Nestling on the southwest coast of Cyprus, you could be forgiven for thinking that Paphos is just another Mediterranean tourist and sun trap, but it’s definitely so much more – it’s a city crammed with history and culture, where ancient ruins still stand and festivals spring up each year.
And given that Paphos is the 2017 European Capital of Culture, there’s arguably never been a better time to go.
So what can sun-loving, culture-vultures expect from a trip to Paphos?
The ancient town of Paphos dates back to the late 4th Century BC and many of the remains of the ancient civilisations that visited are still intact today. In fact, the remains of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite date even further back – to the 12th Century BC – and some remains of the city wall are still intact over 2,500 since they were ordered to be built by King Nicocles.
The remains of a 7,000-seater Hellenistic theatre – considered to be the largest of the period ever found on the island – are also part of the Unesco World Heritage Site on Paphos.
And there is also the Ancient Odeon, the construction of which dates back to the founding of the city, which is still in use today…
Paphos arts and music festivals
Visit the Ancient Odeon in July or August and take in the Ancient Greek Drama Festival to see the works Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes performed as audiences would have enjoyed them thousands of years ago.
In June, the Ancient Odeon plays host to several international choir groups as part of the Choir Festival, while September sees the best of London’s jazz musicians play the island in the Paradise Jazz Festival.
September is also when the Paphos Aphrodite Festival invites a famous opera troupe to promote Paphos as a culturally rich city by performing works like ‘La Traviata’, ‘Aida’ and ‘Carmen’ in Medieval Castle Square.
Take a trip to Paphos in May and see in the arrival of summer with Anthestiria Festival. Inspired by an ancient Athenian festival held every four years to honour Dionysus, the God of fertility, wine and the arts, this modern interpretation sees a parade of floats carrying fresh flowers from Poseidon Avenue to the old harbour at Kato Paphos.
The city’s biggest festival though is the Dionysia festival – held in September in the small village of Stroumbi, this three-day festival was first organised in the 1960s and has grown to become one of the biggest wine events in the country, showcasing the island’s arts, craft, food and dance.
2017 and beyond
During Paphos’ year as the European Capital of Culture in 2017, the public spaces of the city and its outlying districts will be developed so that music, dance and theatre can taking place in some unexpected places including streets, squares, parks, archaeological sites, schoolyards and even factories.
Paphos will be transformed into a living museum of visual arts so visitors old and new can explore and fall in love with this ancient city.