Linked by a traffic artery, Kato Pafos (Lower Pafos) and Ktima (Upper Pafos; 3km to the northeast) form a contrasting whole. Kato Pafos is geared towards tourists, with bars and souvenir shops lining the palm-fringed seafront. Dive into the backstreets to discover historic gems such as medieval baths, catacombs and a simple fishermen’s church. But the grand-slam sight is one of the South’s richest archaeological locales, the Pafos Archaeological Site, just one reason the city was awarded joint European Capital of Culture in 2017. Standing here, surrounded by acres of history and fields of wild flowers, feels a world away from the busy resort just beyond the entrance.
Things to Do in Paphos (Cyprus)
Kato Paphos Archaeology Park
You could easily spend hours pottering around this fantastic attraction close to the harbour. There are structures here that go back to prehistory, but the most famous remnants are from the Roman era.
The ruins of four villas survive from this time and boast stunningly detailed mosaics, all dating to the year 100 and depicting scenes from Roman mythology.
From the same era is the Ancient Odeon, a small arena that is still used by the town as a performance venue, while the Tombs of the Kings is an underground burial complex, supported by intact Doric columns and dating back 1500 years.
St. Paul’s Pillar
This is one of Cyprus’ most significant pilgrimage sites. Back in 45 AD it wasn’t a great idea to try to spread Christianity to places that didn’t want it – if you were interested in self-preservation.
Paul the Apostle came to Paphos to convert the ruler from Paganism, and for his efforts got 39 lashes. In the grounds of Panagia Chrysopolitissa, a handsome Orthodox/Anglican church on the site of an ancient basicila, you’ll find the pillar to which the saint was tied for his punishment.
The pillar has been eroded down the years but is still standing amid two millennia of ruins that include some stunning mosaics.
Paphos Archaeological Museum
This museum documents human activity in western Cyprus from the Neolithic age to the 18th century.
The artefacts on display were excavated from as many as 15 archaeological sites, including the ancient settlements that predated modern Paphos and the neighbouring town of Kouklia.
You’ll get a real sense of location when you see the collection of coins that were minted right here in Paphos thousands of years ago.
Each room at the museum represents another stage in the area’s history, so after the Ancient Greek exhibits you can admire the wonderful marble sculptures of the Roman era: The Bust of Aphrodite is a real standout here.
Enjoy a MEZE
In most of southern Europe Meze means an appetiser or something to go with a glass of wine. In Cyprus it’s a big meal and Mezes are often part of a social event or celebration.
At tavernas a series of enticing platters are served in a careful order that begins with olives before moving onto bread and dips like tahini, taramosalata, humus and skordalia.
After that you’ll move onto seafood and vegetable dishes, some grilled and some raw. Then get ready for grilled halloumi cheese and, if you opt for a meat meze, a variety of meat dishes, from keftedes (meatballs) and loukaniko (pork sausages) to grilled kebabs, chicken and lamb chops.
Medieval Castle of Paphos
This structure, guarding the mouth of the harbour has had a very chequered history.
Originally a Byzantine fortress stood on this spot and this was reinforced by the Lusignans, whose territories extended across numerous Mediterranean locations in the 1200s.
Later the Venetians dismantled the old stronghold, but when the Ottomans took Cyprus they built the castle that you see today.
It’s a squat, rectangular building that for the past few hundred years has served as a prison and warehouse for salt, but now it’s a cultural landmark and emblem for the city.
Northeast of Paphos town in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains is this 12th-century monastery, which is beautiful in its own right but also contains a museum celebrating Byzantine art.
Some of the monastery’s own hagiographical art is exquisite, including the icons of Christ and Virgin Mary that are lacquered with gold and silver.
Within the museum collection is a sculpture of the Virgin Mary crafted from pure silver.
Part of the monastery’s appeal comes from its location in the Paphos Forest, gazing out over cedar and cypress-covered hillsides.