10 reasons why you should travel to Nis instead of Belgrade

Yuliya Anikina 01 February 2021 0 views 10 min. read

I think I would not be too mistaken if I assumed that your first association when mentioning the name "Serbia" would be the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Perhaps if you think carefully, you will also call Novi Sad "Serbian Athens", the centre of cultural life in Serbia. And the city of Nis? What city is Nis? What can you say about it? The largest city in southern Serbia, Nis, may seem too provincial and even gloomy. Some of the sights in Nis are not too conducive to a peaceful view and quiet walks. The tragic periods of the city's life and its history are to blame. But do not jump to conclusions. The city is closely intertwined tragic and life-affirming. When choosing Nis or Belgrade, remember that Belgrade is the cover of Serbia, and towns like Nis constitute the actual content of the country. Nis is a proper Serbian city, very hospitable and festive. Every summer, it hosts gastronomic and music festivals. And if you walk around the city, you can plunge into several eras at once. Nisha's architecture absorbed the traditions of peoples and times that once lived along the banks of Nishava. nis city night view In terms of its geopolitical location, modern Nis is the third-largest city in Serbia, after Belgrade and Novi Sad, and the administrative centre of the Nisava County, with a population of about two hundred thousand people. Situated southeast of Belgrade on the banks of the Nisava River, it has long attracted the attention of conquerors with its convenient geographical location. This is where the main trade routes from Central Europe to Turkey and Greece crossed. It was more comfortable for the ancients to pass by Nishava, but still the crossroads. And the modern man will indeed be puzzled by the question: Belgrade-Nis, how to get to Belgrade, Nis? This is what you will learn at the end of the article if you decide to visit this wonderful city. Start your journey around Nis with walks through its streets and squares. This is how you can feel the rhythm of the city, its breath. Understand how and what one of the oldest towns in Serbia lives. 

1. King Milan Square (Trg kralja Milana)

king milan square

The square is crowded in any season, but mostly many tourists and locals gather here in spring and summer. The court was named after the first Serbian king of the Obrenovic family, Milan I., The centre of the square, is a monument to the liberators of Nis from the Turkish yoke. The pedestal's relief depicts battle scenes and carved battle dates. Around the square, there are many restaurants, cafes and stores, located in the picturesque houses around the perimeter. The house, owned by Andon Antonovich, a wealthy citizen, businessman and supplier of clothes from England, France and Greece to the country's market, stands out among them. The building looks more like a French neo-classical castle than an apartment house. The facade of the building is decorated with a bas-relief image of Hermes - the patron of trade.  In the bakery "Pekara Brankovic", which made its first bread in the late 19th century, you can buy authentic baked goods, local "specialist", the recipe of which is carefully kept since 1885. 

2. Kazandzijsko sokace

kazandzijsko sokace

Once upon a time, during Ottoman rule, this part of the city was a craftsmen's quarter. From early morning until late afternoon, hammers rang over the street, smith's mountains sizzled, and local jewellers sorcerer over their jewellery. Today, there are neither of them anymore. The last shops were closed at the end of the XX century. Now it is a part of the bohemian quarter of the modern Nisha. It is an old city street, a favourite place of rest for city residents and a point of attraction for curious tourists—the area of cute cabanas and restaurants with national Serbia dishes. At the beginning of the street is a fantastic monument in the form of a water column. It is a tribute to the prominent Serbian fictionalist b. Names of his books' heroes are engraved on one of the monument's sides. And the writer himself, thanks the skill of the sculptor, sits nearby. According to the Serbian tradition, he sits at the kafana table and listens attentively to the story of his interlocutor, Kalc's hunter. Next to him stands a third, empty chair. Have a seat and listen to it too. And now it's time to get acquainted with the distant history of Nis. The ruins of ancient Roman fortifications, evidence of centuries of Ottoman rule, the tragic pages of World War II will open the ancient city of Nis. 

