Greek Old Town Walking Tour, Nicosia

Greek Old Town Walking Tour (Self Guided), Nicosia

Nicosia is Cyprus’s capital and its largest city. It is Europe’s last divided capital, with Turkish Cypriots living on the north side and Greek Cypriots living on the south side.

Nicosia has been continuously occupied for over 4,500 years and has been Cyprus's capital for over 1,000 years. It has a turbulent political history, and the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans, and British have occupied the city.

During ancient times, Nicosia was a city-state called Ledra. Nicosia was controlled by the Byzantines from 330 to 1191, Lusignan kings from 1192 to 1489, and the Venetians from 1489 to 1571. Ottoman Turks ruled from 1571 to 1879, and the British ruled from 1879 to 1960.

Turks took control of Nicosia’s northern part in 1974. Today, there is a Green Line, also called the Ceasefire Line, across Nicosia. This line separates the Turkish side of Nicosia from the Greek side.

On this tour, you will explore the Greek Old Town south of the Green Line.

One of Nicosia’s most distinctive features is its medieval Venetian walls and protective moat, built in 1567. Visitors can see the wall’s eleven bastions and three gates. The Famagusta Gate is one of the most impressive gates and is Nicosia’s main city gate.

When the Ottoman Turks ruled the city, they transformed traditional churches into mosques. Visit the Omeriye Mosque to see one such conversion. Legend tells that Ottoman Turks also tried to convert the historic Famagusta Church into a mosque but were unsuccessful. Today’s visitors can admire Famagusta Church’s beautiful architecture and interior artworks.

Nicosia features many unique shopping areas. Laiki Geitonia is one of Nicosia’s most charming shopping areas. Visitors can stroll the winding, cobbled streets, watch artists work, and try traditional Cypriot treats. On Ledra Street, visitors can find a mix of shops as well as the border between the Greek and Turkish sides.

Ledra Street is also home to the Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory, which offers fabulous city views. The Leventis Municipal Museum’s exhibits explore Nicosia’s history. History enthusiasts can also explore the Byzantine Museum, which is located in the Archbishop’s Palace. For a more modern Nicosia experience, visit the re-designed Liberty Square.

Join us and explore the most notable sights in Nicosia's the Greek Old Town by taking this self-guided walking tour.
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Greek Old Town Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Greek Old Town Walking Tour
Guide Location: Cyprus » Nicosia (See other walking tours in Nicosia)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: Cathy
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Eleftheria Square (Liberty Square)
  • Leventis Municipal Museum
  • Laiki Geitonia Shopping Area
  • Podocataro Bastion and Medieval Venetian Walls
  • Liberty Monument
  • Famagusta Gate
  • Agios Ioannis (St. John's Cathedral)
  • Archbishop's Palace
  • Omeriye Mosque
  • Faneromeni Church
  • Ledra Street
  • Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory
Eleftheria Square (Liberty Square)

1) Eleftheria Square (Liberty Square)

Liberty Square is Nicosia's main square. It was originally called Metaxas Square after Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas and was renamed Liberty Square in 1974. Liberty Square overlooks the city's medieval Venetian walls and is home to Nicosia Town Hall. As the city's center, the square often hosts various events such as political rallies and sporting events.

In 2005, Zaha Hadid Architects won the $45 million contract to redesign Liberty Square. The new Liberty Square's inauguration finally took place in late 2021. While Nicosia is divided between Greece and Turkey, the newly designed square seeks to unite Greek and Turkish communities.

The square has a beautiful, curving pedestrian bridge that connects to the city's streets. Under the bridge, visitors will find five acres of granite paved space. The square features plenty of trees and attractive water features. The new design is an extremely forward-thinking space that connects the old dry moat and ancient city walls to today's modern communities.
Leventis Municipal Museum

2) Leventis Municipal Museum (must see)

The Leventis Municipal Museum features a large collection of Cypriot works. Visitors will see exhibits that feature archeological artifacts, medieval pottery, furniture, maps, jewels, and photographs.

