Take a walk around Nis fortress, banks of Nisava river and the main city street, pay tribute to the fallen captain Sindjelic's heroes at the gruesome monument of "Cele-Kula", feel the spirit of antique times by descrying the famous mosaics in emperor Constantine's city of Mediana or take a breath of the fresh air in the Niska Banja spa, known for its warm and healthy springs.
Nis is one of the oldest cities in this part of Europe. Archeological sites Bubanj and Humska Cuka testify that the city area has already been inhabited in the neolithic period, and in 3rd century a.d. the Celts overtook this region from Ilyrs, and named the settlement Naisus, which means "the town of the fairy".
Already in 75 a.d, the Romans conquered the city area and formed a municipality, a camp and an important strategic stronghold. Prosperity of the city began in the 274 a.d, with the birth of Flavius Valerius Constantine, a future emperor of the Rome, and it culminated in the 4th century, when the ancient Nis, with the emperors' summer residence in Mediana, was at the peak of its development.
After the invasion of the Huns in 441, Nis was destroyed. It began to revitalize after 1185, when it was conquered by Serbian great duke Stefan Nemanja, after which the city becomes an important centre of the Serbian state. In 1385, Nis fell in the hands of Turks. It has been under the Austrian rule a few times , and was the site of many battles. The most important one was probably the battle of Cegar, in 1809, after which the famous "Cele-Kula" was built from the sculls of dead Serbian warriors.
Modern development of Nis began with the complete liberation from the Turks in 1878, when the Austrian Franz Winter gave "the regulatory plan of the town of Nis", by the order of king Milan Obrenovic.
Soon, the first gymnasium was built, and later also the residencies of king Milan Obrenovic and Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, as well as many other important institutions and traffic infrastructure (Belgrade-Nis railway). Today, Nis is the third largest city in Serbia.
Nis has a very favourable geographical position. It is on the crossroads of routes, on the border between East and West, at the very centre of the Balkans. Main roads (corridor 10) pass by it towards south (Macedonia and Greece) and east (Bulgaria and Turkey). There is also an airport which should soon be open for passengers.
Being the largest city in southern Serbia, Nis is well connected with all other parts of the country. By car, you can easily reach it by the E75 highway (from the direction of Belgrade or Leskovac), and an important road E80 connects Nis with Pirot and Sofia.
Buses go to and from all the neighbouring places and bigger towns in Serbia, often more times a day. Best connections are to Belgrade (approx. every hour till 21.30), Novi Sad, Leskovac and Vranje (about 10 departures per day). There are also everyday bus lines to Skopje (6 times a day), Sofia, Banja Luka, Sarajevo and couple of weekly buses to Germany and Austria.
Bus station (tel: 018 / 335 - 177) is by the west fortress walls, near the market in the centre of the city.
The majority of trains go to Belgrade (10 times a day), Leskovac (10 times a day) and Vranje (9 times a day), and there is also a train for Pozega (from June to September this train goes even till Bar), via Krusevac, Kraljevo, Cacak. There are as well few trains a day to Zajecar and Majdanpek.
Railway station (tel: 018 / 364 - 625) is around 2 km from the city centre (towards west), and is easily reachable by foot or city buses.
International trains leave for Sofia (2 times a day), Istanbul, Thesalloniki (2 times a day), Skopje (4 times a day), Ljubljana. You can check the detailed train shedule at www.serbianrailways.com
Centuries of Turkish rule have strongly influenced the current look of the city of Niš, but after that, as the most important period of its development begins, the city starts to get more and more modernized. Only the emperors' summer residence Mediana and a few other archeological excavation sites inside the fortress testify about the former glory of ancient Nais, positioned once in the very centre of the city.
The Milan Obrenovic's square represents the very heart of the city. Both the monument to the liberators of Niš and the tall building of the hotel "Ambasador" are situated here. From the square you can go in all four directions: north, crossing the Nišava river, to the fortress and further down the Đuke Dinca street till the bus station; west, towards the railway station (through the Generala Milojka Lešjanina street, then left through the Kneginje Ljubice street, across the Kralja Aleksandra Ujedinitelja square, and straight forward through the street Jovana Ristica); east, through the Vožda Karadjordja street and down the Zoran Đindic boulevard to the Cele Kula, and further through the Car Konstantin boulevard to Medijana and Niška Banja; south, in the main street Miloša Obrenovica, a pedestrian zone lined with shopping malls, cafes and restaurants.
