An insider’s top 10 for expat life in Cyprus
By: Mimi Finerty
- For traditional Meze – Kypriaki Taverna: Agios Dhometios, Nicosia
I’m a foodie at heart and therefore my stomach simply sings everytime someone mentions a Meze. To properly enjoy a Meze you should be hungry, because the small plates of food (think tapas style) seem endless; it is not uncommon to find 20 or more dishes arriving at your table – not all at one time you will be pleased to hear.
While the offering of traditional tavernas in Nicosia is vast, my favourite and most recent discovery is Kypriaki Taverna in Agios Dhometios. The décor is somewhat traditional, but the atmosphere is warm and relaxed and more importantly the food is fantastic. The salads and dips with warm pitta came first, followed by bulgar wheat, beans in tomato sauce, grilled eggplant and then comes the meat. Dishes included pork, chicken souvlaki (kebab), sheftalia (Cypriot style sausages) and lamb. Some Meze’s will also include fish, but this is more common at the taverna’s by the sea.
And at €60 for three people, this place is pocket and stomach friendly!
- Art lovers: Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre
The Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre is small, but offers the perfect dose of contemporary art under one seriously cool roof. Set in an old power station, the gallery and the exterior building, remind me of something you would find in London. The centre holds regular exhibitions of modern art from both local Cypriot and international artists and is home to the history of art library.
Whatever you do, don’t think paying a visit on a Monday will be a good idea (I have done it twice even though I should have known better the second time) because its closed. But Tuesday to Saturday it stays open until 11pm.
- For Sunbathing in the City – Eleon Pool, Nicosia
Summer days in the city can be unbearable as the temperatures in Cyprus can regularly hit 40 degrees as August approaches. And living in the city, the hot summer days can easily swallow you up in an immobilising daze of sunshine. My secret weekend weapon is Eleon Pool. Tucked away in the city centre, this gorgeous pool, surrounded by olive trees, is a little escape from reality.
I suggest starting the weekend as you mean to go on; an afternoon swim and a cheeky cocktail to wash the week away and top up your tan.
- Because Burgers are the Best – Limoncello, Ayios Antonios Municipal Market, Nicosia
Since I’m a food person and Cyprus is a food country, many of my tips for expat life in Cyprus involve food! In the past two months I have visited Limoncello more times than I care to share with you, for one very good reason. The burger!
A seriously impressive piece of food, the burger, with a choice of bun (pick the brioche bun, pick the brioche bun!) is lovingly handmade and cooked to personal perfection. And inside there is little fuss, no soggy tomato or limp lettuce, just a generous helping of onion chutney. And lets not forget the sides. A delicious pot of homemade coleslaw and fries with a dipping sauce like no other; a creamy combination of flavours that I just cannot put my finger on.
All that in the super cool and relaxed setting of the refurbished Municipal Market in Nicosia, make this place perfect for cosy dinners with friends.
Open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday, a reservation is a must as limited seating and popularity make this place a hotspot every night!
- Everyone needs a staycation – Latchi
The bonus of living on a Mediterranean island is the multitude of spots for weekend or week long staycations. But my favourite and highly recommended staycation spot is Latchi.
Latchi, a tiny little fishing village on the north-west of the island, is the perfect place for relaxed getaways. Situated on the edge of the Akamas National Forest, this is the place for peace and quiet, breathtaking views and the best beaches in Cyprus.
Stay in one of the luxurious yet affordable, hilltop villas looked after by the guys at http://insafehandscy.net/, and wake up every morning to stunning sunrises over your own private pool.
And of course the food; being a fishing village this place has some amazing tavernas with the freshest fish that will have your stomach begging for more!
- If Spanish is your thing – Casa Vieja
Just because we live in Cyprus, doesn’t mean we eat Meze everyday. So if you want to tantalise your taste buds with something else, pick Casa Vieja for Spanish Tapas.
Set in a converted house, in old town Nicosia, this place screams character from the doorstep. And inside is no different. But you wont even notice your surroundings once the little plates of tapas start coming.
While I haven’t tried everything on the menu, a visit here must include the cheese croquettes with mixed berry salsa, chicken in garlic and white wine and the tiger prawns in romesco sauce. And then there’s the paella.
