North Nicosia (Turkish: Lefkoşa) is the Turkish Cypriot side of the city of Nicosia and the capital of Northern Cyprus.
Northern Nicosia is the capital and largest city of Northern Cyprus. It contains approximately half of the Old City, and the city streets are visibly crumbling.
- Atatürk Square, at the northern edge of the Old City, is the main square of the city.
- Dereboyu Street, also known as Mehmet Akif Street, is the busiest place of the city with lots of restaurants and shops, and it is busy until late.
Most tourists visit northern Nicosia as a day trip from the southern side.
If arriving from abroad without going to the southern side first, from nearby Ercan Airport you can take a scheduled bus called Kibhas or take a taxi.
- 1 Ercan International Airport (ECN IATA), Tymbou (Greek: Τύμπου, officially Τύμβου; Turkish: Kırklar) (about 13 km east of North Nicosia). Regular flights from Ankara and Istanbul, seasonal flights from north-west European airports
The Ledra Street (Lokmacı Caddesi) pedestrian crossing is an easy way to walk to northern Nicosia from southern Nicosia.
From Kyrenia on the northern coast, there is a road which connects to Nicosia.
From southern Nicosia the easiest crossing is the Ledra Palace crossing outside the city walls to the west.
The Old City of northern Nicosia can be comfortably covered on foot. If crossing through the checkpoint from South Cyprus, there are taxis that can be rented by the hour or by the day to cover the Old City and surrounding areas.
Most of Nicosia's sights are within the walled city:
- 1 Selimiye Mosque (St. Sophia Cathedral). Northern Nicosia's top attraction, this fortress-like cathedral-cum-mosque was completed in 1228 and has survived a number of earthquakes since then. The cathedral was converted into a mosque in 1570 and the two minarets added at the same time are a Nicosia landmark.
- 2 Kyrenia Gate. Built in 1567, the impressive Northern entry gate into Nicosia was built when the Venetians were in charge of Cyprus. Today it is home to the tourism information centre in Nicosia.
- 3 The Great Inn (Büyük Han). It has been totally transformed through sympathetic renovation and restoration over the past few years and today it’s a place where you can shop for eclectic crafts, enjoy a light meal, watch some street theatre or listen to live music and marvel at the incredible architecture of this building constructed back in 1572.
- 4 Atatürk Square. Better known as Sarayönü - the heart of the walled city, this square boasts the Venetian Column and the Judicial Building, with an opportunity to see other historical buildings and witness locals going about their daily business.
- Samanbahçe Houses. A very good reflection of traditional Turkish Cypriot architecture, these houses are well-preserved and well worth seeing and photographing.
- 5 The Great Turkish Bath (Büyük Hamam). Built over 400 years ago and still active, this bath is a place to relax.
- 6 Dervish Pasha’s House. Another cultural anthropology centre is the restored mansion that was once owned by Dervish Pasha.
- 7 The Lusignan House. A French medieval residence.
- Lapidary Museum. An archaeological museum.
- 8 Mevlevi Tekke. Museum of whirling Dervishes.
- 9 Arabahmet Mosque. Another historical mosque.
Attractions outside the walled city:
- The Museum of Barbarism. The house of Dr. Nihat Ilhan, a major who was serving in the Cyprus Turkish Contingent in 1963. During the inter-communal troubles of December that year, the house was attacked by the Greek-Cypriot terrorists. Dr. Ilhan's wife and three children were ruthlessly murdered in the bathroom where they had tried to hide. The house, in the Kumsal district of Nicosia has been preserved as a museum.
- Kızılbaş Church. In the Kızılbaş area, within walking distance from Dereboyu, this historical church is now used as a cultural center with frequent exhibitions and other cultural events.
- The Office of Rauf Denktaş. The office of the founder of Northern Cyprus, this is another attraction in the Dereboyu area.
- 10 The Republic Park (Cumhuriyet Parkı). Hosting the grave of Rauf Denktaş and a monument dedicated to the national struggle, this park is located in the Gönyeli area.
Whirling Dervish Shows take place in the walled city near the Selimiye Mosque, every night apart from the Sundays.
