NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Europeans love beaches, and since they make up
the great majority of tourists on the Mediterranean isle of Cyprus,
the country's landlocked capital, Nicosia, sees more day-trippers,
bent on a shopping and museum splurge, than overnight guests.
Americans, on the other hand, are unlikely to fly 10 hours for
swimming and tanning. Europe, for these travelers, means culture
and sight-seeing, and Nicosia -- Lefkosia in Greek -- satisfies on
In the mid-16th century, the Venetians erected a fortified wall
around the city. Four hundred years later, this wall is part of a
barrier separating the two parts of the world's last divided
Clients can visit the so-called Green Line, which is policed by
the United Nations. This line demarcates Greek Cypriot Nicosia from
what is commonly called Turkish-occupied Cyprus.
For a $2.25 fee, the curious can cross the border for a day
trip, assuming they are not deterred by a poignant sign wishing
them a "good time viewing our desecrated sites."
Certainly, there is much to see in Greek Cypriot Nicosia:
churches, mosques, old mansions, outdoor cafes and enough museums
to give even the most die-hard cultural consumer pause. Shops are
said to offer the island's best prices.
Two of the city's three original gates survive, each named for
the town it faces. The Famagusta gate's interior was restored in
1981 and now houses an exhibition and cultural center.
The House of the Dragoman, constructed during the 15th to 18th
centuries, is an exotic mix of Venetian and Ottoman
Its most famous occupant, the Dragoman, served as translator and
liaison between Ottoman authorities and Orthodox Christian powers.
From the mansion's reception room, a tunnel once led to the
Archbishop's palace nearby.
The new palace, a 20th century structure, is built in
neo-Byzantine style. It is dominated by a towering statue of the
nationalist hero, Archbishop Makarios. Adjoining the palace, the
Byzantine Museum holds the island's largest collection of icons,
dating from the ninth to 18th centuries.
Museums devoted to the 1950s struggle for independence from
Britain and to the island's folk art also are located in this area.
The latter, housed in a former monastery, recently reopened
Even clients who consider time spent in museums a sort of travel
duty will be impressed with the Cyprus Museum and its
chronologically displayed collection of antiquities from Neolithic
to Byzantine periods.
Especially pleasant for strolling, the reconstructed area known
as Laiki Yitouna (also spelled Laiki Geitonia) houses picturesque
shops and cafes. The nearby Leventis Museum, named European Museum
of the Year in 1991, depicts Nicosia from its earliest days to the
Nicosia, capital of Cyprus since the 10th century, serves as the
nation's financial, cultural and commercial center.
Both business and leisure clients will find the Nicosia Hilton
well situated for their purposes. The 30-year-old property recently
underwent major renovations, totaling more than $50 million.
Most notable is a completely new executive wing joined to the
main property by a shop-lined walkway. Considered a "hotel within a
hotel," its four stories are designed in an atrium
The atrium has a somewhat Middle Eastern ambience, an effect the
designer achieved by studying Nicosia's old homes. Bubble elevators
shoot guests up to 84 rooms that are 20 percent larger than those
in the older section.
A clubroom, for exclusive use of guests in this wing, continues
the light, open feel with panoramic views of the city and
All 214 guest rooms in the original section have been renovated
with furnishings in iron and wood and fabrics in bright yellows,
reds, greens and oranges, appropriate for a land that boasts 340
days of sunshine during the year.
Additionally, the pool area has been extended and upgraded, and
the restaurants and lobby have been refurbished. According to
general manager Ashley Spencer, the Hilton is "committed to staying
ahead and keeping guests satisfied."
Four Meeting 2000 rooms, seating from 35 to 90 theater-style,
and the Olympus 2000 boardroom, accommodating 16, are located in
the new wing. All utilize natural daylight and are equipped with
the latest technology.
Six additional conference and banquet rooms are available along
with a business center. Nicosia's International Conference Center
is a five-minute walk from the hotel.
The Hiltonia Club, a complete spa and health club designed in
marble and sandstone, opened in March 1995. Clients can enjoy a
sky-lit indoor pool, sauna, steam bath, massage, various body and
facial treatments and two gyms offering high-tech, computerized
Outdoors, sports and fitness enthusiasts will find a pool, four
artificial grass tennis courts, a mini-basketball court, a
mini-golf course and a life-size chess board.
The Hilton's staff can arrange special interest excursions
focusing on breweries and wines, ceramics, cooking, archaeology and
Rates run $209 to $236, single, $222 to $249, double; suites
range from $400 to $956. Executive floor rooms run $267, single,
$302, double, and $367 to $500 for suites. Breakfast is included
for executive floor only. Taxes and service are additional.
To book, call (800) HILTONS or fax (011) 357-2 377-788.