Nicosia, the world’s last divided capital

Nicosia, capitala divizată

On the mountain near Nicosia you will see a large Turkish flag. It is the first indication, impossible to miss both from the ground and from the plane, that Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world.

Unlike Berlin, they didn’t build a wall here. They used the houses of the residents and tin barrels to make the border that separates the Greek Cypriots from the Turks.

And everything remained frozen for almost 50 years.


How did it happened? 

Nicosia’s fate was sealed in the early 1960s, when the Greek and Turkish Cypriots fell out over changes to the constitution. To quell the violence that broke out in 1963, UN representatives drew a dividing line and divided the city into Greek and Turkish sectors.

They used a pencil with a dark green lead, therefore the name of the demarcation remained the Green Line.

The Turkish side of the capital was occupied on August 14, 1974, when the Turkish army advanced on the island and took control of a third of the territory (the first landing was on July 20, when it occupied only a small part of the north, in the Kerynia area and Famagusta).

The border
The border

How to cross the border in Nicosia

There is a pedestrian-only border crossing in the old central area of Nicosia. Basically, after you walk quietly around the shops in the area of Ledra street, you stop for a bit and have a coffee or something to eat, you can pass easily, with just your passport or even your identity card, in Nicosia the busy side. Same island, different atmosphere.

Ledra Street crossing point
Ledra Street crossing point

The border crossing point in the middle of the city, the street on Ledra, was opened for the first time since the invasion only in 2008.

If you are going to cross the border, you better check with the people there which products you are allowed to bring, because the Greek Cypriot authorities have a habit of confiscating goods bought from the north if they see fit.

Two worlds, same city

In the Greek part of Nicosia you will find the old houses, some of them restored. But you will also see many derelict, abandoned buildings. Anyway, pretty much everything on the border line has been abandoned.

When it was drawn with green, they effectively divided the houses in two, a street route was not followed.

In the tourist area, where the facades have been redone, everything looks good, and in cool corners are set up cafes and taverns, only good to rest your tired legs and enjoy a frappe. In the old perimeter you will find many Orthodox churches and several mosques.

Then, on the left side, next to the wall and next to the border with the Turkish side, you will also find the Vatican embassy, which operates inside the church of the Holy Cross.

The area is worth exploring on foot, in peace, without stress, because there is no way to get lost. Everything is delimited by the fortification made by the Venetians in the period 1567-1570.

The watch towers are still visible and the old walls are very well maintained.

Venetian Walls
Venetian Walls

New Nicosia

And if you are bored of the small streets, no one stops you from exploring the park at the entrance to the old town, a park that was completed in 2020. From there you can also admire the Skyscrapers.

If you want to explore the new part of the city, I recommend not to do it by car unless you got there maybe on a Sunday morning or in August, when most of the locals have fled to the seaside. The traffic can be busy and the streets seem far from easy to navigate. Plus finding a parking spot can be tricky.

How do you get to Nicosia?

Nicosia is the only city in Cyprus that is not by the sea. Larnaca airport is only 52 km away, and the capital can be reached very quickly on the highway. If you land in Paphos, however, you have 142 km to cover and it will take you about two hours to reach your destination.

If you don’t rent a car directly from the airport, my advice is to call a company that provides the transfer because a trip with a safe taxi will be a bit more expensive. Especially if you come from Paphos.

If you are staying anywhere else on the island and want to spend just one day in Nicosia, you can confidently use public transport. From absolutely every city in Cyprus you will find buses that will take you there, and the end of the line is exactly where the old town begins. Be careful about the schedule, because it doesn’t run until late at night.

🚩 You can check here for more details 👉 Intercity Buses

If you want to land in Nicosia, you should know that the airport “remained” in the occupied part and you can only get there with a flight from Turkey. So you will end up outside the European Union and you will need a passport.




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