In the fortress of Famagusta you will take a trip back in time. You will walk through the places visited by the Templar Knights, by the Venetians and Pasha Mustafa.
The fortifications made by the Venetians in 1539 still stand today. The houses inside the fortress are not from that time, but they are old enough to create a fairytale atmosphere. Add the cathedral of Saint Nicholas, built in the 14th century – now transformed into a mosque – and you’re already in another world. The old town is beautiful and worth visiting.
How you get there
You can get to Famagusta by booking a trip with a normal bus or a double-decker bus. Normally you wouldn’t be allowed to cross the border with rental cars, but there are people who dare and risk doing this too.
At the moment there are two border crossing points to reach Famagusta – one is in the town of Vrysoules and the second is in Deryneia. The second one is also the fastest if leaving from Ayia Napa-Protaras area and can also be crossed on foot.
You will find it easiest to book tickets for a trip at the reception of the hotel where you are staying or at car rental offices. Usually here you will see them advertised on the windows at the entrance.
🚩📸 Here you can check more photos from 👉 Medieval Fortress
What we visit in the city of Famagusta
Now that we have clarified how to get to Famagusta, let’s see what we can see/visit there.
If you enter the occupied territory through the Deryneia customs, you will pass through a less inhabited and undeveloped area, forgotten in time. On the right side of the road is the area that was only accessible to UN peacekeeping forces until 2020.
In about 10 minutes you will see the modern city and then the fortress walls. Once you’ve passed the gate, it’s not long to the first parking lot and you can start your visit.
St. Nicholas Cathedral
The first building you will see that dominates the medieval fortress is the former St. Nicholas Cathedral, the current Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque.
Construction lasted from 1298 to 1312, the style is Gothic and the building has been compared to the cathedral in Reims, France. Here Lusignan was crowned king of Jerusalem.
The cathedral is built with three entrances, twin towers and a flat roof, characteristic of the architecture of the Templar period. The towers were damaged during the Ottoman attack in 1570 and were never rebuilt.
So if you step inside, you will do so following the steps of the last Crusaders, who took refuge in Cyprus.
The cathedral was built in 14 years, it is an architectural rarity outside of France, it was a Christian place for 258 years and for more than 450 years it has been a mosque.
On the left side of the building is a fig tree that experts claim was planted during the time when the cathedral was built. That means this tree is already 700 years old.
The Venetian Palace
Othello Castle or Othello Tower
It takes its name from the famous play written by Shakespeare in 1603 which set the action in a port city in Cyprus. Moreover, it seems that Leonardo da Vinci himself recommended its renovation in 1481.
The castle has four circular towers, a dining hall and a bedroom.
If you arrive in Famagusta, don’t miss climbing the protective walls built by the Venetians in the 15th-16th century. The view from the top is spectacular.
🚩📸 Check here for more photos of 👉 Othello Tower
The old City
And you will also find other churches built in the 13th – 15th centuries. Now, Famagusta does not only mean churches and castles.
Between the walls of the fortress there are also many shops and restaurants where you can enjoy good food.
If you are a meat lover, there was a restaurant on the street towards the Cathedral – Aspava. You won’t get a menu here, but the waiter will explain what you can eat.
There are also regular taverns sought after by tourists and locals, so don’t hesitate to choose the crowded places.
The prices are significantly lower than in the Greek side, but the offer is similar. I have not tried, but I think that in some cases it is also possible to negotiate. From the fortress you can easily reach the nearest beach.
On the way there you will pass by areas that have been kept closed since 1974. If you see armed soldiers, my advice is to avoid taking pictures of them or the objectives they are guarding. There were quite a few cases when tourists of all nationalities spent several nights in police custody for this.
Once you arrive at Palm Beach you will also see the stretch of abandoned hotels by the sea.
And you will also see the seashore – almost 6 kilometers of natural beach, one of the best on the island, a beach sought after by Europeans until the invasion in 1974.
The new city
If you go to the area on your own, you can also visit the new town by car. At the roundabout near the fortress wall, enter Ismet Inonu Bulvari street.
That’s where most of the clothes and shoe stores are where again the prices should be reasonable.
At the first roundabout you will see on the right you will see a very large mosque – Polat Paşa Camii.
If you want to admire it and take pictures in peace, take the third exit from the roundabout and immediately on the right is a supermarket where you can park your car. That is if you don’t choose to park right at the mosque.
City beach – Glapsides
After the mosque, if you choose to continue on the road, at the second roundabout, in less than 4 km, take the third exit again and you will reach the closest beach to the city – Glapsides.
It is very big, has sunbeds and is also a restaurant where you can eat. If you choose to take a dip in the sea before you leave, don’t worry because there are also showers.
Sunbeds with umbrella and everything are somewhere around 2 euros with everything.
And if you’ve come this far, it’s a shame not to go to the ruins of the Greek city-state of Salamis, which date back to at least the 11th century BC, according to the latest discoveries.
It is said to have been founded by Teucer, son of Telamon, who could not return home after the Trojan War because he failed to avenge his brother Ajax.
The theater and columns from the gymnasium still stand today. Excavations and research in the area began at the end of the 19th century and, as expected, most of the finds are in the British Museum in London.
- in Famagusta you can pay in Turkish lira and euros. However, I recommend exchanging in the local currency because you will end up paying less no matter what you buy. There is one exchange office in the old city. Or you might as well pay with your card.
- if you go there by car, be very careful with the traffic because it is a little bit more chaotic than in the Greek side. And yes, it is also driven on the left side in Katehomena.
- avoid photographing sites that have militarized security because you risk arrest.
History of the city of Famagusta
📌 settlement founded in 274 BC, by Ptolemy II, who named the city Arsinoe, after his sister. It was a fishing village for a very long time.
📌The city began to develop in 1192, with the arrival of the French from the Lusignan dynasty.
📌 In the 12th century, the city was an important commercial center.
📌1291, with the withdrawal of the Crusaders to Cyprus, Famagusta became one of the richest cities of Christendom.
📌1372 the city came under Genoese occupation.
📌1489, a century later, it was the turn of the Venetians to become masters in Famagusta. They fortified the city after the Turks destroyed the city of Limassol. The area attracted the rich of the time who settled here also because of the port. And because rich people competed with each other trying to build bigger and more beautiful places of worship, Famagusta became known as the church district.
📌1570-1571 – Famagusta resisted the Ottoman siege led by Mustafa Pasha for 13 months. After losing 50,000 men, the Turks occupied the city and drove out and killed the Venetians.
📌10,000 Cypriots were driven outside the fortress walls. However, the Turkish occupation of four centuries stopped the development of the city that was the richest on the island.
📌 The end of the 19th century finds Famagusta under the tutelage of Great Britain. In the period 1903-1906, the port is modernized and a railway with the terminus in Famagusta is put into operation. The area begins the last development that it has known until today.
📌1960 – 1974 – during the period when the Cypriot state was independent, the area becomes one of the most important resorts in the Mediterranean and also an economic center. In 1961, the port provided half of the island’s imports and exports, as well as passenger traffic.
📌1974 – present – Turkish occupation. Famagusta is once again in economic decline and the tourist area has been drastically restricted. The city founded by the Cypriots after the first Turkish invasion – Varosha – was closed until 2020 and is a ruin. It was reopened by the Turkish authorities despite international opposition.