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Niš deserves plenty more than 24 hours, but sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. If you’ve only got one day in Serbia’s third largest city, then it is vital you get the most of the town. Follow our guide to Niš and get all you can out of this underrated marvel.
Get the misery out of the way early
The history of Niš doesn’t make for easy reading, especially when the last couple of hundred years are taken into account. The Ottomans well and truly did a number on the city, and the Nazis didn’t exactly treat it with care either. Crveni Krst Concentration Camp lies just outside the city centre and is a poignant memorial to the thousands who perished there during World War II, but visitors hoping to avoid transport will struggle to visit both the camp and the famous Skull Tower.
The Skull Tower is the most iconic attraction in the city, although calling it an ‘attraction’ seems somewhat disrespectful to the 952 men whose skulls were used to build the thing. Less than 100 remain in the modern age, but the memory remains. Crveni Krst might be better preserved, but the Skull Tower is one of the most memorable spots in the region.
Explore the fortress
Life in Niš revolves around King Milan Square (Trg Kralja Milana, in Serbian), so head here following the intensity of the Skull Tower. The square is built around the Monument to the Liberators of Niš, another equestrian statue that acts as much as a meeting point as it does a memorial. The magnificent Niš Fortress is located on the other side of the Nišava river, so stroll across the bridge and give the 18th century a good bit of time before lunch. The Stambol Gate is a hugely dramatic entrance to any attraction.
There is plenty to see and do within the fortress, with the remains of many old buildings found inside the complex. Shops, mosques and more once stood here, but all that remain are foundations and memories. This doesn’t make it any less impressive, and Niš Fortress is an absolute must for anyone visiting the city. If you’re looking for a souvenir, look no further.
A heavy lunch
The south of Serbia is known for its magical food, so don’t even bother trying to hold back with a knife and fork in your hands. The centre of the city has plenty of excellent options, but food and geography combine to suggest that Mali Podrum is the best option for our schedule. A traditional Serbian kafana with little in the way of frills, the pljeskavica here is as good as anywhere outside of Leskovac.
A stroll in the Memorial Park
Who doesn’t love a long walk after lunch? The Bubanj Memorial Park may be over two kilometres away from the city centre, not to mention uphill, but the feast of lunch will give you more than enough energy to make the distance. The memorial park is one of the most immense parts of the region, and the same adjective could be given to the main spomenik in the centre of it all.
Known as the ‘Three Fists’ monument, the ‘fists’ in this instance are three monumental concrete structures jutting into the sky, representing the men, women and child who were murdered here by the Nazis during World War II. It is a poignant monument to say the least, and don’t for a second think that that is lost on the many who happen to be having a picnic on the grounds.
Drinks, food and the rest
You may well be exhausted after the walk up to Bubanj, but a sunset walk down the hill is every bit as mesmerising as the post-meal stroll up it. It would also help you develop an appetite for another attack of the kitchen, so head to Tinkers Alley (Kazandžijsko sokače) for another round. The street is full of cafes, so feel free to take your pick. Cafe Pleasure gets our vote (this time), the name telling you all you need to know about the quality on offer.
Live music at the Crazy Horse
Niš doesn’t disappoint on the nightlife front, more than giving Novi Sad a run for its money in the quest to follow the legendary energy of Belgrade. Before you start braving the rakija at the clubs, be sure to check out Irish Pub Crazy Horse to catch any live music that may be happening. Irish Pubs are often a drag in this part of the world, but Crazy Horse is an exception to that.
It’ll also instil a good amount of energy ahead of what will surely be a long night, in the bars, pubs and clubs of Serbia’s third largest city. There is more than enough to justify two days in Niš, even if the second is dealing with an almighty hangover.