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The third biggest city in Serbia, Niš is famous nationwide for its incredible food and lively student energy. Don’t sleep on its architecture though, as the city contains some of the most varied buildings in the entire country.
While not technically an architectural marvel, it is difficult to talk about structures in Niš without bringing up its most grisly. The Skull Tower was constructed in 1809 from the skulls of 952 fallen Serbian rebels (as the name suggests), but less than 100 remain in the 21st century. The tower is protected inside a small chapel, and remains one of the most storied pieces of architecture in the entire country.
Arguably the grandest building in the city, the old district offices and university building retain importance in aesthetics alone these days. The history of the building is difficult to match. It was here that the Serbian government received a telegram on 28 July, 1914, informing them that Austria-Hungary had formally declared war. The grandiose design of the building echoes similar riverside structures in St. Petersburg, and it is undoubtedly one of the most striking buildings in the entire country.
A lush 19th century cathedral in the middle of the city, this three-domed structure is more curious than houses of worship tend to be. It truly seems to be a confused piece, although this absolutely works in its favour as a result. The interior is every bit as impressive, as frescoes cover the walls from ceiling to floor.
The myriad of buildings put up by the ruling communists of the 20th century don’t get a whole lot of love, but that will surely change in decades to come. The Ambasador Hotel in the city centre is one of the best examples of socialist utopian constructivism, a 17-storey titan overlooking the main square that contains almost 130 rooms and a whole lot of glass. It isn’t everyone’s favourite, but it is impressive nonetheless.
Designed by renowned Serbian architect Aleksandar Bugarski (the brain behind the National Theatre in Belgrade), the theatre in Niš echoes the style and elegance of its contemporary in the capital. Finished in 1887, the theatre has been rebuilt on a number of occasions but largely retains the Renaissance influences of its beginnings.
We may be a little biased in favour of this one, but the modernist bus station in Niš is an undoubted hit. The mish-mash of styles is unique to say the least, and once you see the futuristic additions they are quite difficult to forget. The main building is every bit as dystopian as the iconic monuments of the region, and the huge silver cube clashes as much as it fits. Unique, to say the least.
Located on a hill just above Niš, the Bubanj Memorial Park is home to one of the most striking constructions in the entire region. The Three Fists monument is every bit as subtle as that name suggests — three monolithic concrete structures holding defiant fists up to an unrepentant deity. The brutalist monument marks the spot where more than 10,000 civilians were executed by the Nazis during World War II, and the trio of fists are said to honour the men, women and children who lost their lives during the terrifying occupation.