Nis - River at Night

Nis – Serbia – Information


JULY 2019:



OVERVIEW:

PLEASE NOTE: The currency in Serbia is the Republic of Serbia Dinar / the RSD (I will refer to them as S$s). At the time of writing, US$1 = S$105.

We have just spent 4 nights in Sofia, Bulgaria. For me, a visit to somewhere like Sofia is all about experiencing history and culture.Sofia - National Park 2

We, now, head north to our first stop in Serbia: Nis … to experience more history and culture …


GETTING THERE:

We need to get to the Central Bus Station in Sofia which is located north of city centre next to the main Train Station.Sofia - STTS Interpred Bus Station

My Sofia accommodation was only 200 metres from a Metro Station, so I jumped on the Metro. A ticket is Bulgarian Lev 1.60 per trip (about US$1). At Serdica Metro Station you can change metro lines without needing to buy another ticket.Sofia - Ancient Serdica 2

My bus to Nis was Lev24 / US$14. I purchased the ticket at the Bus Station 2 days in advance to guarantee a seat. The bus leaves twice each day: 7:30am and 4pm. My ticket was for the 4pm.Sofia - Central Bus Station

I loaded by suitcase into the luggage compartment. The driver wanted EURO 50c (Lev 1) to ticket my suitcase. I didn’t have any Lev left nor any Euro. He made a bit of a fuss about it but, in the end, he let me off the fee. Remember to have 1 lev per stowed luggage item (if you have them).

It took 1:15 hours to get to the Serbian border and just over 30 minutes to clear Bulgarian and Serbian Immigration.

We arrived in Nis 6:45pm. Some of us got off in the City Centre at the King Milan Monument.

Nis Bus Station Location Map

The bus continued to the main Bus Station terminal on Bulevar 12 Februara just north of the river.


ABOUT:

I can’t tell you much more about Nis than what is already well documented on the internet.

Nis is located 1:30 hours by bus from Serbia’s southern border with Bulgaria.Nis Location Map

Archaeological evidence shows Neolithic settlements in the city and its surroundings dating from 5,000 to 2,000 BC. In the Iron Age, the Thracians dominated the region.  In  279 BC, during the Gallic invasion of the Balkans, the Celtic Scordisci defeated the Triballi.

 The Romans conquered the Balkans between 168 and 75 BC. Subsequently, Nis became the birthplace of three Roman emperors: Constantine the Great (the first Christian emperor and the founder of Constantinople), Constantius III, and Justin I.Nis - River at Night

Nis, later, played a prominent role in the history of the Byzantine Empire. After about 400 years of Ottoman rule, the city was liberated in 1878 and became part of the Principality of Serbia (though not without great bloodshed).

Niš is the third largest city in Serbia. According to the 2011 census, Nis City has a population of 187,544.Nis City Map

Niš has long been a crossroads between East and West.


PHOTO GALLERY:

Nis is a typical city.Nis - High Street

The Old City is focused around a pedestrian shopping centre.Nis - Main Pedestrian Shopping Street

The Nisava River cuts the city in two.Nis - River

The riverfront has a pleasant promenade.Nis - Riverfront Promenade

With some small parks.Nis - Cesma Park

And riverfront cafes.Nis - Riverfront Cafes

You get typical streets.Nis - Typical Street

And, typical side streets.Nis - Side Street 1


Nis - Side Street 2


ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS:

AUGUST:

This is what GRANDPAckers can expect to find within 1km of the City Centre at short notice in early August:

BOOKING.COM:

Nis Booking 1 Nis Booking 2

HOTELS.COM:

Nis Hotels

PLEASE NOTE: HOTELS usually display prices INCLUSIVE of TAXES. But many search sites (like HOTELS) don’t provide a ‘private bathroom’ filter, so be careful with some of the cheap hotels and make sure that you read the room details. HOTELS does not do well in the Serbian marketplace.

AIRBnB / HOLIDAY RENTALS:

Nis AirBnB

PLEASE NOTE: Other sites (such as Homeaway, FlipKey and VRBO are also worth a look).

IN SUMMARY:

GRANDPAckers can find accommodation in the City Centre within our price range. BOOKING.COM offers a wider range and better value for money than Hotels and AirBnB.


