Cyprus // Lefkosia (South Nicosia) //

Laiki Geitonia

Laiki Geitonia is the focus of tourist Lefkosia. Pedestrianized during the 1980s as part of the Lefkosia Master Plan, this area to the east of Lidras Street and north of the D’Avila Bastion is a mishmash of alleys and lanes, where the tables, chairs and parasols of bars and restaurants have colonized the spaces between the buildings and racks of tourist souvenirs spill out of shops onto the pavements. This creates a veritable rabbit warren where, thankfully, given how hot Lefkosia can become, the sun barely penetrates. The area’s shops, cafés and restaurants get an A for vitality, an E for value-for-money.

The Leventis Museum (one of the many projects of a foundation named after Cypriot philanthropist Anastasios Leventis) provides a brilliantly organized introduction to the history of the republic’s capital. Housed in a stunning Neoclassical mansion in the heart of Laiki Geitonia, it starts with three rooms which give a broad sweep of the city’s development from the earliest times. This is followed by a chronological series of galleries covering the Byzantine years, the Frankish period and so on up to the British period, and is interspersed with exhibits dealing with particular subjects (Gothic architecture for example, or maps, jewellery, pottery). Presentation is smart, up to date and effectively lit, and you’re not overwhelmed with case after case of similar objects. If you’re pushed for time, check out the museum’s “mini guide” which promises to introduce you to all the important stuff in less than an hour. There’s also a classy shop that’s good for souvenirs. Photography is allowed (ask for a permit), but you mustn’t use a flash.

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