A city where you will be surprised to find a surprisingly extensive selection of art galleries, Limassol is certainly the place to come if you are interested in art appreciation of the Cypriot kind. The Limassol Municipal Art Gallery should certainly always be your first port of call, followed soon after by a trip to the one of the multitude of commercial galleries to pick up a souvenir with a difference.
Tourists often enjoy a visit to the city's Folk Art Museum, while the Limassol Sculpture Park is another magnet for art lovers. This unusual Sculpture Parks spans just over 1 mile / 1.6 km and stretches along the scenic coastline of Twin Cities Park, comprising some 20 sizable, stylish contemporary sculptures in total.
Set in attractive gardens on the west side of the old city, the squat, square Limassol Castle was built in the 14th century on the remains of an earlier Byzantine fortress.
Its dull outward appearance belies a rich history.
Richard the Lionheart put Lemesos on the map when he arrived to rescue fiancé, Berengaria of Navarre, who had been shipwrecked here. Richard defeated the local captors, married Berengaria in the castle chapel and sold the Cyprus to the Knights Templar who held sway for 200 years.
Despite the rich history there's not a great deal to see inside, not even a decent view from the roof . In the gardens is an olive press said to date from the 7th century, although even that doesn't actually belong to the castle; it was found nearby.
You get a better appreciation of the history of the castle in the Limassol Medieval Museum where there are plenty of interesting exhibits, many transferred from Nicosia when north Cyprus was overrun by Turks in 1974. There are several thematic displays that include Ottoman pottery, suits of armour and weapons and religious artefacts.
Limassol Gardens are a two acre oasis of calm in the centre of the town with many tropical and sub-tropical plants to enjoy. There are also plenty of benches beneath the shady trees and you can get refreshments at the restaurant.
Visitors can use the kiosk selling snacks and soft drinks and a children's playground is within easy reach. In September the garden park is given over to the annual wine festival when the park is overrun by merrymaking Cypriots.
Museums & Galleries of Limassol
Limassol has several interesting museums worth a visit. Sited at the junction of Vyronos and Kaningos this is the Archaeological Museum with a collection of ancient artefacts. There is a large and impressive collection of Mycenaean pottery and various domestic utensils dating from Neolithic times.
It's cheap to get in to the Limassol Folk Art Museum and once inside, some might appreciate why. There is a less than exciting display of traditional costumes, some wood carvings, jewellery and several household utensils. The artefacts are housed in an old mansion at Agiou Andreou, not far from the city centre.
Just outside Limassol, in Erimi village which stands at the crossroads of the old wine routes of Cyprus, is the Cyprus Wine Museum housed in a 150 year old traditional winemaking building. It details the history of winemaking in Cyprus and has a great collection of old photos.
Limassol has a good many art galleries and lots of outdoor sculpture. The Limassol Municipal Art Gallery, in Oktovriou Street, has paintings by contemporary Cypriot artists and there is a sculpture park that runs along the coastline for nearly 2km with some excellent works on permanent show.
Limassol had a mixed population of Greek and Turkish Cypriots and many Turks returned to Limassol in the 1990s after the Turkish invasion in 1974 forced them to leave.
To get a real taste of the Turkish Cypriot culture, visit the Grand Mosque which is surrounded by huge palm trees in the old Turkish quarter of the city .This mosque was built in Ottoman times. Dress conservatively for a visit and leave your shoes outside. There are no fixed visiting hours but avoid going at prayer times.
For an even better taste of middle-eastern life you could do worse than visit the recently restored Limassol Hammam bath house at Loutron, nearby on Genethliou. It's not actually a tourist site but a working public baths in the old tradition and opens daily 2pm-10pm. Here you can get a steam bath or massage.
As a major tourist centre there is plenty in and around Limassol to entertain holidaymakers. One of the latest additions is the Time Elevator on Vasilissis. It is a virtual ride through a potted history of the island that adds roller coaster thrills to a suitably dumbed down commentary.
Other places place popular with families are the giant water theme parks. There are two in Limassol but the most convenient and popular is the Wet 'n Wild water park set back from the tourist strip. There are the usual raft rides and wave pools.
Near Limassol is the huge Fasouri Watermania, the biggest on Cyprus, with about 30 slides set on a 25 acre site.
The British have a large military base at Akrotiri, southwest of Limassol, thanks to a deal done when the island became independent in 1960. The new-born republic ceded 158sq km of territory on the Akrotiri peninsular and another large area at Dhekelia, west of Ayia Napa. The lands are called Sovereign Base Areas (SAB).