Try the 500-year-old Great Turkish Bath (Büyük Hamam) for an experience of true and relaxing cleanliness.
The Nicosia International Fair, takes place every June, and it's more than a fair, with an opportunity to mingle with locals and enjoy the decades-old atmosphere of the mobile restaurants and funfair there.
Nicosia is home to festivals, especially during the summer:
- International Gönyeli Festival - organized by the Gönyeli Municipality in July, one of the suburbs of Nicosia, the festival boasts concerts from some internationally-known Turkish bands and folk dance shows, with many other events
- Nicosia Theater Festival - in September and October, with well-known plays and actors from Turkey and Cyprus, this is a festival the locals are proud of, though the plays are in Turkish
- Nicosia Youth Festival - takes place in the summer, with concerts of local bands
- Walled City Jazz Festival - in September
Golden Tulip Hotel, Saray Hotel, Merit Hotel and Royal Hotel host casinos, which are banned in the south.
The so-called nightclubs on the highway to Morphou are prostitution centers. While prostution is illegal, the government turns a blind eye to these "nightclubs" and they remain an attraction for men. These are called "gabareler" in Turkish Cypriot dialect (from "cabaret" in French).
The Indoor and Outdoor Markets are the markets in North Nicosia are certainly worth a visit. There are many market stalls to browse selling everything from genuine fake designer clothes, bags, belts and shoes to stalls overflowing with fantastic fresh, organic and locally grown fruit and vegetables. You can pick up all the local cheese (Hellim cheese), Turkish delight, olive oil and such like that you want to take home to family and friends and you can negotiate a good clothing bargain or two to boot.
Arasta region in the walled city is home to cheap clothing, souvenirs and many other items with friendly vendors.
Outside the walled city, Dereboyu is the most classy area of the city. With frequent festivals, the area hosts several international clothing brands, restaurants and cafes. You will encounter Turkish Cypriot youths here, and hear foreign music. It is busy until late, and probably the only place in North Nicosia with this quality.
Traditional Cypriot cuisine is a melting pot of south European, Balkan and Middle Eastern influences. However, in northern Nicosia, the food you will find is by no means limited to that: while not incredibly cosmopolitan, as the cultural capital of Northern Cyprus, northern Nicosia will offer a unique blend of Cypriot, Turkish, Italian, and other cuisines. Food is cheap for European standards, and depending on the exchange rates, you should expect significantly lower deals than the restaurants in the south.
In Northern Nicosia, restaurants are omnipresent: Turkish Cypriots are an exuberant people who love to go out and eat, as a proverb states, "one should eat if they find food". Dining late is quite common outside of the walled city, and you will find that live music is quite common in restaurants.
While food is pretty much available everywhere, there is a large conglomeration of restaurants in the fancy Dereboyu area, where most of the students and the youth hang out and prices with a great range can be observed. Expect very few restaurants in the shopping district of Taşkınköy, but more in the Gönyeli area and Lemar Yolu. Traditional food (excluding kebabs and döner, which are available 24/7 in a few restaurants and everywhere in the city during daytime), while available in the modern city, can be more readily found in the walled city, although these restaurants tend to close earlier. Some examples of traditional food are:
- Molhiya is a well developed dish appealing to Turkish Cypriot taste, preparation and presentation, since they were Arabs known for their spicy and tasty food who passed it to Turks.
- Yalanci Dolma (vine leaves stuffed with rice, onions, and tomatoes) is a Turkish Cypriot dish. In Turkish Yalanci Dolma means "fake dolma", called thus because the stuffing does not contain meat.
- Shish Kebab (marinated lamb, skewered and grilled over charcoal), shis is the everyday word used by Turkish people which refers to "skewer", similarly Doner Kebab means "spinning kebab".
- Musakka (layers of mince, potatoes, and aubergines baked in the oven with cheese topping).
Burger King and Domino's Pizza are the city's only international fast food chains.
- Dönerci (Doner kebab shops) are everywhere. Expect good deals, as low as €3 at some places.
- Sandwich kiosks - less ubiquitous than döner houses
- Supermarkets are an option, they sell sandwiches or cold traditional foods at cheap prices.
