Nikšić is situated in north-central Montenegro. It is located at the centre of the spacious Nikšić field (Nikšićko polje), a karst plain with an area of 48 km², and an elevation of 640 m AMSL. The plain is surrounded by inhospitable rocky mountainous terrain, a typical landscape of western Montenegro. The city itself is located at the foot of the Trebjesa hill.
Zeta river originates in the Nikšić field, and flows near the city of Nikšić, before it becomes a subterranean river south of the city. The river caused frequent flooding of the plain, until the construction of Hydroelectric power plant Perućica in 1960. The construction of the power plant resulted in creation of three large artificial lakes near the city - Krupac Lake, Slano Lake and Vrtac Lake. Today, the lakes are a popular recreation and relaxation retreats for the citizens of Nikšić.
Under the Köppen climate classification, Nikšić has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), which is influenced by the Mediterranean climate drying trend during summer. Average temperature for January is 1.3 °C (34.3 °F), while average temperature in July is 21.1 °C (70.0 °F). Average humidity amounts to 68,57%. Nikšić receives 2.245 hours of sunshine per year, with warm and moderately wet summers, and cool and rainy winters. On average, there are 19 days per year with snowfall.
The Romans built a military camp (castrum Anderba) in the 4th century AD, which was known as Ostrogothic fortress Anagastum (after 459. AD) possibly on an earlier Illyrian tribal settlement. Slavs settled in the area in the 6th and 7th century. The Roman name was transformed into Slavic Onogošt, which was the name of the town and župa (county) throughout the Middle Ages. During the Early Middle Ages, it was located within the South Slavic (Sklavenoi) tribal provinces of Travunia or Duklja (which were under the authority of the Serbian Principality of the Vlastimirović dynasty). With the fall of the Vlastimirovići and the hinterland regions in the second half of the 10th century, Serbia was resurrected with Stefan Vojislav and his Vojislavljević dynasty, succeeded by Stefan Nemanja and his Nemanjić dynasty, at which time the Onogošt župa existed. With the fall of the Serbian Empire, Onogošt came under the rule of Kingdom of Bosnia in 1373, and was under the rule of the Kosača noble family, which held territory in Herzegovina from 1448 until Herzegovina fell to the Ottomans.
The Ottoman Empire took hold of Nikšić in 1455, and it stayed under control of the Turks for more than four hundred years, as a part of Herzegovina Province. During the later years of Ottoman occupation, Nikšić served as a significant fortified military stronghold. It was conquered by the Montenegrin Army in 1877, under the command of Duke Mašo Vrbica. This conquest was recognized in Treaty of Berlin. After the conquest, the small Ottoman hamlet began to transform into a modern urban settlement. The first urban plan was adopted in 1883, commissioned by King Nicholas, and designed by Croatian architect Josip Slade (who also built the monumental Carev Most nearby). Development of Nikšić is based on the guidelines of 1883 plan to this day. Simultaneously with urban development, cultural and economical expansion followed.
Although the city was not devastated in the World Wars as much as Podgorica, all development and growth were halted. After the city was liberated from Axis occupation in 1944, the most dynamic growth of Nikšić followed. The city population was increased tenfold, and Nikšić became the heart of Montenegrin industrial complex. During the SFRY era, the city flourished, as steel and iron works, bauxite mines, electricity production, brewery and wood processing industries were set up in and around the city.
However, as a mainly industrial city, Nikšić was hit hard during the severe economic stagnation and decline of the industries throughout Montenegro during the 1990s, with Yugoslav Wars raging in the region. Some of the industries recovered during the 2000s (decade), and industry still makes up for the most economic activity in the city.
Although Nikšić area has seen human settlements since antiquity, most of the modern Nikšić is a planned city. Very little remains of the Ottoman architectural heritage, despite the long presence of Ottoman Empire in the area. The city layout visible today still follows the 1883 urban plan commissioned by King Nicholas and designed by Croatian architect Josip Slade.
