city in southern Serbia
Europe > Balkans > Serbia > Podunavlje > Niš
Niš (Serbian: Ниш, pronounced: 'neesh') is a city in Serbia. The administrative centre of the Nišava District, it's a must-see historical city for any traveller passing through on their way to Greece or the Middle East.
Niška tvrđava, Fortress of Nis
Niš is an important crossroads between Central Europe and the Middle East, and assumes the central position in the Balkan peninsula, surrounded by a number of mountains, two rivers, two beautiful gorges, and numerous sites of historical importance from various periods in Niš Valley. Some approximate distances: Niš - Belgrade 240 km, Niš - Sofia 150 km, Niš - Skopje 200 km, Niš - Thessaloniki - 400 km.
The streets of this university city with 1/4 million residents are buzzing with life.
Tourist information centres
The Niš Tourist Organization has two tourist information centres and a website. In the tourist information centres one can get information related to tourism in Niš. They also sell maps, brochures, souvenirs and postcards. The website is quite comprehensive and detailed (available in English and Serbian).
Get in
As with most of Europe it is usually recommended to travel by train for cost and speed. The trains are old and there have been delays. However, trains will be more comfortable and almost always more scenic.
All buses depart from the central bus station, just behind the fortress and the green market. Same is for trains, but central train station is located a bit far from the bus station, so calculate at least good 20 minutes of walking to reach one from another.
By plane
There is one plane a day to Podgorica (Montenegro), which can be used to connect to major European capitals. Seasonal flights to Turkish, Montenegrin and Greek resorts are offered during the summer. RyanAir has flights to and from Weeze, Bergamo, Berlin (SXF), and Bratislava. In July 2019 the Serbian government gave a subsidy to Air Serbia to start serving Niš out of a range of central European airports
Constantine the Great International Airport (INI IATA) (5 km away from the city centre). Apart from taxis, there are regular buses to the city every 15 minutes from early morning till midnight on workdays.
By train
Train station (2 km east of the main square, a good half an hour walk). Trains to/from Skopje, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Istanbul, Vienna, Sofia and Budapest. All northbound international trains passed Belgrade. Another important railway link is the one to Bar, Montenegro, which connects Niš with the Adriatic sea. The trains are slow, not very clean, and still in the 1970s style, but tickets are cheap, the scenery is sometimes beautiful, and sleeping cars are usually an option. Check the Serbian Railways website for schedules and prices.
By bus
Bus station (Autobuska Stanica) (a couple of blocks north of the river). Almost all buses traveling from the northwest into Bulgaria or further southeast to Turkey will stop in Niš. All buses traveling between Belgrade and Greece or North Macedonia will stop in Niš. An average bus ride from Belgrade (three hours), but make sure you opt for a 'direct' bus from Belgrade central bus station, as some buses will stop in a dozen towns on the way, sometimes getting out of the highway, and prolong the ride considerably. 
The quickest route from the bus station to the main square (Trg Kralja Milana) is to go left down the side road past all the market stalls and the covered market. This takes you to the fortress entrance from where you can cross the river and head towards the obvious Ambassador hotel.
FLiX Prevoz (shuttle service), Bul. Svetog Cara Konstantina 80-86, ☏ +38163456515, ✉info@flix.rs. Airport shuttle services to Nis, Belgrade, Sofia, Skopje, Pristina, Thessaloniki, Timisoara airports, as well as rides to tourist attractions in area by car or mini van. (updated Jul 2020)
By car
The European motorway E75 routes through Niš. From the north, you may use any highway from the Hungarian border over Novi Sad and Belgrade to Niš. From the northwest, you can travel over Austria, via Slovenia and Croatia to Belgrade and then to Niš. These are all modern highways, including the section Belgrade-Niš. It is a fast road with six lanes and 120 km/h speed limit, which locals seldom observe as the road is in a pretty good shape. Beware of the police, though. At this speed, travel time from Belgrade is usually two hours.
The highway continues for another 10 km towards the Bulgarian border, and then turns into a narrower mountainous road to Sofia. Caution is advised here, especially along the 20 km of the beautiful Gorge of Sicevo, starting just after the end of the highway on the outskirts of the city. The other extension of the highway branches to the south, towards North Macedonia and Greece. The fine motorway continues for another 60km south of Niš and then narrows down into a normal road, entering the Gorge of Grdelica, where caution is also advised.