The museum was established in 1984 and named after the Anastasios G. Leventis Foundation, the museum's principal donor. The museum opened in 1989 and showcases Nicosia's history from 3000 BC to today. The exhibits first focus on modern Nicosia and then lead visitors back to 3000 BC.

The British Period Gallery covers the time period from 1878 to 1960. The Ottoman Period Galleries focus on the years between 1570 and 1878 and the difficult Ottoman occupation.

The Venetian Period Galleries showcase the time between 1489 and 1570. Visitors will find a collection of Nicosia's ancient and modern maps in the Venetian Galleries. In the Byzantine and Medieval Galleries, visitors can see a collection of glazed vessels and other objects dating to the years 325-1489. The Nicosia Gallery features objects from 3900 BC to 325 AD.

In addition to the museum's permanent exhibitions, the museum features temporary exhibitions, educational programs, events, and lectures. The museum also has a shop that sells souvenirs, books, and gifts.

The museum offers free admission. Written museum guides are available in Greek, English, French, German, and Italian.
Laiki Geitonia Shopping Area

3) Laiki Geitonia Shopping Area

Laiki Geitonia is part of Nicosia's pedestrian area. Laiki Geitonia features buildings from the 18th century that have been beautifully restored. The buildings were constructed with wood, sandstone, and mudbrick. This area features winding streets, residences, souvenir shops, craft shops, and tavernas.

Visitors can walk the narrow cobbled streets and get a taste of a traditional Greek neighborhood. As you wander, you'll encounter intriguing side streets and bustling courtyards. The renovated homes and buildings feature traditional architecture. Cafes have outdoor seating, and guests can enjoy traditional Cypriot food. For a traditional treat, try a Cyprus coffee with halloumi, tsamarella, or lountza.

Visitors can enjoy boutique shopping, visit an art gallery, or watch artists paint. Laiki Geitonia is a wonderful place to explore Nicosia's culture, folk art, and local crafts. Stop by during the day to take pictures, enjoy shopping, or visit for a delightful dinner in the evening.
Podocataro Bastion and Medieval Venetian Walls

4) Podocataro Bastion and Medieval Venetian Walls (must see)

Nicosia's Medieval Venetian Walls are one of the city's most visited attractions. Nicosia's original walls were built during the Middle Ages. However, the Republic of Venice rebuilt the walls during the 16th century. Today, the walls are one of the Eastern Mediterranean's best-preserved city walls.

The first walls were built in the 14th century. When Cyprus became part of the Republic of Venice in 1489, the Venetians planned new fortifications, but their plans were delayed. Ottoman expansion inspired the Venetians to rebuild the city's walls in 1567. The Venetians also added an 80-meter-wide (262-feet) moat.

The walls were still under construction when the Ottomans invaded in 1570 and breached Podocattaro Bastion's walls. The Ottomans left thousands of soldiers in Nicosia and repaired the walls.

Nicosia's Venetian walls are circular and have eleven bastions and three gates. The bastions were named after members of the Italian aristocracy who donated funds to build the walls. Today, the Podocattaro Bastion is home to the Liberty Monument.

The walls feature innovative building techniques, such as improving the gate's protection and the wall's ability to withstand cannon fire.

Today, the walls are a much-visited tourist attraction. In addition, the dry moat is now used for sports fields, car parking, exhibitions, and a sculpture exhibition.
Liberty Monument

5) Liberty Monument

The Liberty Monument is located at the Podocattaro Bastion along the Venetian Walls. The monument honors EOKA fighters and was created in 1973 by Greek sculptor Ioannis Notaras.

EOKA stands for National Organization of Cypriot Fighters. This group fought to end British rule and unite Cyprus with Greece and was active between 1955 and 1959.

In 1959, officials from Cyprus, the U.K., Greece, and Turkey confirmed that Cyprus would become an independent country in the London-Zurich Agreements.

