Cuisine in Cyprus is most like Greek cuisine with some Turkish influences. In Cypriot cooking, fresh vegetables, beans, grilled meats and seafood are frequently used. Common spices and herbs include pepper, parsley, arugula, thyme and oregano. Cypriots also use a lot of mint in their dishes, even those that don't traditionally include mint when made in Greek cuisine.
Olive oil is generously used in cooking, and staples such as fresh bread complement almost every dish. Besides bread, Cypriots also eat a carbohydrate called pourgouri, steamed with tomato and onion. Pita is also frequently served along with meats.
In Cyprus, many snacks are served with dips like hummus, taramosalata and tzatziki. One of the island's most well-known exports are potatoes, as Cyprus potatoes are unique to the region, so they are quite popular within Cyprus as well.
The most popular meats in Cyprus are usually grilled over charcoal (known as a souvla), and sometimes skewered. The most well known of these meat dishes is souvlaki, but loukaniko (pork sausages) and sheftalia are also popular among locals. In addition to meat, a very popular salty Cypriot cheese known as halloumi, made from goat's and sheep's milk, is also grilled on the souvla.
When it comes to seafood, Cyprus has very fresh offerings thanks to its abundance of coastal cities and fishermen. Octopus, calamari, sea bass, bream (tsipoura), and red mullet (barbouni) are very popular among Cypriots.
When dining out in Cyprus you should get acquainted with the concept of mezedes; they are small appetizers served in a family-style way, meaning several dishes are served to the table and everyone takes a portion.
Sometimes groups dining out will only order mezedes to split, but you can also order mezedes and a main meal. Either fresh fruit or sweets such as loukoumi, melomakarona, and loukoumades follow almost every meal.
Keep in mind that Cypriots generally tend to eat much later than northern Europeans, especially in the summer. Restaurants sometimes won't open until 7 or 8 PM in the summer for dinner, so you have to adjust your meal schedule to local times. However, big cities and tourist areas offer other options that cater to international meal schedules as well.
You can find fresh, delicious food almost everywhere in Cyprus, from the smallest, family-run taverna to the gourmet restaurants of the cities and hotels.
Most restaurants in Nicosia will have an English menu in addition to a Greek menu, so you generally won't have problems understanding the food offered. If you are unclear on anything, ask a waiter, as they are likely to speak and understand English well.
There are great casual and gourmet restaurants throughout Nicosia; many of them are grouped in the area known as Laiki Geitonia.
For authentic, fresh seafood, you may want to try Pyxida Fish Tavern, while for more Middle Eastern-influenced cuisine you can head to Fanous, which focuses on Lebanese cuisine with a Mediterranean twist.
Other great restaurants include:
My Destination Cyprus puts together a good list of great Cypriot restaurants of all kinds, including those that serve international cuisine and those that serve great authentic Cypriot dishes.
There isn't a huge street food scene in Nicosia, but there are plenty of casual eateries where you can grab something to go.
Keep an eye out for the occasional food market to pop up in the city, and you can go try a range of cuisines there.
Though vegetarianism is not a huge movement in Cyprus, Cypriots have meat-free foods (and sometimes menus) called nistissima. These are the foods that are served on days when religious Greek Orthodox people fast and can't consume meat. In most restaurants, asking for something nistissimo will get you a vegetarian meal, if there are no other obvious vegetarian options.
However, due to the abundance of beans, lentils, and fresh vegetables used in cooking, vegetarian dishes are relatively easy to find even in a non-vegetarian restaurant. Otherwise, some great vegetarian restaurants include:
Tipping in restaurants in Cyprus is not mandatory, though many people will round the bill or leave 1 or 2 Euros extra after a meal. A handful of places will add a service charge to your bill, in which case there is no reason to tip; however, most places will add no such charge.
In fact, Cypriots don't tip in most places, including bars, coffee shops, salons and taxis. The only people that frequently get tipped are delivery drivers.
Water – Though it is safe to drink the tap water in Cyprus, it is not recommended to do so because of tap water's relatively bad taste. Because of the relatively hot temperatures on the island, you will easily find bottled water almost everywhere you go, so that doesn't really present a problem for most locals and foreigners on the island.
