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Limassol is the second-largest city in Cyprus (after Nicosia) and an up-and-coming tourist resort (recently ranked 3rd globally on TripAdvisor). Limassol also refers to the district in which the city lies, and it’s known for Limassol Castle, the Prokymea (Molos) Sculpture Park on the seafront, with sculptures by Cypriot, Greek and international artists, and for wines, with a lively annual festival celebrating local varieties usually held at the end of August. Its port is the largest on the island of Crete and the city is also renowned for its vibrant nightlife and history. There are plenty of beaches, from the golden sands of Governor Beach to the Akti Olympian Blue Flag Beach (great for watersports). There’s a lot of good cuisine in Limassol and at night you can dance under the stars at an open-air club or relax in a classy wine bar. Enjoy will find you the best prices for your Limassol vacation, stress-free and at frankly unbelievable prices ̶ a Volkswagen Up or similar mini-size car starts at just €4.53 (£4.10) a day in the off-peak season! Meanwhile, economy-size rentals such as the Nissan March start from €4.63 (£4.19) a day, while a spacious, standard-size Ford Mondeo (which seats five people comfortably) starts from just €12.23 (£11.06) a day off peak! Pre-book your hire car online with Enjoy so you can enjoy air-conditioned travel around Limassol and Cyprus on your own timetable, with affordability and complete peace of mind as standard.
Guide to Limassol
Ships and wines
Limassol began its tourist development after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Prior to this the main tourist resorts on Cyprus were Famagusta and Kyrenia ̶̶ Limassol became the main sea port (it actually has two, an ‘old port’ and ‘new port’) on Cyprus at this time, while Famagusta is a port only recognised by Turkey. Limassol is an important industrial centre and vital for Cypriot trade, especially because of the UK bases at Episkopi and Akrotiri. The new port remains the island’s largest, from which exports such as grapes, wines, carobs, citrus fruits are distributed worldwide, while over 60 shipping companies are registered here (mainly for tax purposes). Today Limassol is less commercialised than many other Greek areas and Cyprus is the perfect size for exploring by car.
History and culture
Built between the ancient cities of Amathus and Kourion, the town of Limassol has been inhabited since very ancient times, with graves found here dating back as far as 2000 BC. The city was founded around 451 AD and is probably most associated with the Third Crusade ̶ after his wife’s ship landed here, Richard the Lionheart and other Anglo-Normans took over the whole island, ending Byzantine rule. The Templars then bought the island in 1191, but their exorbitant taxes provoked a revolt and ownership then passed to a French knight, after which commenced 300 years of prosperity for the Ancient Kingdom of Cyprus. In 1570 AD the Ottomans invaded and took over Cyprus, remaining until the beginning of British rule in 1878. The first British governor immediately started restorations and adding infrastructure such as telegraph and post offices, a printing press and a hospital. Around this time the first hotels also began taking guests and the innovations that the British introduced contributed to the development of intellectual and artistic life in Limassol.
Watersports – of course!
As you’d expect from an idyllic Mediterranean island, watersports and beaches are huge leisure attractions on Limassol. From windsurfing to scuba diving, there are many options which will take you into the glistening turquoise waters. Cyprus is the legendary birthplace of Aphrodite the goddess of love, and not far from the heart of Limassol lies Aphrodite’s Rock (Petra Tou Romiou), a magical part of the coast where you can swim in the clearest blue water. The Fasouri Watermania water park is popular for cooling off and kids will love the slides, lagoons and pools.
What to do in Lymassol?
Limassol is an up-and-coming holiday destination which has much more to offer than just its millennia of history and ports ̶ there’s something special to satisfy everyone.
Sanctuary of the gods
At the marina in the Old Town is the famous Limassol Castle. Its exact date of construction is unclear, but it may date as far back as 1000 AD and since religious artefacts have been unearthed there, it may have been a cathedral first. The castle has been damaged by earthquakes and fighting over the years and its current incarnation dates from Ottoman restorations in 1590. Just 20 minutes from Limassol is the ancient ruined city of Kourion, an entire archaeological site that you can wander around and wonder at. The oldest remains on the settlement date back to the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, among them the well-preserved stadium, the theatre, the Complex of Eustolios and the Achilles Mosaics. One of the main religious centres of Cyprus is The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, where Apollo was once worshipped as the god of the woodlands. Dating back to the 8th century BC, the majority of the monuments can still be seen today, including sublime statuary, the foundation of the temple structure and a stone platform which could have been used for rituals and dances around a grove of sacred trees.
Beating stone heart
Limassol is a busy, vibrant and modern city, but at its core lies its ancient heart, Limassol Old Town. This is a place of winding, cobbled streets, ancient castles, and soft, sandstone buildings worn smooth by centuries of use. The Old Town still has that medieval feel to it, and the air is filled with the warm scent of herbs and fresh baking wafting from ancient doorways. This is the real Limassol, and it’s a wonderful place to discover more about the town and escape the crowds for a few hours. The heart of Limassol Old Town is the castle, supposedly where King Richard the Lionheart married his sweetheart in 1190, the first royal marriage of an English king to take place outside of England. There are no designer shops here, only boutiques sequestered in stone doorways and markets selling fresh fruits or marvellous cheese and meats. The Archaeological Museum takes you through the centuries, while the Folk Art Museum displays Cypriot clothes and cuisine of yore.