The imposing monument features seventeen bronze statues on a white marble pyramid. The top statue represents liberty and looks over two EOKA fighters. The liberty figure points to the sky with one finger.

The EOKA fighters are depicted pulling chains to open a prison gate and allow prisoners to escape. The prisoners are Cypriot peasants, soldiers, priests, villagers, men, and women who longed for freedom.
Famagusta Gate

6) Famagusta Gate

The Famagusta Gate is part of Nicosia's medieval walls and is Nicosia's main city gate. The gate was originally called Giulio Gate to honor Giulio Savorgnano, who designed the Venetian walls. The gate was built in 1567.

The Famagusta Gate features a vaulted passage with a domed room. The room has natural light from a circular opening. The passage has rooms that originally housed guards.

The Ottomans restored the gate in 1821. During the Ottoman period, only Turks could remain on horseback while passing through the gate. Foreigners and Christians had to walk. The gate was again restored in 1980. During this restoration, the floor was covered with cement, and cobblestones were added to the area in front of the gate. In addition, air conditioning and lighting were added.

Today, the gate room hosts an art center that features exhibitions, movies, theater performances, and concerts. It is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, and Saturday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm.
Agios Ioannis (St. John's Cathedral)

7) Agios Ioannis (St. John's Cathedral)

St. John's Cathedral was built in the 17th century on the site of a 14th-century Benedictine Abbey. St. John's Cathedral was built in 1662 and dedicated to St. John the Theologian. The cathedral features Franco-Byzantine style. The Ottoman rulers required a modest exterior style, but the interior features stunning gilded woodwork and crystal chandeliers.

In 1720, the cathedral was renovated and converted into the Orthodox Archbishop's residence. Between 1736 and 1756, the interior walls were covered with beautiful frescoes depicting Biblical scenes. In addition to scenes showing the life of Christ, the frescoes show the history of the Church of Cyprus. St. John's Cathedral is Nicosia's only church that still features complete original wall paintings.

Cretan artist John Kornaris created the four impressive icons between 1795 and 1797.

The cathedral serves as the official state church and has a throne for the archbishop and places for the Greek Ambassador and the President of the Republic of Cypress.
Archbishop's Palace

8) Archbishop's Palace

The Archbishop's Palace was built between 1956 and 1960 and stands next to the Old Archbishop's Palace, which was built in the 17th century. The new Archbishop's Palace features a neo-Byzantine style and was designed by George Nomikos.

The new Archbishop's Palace houses the Byzantine Museum and the Library of the Archdiocese. The Byzantine Museum has an impressive collection of Byzantine art. The museum displays over 200 icons that date from the 9th century to the 19th century. The icon exhibit features a large collection of icons from the 12th century.

The Byzantine Museum has sixth-century mosaics that were taken from the Church of Panagia Kanakaria. The museum also features a gallery with artworks on Greek mythology, Christianity, and portraits. In addition, the museum features historical books and sacred vessels.

The Old Archbishop's Palace hosts the Folk Art Museum and the National Resistance Museum.
Omeriye Mosque

9) Omeriye Mosque

The Omeriye Mosque has gone through several transformations throughout its history. The building was originally built in the 14th century as the Augustinian monastery of St. Mary. The monastery originally had six acres of grounds and featured orchards, a sugar plantation, fields, and gardens.

In 1570, the monastery was mostly destroyed by Ottoman invaders. In 1571, Ottoman ruler Lala Mustafa Pasha converted the monastery into a mosque. Tombstones from the monastery were used to repair the floor.

The Ottomans believed that the Prophet Omar, the second caliph of Islam, had rested here during the 7th century. So the mosque was named in Omar's memory. The Omeriye Mosque features Ottoman-Turkish architecture with a tall minaret, arches, and small domes. The interior features several beautiful paintings.

