NORTH NICOSIA: A CAPTIVATING CITY
North Nicosia, also known as Northern Nicosia in Turkish (Kuzey Lefkoşa), is Northern Cyprus’s capital and largest city. Governed by the Nicosia Turkish Municipality, it had a population of 61,378 in 2011, with a metropolitan area of 82,539 residents. Operating as the economic, political, and cultural hub, North Nicosia features a historic walled city around Sarayönü Square and a modern area with Dereboyu region at its core. Recognized for its welfare standards, the city has experienced urban growth, hosted cultural events, and drawn tourists. It is a significant educational center, with over 34,000 students and four universities. The city’s division stems from historical events in the 1960s.
The city landscape calls for a captivating journey through the historic streets of Nicosia, where each landmark unfolds a unique chapter in the city’s rich history. At Atatürk Square, or Sarayönü, the tall Venetian Column sets the stage, sharing stories of Nicosia’s past. A stroll along Girne Avenue, reveals a special pathway linking Sarayönü to the Kyrenia Gate, seamlessly connecting different parts of history. Also standing strong is the 19th-century Samanbahçe neighborhood, where neat houses and an old fountain take you back in time. The city also boasts of the Arasta area, a place with old shopping streets bringing ancient traditions to life.
Büyük Han, a big old building, is a special spot resonating with the echoes of the Ottoman legacy. There is also the Selimiye Mosque, once a cathedral, and the Bedesten, an old building turned into a cultural hub. Further through the Yenicami and Arabahmet quarters, where mosques share important stories, completing the picture of Nicosia’s history. The old city warmly unveils its unfolding story—a tale woven with history, charm, and architectural wonders.
Demographically, North Nicosia is primarily inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers and it is home to many foreigners across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and other parts of the world. The city’s demographics have historical roots, with a Green Line separating Turkish and Greek quarters. Displacement and resettlement have shaped its population.
This grand city functions as the financial and economic nucleus of Northern Cyprus, boasting significant workplace and employee concentrations. Despite considerable urban expansion, concerns about city planning have emerged. Centrally positioned, it fosters commerce, housing the Nicosia International Fair and an Organized Industrial Area. The economy within the walled city has stagnated, prompting revitalization endeavors. Tourism, a pivotal sector, drew over 146,000 visitors in 2012. Infrastructure investments, such as hotels and casinos, have transformed the city’s skyline. Notably, around 117 million Turkish liras were invested in new constructions in 2011, signaling growth in residential areas like Hamitköy and Gönyeli.
North Nicosia thrives on cultural diversity, with students celebrating national festivals, dances, and traditions. The city hosts vibrant events like the Rock ‘n Cyprus Festival and Nicosia Carnival, attracting thousands. Fine arts flourish with institutions contributing to exhibitions and competitions. Museums showcase historical artifacts and performing arts, including theatre, orchestras, jazz festivals, and folk-dance events, enriching the city’s cultural tapestry. Modern dance schools and international events, like Earth Dance, contribute to the city’s dynamic artistic scene
Nicosia hosts four Turkish Cypriot universities and a branch of Anadolu University a renowned public university in Eskişehir, Turkey. As of 2014–2015, it accommodates over 34,000 students, with Near East University being the largest with 25,068 students. The universities embrace diversity, with students from various countries. Most of the universities own cutting-edge supercomputers, conduct research on diverse topics, and have a vast library. The city has state-owned institutions for primary education, high schools teaching in Turkish and English, and private high schools, contributing to a rich educational landscape.
The city serves as a key transport hub in Northern Cyprus, linking major cities with modern highways. Recent developments include new highways, ring roads, and a 2018-introduced bicycle-sharing system, Velespeed. Public transport mainly relies on buses. In addition to public buses, taxis play a crucial role in the city’s transport infrastructure, offering flexible and on-demand travel services. It is also noteworthy that most universities offer free city buses for their students.
This glamorous city reflects an intense sports hub, hosting five Turkish Cypriot Süper Lig football teams. Çetinkaya, the oldest with 14 titles, dominates the league. The city hosts the Nicosia Marathon and various sports events, including tennis tournaments and the Nicosia Youth and Sports Festival. The Atatürk Sports Complex is a central venue, featuring a stadium, sports hall, swimming pool, and more. Despite an international sports embargo, North Nicosia has hosted global events like the Global Taekwondo Championship and the Economic Cooperation Organization University Games. Local universities, like Near East University and Cyprus International University, contribute significantly to the city’s sports culture.