Coffee – Cyprus has a huge coffee culture, and it is normal for groups of friends to sit at a coffee shop for several hours talking and snacking while drinking their coffee. Traditional Cypriot coffee is brewed in small pots with long handles (brikia), and is quite strong. It is usually served in a small cup, so don't underestimate the caffeine content and down it all at once. Don't drink the thick layer of remaining grounds at the bottom of the cup of coffee. In fact, you can have some fun with this part of the coffee, as there is a Cypriot fortune-telling tradition in which someone will tip over the cup, wait for the coffee bottoms to roll down until they are dry, and then read the patterns in the cup.
Frappe – This is a type of cold coffee that is very popular on the island, especially in the summer. You can order it with or without milk, and either sweet (glykos), medium (metrios), or sketos (no sugar).
Beer – The most popular Cyprus beer is called KEO, a pilsner with a 4.5% alcohol content, closely followed by Carlsberg, which is actually produced on the island even though it is a Danish brand. Leon is another popular Cypriot brand on the island. Cyprus actually makes very good quality beers thanks to the high quality of the local wheat. Though you will find many imported brands such as Heineken and Amstel, they tend to be much more expensive than the local beers.
Cypriots generally tend to favor beer over wine, making it the most popular alcoholic beverage of choice on the island. If you really want to explore the beer-making scene on the island, you can start at Pivo Microbrewery in Nicosia.
Wine – One of the most popular wines in Cyprus is Commandaria wine, which is a special type of dessert wine made from grapes and usually served after a large meal. Plenty of award-winning wineries can be found in Cyprus, as the island has a tradition and history of winemaking thanks to its favorable climate. Some new excavations have found evidence of winemaking on the island as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Wine is reasonably priced at markets, with an average bottle going for around 5 to 7 Euros, but fine dining establishments and hotels in tourist-heavy areas will charge much more than that for even a single glass of wine, sometimes as much as 8 or 9 Euros.
Liquor – Ouzo is one of the region's most famous (and most potent) drinks. Ouzo is made from the double distillation of certain dry wines coupled with anise. It is a sweet-tasting liquor, and deceptively strong in alcohol content. Other popular liquors include Cypriot brandy, usually drunk with mezedes, and Zivania, a high-alcohol content liquor made from grapes.
The legal drinking age in Cyprus is 17, though it may not always be enforced. However, driving under the influence is taken very seriously; anyone driving with a BAC over the legal limit of 0.05 will be punished with either a fine or prosecution, depending on the severity of the infraction. The Cypriot police have been trying to crack down on drunk driving for some time, so these penalties will only get more severe as time goes on.
Other than that, no restrictions exist on what times alcohol can be served in nightlife establishments or bought in supermarkets.
The K-Cineplex is the largest and most popular cinema in Nicosia, as it has several screens so it can simultaneously play everything from family fare to R-rated action movies. The screens are usually filled with foreign US and UK films, though some continental European films make their way into movie theaters as well. Most movies are subtitled, though occasionally a few (mostly children's movies) may be dubbed.
Movie tickets are usually around 6 Euros for children (under 11) and around 8 Euros for adults (11+).
Cypriots are fond of summer movie theaters, otherwise known as ?e???? s??eµ?, where you can watch a movie in an otherwise regular theater that's open to the sky. There will often be summer movie festivals held in Nicosia, in which they screen classic Greek and US moviesout in the open. Keep an eye out for such festivals and announcements, like the Protaras Summer Film Festival in Protaras Central Square, and the annual Summer Movie Marathon.
Otherwise, you can head to the Constantia Open-air Cinema at 15 Solonos Michaelides Street in Nicosia and see what movies are showing.
For a relatively small city, Nicosia has a wide range of nightlife options available, from small, cozy bars to trendy bars and huge dance clubs. The city also has a lot of cocktail bars with delicious and unique signature drinks.
The only problem is that there is no real central area or strip where bars and clubs are concentrated (though you will find quite a few within the Old Town), so you have to know where to go.
Smoking is banned within clubs and bars in Nicosia, but illegal smoking does still occur sometimes, so be wary if you have intolerance to tobacco indoors.
Also, plenty of restaurants and other dining options become bars and clubs later in the night, so many Cypriots simply stay put after their dinner (which finishes relatively late in the night anyway) and just wait for the scene to change.
Nightclubs in Nicosia are quite big and usually have theme nights, so the music played varies depending on the night of the week (from house to hip-hop). Some of the most recommended nightclubs in the city include:
Cocktail bars are very trendy among Cypriots and especially in Nicosia thanks to their more laid-back, mellow atmosphere, and great quality of drinks. Some highly recommended cocktail bars include:
You will find live music in Nicosia in everything from underground bars to chic and modern spaces. The most recommended are: