Nicosia is the capital of the Mediterranean island Cyprus. Known in Greek as Lefkosia and in Turkish as Lefkoşa, the city is divided by barbed wire (called Green Line) into a Greek and a Turkish zone. At least three quarters of the city population live in the 'Greek' part, which is independent since 1960.
Nicosia is a modern, dynamic capital with lots of shops, restaurants and entertainment. Although the city has been destroyed more than once by conquerors, there are still enough leftovers to enjoy the past. History is most strikingly experienced at the Venetian city wall, which was constructed between 1567 and 1570. The 4,5 metres thick wall used to have three gates. The Famagusta gate is now used as cultural centre. Some other parts of the wall contain administration offices. The historical centre is clearly present inside the walls, but the modern city has grown beyond.
The heart of the city is Eleftheria (Freedom) square, with the city hall, the post office and the library. Adjacent Ledra street leads to the most lively part of the old city with narrow streets, boutiques, and cafés. Agia Fanomereni is a church built in 1872, constructed with the remains of an old castle and a convent. Here rest the archbishop and the other bishops who were killed by the Turks during the 1821 revolt. The Palace of the Archbishop can be found at Arkhiepiskopos Kyprianos Square. Although it seems very old, it’s a wonderful imitation of typical Venetian style, built in 1956. Next to the palace is the late gothic Agios Ioannis cathedral (1665) with picturesque frescos.
Nicosia is also known for its fine museums. The Archbishop’s Palace contains a Byzantine museum where you can admire religious icons. Other interesting museums include the Folk Art Museum, National Struggle Museum (witnessing the rebellion against the British administration in the 1950s), Cyprus Museum, and the Handicrafts Centre.
The population of Nicosia lies around 200,000, which means that over a quarter of the Republic’s people live in the capital. The city is also capital of the administrative division Nicosia. The country’s other five districts are Famagusta, Kyrenia, Larnaca, Limassol, and Paphos.
Nicosia was founded in the heart of the island in the fourth century BC by Lefkon, son of Ptolemaeus I of Egypt. Still known as Lefkosia, the city became the island’s capital in the 11th century. It had grown in importance because of threats to the coastal cities Paphos and Salamis, which made many people flee to the centrally located Lefkosia.
The name Nicosia appeared towards the end of the 12th century, when the city was owned and run by the Knights Templar. In this era of the Franks, the city expanded culturally, while under the Lusignans in the 15th and 16th centuries, the capital saw the erection of a number of palaces, mansions, churches and monasteries. The Ottoman siege of 1570 caused 20,000 casualties, while the 19th century also observed tragedy. The Turks eliminated the 1821 revolt with bloodshed, cholera hit the city in 1835, and fire destroyed large parts of Nicosia in 1857. The British gained control over the island in 1889, leaving Nicosia the colony’s capital.
In the summer of 1974 Turkish troops, using the pretext of a coup orchestrated by the Greek, invaded and occupied over a third of the island, including part of Nicosia. Despite the efforts of the international community, the occupation continues to this day.