The Balkans in practice: Novi Sad is the most beautiful city in Serbia
Those who have seen and visited Serbia more than ours may not agree with such a categorical assessment: Novi Sad is the most beautiful Serbian city, not “one of the most beautiful. But based on the fact that we have seen only three Serbian cities, Novi Sad is indeed the most beautiful for us. Especially against the background of littered and suffering from ugly graffiti Nis, untended “baby” Belgrade and depressed Macedonia.
Perhaps this is due to the fact that we were very lucky with the weather in mid-November. The sun was shining boldly in spring, and the sky had that special shade of blue with little flecks of clouds when you get the best pictures.
Perhaps the mood was just like the weather – festive, because it was in Novi Sad that I would celebrate my 29th birthday.
And how could I not like a city with such a romantic name “Novy Sad”?
History Lessons. How Novi Sad stands out from the crowd
Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia and the capital of the autonomous province of Vojvodina. One of the most multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-confessional Serbian cities. Serbian, Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian, Romanian, Ruthenian, and other regional languages are spoken here. Here you will find Catholic cathedrals, Orthodox churches and synagogues. It is a major industrial and financial center. It is a city with a European luster and a Slavic soul.
Not surprisingly, Novi Sad is very popular with tourists. And not so much for tourists from the former Soviet Union countries, but rather for tourists from Western and Central Europe, which is attracted to Novi Sad by the combination of a large number of attractions and the charm of the architectural look and very, very affordable prices.
Why was the city called the “Hungarian Gibraltar”?
Like many other cities in the Balkans, the settlement we know today as Novi Sad was first conquered by the Celts, then by the Romans. On the right bank of the Danube, the Romans built the first major fortress, later renamed by the Byzantines in honor of St. Peter, Petricon.
Later, when the Christian empires collapsed one by one, this area was under the rule of the Ottoman Turks for 1.5 centuries. It was not until the 17th century that the new empire, Auto-Hungary, succeeded in conquering the settlement, which occupied a strategic position between the Christian and Muslim worlds. Thus, on the right bank of the Danube, at the location of Petrikon, was founded a mighty fortress of Petrovaradin, which the Turks never dared to attack.
The city of Petrovaradin, populated primarily by Hungarians, emerged near Petrovaradin Fortress. The fortress was a key fortification on the border of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, so it was compared to Gibraltar, which had a similar strategic position.
Why was the city called “Serbian Athens”?
On the left bank of the Danube, opposite the Petrovaradin fortress, a settlement of Serbs called the “New Garden” emerged. Back in the times of the Habsburgs, when the whole of Serbia was in the Ottoman Empire and was only a vassal without the right to independence, the city was actively developing and becoming the center of Serbian culture and education in the region. That is why Novi Sad has been nicknamed the “Serbian Athens”, because it has become for Serbia the “cultural cradle”, like Athens had been for the whole Western civilization.
From the left bank to the right bank of the Danube, the Varadin Bridge, which once connected two separate settlements, Petrovaradin and Novi Sad, now joins the areas of one big and beautiful city.
In 1999, NATO troops repeatedly bombed Novi Sad, as the second most important city after Belgrade. As a result of the bombing, the Varadin bridge was destroyed and a man was killed.
What to see in Novi Sad. Main Square
I recommend starting your walk through the city from the main square – Freedom Square, which under various names has appeared in the history of the city since its foundation.
The first thing that attracts attention is a slender silhouette of the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary and its spire, staring into the sky, lined with colored tiles.
The very fact that there is a Catholic church in the main square of the predominantly orthodox city, speaks volumes about the unusual fate of Novi Sad, where people of different confessions have lived side by side for centuries.
Also on the square is the city hall (town hall), near which a peaceful and small rally took place,
and bank buildings dating from the late 19th century.
In the center of the square is a monument to Svetozar Miletic, the Serbian patriot writer. The monument, in my opinion, somewhat ugly. Somehow Miletich has an unrealistically huge right hand.
The pedestrian zone
Immediately from the square to both sides begins the pedestrian zone along which there are boutiques, restaurants, cafes with tables in the open air, souvenir stores, bars, hotels and even hostels (we stayed in one of them, just five minutes from Freedom Square).
