Serbia was the third country that I visited on my last trip after the United Arab Emirates and Turkiye. For those who didn't know, I've been obsessed with the Balkan region for as long as I can remember, and visiting Serbia has marked a new milestone for me as I've just checked one of the top of my bucket list for this decade.
Initially, I wanted to travel around the whole Balkan region as I planned. But since I started my trip by the end of 2021, most European countries had not opened their border to Indonesian citizens yet at the time. Good thing for me, because as an Indonesian citizen, I am eligible to enter Serbia for 30 days within a year without a visa.
The good news is that I got to travel around and visit some of the must-visit places in Serbia. Dora, my best friend from Croatia, whom I've known for almost 20 years since MySpace, decided to drive to Serbia so we could have a lovely girls' trip throughout the country.
In this post, I'm going to list some of the best places to visit in Serbia and how to travel around the country.
Why You Should Visit Serbia
As someone coming from a big country like Indonesia, I find Serbia so easy to explore since it seems like I could technically travel around the country for a week or two. Unlike its neighboring countries that are surrounded by coasts, Serbia is a landlocked country that is still worth your visit if you're into beautiful nature, history, and just a little fun to have a good break from your routine.
In the west part of Serbia, there's Tara National Park. Located close to the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, it's surrounded by Drina River, a river that marks the boundary between Serbia and Bosnia. While I didn't get a chance to stop by Tara National Park due to my unfortunate incident of getting pickpocketed in Belgrade, I got a chance to stroll around the banks of Drina when I was in Loznica.
As I visited Serbia during winter, Kopaonik and Zlatibor are the most popular winter destinations in the country as they have plenty of ski resorts where you can opt to spend the holidays in the country. While Dora and I was initially planning to stop by Kopaonik for skiing, the weather was super sunny when we got on a road trip throughout Serbia that we only got a chance to have a good lunch in Zlatibor with barely any snow in sight.
If you're bound to travel to Serbia in the summer, most people tell me that it's the best time to visit the country since they're also popular with the music festivals held in the loveliest time of the year. One of the most music festivals in Serbia, EXIT Festival has been held annually since it was founded in 2000. Dubbed as one of the best music festivals in Europe, it will be held for the first time in Novi Sad next month since it was canceled and held virtually in the past couple of years due to Covid-19.
From my understanding, Serbia always has something for everyone at each time of the year. As for me, I was determined to experience my first winter wonderland in Serbia last year and so I did, although I didn't get a chance to go skiing or do any typical winter activities there.
And despite the hiccup of my trip as my purse got stolen in Belgrade, I could say that I still got to enjoy Serbia to the fullest when I was there.
Although I didn't get a chance to visit every significant site in the country, I could definitely get you a list of places that you must consider visiting if you happen to travel to Serbia.
How to Travel Around Serbia
If there's anything I've come to understand when it comes to traveling around Europe, it is that the most convenient way to travel is by getting on a road trip, whether it is by renting a van or a car on your own. As Dora drove her own car, we basically only relied on Google Maps for the direction, and we only spent money on gas and food along the way.
While I'm not sure how to rent a van in Serbia, but if you need a car with an awesome driver, I'd totally recommend Milan Djordjevic if you want to travel around Serbia or you need a transfer to or from the airport. I used Milan's service from Nikola Tesla Airport to my apartment in Vracar, he's definitely someone you can rely on, and he offers inter-city and international services from and to Serbia.
How to Travel by a Public Bus in Serbia
Alternatively, you can also travel around Serbia by bus. Although to be fair, I experienced a massive culture shock when I got on the bus in Serbia for the first time. Getting on the bus in Serbia reminds me of the public bus in Indonesia in the 1990s, and it was quite shocking for me since I thought traveling by bus in Serbia would be at least similar to the public bus in Turkey. Boy, was I wrong!
Like most bus stations in Europe, bus stations in Serbia have inter-city and international bus services. I saw some Flixbus at the station when I was traveling by bus in Serbia, and although I've never traveled with Flixbus before, I suppose the brand is quite popular for traveling around Europe by bus.
Now, let's go back to traveling around Serbia by bus… I'm not sure if it's common in Europe, but I personally don't find traveling by bus in Serbia convenient or efficient at all. If it wasn't because of my friend Nikola who told me about how to travel by bus to Loznica, I doubt that I would find out how to effectively buy a bus ticket in Serbia. But thanks to him, at least I could share my experience now.
While there may be some booking platforms where you can book a bus ticket online in Serbia, going to the sales office may still be necessary if you want to take the bus in the country. I had to go to the sales office at the bus station in Belgrade when I traveled to Loznica and Novi Sad, and here's what happened!
When you purchase a bus ticket in Serbia, you will get a printed bus ticket and also a token to enter the designated platform at the bus station. Mind you, you shouldn't lose both of them because otherwise there's a chance you will have to repurchase the ticket. Serbia, just like all countries in Europe, implements GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) which won't require you to fill out your data when purchasing a bus ticket.
While it might protect your personal data, I eventually found the flaw in the practice when I lost my bus ticket from Belgrade to Novi Sad. As mentioned before, I got pickpocketed in Belgrade, and I put the ticket I bought in the stolen purse. Without my personal data, there was no way to reclaim the ticket so I had to repurchase it in the end.
The sales office at the bus station only accepts cash for the payment, so make sure you have enough money when you're queueing to buy a bus ticket through the sales office.