- 1 Simit Dünyası, Girne Cd (in the walled city). A sort of bakery where you can get cheap meals. You can see their vendors around the streets of the old city.
- 2 Asmaaltı Köftecisi, Büyük Han, Asmaaltı Sk.
- 3 Merkez Restoran, İsmet İnönü Myd.
- 4 Ömer Pide Lahmacun, Tabak Hilmi Sk.
- 5 Barasta Cafe and Bar, Ç. Mustafa Sk.
The Dereboyu region is practically full of mid-range restaurants, below is a choice of them, but feel free to explore around
- 6 Califorian, Mehmet Akif Caddesi No: 74, ☏ +90 392 444 70 70, firstname.lastname@example.org. A popular restaurant in the Dereboyu region, can be a budget restaurant as well with meals as cheap as €6, even though it has costlier alternatives as well. Great range of options available.
- 7 Meatballs, 20, Osmanpasa Cad., ☏ +90 392 444 27 47. In the Dereboyu region, choice of a range of burgers and sandwiches that may surprise you with their unconventionality.
- 8 Büyük Han (the Great Inn), Asmaaltı Sk. A classical favourite of tourists in the walled city, this place has a great atmosphere and sometimes live music. Offers a selection of traditional Cypriot and Turkish food.
- 9 Eziç, Rauf Denktaş Cd. Part of a restaurant chain, popular place for date nights or special occasions, with an elite approach and range of meals. May be considered upper mid-range but is by no means expensive in comparison to the south, expect around €10 per head, or a bit more if opting for red meat. Near the Taşkınköy shopping region.
- 10 Hamur, No 46 2. Selim Caddesi, ☏ +90 392 228 00 52. Next to the Ledra Palace checkpoint, serves traditional Cypriot food.
- 11 Sabır Lokantası, Kurtbaba Sk. Traditional interior.
- 12 Meyhane, Kurtuluş Meydanı 8. The Gönyeli region is full of these, even though you may find them in central Nicosia as well, and they may be named "restaurants" at times. They are basically places with a great range of mezes, a slowly served fix menu of kebabs and an opportunity to drink your drinks of choice, with live music or entertainment at some places - might be synonymous to a tavern! Ask for assistance to pick the ideal one. Expect €20-30 per person, and the bill will usually be divided among all that pay.
There are many pensions around the Great Inn. They don't have online reservations, but hotels have a minimum fare in the low-season so it's much cheaper to walk into any pension.
- Antalya Pansiyonu, Iplik Pazari No. 17 (just north of the Hamam), ☏ +90 392 22 77 396.
- [formerly dead link] Aksaray Pansiyon, Mecidiye Sokak No: 63 Lefkoşa (north of the Great Inn), ☏ +90 392 228 46 48, email@example.com. About €30 for private room for 2 with breakfast.
- Golden Tulip Hotel. A 5-star hotel. €125.
- Merit Hotel. A 5-star hotel.
- Saray Hotel & Caesar Casino. A 3-star hotel. €100 for a double.
- City-Royal Hotel & Casino, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Gonyeli Kent Hotel.
Tourism information may or may not be available at the tourism office on Atatürk Square. The telephone code of the city has no difference with the whole Northern Cyprus; (+90) 392.
Northern Cyprus is a small country, and even the farthest area, Karpaz Peninsula, is just over 1½ hours by car.
- The pleasant port town of Kyrenia is 20 minutes hour away by car, and St. Hilarion Castle makes an interesting detour along the way.
- The old city of Famagusta.
- Those seeking to get off the beaten path may try Morphou and the Dillirga region, a 25-minute drive by car or dolmuş.
It is possible to visit the South on a day trip, provided you are an EU citizen. Citizens of other western nations (e.g. US, Canada, Australia) are allowed to pass by the Greek Cypriots on a case-by-case basis only. People from countries that need a visa for the Republic of Cyprus cannot visit the South if they entered the island via the TRNC. The main checkpoint for pedestrians is on Ledra Street, about 100 m south of Girne Caddesi; its Turkish name is Lokmacı Sınır Kapısı. The main checkpoint for cars is at the (confusingly named) Ledra Palace crossing on İkinci Selim Caddesi.