Encircled by the historical Venetian walls and surrounded by the sturdy, imposingly compelling bastions, the old city of Nicosia is the place where culture meets with architecture, tradition and religion. It is not uncommon to hear locals and foreigners claiming that this is the best place to be in the whole capital. The old city offers a rather oriental atmosphere as it combines the beauty of the numerous palm trees located all around the old town together with the ancient mosques which without any doubt contribute as an additional cultural element of the area.
Culture is apparent from the moment you enter the old, renovated streets of the old city: overhanging terraces in the elegantly restored pedestrian streets full of traditional restaurants, historic museums, craft and art shops and ancient cathedrals make every visitor want to spend unique moments by taking the most out of this amazing area.
Culture is evident in the everyday conversations you may hear between local elderly people, who are most of them owners of old craft shops or “kafeneia”, as you pass by the old streets.
These are the people perennially devoted to the beauty and culture of the old capital, those who cannot and do not want to escape from the old, historic, monumental environment of this area. Enjoy a traditional Cyprus coffee with them, and you will immediately spot cultural elements in your conversations.
Make sure you stop off the key churches surrounding the old city, to get an idea of the most famous religious monuments of the area. Faneromeni’s church, located at the most crowded point of the old town where the old school of Faneromeni together with the numerous coffee shops are giving life to the place every hour of the day, is one of the most famous religious monuments of the old city.
Chrysaliniotissa church, the oldest Byzantine church in Nicosia, is another magnificent historical monument of the area. Visitors should not forget to drop in St. John’s cathedral and watch out the nice frescoes in the astounding interior of the church. A short visit to the Museum of Byzantine Icons is another astonishing culture-must.
A national, religious, political and of course cultural monument of the old city is the well-known Archbishop’s Palace, the official place where the offices and formal residence of the archbishop of Cyprus are located. The Palace was built in neo-Venetian architectural style and is nowadays one of the most important buildings attracting the local and foreign visitors’ attention.
Although closed to the public, the Palace hosts the famous Byzantine Museum, the Folk Art Museum, the National Struggle Museum as well as the Library of the Archbishopric, which are all open to the public. Next to them is the impressive building of the oldest secondary education school in the capital, namely the “Pankiprion Gymnasio”. The school is operating until nowadays with hundreds of students attending classes every year. The building remains remarkably imposing as it has been renovated certain years ago.
Near the Archbishop’s Palace, visitors can drop by two other important cultural points of the old city, namely the famous Omeriye Mosque and the respective hamam complex called Hamam Omeriye. Omeriye Mosque was originally St. Mary’s Church of the Augustinians’ Order, a truly imposing monument in the medieval times. The interior sculpture decoration together with the magnificent exterior architecture of the building make it look really unique. After the fall of the city, and when the Ottomans conquered the island, they rebuilt the walls of the monument, put an additional wooden roof, mortared the interior and created a minaret. Until nowadays, the monument is transformed into a mosque. The well-known Hamam Omeriye, has been the exclusive hamam place of the old city for many locals and foreigners who want to spend moments of recreation and to have a relaxing break from their everyday stressful routine. Interestingly enough, the famous hamam has received the Europa Nostra award for the “Conversation of Architectural Heritage” in 2006.
Another cultural landmark of the old city is the famous House of the Dragoman Hadjigeorgakis Kornessios which nowadays houses the Cyprus Ethnological Museum. The old Venetian building is one of the most important buildings of the 18th century and after a significant renovation, the house has won the Europa Nostra award in 1988.
Lastly, Famagusta Gate, the well-known Porta Giuliana, has been one of the three first gates originally used by people to enter the old city and is nowadays the Municipal Cultural Center to be found in Nicosia. The Gate has been recently restored and acts as a cultural focus, by yearly hosting various conferences, lectures, concerts and other cultural exhibitions taking place in Cyprus.