MY ACCOMMODATION:

I used BOOKING.COM to book a Double Bed Studio Apartment (single occupancy): Apartment Antonio. I paid S$2,225 / US$21 per night for 3 nights. What the description failed to say was that is was on the 4th floor with no lift. I chose it for its excellent location close to the Bus Station, the Old City Centre, and the sights just north of the river (see What To Do, below).Nis - Apartment - Entry

It was small but functional … typical of the small apartments built for the masses in the communist era.Nis - Apartment - Room

The Double bed was 2 singles pushed together with 1 pillow and a single top bed sheet.Nis - Apartment - Bed

It came with a wardrobe, cable TV (with lots of English speaking channels, a fridge, kettle, and a kitchenette. The kitchen facilities were sparse and only (really) sufficient for drinks and making cold snacks.Nis - Apartment - Kitchenette

The bathroom was small but adequate.Nis - Apartment - Toilet

The shower had good water flow and enough hot water for 1 good shower; you would need to cut the water flow to have enough hot water for 2 people.Nis - Apartment - Shower

Another reason why I chose this apartment was that it had a washing machine which meant that I could reset all of my laundry and dry it out on the balcony.Nis - Apartment - Balcony

The wifi was very good, reliable, and good enough to stream videos.


WHERE TO STAY:

You definitely want to stay within walking distance of the Old City Centre.Nis City Centre Map

My apartment was perfectly located on the riverfront close to Stambol Gate.


ACCOMMODATION SEARCH:

Have a look yourself:


Booking.com



EAT & DRINK:

This is a big city … you have a multitude of options.

If you need fruit & veg, try the market on Duke Dinic Street near the Bus Station.Nis - Duke Dinic Street Market

CHEAP EATS:

On my way down Duke Dinic Street I noticed several small, busy cafes that were popular with the locals. I had to try what was being sold … I got a massive burger (S$200) and a 500ml beer (S$100).Nis - Big Burger RSD200

DRINK:

In the supermarkets, you can buy a 500ml bottle of local beer for about S$60. A 2L bottle costs about S$200 (US$2).

In an average bar, you will get a 500ml bottle or draft local beer for about S$200. Half that in a local cafe where the locals drink.

There some nice spots to discover.Nis - Cafe Park

A popular spot is Kazandžijsko Sokače Street.Nis - Kazandžijsko Sokače Street

The riverfront is also popular at night.Nis - Riverfront at Night

IN SUMMARY:

You can’t live on cheap burgers … you will need to pay significantly more if you want a ‘balanced diet’.

If Breakfast is NOT provided by your hotel (which seems normal in Serbia), expect to pay an average of S$400 for a cheap local Breakfast with tea / coffee.

Expect to pay an average of S$300 for a cheap Lunch with fruit drink.

Expect to pay an average of S$700 for a cheap Dinner with a Fruit Juice / 500ml Beer.


WHEN TO COME:

July is the warmest month of the year. The coldest month is January. Nis Climate Chart

I arrived on the cusp of July and August. The weather was pleasant and not too hot.


TRANSPORT:

Niš is strategically located on the main route between Greece and Central Europe with a natural land corridor running eastwards in the direction of Sofia and Istanbul. The Roman Empire built the first road linking Belgrade to Istanbul. Today, Nis is a major connection point for travel throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans both by Bus and Rail.serbian-railway-map

The main bus station offers local transport as well as intercity transport to international destinations. The largest intercity bus carrier based in Nis is Niš-Ekspres.Nis - Bus Station

Nis City’s public transportation consists of 13 bus lines. The tram system closed in 1958.


INTERNET / WIFI:

Don’t trust your hotel to provide good wifi in our GRANDPAcking price range.

TELENOR:

Their are 3 main providers in Serbia: MTS, Telenor, and VIP. I chose the 2nd biggest: Telenor. Their shop was conveniently located in King Milan Square only 30 metres from my apartment.Nis - King Milan Square

MTS and VIP offer 1 week tourist voice and data prepaid packages (with free SIMcard) for about S$300.