I got a chance to try two bus companies in Serbia, including Raketa AB and Lasta, and here's my take on both companies. I think it's a common practice in Serbia that you'll get a cheaper price for a return ticket, I made the mistake to buy a one-way ticket when I bought a bus ticket from Belgrade to Loznica, and I ended up having to pay double compared to if I bought a return ticket for the same route.
Anyway, according to my friend Nikola, Raketa is the best bus company in Serbia and I somehow understand why. So here's what you need to expect when you travel by bus around Serbia.
First of all, there's no assigned seat even for the inter-city bus in Serbia. And all the buses that I took stopped at every bus stop along the way and they would bring new passengers even when the seat was already full. So it seems that it's quite common that you can find passengers standing for an inter-city route like Belgrade to Novi Sad. That, at least, is what I experienced in both Raketa and Lasta bus company.
The only advantage of Raketa compared to Lasta is that their bus ticket includes the baggage facility. When I took Lasta bus to Novi Sad, I had to pay an extra 200 RSD (around $1.7 USD) to put my bag in the trunk.
If there's no change to the public bus system in Serbia, I suppose there's no guarantee that you would get a seat on the public bus even if you have a legit ticket for it. However, the best way to prevent that from happening is to always buy an official bus ticket from the main bus station since you could at least make sure to enter the bus first to claim your seat there.
So yeah, I personally wouldn't recommend traveling by bus in Serbia. But if you're looking into a budget option to travel around the country and you have to take the coach to get to your destination, be prepared for something that you may not have experienced elsewhere!
The Best Places to Visit in Serbia
In no particular order, I'm going to list some of the best places that I've visited in Serbia and add some snippets on why I'd consider them a place that will be worth visiting when you're in the country.
So, what are the must-visit spots in Serbia?
Places to Visit in Belgrade, Serbia
As I got a chance to stay in Serbia for a month without a visa this year, I decided to make Belgrade my home base for a few reasons. My main consideration is the easy access for me to get to the airport since my flight from and to Istanbul was from Nikola Tesla Airport in the capital city. But other than that, there are many places to visit in Belgrade.
As the main city that witnessed the country's turbulent history, it has almost everything to offer for travelers. Whether you're there for Yugo-nostalgia to trace back their history for when they were a part of deceased Yugoslavia, or you're there for the infamous nightlife scene, Belgrade is undoubtedly worth visiting for a few days alone.
1. The Temple of Saint Sava
Hram Svetog Save, or the Temple of Saint Sava in Serbian, is pretty much located in the center of Belgrade. Situated in the Vracar area of Belgrade, the temple was built at the estimated location of St. Sava's grave. St. Sava is the founder and the first archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
It is practically the landmark of Belgrade, or even Serbia in general. The biggest Orthodox temple in Serbia, St. Sava is also one of the world's largest Eastern Orthodox church buildings. Christmas Eve and Orthodox New Year are two of many large gatherings held in the temple.
However, unlike Catholics and other Christians who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, Serbian Orthodox Christians celebrate it on the 7th of January. Same goes as the Orthodox New Year as they celebrate it on the 15th of January instead of the 1st. The reason behind it was that the Orthodox Christian use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar as regular Christians do for all the festive celebrations.
Whether you're an Orthodox Christian or not, St. Sava is a place that you must not miss in Belgrade. The building replicated the architecture of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, as it was inspired by the Serbian-Byzantine style. The exterior was finished in 2004, but the church isn't 100% done as a small part of it is still under construction.
However, the Temple of St. Sava is still worth visiting. If you're an Orthodox Christian, you may want to stop by and pray. Even if you're not, you can visit the temple while taking some time to adore its architecture and beautiful murals.
2. Kalemegdan Park and the Belgrade Fortress
Only walking distance from the famous Republic Square that is usually used as a meeting point in the center of Belgrade, the Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Fortress are among many must-visit places while you're in the capital city of Serbia.
Not only because it's free entry to have a nice stroll around the fortress and the park, you can also enjoy the view of Belgrade and the Danube River from the bench at the park. I stopped by the fortress and Kalemegdan twice when I was in Belgrade, but unfortunately, the weather didn't get along with me since the first time I went there, it was raining so heavily while the second one it was super cold to the point I decided to go back home. LOL.
Built from the 2nd to 18th centuries, the fortress was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, but it has always been the symbol of Belgrade since the beginning of the civilization of the capital city. Built on a white ridge above Sava and Danube River, it was where the name Beograd – literally translated as the ‘white city' – (the local name for Belgrade) came from.
Belgrade Fortress witnessed how the city was conquered from one army to another. Traced back from Roman era, to Serbs and Turks, Kalemegdan used to be the fighting field to protect the people of Belgrade from the enemies.
Around the corner facing the walls of the city, you will be able to find the “Victor” monument to symbolize the victory of Belgrade over the periods of time. If you're lucky, you can also get to see other parts of the fortress including the Roman Well, the gunpowder magazine, and even the old Turkish Hamam.
3. Republic Square
Hands down the most recognizable area in Belgrade, Republic Square has often been used as the meeting point for anyone who's up to hang out in the capital city of Serbia. The square itself showcased the famous landmarks in the capital city, including the National Museum, the National Theater, and the statue of Prince Michael. Hence, the name of the pedestrian street being Knez Mihailova.
It connects Kolarceva intersection with the pedestrian street Knez Mihailova. While strolling around the area itself can be pretty fun, the area seems to be a good place for shopping or just hanging out around cafes and bars.