Tolls are paid for highways Niš - Belgrade and Niš - Leskovac (south towards North Macedonia and on to Greece), while using the road to Sofia is free of charge.
Get around
Map of Niš
On foot
Downtown area is easily accessible on foot from the bus or train stations, and most hotels and hostels.
For a walk across the whole city in any direction, be prepared to spend at least two or three hours.
Niš is in a small valley, but is surrounded by hills. It is not as bad as in Belgrade, whose central part virtually lies on a number of hills, but in Niš, too, as soon as you get away from broader downtown area, you may find yourself climbing.
By bus
Bus station in Niš
Niš has well-established bus lines. Most buses have clear signs stating their directions, and almost all will at one point stop at the central city square, near the Fortress, or five minutes from it, at the King Alexander Square, near the School of Law and Army Headquarters building. There are ticket sellers in the buses. A single ticket, valid for one ride from point A to point B, inside the city zone costs 60 Serbian dinars. Weekly and monthly tickets are also available at discount prices in small ticket shops near most bus stops.
By taxi
Taxi fares range between 150 and 300 dinars, depending on distance (start - 95 dinars + 45 dinars per km). Make sure the taxi driver turns on the taximeter, just in case. Taxis are available practically on every street, and are also reachable by phone - the local 'taxi' phone numbers cover the range from 9701 to 9721 - if you call from your cell phone, don't forget the country and area code +381 18. Pay phones with instructions in five languages are available throughout the town - a phone card must be purchased in any newspaper shop if these are to be used. Most drivers will speak at least basic English. If not, just write the name of the place, site, hotel, or street you are going to and it will be fine. Niš is relatively small and all taxi drivers know all the streets by heart and do not need to consult maps. Taxi rides out of the town (including to Belgrade airport) may be agreed on with the taxi driver (sometimes in a private arrangement, at a much reduced price), but some caution is advised here.
By car
If you come by car, using hotel or hostel parking lots is advised. Car theft is not very common, but foreign license plates and unsecured vehicles parked downtown may be attractive to petty criminals, especially at night. Parking is charged in two zones in downtown area, at about €0.25-0.35/hour. There are clear traffic signs marking the two zones (red - Zone 1, up to 1 hour; green - Zone 2, up to 3 hours, Monday-Friday 07:00-21:00, Saturday 07:00-14:00). This can be paid with a small card purchased in any newspaper shop, where the driver is expected to tick the date and time and leave the card under the windshield of the car so that the traffic warden can see it. Alternatively, you may pay using your cellphone (send an SMS with your license plate number to 9181 for Zone 1 or 9182 for Zone 2 - for instance, NI123456). Failure to pay may result in a €12 fine.
There are a few rent-a-car services in the city. You may check out Euroturs Nis (​http://www.euroturs-nis.co.yu/english.php?page=4),Inter [dead link] Rent-a-car (​http://www.rentacarnis.rs​) or http://rentalex-rentacar.com/ Rentalex rent a car Nis. Rentalex Rent a car Nis is a young agency to rent a car from Nis. It offers cars from the Volkswagen family. Cars have gasoline engines from 1.2 liters to provide extremely low power costs to be more economical. Expect prices ranging from €20-50 a day, depending on the car type and length of lease. The cars are usually fully ensured, but make sure the clerks you talk to have made this clear prior to any arrangement. Rent-a-car is a good option for sightseeing, as there are many interesting things to visit in the 100 km vicinity of Niš in all directions. The roads are getting increasingly better, but be prepared for possible surprises outside main highways leading to Belgrade, Thessaloniki, or Sofia.
Young people usually speak enough English to communicate. Some speak it extremely well. Professionals, such as hotel personnel, speak English and another foreign language. As Niš is a university centre, if you run into some of its 30,000 students, you will have no problems talking to them.
Other officials, such as police officers, have had some basic English lessons, but do not expect miracles.
There can be more problems communicating with the elderly. Still, if you encounter a group of four or five persons, there is a good chance one will know enough English to help you get by.
