The Ultimate Novi Sad Travel Guide

by andreasnestoros

The picturesque city of Novi Sad, located in northern Serbia, is possibly best known for the EXIT music festival, which takes place here every July. Any other time of year, however, you’ll discover a relaxed, very local city that exudes friendly warmth, unpretentious sophistication, culture, history, and some stunning surroundings.

When I visited Novi Sad in Serbia as part of my Christas trip in 2023, there were a lot of visitors. I believe they have received more tourists since the city was chosen European City of Culture 2022!Yes, this location is going to become quite popular… and for good cause!Because, of its ancient fortress and quaint Old Town, beautiful Danube views, a riverside beach, a lively café culture, and even a national park on the doorstep, Novi Sad is a delightful stop – one that can provide an enjoyable break from the busy traveller route  Belgrade. So, if you’re searching for something a little different, but still vibrant and full of things to do, go no further than Novi Sad.

Here’s my ultimate travel guide to visiting this fantastic Serbian town…

WHY VISIT NOVI SAD?

Novi Sad, named the European Youth City in 2019 and European Capital of Culture in 2022, is on the rise!

Recognised in Serbia as a bustling, student city with a rich cultural and activism legacy, Novi Sad is becoming widely known on a larger scale as a town that makes a perfect addition to a Belgrade trip…. or even an amazing city break in its own right.

If you’re coming in July, the EXIT festival, which takes place every year around this time, is the ideal reason to go and party in a Serbian style (oh, how the Serbs love to party!), but during other seasons of the year, Novi Sad is a wonderful addition to a longer trip to Eastern Europe.

Allowing a few additional days on your trip south from Budapest, west from Sarajevo, north from Belgrade, or east from Romania or Bulgaria is a fantastic idea and a fantastic opportunity to break away from only seeing the main cities and ticking those sightseeing boxes!

Oh, and did I mention Novi Sad is also very cheap? Get here before the rest of the world notices and the prices skyrocket!

How to Travel to Novi Sad?

Backpackers may take the speed train from Belgrade to Novi Sad, which is located in northern Serbia around half an hour away.

If you’re coming into Belgrade from another European city, using the train is your best choice once again. The train to Novi Sad costs roughly 5€ and takes 36 minutes, departing from Belgrade’s Main Train Station (Beograd Centar) every hour or so. The trains travel at high speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour while making only three stops in total. The train also features a canteen where you can get something to drink and eat while admiring the beauty outside the window. 

How Long to Stay in Novi Sad?

Novi Sad is a small city, but it has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment.As such, I’d recommend staying here for at least 2-3 nights. On day 1, I recommend spending time seeing the Fortress as well as the Old Town, as well as the city’s modern center and its various shops, cafés, restaurants, and churches.

Strolling along the Danube, visiting one of the many parks, and visiting the Strand Beach are all must-do activities.If you have an extra day or two, there are several day trips you can take from Novi Sad, including to nearby national parks, wineries, and monasteries.

Alternatively, if you’re on a tight schedule and just have a few hours to spare, Novi Sad may also be included as part of a terrific day trip from Belgrade.

That means there’s absolutely no excuse not to come here!

Top Things to Do in Novi Sad

Fortress of Petrovaradin

So, the first thing to do in Novi Sad is take a walk up to the Fortress – hey, FREE activity! – and take in the spectacular Danube and countryside views from the top.

Undoubtedly Novi Sad’s most famous site. This is the site of the world-famous EXIT Festival, which takes place each July on the south bank of the Danube, across the river from the city core. Aside from the musical acts, the Petrovaradin Fortress is a fantastic spot to visit at any time of year.

The Petrovaradin Fortress, which was built in the 17th century, is home to a multitude of tourist attractions. You could be interested in visiting the Museum of Novi Sad, which is housed in the grounds of the fortress, or the space museum, which is housed in a catacomb. Consider visiting the Petrovaradin Catacombs for a more spooky experience.

Because you’ll most likely be visiting this location in the morning, it’s a good idea to have a coffee at one of the fortress’s numerous cafés. You can enjoy the views of the city and river below while getting ready for your day of exploring ahead.