3. Villa Mediana

mediana archaeological site

Do you want to feel like an emperor at least a little bit and at least be mentally transferred to the era of the Great Roman Empire? The sights of Nisha will make this fantasy possible. Go here, to the Mediana - the oldest archaeological site in Nis, which chronologically refers to the late Roman period. The well-preserved remains of the once luxurious residence of Constantine the Great are only 5 kilometres away from city's central train station. They are located on the high bank of the Nishava River. The vast territory of the complex beside the villa itself includes thermae, water tower, sanctuary, expansive yard and granary. Even many centuries later, the scope and thoroughness with which Mediana's buildings and constructions were built are impressive. And frescoes, mosaics and architectural elements finished in marble and decorated with intricate carvings and reliefs, strike the imagination of even a modern person, who seems unable to be surprised anymore. During the excavations, two churches from the early Christian period were opened. This conclusion was made based on notable findings. In one of the churches, the monogram of Jesus was found, the second presented a bronze ring with the image of a Christian symbol - the cross. Since 1970, the Mediana is recognized as an archaeological monument of exceptional importance and since then is under state protection. Serbia was able to preserve its treasure even in 1999 when NATO aircraft bombed the city

4. Nis Fortress (Niska tvrdjava)

nis fortress in the dark

In almost every major city in Serbia, whether it is Nis or Belgrade, Novi Sad or Kraljevo, you can find an ancient "hard-core" fortress. There is such a fortress in Nis. The present appearance of the defence owes its current appearance to the Turks. In the early 18th century, Hisar Fortress was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman, Byzantine, and then medieval fortress. The fortress is located on the right bank of the Nishava River and is considered one of the best-preserved in the Middle Balkans. The fortress's appearance is impressive. The height of the defensive walls reaches eight meters, and the width is about three meters in the most fortified places. Built of well-treated stone, the walls give the impression of impregnable. Four watchtowers and a partially preserved castle moat provide the Grozny with fort a grim view. Time spared quite a lot of buildings of the Nis fortress. Including the main gate of Istanbul. To this day, Bali Mosque is located on the fort's territory, where art exhibitions are actively held. The Turkish hammam is one of the oldest Ottoman fortress structures. The building of the post station, prison and powder warehouse is also well preserved. Today, the fortress has a cosy park, where you can relax on a hot summer day, drink a cup of coffee and enjoy the game of street musicians.

5. Skull Tower (Cele-Kula)

skulls from skull tower

It is a place where the heart stops, and sometimes even men cry. The most famous monument of exceptional international importance, Cele Kula, is located in the eastern part of the city. It became a monument to the courage of Serbia's independence fighters much later. In 1809, it was erected by the Turkish invaders as a symbol of enlightenment and fear for those who would risk raising arms against the sacred Ottoman Empire.  The history of this memorial, on the one hand, causes fear and terror, but on the other hand, fills the heart of the Serbs with pride. For over two centuries, people have bowed their heads to the symbol of freedom-loving Serbia people. The quadrangular tower, built of almost a thousand human skulls, was built by order of the commandant of the Nis fortress Khurshid Pasha after the battle on Mount Chegar. The first Serb uprising against the Turkish invaders was defeated but went down in history forever. For five days, Serbian rebels repelled the Turkish attack in hand-to-hand combat, far superior to their strength. And the Serbs, led by voivode Stefan Sundjelic, preferred death to captivity and dishonour: they blew up the powder depot with themselves and the Turkish soldiers who surrounded them. In that battle, about 3 thousand Serbs and about 6 thousand invaders were killed. The Turks beheaded the dead Serbs and put their skills in a specially built tower. In 1892 it was decided to hide the crumbling tower, which left 58 skulls, under the vaults of the chapel. Next to it is a monument to Stevan Sinjelic, and the head of the hero is located here, in the chapel, on a unique pedestal.

6. Concentration Camp Red Cross (Logor Crveni Krst)

concentration camp red cross

This is one of those tourist attractions in Nisa, a visit to which you can not call pleasant. But its historical importance is enormous. Serbia has suffered a lot during the Second World War. Concentration Camp "Red Cross" was established in 1941 and got its name from the railway station in Nis, next to which it was located. About 30 thousand prisoners went through the millstones of this mechanism to destroy people, and about 12 thousand found their deaths there. The camp held mostly Jews, Gypsies, Yugoslavian Communists, partisans and their families, i.e. all those who, in the opinion of the Nazis, obstructed the establishment of the new order or were not worth living there. The only difference between the Red Cross and similar camps was the absence of crematoriums. The bodies of the dead were covered with slaked lime. The concentration camp existed until 1944 when the Yugoslav partisans liberated it. In 1979, the centre was recognized as a cultural monument of particular importance, and today its territory houses museum complex.  The places where Serbia people were massacred cannot cause positive emotions. On the camp-museum's territory, it seems that it becomes harder to breathe. But such memory is necessary. Repetition of this kind of remembrance will be tantamount to human suicide. 

7. Bubanj Memorial Park

bubanj memorial park

Another Nisa's landmark, reminiscent of the horrors of World War II, is the Buban memorial complex. The park is thematically closely connected with the museum ensemble 'Red Cross'. It was here that from 1941 to 1944, mass executions and burials of concentration camp prisoners took place, even by the most tentative calculations in the land of the memorial park to rest from 10 to 15 thousand tortured and executed prisoners. On the territory of the complex, every detail of the memorial, place or object carries a symbol of human suffering. The trail going through the whole park is a thorny path, which the camp prisoners had to overcome in order to escape and regain their freedom. The forest surrounding the memorial symbolizes the struggle of the Yugoslav partisans. The monument in the form of three arms swept up to the sky and firmly clenched in a fist - a symbol of the prisoners - men, women and children tortured here. The solemn unveiling of the monument took place in 1963 on the anniversary of Nisha's liberation from fascist occupation. In the early XXI century, a chapel was added to the architectural ensemble of the complex, and in 2009 the park was completely reconstructed. Let's try to take a little detour from the dark pages of history and look at Nis city from the other side. Not all Nis sights are so depressing.

8. Devil's City (Djavolja varos)

devil town

Once you are in Nisha, be sure to visit the Devil's city, the national geological park. Of course, 90 kilometres is not a small distance, but this is the distance you need to overcome to enjoy the unique natural phenomenon - earth poles with "hats" on their tops. And there are also two mineral springs with no less frightening names. One of them, Devil's Water, is a spring with highly mineralized water, which has a high level of acidity. The second spring is called 'Red Spring', which fully reflects its essence. The water in it contains a lot of iron, so the bed has a bright orange colour. The place is mesmerizing with its beauty and gloomy at the same time. What are the names alone: Devil's Stream, Devil's Ravine and Hell's Ravine. For example, a village, to the territory of which the park belongs, is called Jake, which means "blood" in Albanian. Trees in these mountains grow very reluctantly, and those who could still stand, perform a truly devilish dance - so curved and twisted their trunks and branches. And there is a simple scientific explanation for this: wind erosion and strong mineralization of the soil. But tourists do not come here for scientific sensations. People want to touch the mystery and tickle their nerves a little. Night excursion in the park, when the earth giants are illuminated with colourful lights, will leave a bright impression of the trip. And the legend of people who have tasted the Devil's water lost their mind and despised God's laws, will make you look at the world around you and yourself a little bit from a different angle. 

9. Festivals

traditional colorful folk costume dance at the festival

One of the reasons to visit the city of Nis is its festivals. Answer the question: Belgrade to Nis, how to get there; you will find the answer below. And the question: when it is better to visit Nis, there is an obvious answer. Of course, in summer and autumn! Like any other holidays, festivals in Nis try to spend in the warmest and most favourable time of year to arrive by air. Here are some of the festivals that should be visited:  June  - Serbian Feast of the Glory of the Cross August - Traditional International Film Festival - “Niceville" - international jazz festival - "Days of Burek" - a traditional puff holiday cake. - "Wine and fine fair" - fair of wine, gastronomic and wine tourism. September - "Insomnia" - the festival of popular music October - "Nimus" - the festival of classical music

10. Shopping

delta planet mall

Well, what kind of travel could be without shopping? A Nis will provide you with such an opportunity. Numerous Nis shopping malls (Roda Centar, Stop Shop, Kalia, Panda, Forum), traditional markets and fairs will surprise and delight both classic shoppers and authentic goods lovers. The shirt "noshna" embroidered with national embroidery, the traditional handwoven carpet "chilim", handmade knitwear, local wine, cheese, baked goods are available both in the markets and in stores. Souvenirs are sold everywhere in Nisha. These are plates, mugs, T-shirts and other goods with the city symbols. And the most popular souvenir is a bronze head of Emperor Constantine the Great or any other thing with his image. So, you have already decided: Nis or Belgrade? If your preference is given to the hot south of Serbia and its heart - the city of Nis, then enter in the search engine query "how to get to Belgrade Nis". All-knowing Google will tell you that you can get to the city from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia: flight - by air   Belgrade, Nikola Tesla - Nis airport, Constantine the Great airport. Unfortunately, this is not the most convenient and fastest way - there are no direct flights to Nis from Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. - by train The train running from Belgrade to Thessaloniki stops at the Nis central station. Although it is the cheapest way to get to the city, it is not worth recommending: trains in Serbia are very old, and they are too slow. - by road transport They can be both shuttle buses going from Belgrade to Greece and Macedonia via Nis, and a trip by car on the E75 motorway, the passage of which will have to be paid for.

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