With a complex and storied past, Cyprus emerges as a country of contrasts, transforming into the Mediterranean’s most exciting country. Your experience within the capital Nicosia combines the renaissance spirit of its ambitious regeneration projects with the evocative history of the city’s division. Beyond, piercing blue skies cover undulating meadows teeming with archaeological splendours, where the allure of the glistening Mediterranean waters invites you to jump in. For 24 hours on this island of compelling landscapes and culture, we’ve crafted an itinerary teeming with the experiences that call Cyprus home.
As a city divided in half by the barriers of the Green Line, waking up in Nicosia means waking up in one of the Mediterranean’s most intriguing cities. Despite its surreal sense of limbo, the one thing both sides of the line have in common is coffee.
Throughout the island, baristas brew local and international blends so start your day with a delicious brew at one of the sun-drenched cafes around Phaneromenai church where you can watch the city slowly wake up to the new day.
With your energy levels now replenished, head on over to Nom, one of the cities coolest breakfast spots that not only attracts a hip clientele but one that appreciates quality food. Nutrition isn’t compromised for flavour, with each dish brimming with the authentic Cypriot essence of locally sourced ingredients.
Their ‘Yummies’ dish fuses the heartiness of honey-roasted sweet potato, poached eggs and local sausage with the zest of baked cherry tomatoes and a homemade yoghurt turmeric sauce. It’s comfort food best enjoyed with their delicious cold-pressed juices. Lounge in the casual, camera-ready yet warm space before you venture out amongst the streets that have now certainly woken up.
Nicosia’s transformation efforts into that of a modern European city are best enjoyed from great heights. Wander through the atmospheric Laiki Geitonia neighbourhood to arrive at Shacolas Tower, its large windows providing a panoramic view of the city’s striking history and burgeoning future.
Look to the south and you’ll see the modernity of Eleftheria Square whose futuristic renovation is being undertaken by famed architect Zaha Hadid while the Jean Nouvel designed, Tower 25, rises above the city’s skyline. Look to the north and you’ll see the city’s more traditional side with minarets and markets bubbling below.
Stroll outside of the 16th century, Venetian walls of the Old City to find narrow streets leading to the modernist exhibition space of the A.G. Leventis Gallery. Reinvigorating the city’s cultural offerings when it first opened in 2014, Space now exists as a world-class venue showcasing European artworks from the 16th to the 20th centuries.
Marvel at the hallucinatory folk art of Marc Chagall and masterworks by Renoir and Monet while gazing upon the thought-provoking and magnificent 17-m long piece by renowned Cypriot artist, Adamantios Diamantis.
Head north toward the Lidras Street checkpoint to find yourself amid a maze of bustling, cobblestone streets; streets lined with a flurry of small cafes and artists’ studios, stone buildings and arcaded passageways. Among the trinket sellers of the Buyuk Han, delve deep into the shops and you’re bound to find a piece to take home and cherish forever.
LUNCH AND AFTERNOON
Owing to its multi-layered past, the gastronomic offerings of Nicosia are as diverse and eclectic of a city double its size. With piquant, mouth-watering wafts tantalising the taste buds, head to the rustic cooking haven of Evroulla, just off Lidras Street.
Pairing crispy-tender pork alongside delectable oven-baked potatoes, the crackle and ooze of juice with every bite is an explosion to the senses. If you’re looking for something more affordable, join the locals at Christakis where 7 EUR gets you a hearty souvlaki grilled to perfection.
It’s time to leave the city to head for the inviting turquoise waters of the Cypriot coast. Through the weaving country roads on your way to Limassol, gaze out upon the countryside to see a rural idyll of rolling fields exploding with a kaleidoscope of wildflowers. Amongst the olive groves, the archaeological ruins of Paphos and Kouiron evoke the spirit and mysticism of more ancient history.
Despite fast becoming the island’s most buzzing seaside town, Limassol retains an air of relaxed, slow-paced coastal living. The palm-fringed strip of its seafront promenade is the best place for people watching as jet-setting fashionista types rub shoulders with older locals to enjoy the opulent yet refreshing waters.
Look out to the horizon at sunset and bask in the serenity as you sit and watch the sunset over the sublime Mediterranean horizon.
DINNER AND NIGHTLIFE
Head to the new marina to find the city’s best restaurants teeming with fresh produce from the sea. Try for a table at Pyxida, a stylish waterfront restaurant where you can indulge in mouth-watering, crispy-sweet fried smelt alongside their fresh catches of the day, filleted at your table then served with a light butter sauce.
How you end the meal is up to you. Will you choose the quintessential orange cake with mastic ice-cream or opt for the comfort of some Loukoumádes topped with nectarous honey and almonds? No matter the choice, you will not be disappointed.
The Old Port is now the city’s hotbed for local nightlife. The Gin Fish oozes sophistication with its plush, white marble bar inviting you to treat yourself to its wide gin selection and locally made alcohols such as the caramel-colour elixir of the Commandaria.
If you’re looking to dance, head to the back garden of Sousami, a hangout where you can enjoy a 3 EUR pint of Greek lager as DJs spin vinyl into the early morning.
WAKE UP AND REPEAT
Having spent the entire day experiencing the plethora of sights and experiences of this prosperous, Mediterranean island, we hope that this article helped as a guide. If you’re looking to explore the remaining breadth of the island, then a Sixt car rental is the perfect solution to uncover everything Cyrpus has to offer.
(Written by Christian Keshan)