Park Dunavski

Now it’s time to walk down the riverbank towards the city centre, but not before stopping in the wonderful, green Dunavski (Danube) Park! This beautiful green park provides welcome relief from a hot day and is always active and buzzing, regardless of the time of day. 

During the Christmas season, the park is transformed into a Christmas market, including mulled wine vendors, decorations, and a large ice skating ring around the park.

Pijaca Riblja

Riblja Pijaca, which I consider to be one of the best places to visit in Novi Sad, but others may disagree. It’s a local open-air market, but there’s no better place to learn about a city or country’s culture than simply watching what people eat and how they shop or even buy some local traditional products.

Unlike many open-air markets in the city centre, this one draws  locals, and there aren’t many tacky kiosks selling cheap products. Instead, you’ll largely see local vendors with kiosks upon stalls of gorgeous fruits, veggies, and other produce.

This is an excellent place to buy a souvenir, such as local honey or a little bottle of homemade rakija (the local liquor). There are also a few vendors offering baked products such as burek, butcher shops and fishmongers, and even a handful of cafés where you may stop for a refreshment.

Bishop’s Palace & Serbian Orthodox Church of St George

This lovely peach building, located at one end of the pedestrianised Zmaj Jovina street, was built in 1901. The Serbian Orthodox Church of St George is located around the corner from the Bishop’s Palace. Though it is not a cathedral, this church serves as the primary Orthodox church in the city.

Built in the 18th century and refurbished several times since then, the most recent in the early 20th century. This is a stunning example of the Art Nouveau style that can be seen throughout the city.

Wander Down Zmaj Jovina

After seeing the Bishop’s Palace and the Orthodox Church, explore  Zmaj Jovina, Novi Sad’s major pedestrian thoroughfare. Though much of Novi Sad’s city centre is pedestrianised, this is the largest and busiest street, and it makes for fantastic people-watching at any time of day.

There are several streetside cafés, boutiques, and eateries to see and enjoy here, and this is where the genuine heart and spirit of Novi Sad can be found.

Take your time roaming down this charming road, soaking in the bustling spirit. There are also a few side streets worth exploring if you want to experience a more peaceful aspect of the city pedestrians streets.

Check Out Freedom Square

Trg Slobode (Freedom Square) the beating heart of Novi Sad’s Old Town, home to some of the most stunning buildings and the liveliest site in the city, is a fantastic place to stroll around!The square was first mentioned for the first time in the early 18th century, and it was originally a marketplace for retailers and farmers. During the Habsburg era, the plaza was known as Hauptplatz and functioned as the city’s administrative and cultural centre.And, as you might guessed, with the mention of the Habsburgs, you can expect the structures and ambiance of the plaza to be outstanding as you will be surrounded by all the magnificent art nouveau buildings that make you feel more like you are in Austria than Serbia.

Admire The Beauty Of The Name Of Mary Catholic Church

The Name of Mary Catholic Church, one of the most notable churches, is directly in that square of freedom, demonstrating an excellent neo-Gothic architecture with intricate stone carvings and a soaring bell tower, the tallest structure in the region.The current Catholic church was built in the late nineteenth century to replace an older church that had been destroyed in a fire. Since its reconstruction, the cathedral has witnessed numerous world events, from international War II bombings to the ordination of the first bishop of Serbia’s newly formed Catholic diocese.Once inside, you’ll find a magnificent nave with soaring ceilings and elaborate murals that cover the whole interior of the church. There are also several precious religious artefacts and artworks, demonstrating how significant the church is to the religious lives of the people of Novi Sad.

Hunt Down For Beautiful Street Art Around Novi Sad

Mural Srpska Atina, a reproduction of a historic snapshot of Novi Sad in the 1900s to illustrate what the lovely town looked like when the title “Serbian Athens” was invented to describe this city for the first time.Many of Novi Sad’s murals and street art feature social and political statements, addressing problems including as ecology, social justice, and cultural identity. The city’s street art culture has evolved into an area for artists to express themselves while also engaging with the local population. If you enjoy this type of art, spend some time wandering the small alleyways of Novi Sad and looking for some of the city’s magnificent street art.

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