Small neat two-storied houses of different shades of pastel, arranged along the pedestrian zone, emphasize that Novi Sad, though a large by the standards of Serbia, but still a provincial city, and return to the days when the pavement rustled the dresses of merchants’ wives and daughters.
Virtually all the buildings in the central part of Novi Sad date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The earlier buildings have not been preserved as the city was almost completely destroyed during the Revolution of 1848.
In the pedestrian zone of Novi Sad you will find everything that is so important for a comfortable trip and proper rest. Novi Sad is one of those rare cities where you will not be bored even if you spend a few days there: during the daytime you can go to a museum or take a sightseeing tour, and in the evening you can go to a bar or to a classical music concert.
By the way, many tourists from Europe come to Novi Sad on weekends.
Novi Sad has a huge number of stores and shopping centers, in one of which we did the only purposeful shopping during our trip. By the way, the clothes of Serbian brands are very, very decent. There are really interesting things.
From Freedom Square walk up the pedestrian street Zmaj Jovina. The street ends with a very beautiful ensemble of the Vladyčanský dvůr (Bishop’s Palace) and the Serbian Orthodox Church’s cathedral dedicated to St. George. In front of the Bishop’s Palace stands the monument to the Serbian poet Jovan Zmaj.
If you walk from Freedom Square down King Aleksandar Street to the intersection with Mihaila Pupin Boulevard (he was a Serbian scientist), you will find a small green courtyard with an arch in the center. The arch is set so that the tall tower of St. Mary’s Church fits into it perfectly.
In this courtyard we sat on a bench, admiring the surrounding buildings and enjoying the sunny weather.
Not far from Varadinski Bridge, if you walk from Freedom Square along Zmaj Jovina Street and then along Dunajská Street, there is the Danube Park, which is considered the most beautiful in the city and has existed since 1895. The best way is to combine your visit with a walk to Petrovaradinska Fortress, because the park is right on the way.
It is a very quiet and peaceful place for contemplation of nature in the center of the bustling city. There is a pond, where rank ducks
and aristocratic swans, whose names are Isa and Bisa.
The best place to see the whole town is the Petrovaradin fortress, which is, like any self-respecting fortress, located on a hill.
It took shape in the 17th and 18th centuries, when the Austrians made it the main fortification on the Danube, but it was never attacked by the Turks. The Ottoman Empire in those days was apparently, as they say nowadays, “no longer a cake.
From the fortress remained directly to the castle walls, as well as a unique system of underground tunnels.
As I wrote above, around the fortress arose the town of Petrovaradin, inhabited by inhabitants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today Petrovaradin is one of the districts of Novi Sad.
The territory of the fortress is open 24 hours a day and is free to visit.
There are museums, souvenir stores and cafes with the view of Novi Sad, as well as numerous art workshops and galleries, which confirms the flattering nickname of Novi Sad as the “Serbian Athens”.
What is worth spending time on the Petrovaradin fortress, however, is the opportunity to look around the city from the high ground, to get a more comprehensive view of it.
The fortress has a main observation deck, which is a mini square. And, as on any square, there is a tower with a clock (18th century). The clock on the tower is unique in the fact that the small hand indicates the minutes, and the big – the hours. It was made for the convenience of ships sailing on the Danube, so that the sailors (or river personnel, as they say in the river fleet?) could see what time it is.
This is the view of Novi Sad during the day…
and at night. Wonderful city, isn’t it?
The only unpleasantness that happened to me during my walk through Petrovaradin Fortress was my own fault. My husband was taking photos with Canon, as he should, and I was trying to keep up with him, torturing my smartphone and taking those awful pictures, which can be shown only on instagram and under a heavy layer of filters.
Apparently, the smartphone had had enough of the incessant pulling out of my pocket, and it slipped out of my hands-right onto the pavement. The screen cracked, but didn’t go out, broadcasting a meaningless picture in pink. That’s how on my birthday I lost my smartphone:(But I also stopped fiercely photographing everything, so I felt more free.
Novi Sad churches
There are a lot of churches in Novi Sad belonging to different denominations. No, there aren’t. There are VERY many. We didn’t have two days to see all of them, let alone go into each one.
But you will still see the main churches as you walk around downtown.
First and foremost is the already familiar St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Liberty Square. The church was built at the end of the 19th century in the neo-Gothic style. The tower is 76 meters high.