There are many signposts all around the city in Serbian Cyrilic script followed by English translation which should help you find your way to hotels, central city institutions and sites. Familiarization with basic Cyrilic script would be a good idea, because Serbian national laws encourage traditional script, and Latin script, once all-present in the former Yugoslavia, is becoming more rare. The Latin script is dominant on advertisements and in shops, though.
Occasionally, you may encounter people who speak German, French or Russian, sometimes Italian or Spanish, but this is not very common.
Mediana, ancient mosaic floors
Niš is packed with historical sites worth visiting, dating from various periods.
Further afield
Niš is the venue of a number of national and international festivals.
Market (between the fortress and the bus station). The lively market is worth a visit. You can get almost anything you can imagine, and hundreds of local smallholders sell their fruit and veg in the covered market. Also farm made soft cheese. 
Niš hosts a variety of grand shopping malls and hypermarkets located on all outskirts of the city, where practically all goods can be purchased. The malls are usually a bit cheaper than small shops and visiting them is advisable if you should need supplies for a longer period of time (food, clothing, stationery, equipment). Major streets contain numerous signs directing a traveler to one of these (Mercator Center, Tempo, Metro, Interex, Impex Mega Market).
Souvenirs are available in small shops in the Fortress, in the central squares of the city, or in shops near historical locations.
The local currency is the dinar. Serbian law does not allow that you pay in euros, dollars or any other currency in the shops, so, if you use cash, you must convert the money into dinars. This may be done in any bank or exchange office, and there are many in the city centre (including some automatic exchange machines in the very core of the city). In addition, a variety of credit cards are welcome in most city shops. Vendors are legally obliged to provide fiscal stubs after any transaction. In practice, many places such as hotels will accept euro notes and give change in dinars.
Niš is a food paradise. It is said that Niš produces the best burek, a sort of greasy, phyllo dough pastry filled with cheese or ground meat that is popular throughout the Balkan peninsula. It resembles a cheese pie, but contains more fat and has stronger flavour. Also, by general consent, it is much more delicious. Some vendors sell other varieties such as apple, spinach or pizza burek (frequently just a combination between the meat and cheese Burek). Traditionally, you eat burek with yoghurt.
The Shopska salad is another phenomenal, yet simple, dish to be found in Niš. It consists of chopped up tomato, cucumber, onion, oil, a little salt and a generous topping of a domestic feta-like cheese. The local feta is usually less sharp than feta typically found in the west by a considerable margin. Most websites with recipes simply call it a brined sheep cheese and the French are known to make a similar feta. Another local trademark is the 'Urnebes' salad, literally translated as 'chaos' or 'pandemonium' - basically cream cheese in oil mixed with ground peppers, garlic and sometimes sesame.
Pljeskavica, sometimes referred to as the "Balkans Burger," is ubiquitous. Typically it contains a concoction of spiced ground beef, pork and lamb. It may be served in a bun, pita bread or by itself on a plate depending on where you get one. It usually is accompanied by onions, a paprika based sauce and in the case of the fast-food-esque vendors you'll have a variety of sauces and toppings to accompany it.
Chevapchichi (usually spelt with accented "c" instead of "ch", i.e. ćevapčići) is similarly made from spiced ground beef, pork and lamb. The mixture is formed into a 2-to-3 inch long sausage and served with onions and a paprika based sauce. Sometimes it will be served in a pita bread for easy, "on-the-go" consumption.
Other favourites include pizza, of which the Serbs do a splendid job, and various pasta dishes.
For those who do not wish to experiment too much, there are many traditional bakeries and pastry shops, and the inevitable McDonald's on the central city square.
Most restaurants have some options for vegetarians. Vegans might encounter more problems, although most are usually solved with the help of kind local restaurant owners. During traditional fasting periods, especially in April before Orthodox Easter holidays, many restaurants offer fish and non-animal food, including some specialties.
Mićko bakery, Vožda Karađorđa 76a (Opposite of the school (gimnazija).). Small bakery specialized in burek. One of the better burek shops in Niš. The burek is certainly less greasy than in some other bakeries. 
