introductory part of each meal, for which you also have to pay. Everything else you choose to your taste.

Tahini – thick creamy sesame paste, diluted with water, to which is also added onions, garlic, and other ingredients.

Kleftiko – lamb meat, baked in foil. Usually, they bake it with beans or potatoes.

Cypriot souvlaki is a very simple meal and consists of 2-3 skewers of grilled pieces of pork or chicken inside Cypriot pita bread and usually also includes tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley and sometimes onion and cabbage. Try my favorite one MIX souvlaki with Cyprus sheftalia. The sheftalia are rolled into long meatballs (pork minced meat, onion, parsley, and spices) which are covered in a membrane that surrounds the stomach of pig or lamb. This is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten!😋

Stifado is another tasty meat meal. This is beef, baked with young onions.

Halloumi cheese – fried or eaten as it is, prepared with salads and as side dishes for meat and fish dishes.

Lukanika – long thin sausages are made from pork mixed with lamb or beef and spices. Pork guts are stuffed with minced meat, soaked in red wine and smoked.

In Cyprus, they love seafood too. In seaside towns and villages, you can try dishes from local tuna, sea bass, swordfish, red mullets, and other fish, as well as shrimp, squid, oysters, mussels, and octopus.

NICOSIA

Nicosia – the capital of two states at once. Surrounded by large walls with powerful bastions, with narrow cobbled streets, numerous temples and monuments of medieval architecture, with oriental bazaars and fashionable boutiques – all this is Nicosia.

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It is in this city we spent most of the days since my boyfriend’s relatives live here. In the capital, there are only several 5* hotels. Among them, one of the most luxuries is the Hilton Cyprus 5 *, located in the business part of the city near the international conference center. The hotel has a wide range of services: a beauty salon, a conference hall, a sports center, as well as several excellent restaurants and rent a car, where we booked our car. But still, most hotels in the capital are 3 * and there are a large number of apartments and mini-hotels in different parts of Nicosia.

In the center of the city, which was surrounded by Venetian walls in the 16th century, there are a large number of museums and monuments, including a monument to Yuri Gagarin, opened in 2013. The old city of Nicosia still keeps a touch of nostalgia of the past.

The guests of the island have been attracted by the Gates of Famagusta, which is one of the entrances to the old city, the Museum of Folk Art and the Byzantine Museum, the Cathedral of St. John, the Archbishop’s Palace, the house of Haji Georgakis, which remains the most beautiful house in Cyprus, as well as the Omeriye Mosque (the only active Muslim mosque in the Greek part of the island).

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We also visited the famous Leventis Art Gallery. Here you will find a personal collection of the Leventis Family, coming from 3 different countries: Cyprus, Paris , and Greek. One of the key figures is Adamantios Diamantis. Behind me, you can see his monumental canvas “The World of Cyprus” made with charcoal and acrylic on Irish linen. The artist traveled around the island for 30 years, making drawings and sketches.

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The Paris Collection (on the second floor) includes works by major European artists of the XVII-XX centuries and owes the name of the Parisian apartment of Mr. Leventis, from where it originated in the late 1940s: here it was located for more than 50 years. The Greek Collection includes the works of artists of the 19th and 20th centuries and presents to the modern audience the development of the country’s fine art, starting with the Greek Revolution (1821) and ending with the mid-20th century.

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Get a closer look at the city and learn it’s history, from the observation deck
Shacolas Tower, located on Ledra street. On the eleventh floor of the Shacolas Tower, you can find the observatory museum “Ledra”, which combines a modern museum equipped with high-tech equipment, and the latest technologies of a viewing platform with a panoramic view of the Old Town and the Turkish-Cypriot Occupied part of Nicosia. For 5 euros, we watched a documentary film about Cyprus and studied the on-screen maps-photos of the visible part of Nicosia from the window, where its attractions and points of interest are marked. In addition, you can use binoculars and telescopes. This is an ideal starting point to explore the city.

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If you go further along Ledra Street, then you will reach the crossroad with passport control to the Turkish -Cypriot Occupied part of the island. All you need to get there is a valid passport. If you have a car, then there are special travel points and travel fee. Out of curiosity, I decided to cross the border. It’s like a different world, we were met by the famous Turkish “fake brands” bazaar, dullness, abandonment, and poverty throughout the city. We wandered through several streets, took pictures near the Turkish baths and several churches, turned into mosques.