There's also a big mall at the corner of Knez Mihailova that is not too far from Kalemegdan Park, Rajiceva Shopping Center. Now, Knez Mihailova is a pretty big area to stroll around, but whenever I got around the pedestrian street and I urgently needed to go to the toilet, I always headed to Rajiceva to use their public toilet.
Also, another culture shock that I experienced in Serbia is how rare it is to find black tea even at the supermarket. I noticed it when I went to Aroma close to my apartment in Vracar, and the only tea option they had there was the fruity tea. Well, I eventually found a pack of black teabags when I went to Maxi at Rajiceva.
The bohemian street in Serbia, Skadarlija has become the second most visited area in Belgrade after Kalemegdan and Belgrade Fortress. Formerly the municipality of Belgrade, Skadarlija is definitely well-preserved as it is protected by the local law as a cultural-historical area in the capital city of Serbia.
Nowadays, Skadarlija has become one of the fanciest areas in Belgrade, with picturesque pedestrian streets and many bars and cafes in the surrounding areas.
During my stay in Belgrade, I only went to Skadarlija area once despite I got a chance to stroll around Knez Mihailova more than twice. When I stopped by Skadarlija, it was at around 4 or so and it was raining at the time.
I'm not sure if the area was more popular at night or it was a little too quiet when I went there because of the rain, but rest assured… I personally thought that Knez Mihailova is definitely more crowded than Skadarlija.
The cobbled street with some excellent cafe options, I would recommend visiting Skadarlija at night since I was there in the evening, and I don't think it was the best time to stop by the area. Well, the cobblestone on the street certainly made it a bit challenging to stroll around when it was raining, but it was still a nice stroll! 😉
5. Museum of Yugoslavia and The House of Flowers
It's hard not to go all Yugo-nostalgia when you're in Serbia. It was only in 2003 when Yugoslavia eventually changed its name to Serbia and Montenegro. And before 2003, God knows what they've been through with their turbulent history under the name of Yugoslavia.
Museum of Yugoslavia in Belgrade is the best place to visit if you want to reminisce the good old days of Yugoslavia in its glory. On top of that, it's almost impossible to talk about Yugoslavia without mentioning Josip Broz Tito in the conversation.
A respectful leader in his time, he was the lifetime president of Yugoslavia from 1953 to his passing in 1980. He was buried in the House of Flowers in Belgrade, alongside his wife, Jovanka Broz, who died later in 2013. The House of Flowers is located in the same area as the Museum of Yugoslavia. When you get a chance to visit Belgrade, you certainly shouldn't miss this museum in your itinerary!
For 400 dinars (around $3.6 USD), you can get the entrance ticket to the three museum buildings in the area, including the 25 May Museum, the House of Flowers, and the Old Museum. The latter is located in the center, close to the museum's entrance. However, since you need to go to the ticket office first to be eligible for the entrance, what I did was visiting the 25 May Museum first, with the Old Museum being the last exhibition that I visited when I went to visit the Museum of Yugoslavia.
The 25 May Museum was opened on the same date in 1962 as a present for Josip Broz Tito's 70th birthday. This museum building showcases the gifts and souvenirs given to Josip Broz Tito until 1962. And how excited I was to see wayang kulit, Indonesian leather puppet, on one of the first shelves at the museum! Suddenly, I felt home already. LOL.
The museum also showcases some of Tito's personal belongings, including his uniform, ties, etc. On the other side, the museum also chronicles so many puzzles of history that were once Yugoslavia.
Close to the exit, you will also see some recent pieces of news in the post-2006 after Serbia and Montenegro split. I could recognize the face of Boris Tadic in a split second, because I wrote about him a lot when I wrote my thesis at the university.
Annexed to the 25 May Museum is the House of Flowers, the building where the resting place of the late president Josip Broz Tito was buried alongside his wife, Jovanka Broz.
On each side of the tombstones, you can also see Tito's post-partum chronicles from the funeral pictures, the headline news on the day he died, and some letters and other sentimental messages sent after his passing. The House of Flowers is basically the Memorial Center for the former president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito.
And the last museum building was the Old Museum. When I entered the building, there was an event held there. I think it was some diplomatic event as the security approached me and asked if I was a representative from one of the embassies. When I said I wasn't, he told me to wait and come back after 1 PM since the museum would be reopened for the visitors then.
There's also a cafe close to the ticket sales office, but since I was too lazy to go back there, I ended up waiting in front of the Old Museum building for around 30 minutes or so. And when I got there, I was actually quite surprised that the Old Museum actually looks the most modern one compared to the other museum buildings at the complex.
The Old Museum exhibits the revolutionary industry in the former Yugoslavia area in its glory. Checking out what they've had at the museum, I remember when I spoke to Dora on our road trip about Yugo-nostalgia, and how she mentioned that people from the older generation believe that Yugoslavia used to be advanced in their technology industry. And that was showcased right there at the Old Museum.
6. Nikola Tesla Museum
If you want to pick up fights with someone from the Balkans, start with where Nikola Tesla comes from. LOL.
A prolific scientist who was underrated in his time, he finally gained the recognition he deserved only after he died. Born in an area that is currently a part of modern Croatia, he came from a Serbian family, with his father being a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
According to the tour guide at Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, there are many museums dedicated to Nikola Tesla, but it's only in Belgrade where you can visit the urn of the late scientist.
As my apartment in Belgrade was located in Vracar, the museum was only walking distance from where I stayed. My first attempt to visit the museum, I forgot it was Saturday. The queue was so long that I decided to come back later.
