Nis Travel Guide
From ancient times to the modern era, Nis has been a historically significant place in Serbia. Romans built military garrisons on a bend in the Nisava River. Millennia later, the Ottomans did the same. And in WWII, the Nazis ran one of their most notorious concentration camps here.
Come check out our Nis visitor guide for tourists as we cover the best things to do in Nis, Serbia.
Nis is home to many historic and cultural attractions. However, its most prominent one is also its darkest. When you’re in the area, set aside at least a half-day to visit the Red Cross Concentration Camp.
Labelled to distract attention from its atrocities, it was a place of much suffering. In 1941, the Nazis conquered Serbia, which was part of Yugoslavia at the time. The concentration camp served several purposes. Initially, it was a transit camp from which targeted groups were sent onward to concentration camps like Auschwitz.
However, it also became a place of forced labour, and where locals were held as hostages. To discourage resistance fighters, for every Nazi soldier wounded, camp guards killed 50 Serb hostages. For every soldier that rebels killed, 100 hostages lost their lives.
During the course of the war, this concentration camp was the site of a daring prison break. In February 1942, prisoners overwhelmed their captors, killing 12 of them. In all, 105 inmates escaped to freedom. However, this event wasn’t without retribution. In response, the Nazi guards executed more than 1,100 prisoners.
To make the most of your time in Nis, be sure to buy a combined ticket. For 300 Serbian Dinar, you can get into the concentration camp, as well as two other attractions.
The Skull Tower is one of those extra add-ons. A macabre relic of the time when Nis belonged to the Ottoman Empire, this attraction comes as advertised. It is a stone tower embedded with the skulls of dead Serbian rebels.
During the Battle of Cegar, Serbian insurgents found themselves surrounded by Ottoman attackers. Rather than endure an excruciating impaling, they chose to blow up their powder magazine. From the remnants of the combatants, the local Ottoman governor ordered the extraction of their skulls. He then commissioned the building of the Skull Tower as a warning to the populace.
Today, the Skull Tower is one of Serbia’s most popular tourist attractions. On busy days, it attracts 30,000 to 50,000 visitors. For this reason, we recommend visiting during the week.
Next, make your way over to Nis Fortress. Overlooking the Nisava River, the site on which Nis Fortress sits has hosted fortifications since Roman times. However, military authorities built the current structure during the 18th century, when the Ottoman Empire ruled Nis.
Great views of Nis can be had from the fortress ramparts. However, there is much more to this attraction than its walls. Within them, you’ll find a mosque, a relaxing park, cafes, a Turkish bath, and even a tourist train. During the summer months, many festivals go off here, so be sure to check them out.
A moment ago, we mentioned Nis has been around since the days of the Romans. Learn about the human history of this city and the surrounding region by visiting Nis Archaeological Hall. Here, you’ll find artifacts from Neolithic Era to the Middle Ages.
These priceless items include jewellery, coins, weapons, and sculptures. However, the coolest aspect of this museum is its collection of artifacts from Constantine’s villa. Through them, you’ll gain an understanding of what ruling class life was like back then.
On your way back from the Red Cross Concentration Camp, stop by the Bubanj Memorial Park. Two kilometres away from the place where Nazis executed over 10,000 Serbs, three stone monuments stand in remembrance.
Shaped like fists, the display symbolizes final victory over their oppressors. It’s not far from where locals say Nazis brought people by the truckload, only to gun them down. As you look around here, take time to be silent and remember the fallen.
Those looking for significant places of worship in Nis will want to stop by the Holy Trinity Cathedral. This Orthodox church is the second-largest in Serbia – only St. Sava in Belgrade is bigger. Within, visitors will love the frescoes that cover most surfaces inside.
If the weather is fine during your time in Nis, head to the Nisava River. During beautiful afternoons and evenings, local young people will hang out here with their friends. If you’re game, feel free to buy some wine/beer and join them.
Before moving onto other places in Serbia, spend an evening exploring Tinkers Alley. Traditionally, it was home to copper-smiths and other artisans. Today, it plays host to an assortment of cafes, restaurants, and bars. Have a meal, and watch the world go by.