According to this plan, the streets of Nikšić radiate to the north and east from the central city square (today a roundabout), locally known as Skver. The radial streets are intersected by circumferential streets and avenues, thus creating a half-spider web-like street layout.
Layers of different architectural styles and urban patterns are evident along the radial network of streets. Thus, closest to the central roundabout is the historical core of Nikšić, formed after the liberation from Ottoman Empire, and serving as a nucleus for Slade's urban plan. This area, on the foot of Trebjesa Hill, is home to King Nicholas Palace, City Park, and Freedom Square, main city square located along the central Njegoševa Street. The area is composed of mostly single or two storey row housing with basic designs, an architecture typical for late 19th and early 20th centuries Montenegro. The roundabout and the surrounding area is still the focal point of activities in the city, as bus and train stations, as well as commercial and civic services are located in the area.
Farther from the central roundabout, the historical core is encircled with a layer of mass residential blocks, built during the SFRY era. The building of the highrise residential blocks facilitated housing of the large population drawn to the city by rapid post-World War II industrialisation. The SFRY era apartment blocks are still home for the majority of residents of Nikšić.
Beyond the blocks, the city expanded in form of a suburban sprawl, that consists of detached housing. Close to the city blocks and major industrial areas, the lowrise single home suburbs are built with well executed urban plans, but farther away from the center, the city expanded in a chaotic and informal way. In addition, the rural areas south of Nikšić have merged with the city, so low density suburbs extend from the city in every direction, covering much of the Nikšić Field.
Although mostly perceived as an industrial center, Nikšić is also a city of rich cultural heritage. The most significant cultural institution in the city is Centar Za Kulturu (Cultural Center), which incorporates the city's major public cultural establishments:Zavičajni Muzej (County Museum), situated in King Nicholas Palace, documents the historical development of the city.
Nikšić art gallery
Public library and Public archive
Zahumlje folk music society
Stari Grad Anderva art society
The most significant cultural event in the city is Septembarski Dani Kulture (September days of Culture), that is one of the most recognizable cultural happenings in Montenegro. Other annual artistic events include Pjesnik na korzu (Poet on the promenade), Međunarodni festival glumca (International actors festival), Međunarodni festival kamerne muzike (International festival of chamber music), Međunarodni festival gitare and (International guitar festival). Lake Fest rock festival, held annually at Krupac lake, is gaining ground as one of the most recognizable music festivals in the region.
Nikšić is known for its distinctive cultural atmosphere and bohemian art scene, with poet Vitomir Nikolić and singers/songwriters like Miladin Šobić or Marinko Pavićević as prominent representatives of the Nikšić bohemian spirit. Živko Nikolić, a native of Nikšić, is considered the most significant Montenegrin movie director.
Media scene of Nikšić is mostly confined to public broadcasters TV Nikšić and Radio Nišić, and a number of commercial radio stations. Riječ and Luča magazines, published by Faculty of Philosophy, as well as Poznanstva children magazine, are also a part of Nikšić cultural scene.
Nikšić is home to 40 educational institutions. Among those are 11 nurseries, 25 elementary schools of which one is elementary music school and 4 high schools, including the Stojan Cerovic Gymnasium.
Nikšić is also home to two faculties of the University of Montenegro:Faculty of Philosophy - a complex educational and scientific institution which organizes undergraduate, specialist and postgraduate studies as well as doctoral studies within its main activities. Three institutes operate within the faculty:
Institute of philosophy and sociology
Institute of language and literature and
Institute of geography
Faculty of sports and physical education
Nikšić is regarded as one of the centers of Montenegrin sport. The combat sports are particularly popular in Nikšić, with a strong tradition in judo, karate and boxing. Nikšić judokas have been exceptionally successful at international competitions.
Sutjeska football club is the pillar of the city soccer tradition. The club has risen to the Yugoslav First League during the SFRY era, and has played in the Montenegrin First League since 2006. City Stadium is the clubs home field. Čelik football club is also becoming more prominent as it has reached the UEFA Europa League qualifying phase.