However, with me getting pickpocketed and I had to deal with so much paperwork in Belgrade, I could only come back again to the museum in the last few days I was in the capital city of Serbia. Lucky for me, when I visited the museum, the staff at the museum told me that there would be one more guided tour in English as it was the last tour on that day.
I went there at 3 o'clock, and the staff told me to come back at 4 o'clock so I could join the last tour of the day in English. While you could just visit the museum impromptu and see the next guided tour in your language there, you can also check the schedule for the tour via Nikola Tesla Museum website.
With the entrance ticket of 800 dinars (around $7 USD) for a guided tour in English, Nikola Tesla Museum was the place with the most expensive ticket price that I've been to in Serbia. But it's not super pricey either, so I suppose the price just makes sense, if anything.
The museum itself isn't very big. If anything, it's probably the smallest museum that I've been in Belgrade. But then again, I only managed to visit Museum of Yugoslavia and the Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade.
Nikola Tesla Museum has been divided into 4 sections. The first one would be the auditorium, where the tour guide would play a short video about Nikola Tesla and also introduce you to some of his inventions. After that, the tour guide would showcase some of his biggest innovations, including the famous Tesla Coil and let you experience them firsthand.
The tour guide will invite volunteers to try them out, so don't be shy to raise your hand and be one of the visitors to try Nikola Tesla's masterpieces while the tour guide demonstrates how they work.
After the demonstration, visitors can go to the other sections close to the entrance door. The first section will showcase the early life of Nikola Tesla, from when he was born, his family, to his decision to migrate to the United States. You will also be able to see some of his personal belonging, including his suits, gloves, and travel bag.
And the last section, which wouldn't exist in the other Nikola Tesla Museums outside Belgrade… The urn of the famous scientist. You can even pay respect, and thank him “in person” for his inventions that make our lives easier today.
As most of the items at Nikola Tesla Museum were delivered to Belgrade from New York by Tesla's nephew and his attorney, I also managed to approach the tour guide as there's something that bugged me at the time. So, I asked if maybe, Tesla's family received some kind of royalty from some brand using their name (I'm looking at you, Elon!), but according to the staff at the museum, they didn't.
7. Red Star and Partizan Stadium
If you're a football fan, you definitely shouldn't miss the home of Partizan and Red Star Belgrade. Known as one of the most bitter football rivalries in Europe, just like whenever you talk about Serbia's background in general, talking about their rivalry can be cultural, political, and not solely related to football as a game itself.
While I wouldn't recommend you go there during the derby because it could be some kind of life and death situation (seriously, though!), visiting Rajko Mitic Stadium (the current name of Red Star Stadium) and Partizan Stadium can be a nice stroll to see their home grounds.
The two stadiums are quite close to one and the other. Red Star Stadium is located in Dedinje, while Partizan Stadium is in Autokomanda. In between, you'll be able to stroll through some parks and also the residential houses as you can walk for around 15 to 30 minutes to visit both stadiums.
I suppose it would be even nicer if you could get a chance to stop by the museum when either team has a home game. However, since I went there during Christmas break, I was quite happy to just get there and burn calories while trying to sneak in and see the stadium from outside.
Well, technically I had a date when I went to both stadiums. And I enjoyed it a little too much that I just noticed that I didn't have any pictures taken at Partizan Stadium.
A bohemian village that is popular for its cafes and nightlife in the summer, but as I visited there during winter, the area was quiet, making it a nice place to stroll around and enjoy the view of the Danube river and even the picturesque landscape of Zemun from Gardos Hill.
Zemun only became a municipality of Belgrade in 1934, and it is believed that the local people in Zemun rarely consider themselves Belgradian because of that. The area used to be the border between Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires back in the day.
You can take a public bus from Belgrade city center, and it takes around an hour to get to Zemun. As I stayed in Vracar at the time, I remember I took bus number 83 and stopping at the Svetozara Papica bus stop in Zemun.
And then I strolled around Zemun and went through the bank of the Danube River before taking a little hike to Gardos Hill area. The symbol of Zemun, the Millenary Monument or known as Gardos Tower was built in 1986 and not so far from there, Zemun Cemetery is the spot that fascinated me the most.
From a pluralist perspective, the cemetery was so beautiful as it's basically a landmark where you can see how people from various religions were buried together on the same land. If you want to go all philosophical, after all that's what life is all about. You may have different backgrounds, but life will come to an end and we'll be back to where we were.
But other than that, as someone who loves visiting cemeteries when I travel, I find Zemun Cemetery fascinating since there are so many ancient tombstones that God knows how long it's been there. And some of them have super unique tombstones, like I could recognize that people from 1800s or so tend to use the sculpture of their torso for their tombstone when the more recent ones normally use the regular photographs. I also found some tombstone that seems to be reserved by people who are still alive.
Places to Visit in Loznica, Serbia
Located on the right bank of the Drina River, Loznica is close to the border of Serbia and Bosnia. And since my passport can't cross the border because of my visa situation, that was the closest thing I got to Bosnia. Well, technically, Bosnia was in front of my eyes when I stood at the Serbian bank of the Drina River.
Around 2 hours from Belgrade, Loznica can be reached by bus from the capital city. The city center is much smaller than Belgrade, but it's still worth visiting if you're the kind of traveler who enjoys off-the-beaten-path destinations in the country.