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The ex-church of St. Catherine

I even found the ex-church of St. Catherine, which is now also a mosque. After that, we hurriedly returned to the Greek Side of Nicosia.

In the capital, there are quite a wide variety of restaurants, both Cypriot and international cuisines. But I would like to share with you places that you will probably never find in any tourist guides. Prompted by locals, tested and approved by me 👍

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If you want to try the real Cypriot food, eat hearty and tasty, you go straight to the tavern Stoa tou Dimitri ( Digeni Akrita, Nicosia). I have been there several times, a very cozy place with a fireplace and as the locals say, if they miss the real Cypriot homemade food – they go there. Therefore, it is always almost full, but the service is fast.

If you prefer something more gourmet, romantic and quiet – restaurant Atelier (Archangelou Michail 3 ) is the perfect place for you! Delicious French cuisine, good wine selection, excellent service … well, everything was top notch. Do not forget to order a dessert, always fresh and just melts in your mouth.

Uncle Wu (John Kennedy Ave 5) – another place you should not miss in Nicosia if you are a lover of Chinese cuisine. Guys, this little shop turned out to be cooler than the most expensive Chinese restaurants I’ve ever been to. Delicious spring rolls and chicken with ginger in sweet-sour sauce, I ate in minutes. By the way, my boyfriend brought one portion with him to Athens. LOL! So you understand how tasty it was.

One night we were invited by some friends to eat at the best-known Middle East restaurants among tourist – the Syrian Arab Friendship Club. I read about this place in many travel blogs and it had great reviews on Tripadvisor. We were a big company, so we had the chance to try a mix of everything. Sorry, but it’s true, the restaurant disappointed me. Nothing special, the cold place not suitable for winter season. Really, in Athens, we have much better and tasty Middle East restaurants. So, think twice if you want to go there.

One of the days we went to Nicosia Mall and had lunch at Taco Bell. Of course, this is not something unusual, but we do not have this chain of Mexican restaurants in Greece. And it was…so…YUMMU!

If you are a pizza lover like us, try one from Toronto Pizza. They have a tasty pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms, also you can make your own pizza or take one called Half Half 😋

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For a cup of coffee, I really like a style coffee house – Caffe Nero. They always have a cozy atmosphere with subdued lights and comfortable sofas. It is a pitty, they have not reached Greece yet.

And for dessert, eat Papaphilippou ice cream (even in winter). This is a classic of Cyprus ice cream, as they say, the taste of childhood.

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One of the days we went shopping.  In Nicosia, there are the largest malls in Cyprus: the Mall Cyprus and the brand new Nicosia Mall. We chose the second one since it has just recently opened. I liked it – quite spacious, interesting design, not a lot of shops, but the choice is good. I found some lovely new outfits and it is here we had lunch in Taco Bell.

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In Nicosia, there are also several “shopping” streets (for example, Makarius, Griva Digeni, Digeni Akrita, Stasikratu), where boutiques of famous designers are located.

It is difficult to judge the nightlife in Nicosia since I am not a fan of clubs, and I prefer more summer bars or roof top bars with a view.

Therefore, during my trip we did not visit any of the clubs (but there are many of them in the city), we only visited one bar ( Reckless) an old local bar in Engomi, however it was a rock and roll bar (which I didn’t like) and we also went to the cinema. Most of the evenings we spent by the fireplace or with friends at home.

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Of course, we also visited the Christmas theme park, where we rode on the Ferris wheel, shot in the dash and just enjoyed the festive atmosphere.

Since I can’t sit in one place for a long time, we dicede to rent a car and set off to explore the island. The good thing is that the distances here are not long. By the way, as Cyprus used to be a Brittish colony, we have to drive on the left, following the Brittish way.

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We used the services of SIXTH Rent a car and were very pleased: registration and delivery was very fast, with a small deposit and an automatic car at a very reasonable price.

So, we went on our journey…

READ MORE: CYPRUS FOR WINTER HOLIDAYS PART 1 AND PART 2

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