Nis fortress was erected by the Turks in XVIII century (1719 - 1723) over the ruins of a small byzantine fort. That spot was also the place of a former Roman military camp, later the Roman town of Nais. The fortress was built with four main gates, and the area of 22 acres was surrounded by 2.100 meters of defence walls. Besides the well preserved walls, the main Stambol gate and the western Belgrade gate, the remainings of the northern Vidin gate and Jagodina gate as well as numerous objects inside the walls from different periods can still be seen.
When you enter through the Stambol gate, you can notice the map of the fortress and art galleries, remainings of the Roman bath, and straight towards the central part more remainings from the period of antique Nais, as well as the gallery "Salon 77", placed in the renewed mosque of the Bali-beg from 1521. Left of the entrance is a summer stage, where every summer various plays, a film festival, jazz festival "Nišvil" and a music festival "Nisomnia" take place. Inside the fortress, there are also numerous monuments, historical archives and souvenir shops. Reconstruction of the hamam, gunpowder storage, smithy and parts dating from neolitic age, roman and medieval times is currently under the way.
When you leave the fortress (through the Stambol gate), on your right side you will notice the building Banovina, seat of today's University of Nis. The building was built in 1886 for the needs of the district administration and police and broadened between 1925 and 1935 for the needs of Moravska Banovina (county). During the World War I, while Nis was the war capital, this building was the centre of important diplomatic actions. As you cross Nišava, you come to the main square Kralja Milana (king Milan) with the monument devoted to the liberators of Nis (from 1936, by the project of A. Avgustincic) and the national bank building.
From here, straight across the square, you will enter the main street (Obrenoviceva) and a pedestrian zone, full of shopping malls and stores. There are many little streets and alleys branching off on both sides of the main street. The oldest and most authentic one is Kopitareva, old turkish craft alley, where you can find many cafes and craft workshops. Right, in the Nikole Pašica street is the national museum (archeological exhibition and memorial rooms of Branko Miljkovic and Stevan Sremac: Nikole Pašica 59, working hours: 9 am - 8 pm, sundays 10 am - 2 pm, closed on mondays). This building was erected in 1894 as a banking institution, and was used for that purpose till 1964, when it was converted into a museum.
Further down the Pašic street, you arrive to the square Kralja Aleksandra Ujedinitelja (king Aleksandar the Unifier), from which you can get to the railway station through the street Jovana Ristica, or through Jug Bogdanova street get to the catholic church of the Holy Heart of Christ, whose building began in 1884 and later was upgraded several times.
If you continue through the Obrenovica street, you get to the crossroad with Cara Dušana, where the pedestrian zone ends. Straight from here you will get to the two churches known by the name of "the big (new) cathedral" and "the small cathedral". The big cathedral was built between 1856 and 1862, and it was inaugurated in 1878, just after the liberation from the Turks. The church was painted from the inside in the 1930's, and the great 'ikonostas' (intricate wooden wall with frescoes), is mainly the work of art by Đorde Krstic from 1885. The small cathedral, situated wright beside, is also interesting. It was the main church before the bigger one was built. It was built in 1819, and it is buried in the ground with its greater part, doesn't have a dome nor a belfry, because of the Turkish law that Serbian buildings mustn't exceed a certain height. Ikonostas is a present from the monastery Hilandar from the Holy Mountain in Greece, and comprises some very valuable frescoes.
If you turn left to Cara Dusana street, and then again left to Mije Petrovica street, across the Sindelic's square, you will get to the crossroad with street Vožda Karadjordja. There is the National Theatre (Sindelic's square 2), and very near is the gymnasium building from 1878. Going on the left side of the street Vožda Karadorda, you'll be back at the Kralja Milana square, and from the right side the road goes for Cele Kula, Mediana and Niška Banja (Niš spa). If you walk towards the railway station from the square, through the Generala Milojka Lesjanina street, you will pass by the Islam-aga's mosque, dating from the XVIII century.