The second church that you must visit is the Cathedral of the Serbian Orthodox Church, dedicated to St. George (1860 – 1905). The church is considered a masterpiece of Serbian baroque.
Interior. The iconostasis with 33 icons was painted by the Serbian artist Paja Jovanovic.
Synagogue (1909), oddly enough, on Jewish Street:)
Church in Petrovaradin
Church of the Assumption (1776), located near the theater building
These, of course, are not all the churches that came across our eyes. If you want you can make an itinerary of religious buildings in Novi Sad. In addition to the more traditional denominations, there are churches of Adventists, Calvinists, Evangelicals, and Methodists. All in all, a whole day can be devoted just to getting to know these churches.
Cafes and restaurants
The tourist infrastructure in Novi Sad is really well developed, so you will find cafes and restaurants offering both local (don’t forget to try pleskavica and duna!) and European cuisine. And in Novi Sad, as everywhere else in Serbia, there are lots of coffee shops, bakeries and confectionary shops – the Serbs love coffee and sweets, which was inherited from the Ottoman Turks.
I will dwell a bit more on the restaurant where we celebrated my 29th birthday. Its name in translation from Serbian is very difficult for me to understand right now. We went there by chance, simply because it was next to our hostel “Sova.
The experience was both successful and very unusual. We did not choose dishes from the menu. The owner and at the same time chef (as I understood) of the restaurant came out to us and offered us three changes of dishes, each of which would be a surprise for us.
I must say that the surprises were very pleasant – everything was prepared on the highest level and also beautifully served. Portion sizes were such that we were not stuffed but ate just enough so that we could feel full without a heavy stomach.
The main “chip” of the restaurant was that we did not know what dish the chef would surprise us next time.
I have already forgotten the names and exact composition of the dish, but believe me, everything was really delicious.
Books were placed on the shelves nearby so that the guests would not get bored waiting for the food. However, all of them were in Serbian or Croatian languages. But it was still interesting to browse through them – some of them dated from the beginning of the last century.
Across the wall from us there was a large group of foreigners speaking English, which once again confirms the tourist attractiveness of this place.
In short, the restaurant, where we went quite by chance to celebrate my birthday, was one of the best in our travel practice.
Where to stay
In Novi Sad, as a tourist-oriented city, there is a wide choice of accommodations. This time we decided to stay at the hostel “Sova”, which is a five-minute walk from the central square.
And again we encountered the hospitality of the Serbs, because we were given a room with a separate shower and toilet without extra money, although we had to live like others in the common wing.
The hosts treated us with kindness and hospitality, asked us about Moscow, told us some stories themselves. All this in a mixture of English and Serbian, which is partly similar to Russian.
And we met such a nice local inhabitant:)
How to get there
If you will visit Serbia and Belgrade (now there are a lot of flights to other European cities with connection in the Serbian capital), and if you have 10-12 hours to spare, I recommend you to go straight to Novi Sad. It is only an hour north of Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport, so there is no need to go to Belgrade itself, which is further south of the airport.
It is possible to pre-book a collective shuttle to Novi Sad and back without going to Belgrade. The price will be about 400 rubles.
A spoon of tar. Yes, unfortunately, she is.
Ubiquitous and absolutely senseless graffiti that disfigure the image of many modern cities. Hands would be torn off to those who draw all sorts of nonsense on historic (and in general on any) buildings.
This is how the wonderful Serbian city of Novi Sad appeared to us. I can say that two days is not enough time for it, because the surroundings of Novi Sad are also interesting – there is a national park Fruska Gora with unique natural landscapes.
My husband and I mutually decided that we liked the city and that we would definitely return to it someday. Perhaps in the summer – at this time there are numerous music festivals.
In this review you will learn everything about the Serbian city of Novi Sad, the attractions of the city, how to get there, where to eat, where to go, and what not to waste time on and many more tips and tips for travelers.
Table of Contents:
- A brief history of the city
- Novi Sad Facts
- Novi Sad attractions: map, description, recommendations
- Festivals and events in Novi Sad
- How to get from Belgrade or Nikola Tesla Airport
Resources to help the traveler
- The most adequate car rental – DiscoveryCar
- Car rental (accepts Russian cards and cash) – Mycar
- Metasearch engine for apartments, hostels, villas – Hotellook
- Russian speaking tours – Tripster
Novi Sad: a brief history of the city
Always not the most interesting part, but important because it gives insight and understanding of the architectural features of the city and the mentality of the locals.