9. Banja Koviljaca
One of the most popular tourist spots in Loznica, Banja Koviljaca the oldest spa town in Serbia. Located around 30 minutes drive from Loznica city center, it's also known as Kraljevska Banja (The Royal Spa) as it was built under King Aleksandar I of Yugoslavia as an entertainment salon.
Kursalon, the most notable building at Banja Koviljaca, was one of the first casinos opened in the Balkan region. The area was once famous for fancy spas and parties, and these days you can adore the historic buildings while strolling around the park in their surroundings.
Entering the area is free, but if you're in the mood to treat yourself, book a spa appointment to experience it firsthand at Kovilje wellness center. Not sure how it was during the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but it can sure give you some vibes to enjoy the luxury of being a Yugoslavian royal for a moment.
When I had it myself, the spa itself cost 2500 dinar (around $23 USD) per pax, but you will get access to all spa facilities, including the thermal bath, jacuzzi, and sauna. While the building remains the original one from back in the early 1900s, the facilities are actually quite modern to the point that I couldn't even notice that I was enjoying a spa treatment at the building that stood there through the up and down of Yugoslavia.
Known as one of the first trench battles in World War I, the Battle of Gucevo was fought between the Serbian and Austro-Hungarian Army, starting on the 8th of September until late November 1914. The significant place where the battle occurred is only around 16 kilometers from Loznica city center, or around 30 minutes drive from Banja Koviljaca.
At the peak of Mountain Gucevo was built the pyramid monument with an ossuary of around 3,200 remains of soldiers who died in the Great War. A sad place at its times, nowadays Gucevo has become one of the most beautiful places (and off-the-beaten-path!) to visit in Serbia, with a view of Serbia and Bosnia in sight from where the monument stands.
The only downside is that you have no choice but to drive or rent a car to get there. However, if you can arrange your transportation around Loznica, Gucevo is quite easy to reach from Banja Koviljaca. Bring a bouquet of flowers if you can, so you can also leave it on the ossuary to pay respect for the deceased soul at the peak of the mountain.
Known as the birthplace of Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, Trsic has become an ethno-park that is popular among the local Serbians. Vuk Karadzic was a Serbian linguist who reformed the modern Serbian language.
He was the one who began the reformation of the language and gave the Serbians a standardized literary language, consisting of 30 characters of the Serbian alphabet that includes the six new characters of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet (Ђ, Ј, Љ, Њ, Ћ and Џ).
The entrance to the whole area of Trsic is free, but there's an entrance ticket if you want to visit the house where Vuk Karadzic was born. I'm not sure about the price since the house was closed for visitors when I went there.
However, even without visiting the memorial house, I think a visit to Trsic is definitely recommended for anyone planning to go to Loznica. Trsic is such a beautiful place to stroll around, I would recommend a visit to Trsic in the morning so you can also get on a hike to Milicin Konak and have an authentic Serbian breakfast there.
12. Suncana Reka
Suncana Reka, or the Serbian words for “Sunny River”, is a 5 hectares of recreational center around 9 km from Loznica city center. It is mostly known for the location of filming for a Serbian TV series titled “Greh Njene Majke“, or “The Sin of Her Mother” in English. The series was filmed in 2009 based on Mir-Jam's novel that took the setting of Serbia during World War II.
Located on the right bank of the Drina River in Gornja Koviljaca village, Suncana Reka offers bed and breakfasts, an authentic Serbian restaurant and various sporting facilities, including amusement parks and children playgrounds. Suncana Reka is a kid-friendly travel destination if you plan a short trip to Loznica with your children.
Bordering Serbia and Bosnia, you can take a walk by the riverbank of Drina at Suncana Reka, and you can see Bosnia closely. Well, given the idea I have a particular problem with visa application and I couldn't enter Bosnia because of my passport at the time, that was the closest thing I was to Bosnia.
And speaking of Drina, you will find an area at Suncana Reka that is dedicated to Robert de Niro. You may wonder why out of sudden there's an honorable mention of Robert de Niro here, but apparently, it's because he has adopted Diahnne Abbott's daughter, who was named Drena after the Drina River.
I didn't pay anything for the entrance to Suncana Reka, but instead I went to the restaurant and had another Serbian breakfast there.
Places to Visit in Novi Sad, Serbia
The second-largest city in Serbia after Belgrade, Novi Sad was named the European Youth Capital in 2019. On top of that, the city is also one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country as it has been the home to minority groups like Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks, and Romanians for centuries.
Nowadays, Novi Sad is also known as the city of music and arts in Serbia. The city hosts EXIT music festival in the summer every year at Petrovaradin Fortress, and Novi Sad seems to be popular for its nightlife scene as well.
Well, I went to Novi Sad by the end of the year, and I have to admit that I got a major culture shock since the city was practically dead during the holidays. Getting used to being spoilt with crowded public places during holidays back home in Indonesia, I learned the hard way that apparently, in Europe almost everything is literally closed during the holidays to the point that it got so hard to just find some place to eat without the reservation.
I think I quite understand why the city is loved by many people who have visited Serbia. The city gives some kind of vibrant vibes, minus the hustle and bustle you will experience in Belgrade. However, after what happened to me during the holidays last year, I wouldn't recommend visiting Novi Sad during Christmas or New Year for the best experience.
13. Petrovaradin Fortress
Known as the venue of EXIT music festival in modern Serbia, Petrovaradin Fortress used to be a significant military fort for the Austro-Hungarian rulers. Situated on the right bank of Danube river, the settlement around Petrovaradin Fortress could be traced back to 3000 B.C.