Restoran Riblja konoba, Kralja Stefana Prvovenčanog 5, ☏ +31 18-257728. 10:00 - 22:00. Fish restaurant in the centre, where both the cooking and the interior is old-fashioned. The menus are in both English and Serbian, and the waiters speak English. They have salt and fresh-water fish, and other seafood such as squid. During the summer there are tables outside. The cheapest meal would be fried fish (girice) and a potato salad (krompir salata) for about €2. The other dishes are more expensive. (updated Mar 2015)
Tap water is drinkable in Niš. Locals like to boast that, in addition to Vienna, Niš has the best water in central and southeast Europe. Although this claim can probably be contested, the water from the central supply system is drunk by most residents. More cautious visitors are advised to buy bottled water in any shop: a variety of brands are available, and Serbian mineral waters are very good, especially Knjaz Miloš, Vlasinska Rosa, Mivela and Heba. You can also try Jamnica and Jana which are imported from Croatia.
There is a throng of cafes in downtown Niš, most of which serve various coffee drinks, beers and liquors. Some specialty bars serve a more limited scope of beverages. There is also a branch of Costa Coffee on the central square.
Local wines are usually not the best of quality. The more expensive the better. International brands are offered in most bars.
Rakija, a powerful brandy made from various fruits (usually plum or apricot), is a local favorite. Attention: some kinds may be pretty strong for a newbie.
Nightclubs in Niš are somewhat different than those typically found in Belgrade or in other larger cities. Firstly, there is relatively little dancing and most clubs don't feature a dancefloor. Instead, clubs have tables and most people stand at their table and drink, while listening to the music. Tables must be reserved beforehand, though this is usually for free.Secondly electronical dance music is quite rare, with most clubs playing folk music instead.
Most clubs have only a Facebook page, so check that to see what they're doing that day.
View over the city of Nis, Serbia. Seen from Hotel Aleksandar
Niška Banja (the Spa) has a couple of older but decent hotels, such as Ozren, with prices from €24 for a single room incl breakfast. Alternatively, it may be possible to arrange a home-stay in Niška Banja. The spa is a few kilometers away from the town, so a bus or taxi ride to the centre is inevitable.
Stay safe
Nis is a very safe city. In summer months, even late into the night, you will see people walking through its streets with no fear whatsoever. In winter months, late at night, and in suburban areas, some reasonable caution is warranted. As with any other travel, keep your money, cell phones, travel documents and other valuables in secure places. As a pedestrian, follow regulations, including zebra crossings and green lights, even when you see locals ignoring them, as traffic wardens may jump out of nowhere and fine you.
In case of an emergency, call 192 (police), 193 (fire), 194 (ambulance) or the European standard 112.
In case of injury or illness, the place to go is the Hitna Pomoc (Emergency Aid Centre) of Nis Clinical Centre. If the urgency is not total, you may ask for help in the state Clinical Centre (follow the white signs with this name in the streets) or any of the numerous small private clinics scattered downtown. Be aware that not all medical facilities are well-stocked or have personnel that speak foreign languages, including English. Cash payment on the spot will almost certainly be required for medical services. Consult the embassy of your country, if possible.
Serbia has a social insurance agreement with most European nations. If you get a form from your local health insurance you can obtain free treatment in the local hospitals. You would first need to go to the national social insurance (RZZO) branch office in Niš to hand in the form and get another form for the local hospital or health centre. Since this procedure is complicated to complete without Serbian language skills it may be easier to visit a private doctor or polyclinic. Prices are very reasonable by European standards, starting from 10€ for a simple consultation with a PD.
Pharmacies are located all over the central city zone. They are marked with green crosses in front of the entrance. Their working hours are 07:00 to 21:00 or even 22:00 every day, including weekends. The central pharmacy, located in front of the National Theater building, a 2-minute walk from the central city square, is open 24/7. Serbia is still very liberal in terms of purchasing medication, so you are allowed to buy practically any basic drugs over the counter (painkillers, fever medication). However, for antibiotics a prescription is required. Prior consultation with a physician would be a good idea, though.
Go next
This city travel guide to Niš is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.

Last edited on 10 January 2021, at 04:30
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