Boulevard Dr Zorana Djindica bb,
phone: 018 / 322 - 228
working hours: (from 1st November to 31 March) 9 am - 4 pm, (from 1 April to 31 October) 7.30 am - 7.30 pm
The first Serbian uprising in 1804 marked the beginning of the Serbian liberation from Turkish rule. One of the most important battles was the Battle of Cegar, near Nis, in the end of may 1809. Serbian commander Stevan Sindelic with his army managed to stop the advancing of the superior Turkish troops. But, after the whole day of bloody fighting, realizing that there's no way out, he blew up the gunpowder storage and died together with all his soldiers, killing twice as much Turks. After the battle, Hurid-paša, the then cruel commander of Niš, ordered that the heads of the Serbian fighters wereto be cut off and built into a tower as a retaliation and a warning to the Serbs. Thus, at the end of the summer 1809 on the main road for Istanbul, a small mud-tower was erected, with 952 skulls of the serbian warriors built in, which later became known as the Cele-kula. It is a squared-basis building, around 3 meters tall. In 1892, a chapel was built around the tower, and in front of it, is a bust of Stevan Sindelic, work of Slavko Miletic. Although the tower is relatively preserved, only the 59 skulls reamained. This is a unique monument bound to stir up your imagination. City bus number 1 (from the railway station, through the Kralja Milana square ) and 13 (from Kralja Milana square ) will take you directly to Cele-kula.
Cara Konstantina bb (on the way to Niska Banja),
phonel: 018 / 322 - 228
working hours: 9-16h, closed on mondays
Mediana represented a splendid estate - residence of the roman emperors near ancient Nais. It was built by emperor Constantine, establisher of Christianity and the founder of Constantinople (today's Istanbul), who was born right here, in Nais, in 280 AD, and ruled the empire from 306 AD to 337 AD. Constantine, as well as later emperors, often resided in Mediana.
The residence itself, whose main purpose was a summer house and a resort, was composed of a comprehensive set of buildings (villa with peristol, nymphs and thermal baths, granary, water tower, sacral objects) on an area over 40 acres, erected near the thermal springs on the road to Constantinople. It is interesting that the luxurious objects made of solid material, decorated with marble, frescoes and mosaics were mainly placed around the central villa, and the economy objects are next to the granary, on the west side towards Nais. Parts of the buildings, floor mosaics, water tower remainings, various objects and statues from that period are still preserved. You can reach Mediana easily with the city bus number 1, from the railway station, Kralja Milana square or Cele-kula.
Niska Banja (Nis spa)
Niska Banja is a pleasant resort for rest, field trips, hiking, healing... It is situated at the foot of the Koritnik mountain, some 10 kilometers from Nis, from where you can easily reach it with the ubiquitous bus line No. 1. The first mentioning of the spa in written documents is dated in 448 AD, when thermal baths were built there. Thanks to its good position and healing water, from the year 1925 the town began to develop, with villas, hotels and parks. So, if you are in the mood for some wellness and rest, and you are already in Nis, it would be a pitty to miss out on Niška Banja.
Museums and galleries
Interesting (and very spooky) museum to visit, would be the museum-camp "Crveni Krst" ("Red Cross") (Boulevard 12. februar bb, phonel: 018 / 25-678, opening hours: 9 am - 14 pm, closed on mondays), one of the few preserved fashist camps in Europe. You can reach it from the bus station, and then take a right through the boulevard 12. Februar. From here you can take bus number 3 or 9 (starting from Kralja Aleksandra Ujedinitelja square).
In Bubanj, the southwestern part of the town, there is a monument in the shape of three fists, work of the sculptor Ivan Sabolic from 1963, a memorial to the victims of the WWII. On this spot, the Germans shot more then 10.000 residents of Nis and southern Serbia. You can get here by taking the bus no. 8, from the Kralja Aleksandra Ujedinitelja square.
The most important gallery is the Gallery of modern art with its pavillions inside the fortress walls, and a gallery "Ramart" located in the beautiful old building from the 1928 in the Borivoja Gojkovica street.