I need data: I don’t use voice nor SMS. Telenor offer a 15 day prepaid data only package including SIMcard with 10GB for S$545 (about US$5). This was perfect for me and my 2 week stay in Serbia.


WHAT TO DO:

NORTH OF THE RIVER WALK:

The north of the river is riddled with interesting sights.Nis - Northern Sights Map

You can happily spend several hours walking around. Start by walking over the bridge to Stambol Gate.Nis-Northern-Sights-Stambol-Gate.jpg

Just inside, you will find some cafes.Nis - Northern Sights - Stambol Gate Cafes

Here, you can get up onto the old city walls.Nis - Northern Sights -Stambol Gate Walls

Pass the monument to Prince Milan and head north west.Nis - Northern Sights - Prince Milan Monument

Walk to the Nazi Concentration Camp.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Memorial

And entry the gates.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Entry

Entry is S$200. For S$300 you can buy a tri-ticket that also gives you entry to two other attractions: the Skull Tower and the National Museum.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Grounds

This camp was a staging camp. People were normally taken elsewhere to be slaughtered.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Sleeping Quarters

Yet, plenty of atrocities occurred here. The isolation cells are heartbreaking.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Isolation Cell Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Isolation Cells 1Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Isolation Cells 2

This camp is the first to attempt an escape from a Nazi Concentration Camp. Many died in the attempt. Many succeeded but most were re-captured.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - The Escape

There is plenty to see and the history is also displayed in English. I spent 1 hour here. I wept. After I left, it took nearly 1 hour for me to clear the cloud of sadness that was weighing on my soul.Nis - Northern Sights - Nazi Camp - Isolation Cells 1

From here, walk back southwards into the park area.Nis - Northern Sights - Old City Park

Passing the old fortifications.Nis - Northern Sights - Old City Walls

To discover the many sights in the park.Nis - Northern Sights - Park Road Nis - Northern Sights - Powder Magazine Nis - Northern Sights - Tvrdjava Nis - Northern Sights - Vaulted Building Nis - Northern Sights - Viden Gate Nis - Northern Sights - Water GateNis - Northern Sights - Bali Beg MosqueNis - Northern Sights - Blacksmith ShopNis - Northern Sights - Lapidarium

You can easily while away several hours doing this walk.

WALK AROUND THE OLD TOWN:

The walk along the riverside is pleasant.Nis - Northern Sights - River East

Cair Park is near the centre.Nis - Cair Park

The National Museum can also be found on the edge of the Old City Centre.Nis - National Museum

A couple of hours is enough.

AUGUST NISVILLE FESTIVAL:

Nis holds a well know music festival in mid August.Nis - Northern Sights - Nisville

They were starting to prepare for it whilst I was there.

SKULL TOWER:

A walk to the Skull Tower is not as nice as a walk around the north of the river (above) but some people will still enjoy it.

I suggest that it is not worth walking to Skull Tower and back. As it is always easier to get a bus back to the City Centre than it is to find the right bus out from one, I suggest that you walk there and catch a bus back. Let’s assume that you start in King Milan Square. Allow about 2-3 hours …

You can start by walking to the Church of the Holy Apostle Luke.Nis - St Lukes TempleNis - St Lukes Temple Inside

From there, walk down to Cesme Park and then east along the riverside path.Nis - Riverside Walk

After about 1.5kms cut south to the Temple of St Constantine & Helen.Nis - Temple of Saint Emperor Constantine and Empress HelenNis - Temple of Saint Emperor Constantine and Empress Helen Inside

From there, walk east about 500 metres to the Gabrovacka Reka.Nis - Gabrovacka Reka

Walk along the canal to the Skull Tower. Nis - Skull Tower OutsideNis - Skull TowerNis - Skull Tower Inside

You can catch a bus back to the City Centre from there.


HEALTH & SAFETY:

The first thing that you notice is the number of smokers; there is still a large % of smokers here.Nis - Statue

There is no reason to feel unsafe. As always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.


CONCLUSION:

The more that I come to these big cities, the more that I realise that I am not a ‘big city type person’. That said, Nis does have some nice spots …Nis - Irish Bar at Night

Obviously, living in a big city is a totally different story but, as a tourist, 3 nights was just right.

TTFN

 


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