Novi Sad is a unique city, on the one hand it is the biggest city in Serbia after its capital, but on the other hand it is one of the youngest cities in Serbia.
- Novi Sad was founded in 1694, and today it is a little more than 300 years old.
By Serbian standards, that is not an age. Everyone knows that during its twenty century history, Serbia and its territory have seen hundreds of military conflicts and invasions.
Its territory had been conquered many times by Romans, Turks, Austrians and many others. But Novi Sad has not suffered such a fate.
Novi Sad was founded by Serbian merchants when the time of Turkish invasions was coming to an end and the Ottoman Empire had lost its power on European lands.
The first and last significant military conflict occurred in 1848-1849. The city wanted independence and autonomy and the revolution broke out, which destroyed Novi Sad by more than 80% in a year and a half. Later the city was reconstructed and there was no more such destruction.
Also, do not forget about the NATO bombing of the city in 1999, which was directed against the regime of Slobadan Milosevic and the infrastructure: the bombed bridges, TV towers, plants are working for the “defense” of the country. The photos will be below.
Today Novi Sad is a major cultural, industrial and economic center of Serbia.
Novi Sad Facts
- Second largest city in Serbia with 255 thousand inhabitants
- City located on Europe’s largest river, the Danube
- Officially, Novi Sad has two shortest streets: Nenad and Velicković Street, both 31 meters long.
- Leo Tolstoy almost became a resident of Novi Sad.
- The history of the city knows two interesting taxes:
- on drunkenness: everyone who stayed in a pub after 11 p.m. has to pay 1 dinar
- The tax on fresh air: all those who sit on a bench in the city parks have to pay 2 dinars
- It is true that both taxes were abolished long ago, but history remembers them.
Novi Sad: attractions
To say that the list of attractions of Novi Sad will take 5 pages in fine handwriting, I can’t. The iconic places there are not so much. Below I will tell you about all the interesting and must-see sights.
It will take you only one full day to get around the city center. Therefore, I recommend planning two full days in Novi Sad. 1 day you dedicate to the sights of the city, and on the second day you go to the national park Fruska Gora, which is 20 km away from Novi Sad.
Read the full report about the Fruska Gora National Park here.
Petrovaradin Fortress and Clock Tower
A classic fortress, built on a hill, on the bend of the Danube, which occupies a very strategic position, in case of any sieges and attacks.
Needless to say, during the uprising of 1848, the cannons on the walls of this fortress had practically flattened the entire city of Novi Sad.
The territory of Petrovaradin fortress is vast, and today there are many paths and observation decks:
- there are 2 restaurants
- coffee house
- clock tower
- and many tunnels, some open to tourists, some closed. Locals say that there are 6 levels of defense tunnels under the fortress.
Here is an interesting fact:
According to official data, there are 12,000 loopholes on the walls of the fortress, and at one time there were weapons in each of them.
If you look at the overall view of the fortress, then on the left you can see a small white tower with a clock. It is a unique clock that shows the correct time, but the hour hand is longer than the minute hand.
It was made for the merchants and citizens of Novi Sad, who lived on the opposite bank of the Danube. So that they could tell from afar what time it was. In those days knowing what time it was was more important than knowing what time it was.
- Coordinates: 45.252578, 19.861401
- Opening hours: the fortress is open 24 hours a day.
- Cost of admission: Entrance to the grounds is free, as is the square to the clock tower.
- Planning time: about 2 hours to take a leisurely stroll around the castle and have a coffee with a view of the Danube.
- Author’s rating: 10 out of 10. The most famous and main attraction of Novi Sad. Petrovaradin fortress is visited by 99% of tourists in the city. It is very difficult to be in Novi Sad and not be in this fortress.
The main pedestrian street of the city. Most tourists begin their acquaintance with Novi Sad from there.
Danube Street is full of cafes and restaurants, souvenir shops and beautiful buildings. Just walk around and watch how Serbian life is boiling in the heart of Novi Sad.
- Coordinates: 45.256898, 19.847870
- How much time to plan: 1-2 hours. If you just walk down the street without sitting around, 30-40 minutes will be enough.
- Author’s Rating: 10 out of 10. This is the second most famous attraction in the city.
