Because of its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has always attracted foreign visitors – whether welcome or not. From Frankish, Venetian or Turkish invaders, to British colonisers, European holidaymakers and wealthy Russian investors, this multifaceted Mediterranean island has been shaped by a constant stream of international influence. Its main port town, Limassol, or Lemesos, has been particularly exposed to this multinational mix, meaning that while it is small, it is also surprisingly cosmopolitan.
Explore the old town
Dating back to 2BC, Limassol is the second largest city in Cyprus. A major EU-funded urban regeneration project took place in the early 2010s, breathing new life into the city centre and making it an ideal spot for aimless ambling. Start at Limassol Castle, which sits in the centre of the old town and is where Richard the Lionheart married Berengaria of Navarre in 1191. Follow the narrow streets that wrap themselves around the castle, stopping at the various cafes, restaurants and shops along the way. Saripolou Street is particularly popular.
Top food spots
The best thing about Limassol is its food. Fresh and seasonal, almost everything you eat is organic by default.
Ta Piatakia, which translates as Little Plates, has been a Limassol culinary institution for the best part of two decades. Hidden away on an unassuming residential road, the restaurant is the brainchild of Roddy Damalis, whose time-tested menu incorporates the best of Cypriot produce. Specialities include feta wrapped in phyllo pastry and drizzled in honey; duck with preserved walnut; and grilled calamari in soya sauce, ginger and chilli served with seaweed. Damalis also runs cooking workshops. For a more traditional taste of local cuisine, head to Aristos & Kiki Kebab House, which serves Cypriot kebabs. Larger (and better) than its Greek equivalent, the Cypriot souvlaki consists of pitta bread stuffed with piping-hot meat, salad and slatherings of sauce.
My one must-see
Just down the coast from Limassol, carved into a hillside overlooking a sweeping bay, is the Greco-Roman amphitheatre of Kourion. This is Cyprus's most impressive archaeological site and one of my favourite spots on the island. Every summer, Performing Arts for Cyprus Charities puts on a performance of one of Shakespeare's plays here. Listening to the words of the bard intermingling with the sound of the waves below, as the moonlight sweeps across the sea and illuminates a stage that has hosted performances since time immemorial, is magical.
On the seashore
Limassol’s coastline is its greatest attribute and can be enjoyed via a walkway that runs along the length of the city. Start at PlusSea for a traditional Greek iced coffee, or frappe, then wander back along the beach path, stopping for a dip in the sea whenever the inclination takes you.