British ex pats occupy virtually the whole of the Akrotiri peninsular and housing layouts are reminiscent of home counties England — they even have cricket pitches. British squaddies use the local beaches and regular punch-ups with locals were notorious before a big clampdown on troop behaviour.
The southern end of the peninsular, near the military garrisons, is out of bounds to visitors but there are giant-sized antennae under which you can drive, though you are not allowed to stop.
Beaches are open to the public and Akrotiri village has a few pleasant tavernas. Villagers here have dual nationality. Other than that there are only salt flats, citrus plantations and the beaches.
The medieval Kolossi Castle is a major tourist attraction and it lies about 10km west of Limassol on the edge of the village of the same name. It was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers and, despite changing hands any a number of times, the castle is mainly linked to the Hospitallers and to winemaking.
As a castle it's not particularly interesting, more a tower house than a proper fortification There is a rooftop walkway, but even this is in not particularly high and there's not much to see beyond the village.
The present building dates from the 14th century but it was probably built over an earlier structure by Louis de Magnac whose coat of arms can be found on one of the walls. Visitors enter over a drawbridge where there are some large chambers and a spiral staircase leading to the upper level and then to the roof.
The rooms are bare and empty so there's not much atmosphere to the place. There is a small museum and, to the east of the castle, a large, ancient and impressively vaulted warehouse that was once used to store and process sugar cane, once an important local export.
Hordes of visitors descend daily on the settlement built on a high bluff overlooking the sea. If you prefer not to see it crawling with camera-bedecked tourists it's best to come early morning or early evening. For much of the day the Kourion is crawling with visitors and many day excursions combine a visit with the nearby Kolossi Castle and the sanctuary of Apollo Ylatis.
A prosperous settlement since 1400BC it was expanded under the Romans and became the centre of an Apollo cult. The site dominated by the magnificent 3,500-seater amphitheatre, built in 5th century AD, and now reconstructed and still in use for open-air music festivals.
The views of the sea, fields and hillside are magnificent. The apostle St Paul is said to have preached here. Nearby is the House of Eustolios which houses some remarkable and well preserved mosaics.
Built on the ruins of an earlier palatial private residence, which was destroyed by earthquakes, the present house dates from 4th-7th century AD with more than 30 rooms.
An early Christian basilica also has mosaics as does the House of the Gladiators, so called because of the mosaic motifs of fighters in combat dress.
Kourion, like many other ancient Greek sites, has suffered invasion and earthquake. including a tremors in 365 that reduced much of the area to rubble. Reconstruction has also been haphazard with mismatched columns and other parts looking curiously new. Much of the treasures excavated here have ended up in museums in the US and Germany.
About 2km west of Kourion is Apollo Ylatis, the sister site of the ancient Kourion and well signposted off the main road. As Apollo was god of the woods you might expect a few trees but the scattered ruins can look very forlorn.
The surviving remains are mainly Roman and the site was levelled by the massive earthquake in 365. The main sanctuary has been partially restored and looks quite odd as a result.
Visitors can make out a sports arena, some baths and priests' quarters. There was once a stadium here seating 6,000 spectators but there is little to be seen of it now.
This unassuming village lies about 14km west of Limassol — an ideal spot to explore the coastline and the various archaeological sites. It makes a quiet alternative to the hotel strip of Limassol.
It is a large village of about 4,000 people with a wide variety of tavernas, coffee shops and mini-markets. It sits around a towering cliff bluff that dominates the landscape. The village has a good museum with lots of terracotta pottery from local archaeological sites.
Episkopi is about 15 minutes drive time from Limassol and 40 minutes from Pafos. The beach at Kourion (Curium) is a five minute drive from the village.
Once one of the island's ancient kingdoms, Amathous or Amathus is a vast area of ruins that are hardly recognisable as an ancient city.
Scholars are unsure of its origins (some say 300BC) but it flourished until the 10th century and archaeologists have uncovered an acropolis, temple, forum, basilica and two necropoles.
The temple to Aphrodite dates to 100AD and excavations have unearthed city walls and gates.
Most of the important finds have been hauled off to museums around the world and the site is a bit of a mess. Many of the original carved limestone building blocks were shipped to Egypt or used to build local village homes.
The Amathusia Festival is held each summer in the spectacular location. A packed programme of cultural events introduces visitors and locals to traditional Cypriot dance and music typical of the region.