Lefkosia (Nicosia) is the capital of Cyprus since the late Byzantine period, 11th century AD, and is situated in the middle of the island. Lefkosia still remains the last European divided capital.
Lefkosia is a busy modern commercial and business center with cosmopolitan rhythms. The history of the city dates back to the Bronze Age. In antiquity and in early Christian times it was known as Ledra. During the Frankish (Luisignan) period Lefkosia was transformed into a splendid town, with royal palaces and 50 churches.
Contemporary Lefkosia combines the historic past with the liveliness of a modern city. The centre of the city is its old quarter surrounded by a Venetian sandstone fortress wall. Old Nicosia (Lefkosia) lies within its distinctive star shape walls which were built in 1567 by the Venetians. About six kilometres in length, there are eleven arrow-shaped bastions jutting from the wall and three entrance gates - the Famagusta, Paphos and Kyrenia. A deep moat was dug around the wall and in the winter months would fill with water diverted from the River Pedhieos that runs through the city. Following the Turkish Invasion in July 1974, Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world today and walking along any of the main streets, the way is barred by walls of sandbags which mark the Green Line that divides the city and is patrolled by soldiers from the United Nations. To gain an insight into the sadness that prevails in the city, it is worth visiting the Shacolas Observatory which offers 360° panoramic views over the whole city with audio presentations in four languages explaining events leading up to the occupation and pointing out all the landmarks on both sides of the Green Line.
Stroll around the narrow streets, admire the beautiful old houses of Medieval and traditional Cyprus architecture with their overhanging balconies, as well as, ancient churches and museums. Walk along the restored pedestrian shopping area with traditional craft shops, cafes, and tavernas. Whole neighbourhoods as well as selected buildings are being restored and renovated to preserve the atmosphere of bygone days. Laiki Geitonia, is a must visit place, with craft shops, cafes and tavernas, which maintain the atmosphere of the olden days. Make sure you stop at St John’s Cathedral with its frescoes and the marvellous museum of Byzantine icons.
The new and modern town of Lefkosia extents outside the ancient walls. The capital centre in European style, incorporatesstate of the art buildings, office blocks, beautiful shops, design cafes and restaurants further expanding to suburban residential areas.
Of the city’s main sights, the Cyprus Museum houses the best collection of archaeological artefact's on the island, including a first century AD Roman statuette of Aphrodite of Soli and the original mosaic of Leda and the Swan, while the Leventis museum depicts the history of the town.