One of the oldest cities in the Balkans
With around 250,000 residents, Niš is the third largest in Serbia and the capital of the Nišava District. It is located in southern Serbia, at the crossroads of the most important Balkan and European routes connecting Europe with the Middle East.
The Gateway between the East and the West
Niš is a city which lies on the Nišava river, and serves as an extremely important regional, administrative, cultural, economic, business and university center of the southeastern Serbia.
Situated in the Niš Valley at an average altitude of 192 metres, at the mouth of the Nišava River into the South Morava River, Niš covers the range of approximately 600 square kilometres. It is surrounded by magnificent mountain ranges such as the Suva Mountain, the Svrljig Mountains and the Seličevica.
Due to its peculiar geographic position, throughout history, Niš has been known as ‘The Gateway between the East and the West’. Consequently, the city has often been a target of military invasions, whose impact is reflected in the numerous historical monuments.
It is an ancient Roman city
The ancient Roman city, Naissus, which probably succeeded a Celtic settlement, was mentioned as an important place in the 2nd century by Ptolemy, in his Guide to Geography. The old fortress on the right bank of the river is believed to have been built on this site. Under its walls, in 269 A.D., the emperor Claudius II defeated an army of the Goths. Niš is the birthplace of Constantine the Great (c. 280). During migrations of the Huns in the 5th century, the town was destroyed, and the Bulgarians conquered it in the 9th century but ceded it in the 11th century to the Hungarians, from whom the Byzantine emperor took it in 1173. Toward the end of the 12th century, the town came under the Serbian Nemanja dynasty, but in 1375 the Turks captured it from the Serbs.
Niš was recovered briefly several times, but Turkish domination lasted for 500 years, and the town became an important station on the route from Istanbul to Hungary. In the first Serbian uprising (1809), the Serbs fired their powder magazine and destroyed themselves and a large number of the enemy; in the ruins of the Turkish-built Ćele Kula (Tower of Skulls) are embedded the skulls of more than 900 of the Serbs who fell at the Battle of Čegar. The Serbian army liberated Niš in 1877, and the town was ceded to them by the Treaty of Berlin (1878). In World War I, Niš was for a period the capital of Serbia.
Cultural and historical attractions
The most important cultural and historical attractions in Niš are the Mediana – a large 4th-century Roman estate; Niš Fortress – the best-preserved Turkish fortress in the central Balkans, built in 1723 and containing the remains of Roman Naissus in its foundations; the Skull Tower (Ćele Kula); Čegar, where a monument stands on the site of the battle between Stevan Sinđelić and the Turks; the Monument to the Liberators of Niš – erected in 1937 in memory of the fight for the liberation of Niš; the Red Cross Camp – a Nazi concentration camp; and Bubanj Memorial Park – one of the largest Second World War execution sites in Serbia.
Attractions near Niš
Picnic sites in the surroundings of Niš include the Sićevačka Klisura gorge – a 16 km-long protected natural feature with rare plants and animals; the Jelašnička Klisura gorge – a special 2 km-long nature reserve with waterfalls and rare plants and animals; the Bojanine Vode holiday resort; Kamenički Vis – a holiday resort with winter sports facilities; and Cerjanska Pećina cave, 4 km long, with spacious chambers beautifully decorated in cave formations (stalagmites, stalactites, etc.).