Venetian Column & Atatürk Square in Nicosia, North Cyprus.
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Venetian Column & Atatürk Square

Atatürk Square, or Atatürk Meydani, is the heart of North Nicosia, and the best starting point to explore the city during your holiday in North Cyprus.


North Nicosia Video
video by: TRNC Ministry of Tourism
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Konak or Saray? The Palaces at Atatürk Square, North Nicosia

The Ottomans established the area as the centre of Turkish life in Nicosia, and called it Konak Meydani, named after the governor’s house, or konak. Confusingly, the building was usually known as the saray, or palace. As with so many buildings in Nicosia, the Ottomans simply reused an existing building for the konak, a Venetian palace. (Of course, the Venetians hadn’t built it either, they had just taken over an existing Lusignan palace and remodelled it!) Unfortunately, the British ignored all this history and flattened the palace completely in 1904 to build – a post office. Only a hexagonal fountain remains from the old palace, plus a Gothic tracery window preserved in the Lapidary Museum.

Great Views Across Nicosia from the Saray Hotel, North Cyprus

Today, Atatürk Square is bounded by the post office and various official buildings, including the law courts and police station. The locals call the area Sarayönü, a reference to the old name for the palace, and indeed the hotel here is called the Saray as well. The Saray Hotel is just off Atatürk Square. It may not be the prettiest of hotels in North Cyprus, but go to the Saray Hotel’s rooftop terrace bar for a drink, and you’ll be rewarded with probably the best views of the whole of the city.


Venetian Column
photo by: Anonymous
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The Venetian Column, Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

Right in the middle of the roundabout at the centre of the square is a grey granite column. Whilst everyone refers to it as the Venetian Column, it originally came from the temple of Jupiter in the ruins of the Roman city of Salamis, near Famagusta. The Venetians brought it from Salamis (which must have been quite a feat in itself) and placed it here in 1489, topping it with their trademark Lion of St Mark. They also carved coats of arms of noble Venetian families around the base. The Ottomans removed the lion and knocked down the column in 1570, while the British put it up again in 1915, this time popping a copper globe on the top.

The Sarayönü Mosque

The first Sarayönü mosque was demolished in the early 1900s and replaced with a more modern building that actually has little in common with the architecture around it. Only the minaret survives from the earlier building, although the shaded outdoor seating around the mosque is a good place to cool down in the heat of a day’s sightseeing in North Nicosia.