Outside the walls and the Pafos Gate, at the top of Mouseiou and to the left of the Municipal Gardens, is the Cyprus Museum, the single most important attraction in Lefkosia. Here you’ll find a trove of archeological treasures representing the many cultures which have inhabited the island. It’s all slightly old-fashioned – you won’t find a touch screen in sight and the collection is beginning to outgrow the current building. But the information boards tell you just enough to make sense of what you’re seeing, and the labelling of cases and objects is clear and is in English as well as Greek.
The first few rooms take you through objects from earliest (Neolithic) times to the arrival of the Romans. As well as local pottery you can see Mycenaean, Phoenician, and Greek designs, a reflection of Cyprus’s trading position between Europe and the Middle East. Highlights from rooms IV to VI include the hundreds of clay figurines and statues from the Sanctuary at Agia Irini, Egyptian and Assyrian finds, and some stunning Greek and Roman marbles and bronzes. Room XI, not to be missed, has the rich pickings from the Royal Tombs of Salamis, including an impressive, ivory-decorated bed, two thrones, a large bronze cauldron on a tripod and much else. Also from Salamis, in Room XIII, are the sculptures which came from the gymnasium, together with photographs of the excavations (pre-1974 – Salamis is now, of course, in north Cyprus). A brief summary can’t do justice to the richness and variety of the exhibits on show so it’s best to take your time and focus on a couple of areas. There’s plenty of background material, postcards, etc, on sale in the museum shop.