The name Petrovaradin itself was believed to consist of three words from different languages – “Petra” from the Latin word that means rock, “var” which means city in Hungarian, and “din” which is the Turkish word for faith. So the name Petrovaradin is loosely translated as “the city on the rock as solid as faith”.
Is Petrovaradin Fortress worth visiting even if you're not in Novi Sad to attend the EXIT festival? Absolutely!
Just like pretty much all the fortresses around Serbia, you can visit the fortress for free. Whether you want to enjoy the exquisite view of Novi Sad and Danube River from the fortress or have a sip of coffee at the restaurant, Petrovaradin Fortress is hand down the must-visit place in Novi Sad.
If you get a chance to go to Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, pay attention to the Clock Tower at the Ludwig bastion as it's unique on its own. I thought it was just another significant clock tower like Big Ben in London, Atkinson Clock Tower in Kota Kinabalu or Saat Kulesi in Izmir, but actually it's not.
When you're there, pay attention to the arrows at the clock as instead of the short hand representing the hour, and the long hand for the minutes, the arrows at Petrovaradin Clock Tower work the other way around. As you can see in the picture above, I was there around 1.15 PM, but the time shows as if I was there at 3.05 PM.
14. Dunavska Street
It's really hard to miss this charming promenade, as you will pass Dunavska Street if you're heading to Petrovaradin Fortress from Trg Slobode, the Old Town in Novi Sad. I'm not big into taking photo of myself, but I sure wish I traveled with someone there since the view of the street was super instagrammable. LOL.
I'm not sure how the street looks like on regular days, but since I went there on New Year's day, the street was quiet since you could barely find any restaurant or cafe open.
This was also something I struggled with the most while traveling during the holidays in Novi Sad, as I feel like I didn't enjoy the city to the fullest since there's a limited number of restaurants that were open when I was there, and I literally only grabbed something to eat at the place that was open and served food.
To be fair, I feel like I could've traveled more of Dunavska Street because as I said, the cobblestone and the colorful building there is such a good combination for beautiful photographs. But on the other hand, traveling solo during the holidays when I could barely find a restaurant that was open got me quite anxious, so I just headed back to Trg Slobode as the area was more lively at the time.
15. Trg Slobode
The main square in Novi Sad, Trg Slobode (Liberty Square in English) is the central pedestrian area in the city. With so many cafes and restaurants in the surrounding are, along with the beautiful architecture of various buildings from the City Hall, cathedral, church, or regular shops and markets where you can find something to buy for souvenirs.
Surrounding the City Hall, you can also read some snippets of historical events in Novi Sad. They put the plate for each event in the periodical order, and you can read some trivial things that happened in the city. From historical events to anything related to some notable figures in the city. I may not know all the events listed on those plates, but I sure did recognize the name when they honorably mentioned the birth of Monica Seles in 1973.
As I stayed at a hotel far away from the city center, I honestly would recommend you to find a hotel close to Trg Slobode for easy access to all the must-visit spots in Novi Sad. From the city square, you can easily stroll around the promenade and enjoy a nice walk through the Danube Park or the river.
There's also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area there, so this would be a perfect spot to immerse the city of Novi Sad to the fullest.
16. Danube River and Park
The second-longest river in Europe, my friend Dora shared a way to easily remember some fun geographical fact about Danube River. She told me that along with Vienna in Austria, there are three other capital cities starting with the letter B, where the Danube flows throughout Europe, and they include Belgrade, Budapest (Hungary), and Bratislava (Slovakia).
I personally only strolled around the Danube when I visited Zemun, and at the time the weather was quite terrible so I don't think I enjoyed the walk as much as when I did it in Novi Sad. When I strolled around the riverbank in Novi Sad, the weather was so lovely, and it was sunny outside so I definitely enjoyed it more.
Another reason why I find taking a walk around Danube River in Novi Sad enjoyable is also the fact that there are some bridges that are lovely to see around Novi Sad. From afar, you can also see the majestic Petrovaradin Fortress from the bench if you stroll on the right bank of the river from Trg Slobode.
While you're there, don't forget to stop by Danube Park as well. Again, I feel like I didn't get to enjoy its beauty to the fullest as when I went there, some parts of Danube Park were closed due to some minor construction.
Places to Visit in Mokra Gora, Serbia
Technically, when I got on a road trip with Dora, I've been to more places in Serbia than what I've listed in the article. In total, we've also stopped by Sokolici, Cacak, Vrnjacka Banja, Zlatibor, and Leskovac on our 5-day trip through Serbia.
However, since our time was limited and we didn't really get to experience the highlight of each destination, and I personally think some of the spots are a hard pass (for example, the Roman Bath in Cacak kinda reminds me of the Macedonian Tower in Edirne).
We only got some time to feast in Zlatibor on our way from Cacak to Vrnjacka Banja. We tried to get on the gondola, but we missed it since we only arrived in Zlatibor around 3.30 PM when the gondola was closed at 3 PM.
Thankfully, after Zlatibor we managed to stop by Mokra Gora, a village in Uzice that is known for the narrow-gauged heritage railway in Serbia. To be fair, we only spent a few hours around Mokra Gora, but I think the experience is more justified to share than Zlatibor in this case.
17. Sargan 8
A hard miss since we didn't get a chance to get on the train on the historical railway, but we still managed to have fun with a few puppies around Mokra Gora station when we got there!
Dubbed as one of the best tourism villages in the world by the UN World Tourism Organization, the name Sargan Eight comes from the railway line from Mokra Gora to Sargan Vitasi that has a shape like number 8.