One of the main party spots in Cyprus, Limassol nightlife never really goes to sleep. Quaint little bars like Poe Bar by the marina can kickstart your night off, The Library Bar offers live music sets while the Foyer Wine and Cocktail bar is a popular location with the locals and boasts a wide selection of wines. Alternatively, sports lovers will be pleased to know there’s a variety of bars which host regular live events throughout the year on the big screens, such as the Hamlet pub which serves traditional English food as well as live football. Alterantively, dance under the stars at the Retro Metropole Club then head to Santa Barbara Beach to the Guaba Bar for themed hedonistic clubbing.
Eating out in Limassol
Limassol has restaurants of all stripes (and qualities), and in high season it can be hard to find the gems amidst the tourist places. However, we’ve highlighted some of Limassol’s legendary eateries so you don’t miss the most sumptuous Cypriot cuisine.
Just off the main square in front of Limassol Castle is La Frenchie. Think mouth-watering French cuisine, black and white movies streaming on the walls over the weekends, a vibrant atmosphere and attentive staff. It’s popular with locals (always a good omen) and busy at weekends, so it’s definitely worth booking ahead.
It can be hard to find a quiet spot for lunch sometimes, especially around the marina, but Marina Breeze is great for a quick lunch with friends or a fine dining experience with cocktails. They have huge windows that open up so you can enjoy a fresh sea breeze along with some tasty culinary treats. The menu was very creative and the food lived up to the hype.
Best restaurants in Limassol
Pyxida Limassol is also in the marina ̶ a high-end restaurant which serves seafood on a high elevation above the marina. Fresh farmed mussels are the menu highlight here, as are dishes like Wild Alaska Salmon carpaccio. The starters are excellent (try the taramás and mushrooms) and all mains come with sides of chips and vegetables, while the bread basket comes with very fine hummus. There’s an ambitious wine list, with foreign and Cypriot beers also available. A seafood meze – large sharing platter popular with locals – is a reasonable €24, while the typical price per head is about €30.
Ariadne is perfect after a winery tour in the Limassol foothills. It’s a welcoming, family-run restaurant serving stuffed vine leaves topped with farm-fresh sheep’s yoghurt, black-eyed peas with celery, stuffed courgette blossoms, turnovers stuffed with soft anarí cheese and a couple of daily-changing dishes, all washed down by a carafe of wine or from said wineries. The original, upper level enclosed patio is nicer than the lower seating area. It’s located 1 km south of Vassa village near the bypass road, and prices for an evening 3-course meal are around €19.
Cyprus previously had a reputation for slightly bland fare (which is still prevalent in the touristy cafés), but Terry’s Place is rewriting that trope. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but inside it’s warm and welcoming, with friendly staff and superb food.. Highlights include moussaka (which came with enough salad for three people), seafood pizza (just sublime) and mussels and octopus.
Transport in Limassol
The international airports on the island are Larnaca (LCA), the main international gateway to the island, and the smaller Paphos (PFA) on the southwestern coast. This is commonly used by tourists visiting the west of Cyprus, and is the usual airport for Limassol, 50 km (31 mi) away.
There are plenty of reasonably priced buses in Limassol in summer, fewer in winter. They connect all major towns on the island. There are no trains on Cyprus.
Drive on the right-hand side of the road in Limassol and with great care. The speed limits are 130 km/h (80 mph) on the motorway, 90/110 km/h (55/70 mph) on normal roads and 50 km/h (30 mph) in built-up areas.
When driving in Cyprus the following documents should be carried ̶ a full, valid driving licence, proof of insurance, proof of ID (passport) and proof of vehicle ownership (V5C certificate). Furthermore, while driving in Cyprus you’re required by law to carry the following items ̶ headlamp beam deflectors (depending on your car, you’ll either need deflector stickers or have to adjust the beam manually), a warning triangle, fire extinguisher and first aid kit.
Be aware of the possibility of rock falls and other road hazards like single-track roads. Many of the roads in Limassol (and Cyprus) are cobbled, very narrow, have unclear signage and the locals drive rather erratically.
However, the island is small, so you’ll never get lost for too long. Always drive at or below the speed limit (if you’re holding up speeding locals behind, pull over to let them past), and never drink and drive – this is strictly enforced.
If possible avoid driving west in the late afternoon, as a glare of the setting sun can be disturbing and potentially blinding; wear sunglasses to shield your eyes.
Cyprus isn’t a big island and you can drive from one side to another (Oia to Akrotiri) in less than an hour. With the above safety tips in mind, here are a couple of scenic drives:
The Troodos Forest National Park is one of 10 on Cyprus. Covering the Troodos Mountains—home to Mount Olympus (1,952 m/6,404 ft) and the largest mountain range on Cyprus—here you’ll find mountain resorts, Byzantine monasteries (check out Kykkos Monastery), churches on mountain peaks, and villages which cling to terraced hills. The area has also been known since antiquity for its mines, which previously supplied copper to the entire Mediterranean. In the Byzantine period it became a centre of Byzantine art, as churches and monasteries were built in the mountains away from the vulnerable coastline. There are hiking paths here, excellent biking trails and even an electric scooter route!
Akrotiri is a sleepy village on the south-west part of the island that’s well known for its Bronze Age prehistoric settlement. This Minoan town was covered by ash after a huge eruption and that’s why the site is still very well preserved – it’s called the ‘Greek Pompeii’. A large amount of ancient pottery has been found here and it reveals many insights on how inhabitants lived their lives, as certain styles were used as vessels for cooking ingredients and for carrying bathing water, but remnants of beds, tables and chairs have also been unearthed.
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