Freedom Square and Town Hall
The main square of the city and the very heart of it. It occupies a large area and on it you can find:
- Town Hall
- The monument to Svetozar Miletic
- The huge Roman Catholic Church
- Very cool hotel Vojvodina. By the way, in Novi Sad there are affordable apartments at a super price with windows on the main square – it’s just the bomb.
Freedom Square is very similar to the main squares in many European cities, especially in Poland. It’s not particularly special, neat, spacious and beautiful.
- Coordinates: 45.255100, 19.845013
- Author’s recommendation: 7 out of 10. You will probably get there anyway because all roads either to the castle or to Dunajská Street go through Freedom Square.
- Coordinates: 45.236791, 19.849074
The Danube is not the kind of river that lets you swim wherever you want. It has very strong currents, muddy water, difficult bottom, and the banks are rocky and steep.
Beaches on the Danube are still to be found. The beach of Strand is probably the only beach in Novi Sad, and definitely the biggest and the main one.
If you are lucky enough to be in Novi Sad on a sunny summer day and have time, go to Strand beach, it’s great.
- Recommendation of the author: 5 out of 10. A classic beach that is not particularly culturally interesting. But if you have time and a desire to freshen up, you must visit.
From the beach you can not see the fortress, but a pity. But the beach is located near the bridge, which was bombed by NATO in 1999.
The bridge looked like this in 1999 and on the right side of it you can see a small piece of the beach.
The national park of Fruska Gora, located 20 km from Novi Sad, has always been one of the landmarks of Novi Sad. The locals say that it is a part and history of the city.
- Coordinates: 45.149887, 19.829529
The link to the report and overview of Fruska Gora Park was above in the article. I will only say one thing, if you come to Novi Sad for two days, the national park is a must visit, if for one day, it is better to get acquainted with the city. And a visit to the park should be left for the next trip.
I would also like to note that in Novi Sad there are still a huge number of attractions on religious and museum topics:
For those who like to explore new cities with a guide, I recommend checking out the excursion programs here:
Useful to Know:
Locally, all tours are in Serbian or English only. You won’t find them in Russian anywhere else.
Novi Sad Festival
The most famous music festival in Novi Sad is the Exit Festival, which has been held annually since 2000 on the territory of the Petrovaradinka fortress.
The festival was conceived in 2000 as an anti-political event against the regime and legacy of Slobadan Milosevic. But over the years, the politics have gone and all that is left is the music.
This is the kind of crowd that the Exit Fest gathers every year in Novi Sad.
Today it is a four-day festival that annually gathers 200-300 thousand participants. It is the premier music event of the year, and international stars come here to perform on more than 30 stages of the festival.
Exit Festival usually takes place in July. For exact dates and tickets for next year, see the official festival website: www.exitfest.org.
How to get from Belgrade or Nikola Tesla Airport
The easiest way is of course by car. Belgrade and Novi Sad are connected by a luxurious toll road with a speed limit of 130 km/h. Nikola Tesla airport is located just between Belgrade. It is a 40 minute flight to Novi Sad.
This is the road all the way between Belgrade and Novi Sad.
All about car hire, where, how and for how much you can read in full report about car hire in Serbia. There you can also find information on parking in Novi Sad.
If you don’t have a car and only need public transportation, the most convenient option is the bus.
Regular bus connections between the cities are excellent. There are more than 15 trips a day from the central bus station in Belgrade to Novi Sad. There are buses every hour during the day. The travel time is just under an hour and a half and you are in the center of Novi Sad.
Ticket price: from 600 to 880 dinars (from 5 euros). The price depends on the occupancy and the time of the flight, the prices are lower for night and evening flights. Look for tickets and buy them on the official website of the carrier: www.redvoznje.net/sr/autobuske-linije/beograd/novi-sad
Most buses stop at the airport on the way. You can find out all the flights via the airport on the same website. If you are going to Novi Sad straight from the airport, read where to buy a local SIM card and what is the coverage in Serbia .
In conclusion: if your Serbian trip takes you to Novi Sad and you have time for 2 days, you should definitely come here. But if you are short of time then it’s better to go to the south of the country where the viewpoints and national parks are stunning.
If you find a mistake, leave it in the comments.
IMPORTANT: Below are some useful links that are essential for organizing your trip to Serbia (add them to bookmarks).