The mosque is open to visitors who can climb the minaret for outstanding views. In addition, the mosque features a beautiful garden.
Faneromeni Church

10) Faneromeni Church

The Faneromeni Church has a long history. It was originally built in 1222 as part of a monastery for women. When the Ottomans conquered the island in 1570, they attempted to turn the church into a mosque. However, legends tell that several imams died trying to establish a mosque here, and the Ottomans abandoned their efforts.

The church was destroyed during an earthquake in 1715 and rebuilt. The rebuilt church was named after an icon of the Virgin that was found in the rubble. The current church's appearance dates to 1872 and features Byzantine, Latin, and neoclassical styles. Faneromeni Church is the largest church inside the city's walls.

The three-tiered iconostasis dates to 1659 and features 61 icons. The Virgin Faneromeni icon is a copy of the original ancient icon. The original icon originated between the 12th and 14th centuries and is now housed at the Byzantine Museum but returns to Faneromeni once a year.

The church features a bishop's throne that artist Papadopulos carved. Taliozoros carved the high pulpit. Artist Diamantis created the evangelist images on the pulpit. The impressive large silver-framed cross contains a piece from the True Cross.

The Marble Mausoleum was built to memorialize four clerks who were executed in 1821 during the Greek War of Independence.
Ledra Street

11) Ledra Street (must see)

Ledra Street is a popular shopping street named after the ancient kingdom of Ledra. In 1050 BC, Ledra was located where Nicosia is today. Ledra Street is a pedestrian-only street, so you can walk and shop without the noise and inconvenience of vehicle traffic.

The street was known as Murder Mile during the EOKA struggle in the 1950s. During this time, EOKA fighters targeted the British military along Ledra Street.

The buffer zone was established in 1974 to separate the northern Turkish-controlled part of Nicosia from the Greek-controlled southern part.

It used to have a barricade as the center of the United Nations buffer zone between the Turkish and Greek sides of the city. The barricade was removed in 2008, and now people can walk across the border.

Most of Ledra Street is on the Greek side. The Greek side features international brands, and the Turkish side has smaller boutiques. The Shacolas Tower is one of the tallest buildings in Nicosia and links to three arcades that are filled with shops and cafes.
Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory

12) Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory (must see)

The Sharcolas Tower was originally called the Manglis Tower. It was built in 1959 by Costas Manglis and housed General Engineering and Hellenic Mining offices. The Shacolas Tower was Nicosia's tallest building until 1978.

The H&M Department store takes up the tower's first five floors. The 11th floor houses the Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory.

The Shacolas Tower Museum & Observatory features exhibits of photographs and narratives describing Nicosia. In addition, visitors can listen to a taped history, available in several languages.

The museum features a beautiful view of the city. The view extends across the mountains and the rest of the island. In addition, guests can use binoculars and telescopes to get a closer look at different landmarks and attractions.

The museum's photos and descriptions are arranged so that visitors can look at the close-up photos and then look outside and see a bird's eye view of the referenced photo.

The museum also has a small shop that sells souvenirs.

Walking Tours in Nicosia, Cyprus

Create Your Own Walk in Nicosia

Create Your Own Walk in Nicosia

Creating your own self-guided walk in Nicosia is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Nicosia Shopping Tour

Nicosia Shopping Tour

There's probably no better shopping destination for tourists in Cyprus than Nicosia. Indeed, the country's exotic capital offers a vibrant mix of traditional markets and modern fashionable shops, catering to diverse tastes and preferences.

One of the must-visit spots is Bandabuliya Municipal Market, also known as Belediye Pazarı. Here, you can immerse yourself in the bustling...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Turkish Old Town Walking Tour

Turkish Old Town Walking Tour

Nicosia wasn't always Nicosia. It was originally called Leukosia. In Greek mythology Leukosia was a siren, a daughter of Achelous, a river god, and Melpomene, Muse of Tragedy. They had several daughters, Leukosia was one.

Others say the first settlers were Achaean veterans of the Trojan War. They appeared on the plain of Mesaoria by the river Pedieos in 2,500 BC. They formed the city...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles