Nicosia City Walls in Nicosia, North Cyprus.
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Nicosia City Walls

Nicosia City Walls
photo by: Glen Bowman
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The old part of Nicosia is contained within mighty defensive walls, originally built during medieval times. Indeed, as you come in to Ercan Airport on your flight to North Cyprus, on a clear day you can easily see the outline of the walls around the city from the air. If you want to explore the old areas of North Nicosia, you have to pass through these impressive walls that still encircle the whole of the city, both north and south.

The Crusader and Venetian Walls of North Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

The Crusaders first built strong defensive walls for the town, complete with the tall towers designed to repel the invaders arrows and catapults. However, the Venetians had to fortify the town against something far more powerful; gunpowder and cannons. So they reshaped the whole city, by reducing the area contained within the walls from 5km to 3km (and demolishing a fair few churches and buildings in the process.) Then, the Venetians built the great walls you can see today on your North Cyprus holiday. These sturdy walls are wide enough for cannons to be rolled up to the very top of the walls, ready to defend the town against invasion.

The Eleven Bastions of Nicosia, North Cyprus

The original medieval towers were replaced with sturdier bastions, rounded towers specially designed to repel cannon fire. Eleven bastions were built in the circular walls, and you can see six of them in the Turkish sector of Nicosia, the Kaytazaga (Roccas), Zahra (Mula), Cephane (Quirini), Musalla (Barbaro), Cevizli (Lordano) and Sibili (Flatro). The Cephane (or Quirini) bastion was originally the residence for the vice-president, and now is part of the North Cyprus presidential palace. The Musalla (Barbaro) bastion houses the National Struggle Museum, displaying details of the dramatic events of 1974.

North Nicosia Video
video by: TRNC Ministry of Tourism
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Let Me In The Gates of the Walled City of Nicosia

Originally, there were only three gates into the city; the Paphos Gate, the Famagusta Gate (both now in south Nicosia) and the Kyrenia or Girne Gate in North Nicosia. The Kyrenia Gate is the main entrance into North Nicosia, and the gate you would use on your North Cyprus holiday day trip to Nicosia, as this is where most dolmus (or shared taxis) will drop you. Although you can no longer walk all around the walls of Nicosia, you can drive around the inside of the walls on the north side in your North Cyprus hire car, using the ring road. Either end of the road leads you to the Green Line barricade dividing Northern Cyprus from southern Cyprus. (Remember, you cannot take a North Cyprus hire car across the border.)

What, No Water? The Dry Moat around North Nicosia, Northern Cyprus

The moat below the walls of Nicosia was always designed to be a dangerous place for any enemies, but not because it was filled with water. Instead, enemy soldiers would have to cross this open area of dry land to reach the walls, when the Venetian defenders could rain fire on them at will. In peacetime, the town’s rubbish was thrown over the walls into the moat, where it acted as great fertiliser for crops grown there, an ancient example of recycling in action. Today, the moat is used as public parkland, so you can stroll around the walls and imagine the cannon fire (or rubbish) raining down!