In basketball, not only has Nikšić produced great players (Bojan Dubljevic or Ana Pocek for example), but the local team KK Sutjeska Nikšić became champions of the Montenegrin Basketball Cup in 2013.
Other team sports, particularly handball and volleyball, are also popular in Nikšić.
Besides City Stadium, other significant sporting venue is the Nikšić Sports Center. This facility features a 3,000 seat indoor sports hall, olympic-size swimming pool, 6-lane bowling alley, sports shooting range, tennis and futsal courts, and various other facilities.
Vučje ski resort is 18 km away from the city center, making winter sports a popular recreation among the citizens of Nikšić.
Nikšić is administrative centre of Nikšić Municipality, which incorporates a densely populated fertile plain called "Župa", and has a population of 72,443 (2003. census). Nikšić itself has 56,970 citizens.
Nikšić Municipality can be viewed as a metropolitan area of the city of Nikšić.
Nikšić is, alongside Podgorica, one of the biggest industrial centres of Montenegro. A Steel mill (Nikšićka Željezara), bauxite mine, Trebjesa brewery (Nikšićka Pivara), and many more are concentrated in this city.
These big industries have struggled to survive the collapse of the socialist economy, but have since recovered. The process of privatization is either finished or still in progress for some of these industries.
Today those industry giants cannot employ as many workers as they could back in the days of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and the economy of Nikšić is slowly transforming into one that is more service-oriented. In 1981 Niksic's GDP per capita was 91% of the Yugoslav average.
Nikšić's main road connection is E762 highway, which connects Nikšić with Podgorica to the southeast, and with Plužine and on to the Foča and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Hercegovina) to the northwest. Another recently reconstructed north/south Montenegrin road corridor passes through Nikšić, the Risan/Trebinje-Nikšić-Šavnik-Žabljak road. This road is the shortest connection Nikšić has with Bay of Kotor and Montenegrin coast. Nikšić also has the distinction of being one of the first Montenegrin towns to have a bypass road. The bypass, built during the SFRY era, has been upgraded in 2011, and now services every transit corridor of Nikšić, directing all transit traffic away from the urban core. Like many cities in the former Yugoslavia, Nikšić is the hub of multiple intercity bus companies, the largest of them being Glušica Nikšić and 4 Decembar Nikšić which operate to destinations as far as Sarajevo and Belgrade.
Nikšić is the terminus of Nikšić-Podgorica railway, which is sole rail connection of the city. This railway line connects with Belgrade-Bar and Podgorica–Shkodër lines in Podgorica.
This rail link has been used mainly to transport bauxite from Nikšić bauxite mine to Podgorica Aluminium Plant. It is currently under reconstruction and electrification, and passenger service will be reintroduced once the reconstruction is completed. Three CAF Civity EMUs have been ordered by Railways of Montenegro specifically to serve this railway, cutting the travel time between Nikšić and Podgorica to only 50 minutes. The first of the new trains will go into service on June 1, 2013.
Nikšić used to have a narrow gauge railway connection with Bosnia and Herzegovina via Bileća and Trebinje. Shortly after Trebinje, the narrow gauge railroad used to split towards Čapljina in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zelenika in Bay of Kotor in Montenegro (a dead end) and Dubrovnik in Croatia (also a dead end). After reaching Čapljina, the railroad used to split either to Ploče harbour in Croatia or to the rest of the world via Mostar and Sarajevo. This narrow rauge railroad link to Nikšić was built in 1938 and demolished in 1976.
Nikšić Airport is located on the western outskirts of the city. It is a small sport airport, that caters to needs of general aviation, and of local enthusiast aviation club. After significant reconstruction and expansion, the airport was chosen to be a host of 2010 FAI World Parachuting Championships. Scheduled passenger service has yet to be introduced.
Podgorica Airport is some 60 km (37 mi) away from Nikšić, and has regular flights to Belgrade, Sarajevo, Budapest, Zürich, Frankfurt, Ljubljana, Paris, Rome and Vienna. Both Tivat and Dubrovnik airports are some 100 km (62 mi) away, and offer regular services to major European destinations.