The railway construction began during World War I with the initial plan to create a route connecting Serbia and Austro-Hungary at the time. However, the progress was halted due to the explosion during the digging for the “Budim” tunnel, which killed all the workers in the process.
They resumed the work in 1921, and that's when the number 8 design came up and built before they finally departed the first train for the route on January 25th, 1925. In the past, the line also connected Belgrade and Sarajevo onward to the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik, until in the mid-1990s when the Homeland Society of Mokra Gora inspected and reported the deterioration in some of the tunnels on its railway.
Serbian Ministry of Tourism and the then Yugoslav State Railway (now Zeleznice Srbije or Serbian Railway) were responsible to take over the reconstruction from 1999 to 2003 before it finally reopened in the summer 2003.
Since I didn't get a chance to get on the train itself as we only got there at around 5 PM or so, I didn't have the firsthand experience when it comes to getting on the scenic route of Sargan Eight. However, I don't know what's the deal with so many puppies around the train station, but I literally had some fun playing with the pups when I was there.
Pretty much like Suncana Reka in Loznica, Drvengrad in Mokra Gora was also built by a Sarajevo-born movie director, Emir Kusturica, for his movie “Zivot je cudo“. Also known as Küstendorf, the name is the word play of the German word for village (dorf), and Kusturica's nickname (kusta).
Apparently, big movie names like Johnny Depp (God knows he's been on the news lately after the defamation trial against Amber Heard! LOL) and Gael Garcia Bernal have visited this village, and you can see how they used a lot of movie legends as the street name around the village. One that I remember from my visit then is Bruce Lee.
The entrance ticket to Drvengrad cost 250 dinar (around $2.2 USD). I imagine it would be a scenic place during the daylight. Still, since I went there after the sunset, I didn't experience that myself. Nonetheless, I would still recommend visiting Drvengrad at night since the village is full of night lights and it kinda gives some kind of romantic vibes at night.
There's also a restaurant inside Drvengrad in case you'd like to stop by and enjoy a shot of rakija or something.
Places to Visit in Nis, Serbia
When I told Dora I wanted to visit Nis, she asked me why. To be fair, at the time I didn't do enough research to see some of the must-visit places in Nis, but I knew for sure I wanted to go to the Skull Tower ever since I saw one of the posts about it from a fellow travel blogger. Also, you know how I'm particularly interested in dark tourism.
The third-largest city in Serbia after Belgrade and Novi Sad, Nis had a turbulent history under the Romans, the Ottomans, and even the Nazis during World War II. My Serbian friend in Loznica, Nikola, he lived in Nis for a few months or so, and he thought Nis was somehow the blandest city in Serbia that he's ever been. According to him, it's most likely because even now Nis is the poorest area in Serbia.
Thankfully, Dora agreed that we had to go to Nis together because based on her experience when she visited Nis, she had nothing but nice things about the city because she said the people there are so warm, nice food and cheap too. So, off we went to Nis and I'm just glad that I managed to visit the city when I got the chance!
19. Skull Tower
Just like its name, Cele Kula or “Skull Tower” in Nis, the tower was built by the Ottoman Empire during the First Serbian Uprising, following the Battle of Cegar in May 1809. Constructed by order of Turkish general Hurshid Pasha to warn the rebellious Serbs at the time, the Skull Tower has now become a symbol of defiance of Serbs on their first attempt to freedom against the Ottomans.
The original tower contained 952 skulls embedded in a 4.5 meters high building. There are only around 50 skulls left in the tower walls today, but of course it wouldn't lessen the tragedy behind the construction itself.
I'm not sure how much the ticket is for regular tourists, because for some reason the lady at the ticket counter gave Dora and me a special discount for students, and we only paid 150 dinar (around $1.3 USD) per pax. But I don't think it will exceed 300 dinar.
The chapel of the Skull Tower itself isn't that big, to be fair. The shape of the tower reminds me of the memorial tower I've seen at the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, I could be wrong but the Skull Tower in Nis looks slightly smaller than that.
In one corner, there is a skull that is believed to be Stevan Sindjelic, the Serbian revolutionary commander who decided to conduct a suicidal explosion to kill himself, along with the Serbian and Ottoman soldiers on the Battle of Cegar.
20. Nis Fortress
If the Skull Tower is located a bit farther from the city center, Nis Fortress is only walking distance from the main city square in Nis. An ancient area with a long history situated on the right bank of Nisava River, you shouldn't miss Nis Fortress on your itinerary in the city.
Compared to Petrovaradin and even Belgrade Fortress, I personally think Nis Fortress more fascinating. The Ottomans completed the construction of the fortress in the 18th century, Nis Fortress was built over the remains of Roman, Byzantine and Medieval forts.
If Petrovaradin Fortress has become the venue of EXIT Festival in Novi Sad, the amphitheater of Nis Fortress has been used as the location for Nis Film Festival, which is also the most attended film festival held in Serbia. Formerly the biggest film festival throughout Yugoslavia, Nis has been the venue for the event since 1966.
Even if you don't visit Nis Fortress during its peak season, the area is definitely an excellent place for a relaxing stroll while tracing back the time of its turbulent history. Close to the entrance at Stambol Gate, there's an outdoor cafe where you can stop by to take a sip of coffee before exploring the fortress area.
The fortress area is quite huge, I think you can spare 1-2 hours around the fortress and you may still miss a spot or two. There, you can find a small mosque called Bali Bey Mosque. Not sure if it was named after Malkocoglu Bali Bey or someone else.