It’s easy to get hypnotised by all the little plates of deliciousness that are plopped in front of you but I beg you, save some room for the paella! Then again, if you cant finish it the lovely people at Casa Vieja are more than happy to wrap it up for you to take home and relive the pleasures of paella again tomorrow.
All that, mixed with sangria and affordable prices, make Casa Vieja well worth a visit.
- Feet are made for walking – Old Town, Nicosia
As a London girl, I’m used to using my feet as a primary method of transportation. And I have found in Cyprus (whilst I may be among the minority since everyone drives) that walking opens your eyes to a whole world that most people never get to look into.
The Old Town of Nicosia can be a little overwhelming with it’s windy streets and pre-historic buildings, but if your brave enough to get lost here, it’s totally worth it. With the green line, occupied by UN forces, cutting through the old town, the history and culture of the country are easily visible; Cypriot and Turkish soldiers man each side of the green line, houses still bare the bullet holes of the invasion and traditional men-only coffee shops sit neatly in the same place they have been for probably 50 years.
My favourite thing about walking the old town; all the architecture. I love the old style buildings with their details, the iron work, the heavy wooden doors, all of which scream craftsmanship at you.
If your looking for a free and unusual activity, a walk in the old town is for you. Remember to pick up water before you leave the civilisation of the city (especially in summer months, when I wouldn’t advise walking midday).
And for the less adventurous the Nicosia tourist office offers walking tours.
- Getting back to nature – Troodos Mountains, Nicosia
If you’re a nature lover, head to the Troodos Mountains. A short drive outside of Nicosia, the Troodos Mountains are a versatile landscape offering great walking trails, fresh air, cool temperatures and skiing. Yes you read that right. The beauty of this Mediterranean island is that come winter, the Troodos Mountains are a snow persons paradise.
On the way up, a stop at the Agia Marina Dam is a must. It has a wonderfully calming view and a cute little picnic area below; in the summer months its filled with people barbecuing Cypriot style (and responsibly I may add, because forest fires are a serious threat).
And if you know someone with a well-trained eye and you pick the right months, mushroom picking is also possible.
- For drinking – Silverstar, Nicosia
The drinking culture in Cyprus is not huge, especially when compared to England. But Cypriots do like to party. As such there are a plethora of cool bars, pubs and clubs to try out.
For a cosy but cool atmosphere, swing and jazz style music and lovely wines, Silver Star Wine Bar is the place to go. Tucked in a side street in the centre of town, it’s the perfect place for after work happy hour, late night drinking, or relaxed wine with friends.
- And we couldn’t leave without a coffee – Nicosia
Cyprus is an island of coffee drinkers. Whether it’s the traditional brewed Cyprus Coffee (think espresso style) an ice cold frappe or a standard cappuccino, coffee is a big part of life in Cyprus.
And since most coffee shops open til around midnight nearly everyday of the week, there is ample opportunity to have coffee. And the options are endless. Π και Φ on the edge of the old town is an art lovers haven, with rustic walls, miss matched chairs and graffiti murals adorning many surfaces. And you can get a coffee for €3 and waste an afternoon in the sunshine in the cute back yard. Plus its dog friendly which is a big bonus as a person who owns a pooch.
Just off Ledra, one of the main shopping streets in Nicosia is The Market Company, another cool and casual hangout with an old vintage feel, it offers coffee, cocktails and a great smoked salmon bagel if its brunch time!
And then there is Diosmos & Kanela on Onasagorou street in the centre of Nicosia. It’s a great place coffee but if you happen to be there in the afternoon, you must try the chocolate ravioli. Yes that’s right; chocolate pasta. Its sounds so wrong but it tastes so right!
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Contest Comments » There are 6 comments
Great list of tips and very nice to see something not focused on the usual tourist spots.
Oh, I feel so hungry now after seeing pictures of prawns and burgers mmmm. A lovely entry, but not one to read if you feel hungry :p
Great list - honest and tasty.
I feel like I have everything I need for a trip to Cyprus after reading this. Great information. My own personal travel guide.
This sounds tasteful!:-)
Wow, some people have all the luck of living in exotic places. Best wishes and good luck.