The time in North Cyprus is

Kyrenia (Girne)

North Cyprus

The castle and harbour of Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Kyrenia Harbour and Castle

Strangely, there is no information about the founders of this city. Some say it was established by the Achaeans coming from the Peloponnese around the 10th Century BC, while others claim it was founded by the Phoenicians around the 9th Century BC. It was, for many centuries, one of the 10 kingdoms of Cyprus.

In the 7th Century the town was fortified by the Byzantines who built the original Kyrenia Castle (later expanded by the Lusignans and the Venetians).

A harbourside cafe at Kyrenia, North Cyprus
A Harbourside Cafe

Under the Ottomans, Girne remained a minor port. The British built a harbour and a quay, and the town became a resting place for ex-patriots and their families because of its picturesque situation, its beautiful harbour and romantic atmosphere.

A street in Kyrenia, North Cyprus
A Kyrenia Street

Girne is possibly the best holiday area on the island, bringing history to visitors while entertaining them. You can catch the nostalgia by visiting the historic places and travelling around its streets, sensing the smells of jasmine and orange blossom. You can taste its delicious cuisine in the plentiful restaurants and sip your coffee at coffee houses during summer evenings. You can enjoy an environment of people laughing, or let the smell of the sea and the sound of the waves dreamily waft you away to other worlds.

The weekly market at Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Kyrenia Weekly market

Girne, often referred to as a tourist paradise, is a rare and ideal place for a relaxing holiday. The restaurants and bars surrounding its horseshoe shaped Old Harbour serve tourists in a unique atmosphere. This tiny harbour, full of yachts and fishing boats, is framed by the colossal hulk of its Crusader castle.

With the backdrop of the jagged mountains behind and the calm sparkling sea in front, the harbour has an intoxicatingly serene atmosphere. The graceful arc of the harbourside is filled with the tables of restaurants and cafés, ideal for sitting back and simply watching the world go by. The former carob warehouses have been converted into restaurants and shops, giving the harbour a bustling lively feel without feeling rushed or crowded.

Bellapais Abbey, near Kyrenia, North Cyprus
Bellapais Abbey

Back from the harbour, the narrow medieval town streets wind amongst shops, workshops and historic buildings, such as the Agha Cafer Pasha mosque, dating from around 1570. It’s a fascinating wander up and down the steps that link the streets of Kyrenia, so take time to stop and admire a craftsman at work or just catch a glimpse a hidden walled garden. You can shop at the Municipal Market for your fruit and vegetables to take back to your North Cyprus villa, then drop in at the Round Tower Gallery, housed in a former town walls defence tower, for local North Cyprus crafts.  

St Hilarion Castle, near Kyrenia, North Cyprus
St Hilarion Castle

You really can’t help but walk on history in Kyrenia; under your feet are over 70 catacomb tombs cut into the limestone, many of which have long since been built over. Kyrenia’s former churches have been put to various uses, such as housing the Icon Museum, whereas others exist as picturesque ruins. The outskirts of Kyrenia have grown immensely in recent years due to new development, but the historic heart still beats with life and interest all year round.

This attractive and charming city is also where the heart of nightlife beats in North Cyprus. You can lose yourself in a flood of entertainment and forget about the time.

View form St Hilarion Castle, looking over Kyrenia, North cyprus
View From St Hilarion Over Kyrenia

Kyrenia is an easy place to while away any time of the day; exploring shops, markets and local cafés in late morning, strolling in the narrow cobbled alleys behind the harbour in the afternoon, or stepping out for a brisk walk along the promenade and sea wall in the evening.  

As the sun sets, Kyrenia harbour again becomes the focus of activity as the locals take their evening stroll and the cafés and bistros that face the sea prepare for their nightly trade. Crisp white linen and small vases of local flowers are lovingly arranged on tabletops to welcome the evening's guests to wine and dine in the cooling breeze.

There are many places of interest to visit. In Girne itself, probably the most spectacular is the castle and shipwreck museum. Just 5 Km outside Girne, a visit to the 14th Century Lusignan Bellapais Abbey is a must, while slightly further afield lies the  fairy-tale castle of St. Hilarion.  Rumoured to be the original inspiration for Walt Disney's "Sleeping Beauty", St Hilarion was built during the Crusades, and those intrepid enough to brave the long walk to its battlements will be rewarded with stunning views of Girne and the whole of the island's northern coastline.

For a comprehensive list of places to visit, look at our Places of Interest section.