You can also see the other ruins of the fortress, from the famous ruins of the ancient street, the old gunpowder magazine, and even some ancient tombstones and sarcophagus.
I'm not sure if it has any significant value behind it, but I suppose it has something to do with the fact that Nis Fortress is also the venue for Nis Jazz Festival, but in some parts of the ruins, you can also see some beautiful mural around the fortress.
21. Crveni Krst Concentration Camp
Another place to visit if you're a dark tourism enthusiast planning to go to Nis. Crveni Krst or Red Cross Concentration Camp was initially built as a transit camp during World War II. Operated by the German Gestapo, the concentration camp was where around 35,000 Serbs, Jews, and Romanis were captured during the war.
On the 12th of February 1942, 150 inmates managed to escape and killed 11 guards at Crveni Krst Concentration Camp in Nis. However, as a result of this attempt, 1100 hostages were killed at Mount Bubanj later that month.
Liberated by the Yugoslav Partizan in 1944, approximately around 10,000 people were killed at this concentration camp in Nis.
In 1967, a memorial museum started operating on the former campgrounds and you can visit Crveni Krst Concentration Camp with an entrance ticket for 200 dinar (around $1.78 USD) per pax.
On the first floor, you can read the details of the history behind the concentration camp. You can also see the illustration of the barracks where the Nazis kept the prisoners in the 1940s.
On the second floor, you can also see the list of documented inmates who had been imprisoned at the concentration camp during its operation. As Germans destroyed most of the relevant documents that shows the exact number of prisoners at the camp, there are only around 1900 names written there.
You can also climb to the loft and see the cells with the original barbed wires used as a punishment for the prisoners. During our visit at Crveni Krst Concentration Museum, we also encountered a Serbian dude who recommended a movie called Lager Nis. The latter is an old movie entailing the story of the night on the 12th of February in 1942.
The Summary of Traveling to Serbia
I spent most of my time in Belgrade when I was in Serbia for a month. I wish I could explore more places in Serbia, but the minor hiccup when I got pickpocketed left me no choice but to modify my plan, so I didn't get a chance to visit a few places on my list, including Avala Tower and Tara National Park.
However, if I could sum up a few things about traveling to Serbia, here are some things I'd like to highlight.
Is it safe to travel to Serbia?
I'm not a fan of this question in particular, but I will give you some context for you to decide whether Serbia is safe to travel or not.
I traveled to Serbia during the holidays, meaning I was in Serbia for Christmas and New Year. My purse got stolen in Belgrade on the 28th of December, and when I returned to Belgrade after the road trip with Dora, I met another Haidar, a fellow Indonesian traveler who also got his phone stolen on the bus.
Now, I'm not sure if it occurs regularly in Belgrade with pickpocketers and all that, but when I spoke to Haidar, we just tried to be positive and assumed that people in Serbia were desperate during the holidays as they needed money to buy gifts for their family.
Nonetheless, better be prepared than sorry, so if you get on a public transportation in Serbia, be it a city bus or a mini bus, always make sure that you put your belongings where you can see them, because those pickpocketers are definitely pro!
Apart from that, I think Serbia is relatively safe, even for solo female travelers. I realized that I had to put extra caution when it comes to my belongings compared to when I was traveling in Turkey, but I think it would be so exaggerating to say that Serbia isn't safe to travel to.
What are the requirements to travel to Serbia?
Serbia is quite chill when it comes to Covid-19, to be fair. It was only in Serbia that I rarely saw people wearing masks on the public transportation. As per March 2022, there are no restrictions to enter Serbia, so I don't think it's necessary for you to take a PCR test in order to travel to Serbia.
Since I traveled to Serbia before March, I still took a PCR test in Izmir before leaving to Serbia. During my travel to Serbia, showing your vaccination certificate was also mandatory after 8 PM. The regulation about this has also been lifted in March 2022.
Is Serbia expensive for tourists?
Not really. You can visit a lot of must-visit places in Serbia for free, and even if they come with an entrance ticket, the price rarely exceeds $5 USD.
And even though Serbia doesn't have a metro, public transportation in big cities like Belgrade, Novi Sad, or Nis is pretty reliable and affordable. For me, I got used to checking the public transportation line using Google Map, but I found the information is not available in Novi Sad, although it worked perfectly in Belgrade. When I traveled to Novi Sad, I relied on Moovit app to check the public transportation route I could take around the city.
There's also some differences in the public transportation system in each city. In Belgrade, you can purchase Busplus, a bus card that you can get at the nearest Moj Kiosk to travel around the capital city with the public bus. In Novi Sad, you can pay directly to the driver if you use a public bus there.
So, unlike bus systems in Turkey like the one in either Istanbul or Izmir, all doors would be opened for the bus in Belgrade, making it harder for the authority to check who properly pays for the ride and who doesn't. However, refrain from cheating the system because they will occasionally conduct the inspection and if you get caught without the card or there's no proof that you've paid for the bus ride, you will get fined for up to 6000 dinar!
Over all, I find Serbia quite affordable to explore. The only downside was when I was craving Asian food, because I realized that the food was expensive and the taste was kinda mehhhh… LOL.
So yeah, those are some tips about traveling to Serbia and some places you should visit if you get a chance to stop by this ex-Yugoslavian country. Do you have any additional advice about traveling to Serbia that you'd like to add? More recommended place to stop by Serbia? Drop a comment below, and cheerio! 🙂
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.