SERBIA TRAVEL GUIDE
Serbia is at the crossroads of European history and as such, it is a mix of cultures, ethnicity, and religions. Its people, contrary to a recent stigma, are one of the most hospitable and welcoming, and recently, Belgrade was voted as one of the up and coming capitals of Europe. There may be more attractive locations elsewhere, but Serbia has a spirit and a soul that is rare to find coupled with a melange of different cultures and gusto for good living.
Emerging as one of Eastern Europe’s most recent ‘undiscovered’ destinations – Serbia has plenty to offer to its visitors. Take a trip to the capital city Belgrade for some of the best museums and galleries, a wide array of restaurants and cafés, and fascinating nightlife in southeast Europe. Aside from the capital city, Novi Sad is another attractive and lively city of Serbia. The city boasts of a picturesque fortress that overlooks the River Danube or you may go far north and visit Subotica – another city of Serbia that has buildings designed in secessionist architecture and boasts of a typical Hungarian character.
Bird-watching enthusiasts may like to visit the province of Vojvodina in the north of Belgrade that is renowned for its wetland habitat boasting numerous bird species. Take a trip to the south of Belgrade for a true countryside experience with lush, wooded valleys and hidden Orthodox monasteries, or visit the national parks that are scattered among Serbia’s more mountainous regions.
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SERBIA QUICK FACTS
- Capital: Belgrade
- Currency: Serbian Dinar (RSD)
- Area: 88,361 sq km
- Population: 6,982 million (2018)
- Language: Serbian 70.1% (official), Hungarian 23.8%
- Religion: Orthodox Christian 74%, Muslim 3%, Roman Catholic 15%, Protestant 1%, other 7%
- Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)
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SERBIA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
- 7 January, Orthodox Christmas
- 15 February, National Day
- 1 May, May Day
- 11 November, Armistice Day
Also, Orthodox Good Friday and Orthodox Easter Monday.
BEST TIME TO VISIT SERBIA
Serbia doesn't see huge influxes of visitors, making it an ideal spot to avoid the crowds just about year-round. Serbia has a continental climate, warm and humid from June through September and cold and dry from December through February.
Serbia's north is marked by long cold winters and sweltering summers – plan to start your travels early in the interior in particular to avoid midday meltdown – while the south has a typical Adriatic climate. From late autumn onwards the mountain ranges become impassable; in some areas, the skiing season begins in November and lasts until April.
The best time to visit Serbia for good weather is during the summer months - just take note of dates for the annual EXIT Festival in early July which draws revelers from across Europe.
April - Watch winter melt away with a scenic ride on the nostalgic Šargan 8 railway.
July & August - Rock out at Novi Sad’s EXIT, go wild at Guča, and get jazzy at Nišville.
December to March - Head to Zlatibor for an alpine adventure.
SPORT & ACTIVITIES
SNOW SPORT IN SERBIA
The snow sports season in Serbia can be from December until April, although you should check the actual snow predictions for exact seasonal dates as these vary across the region.
HIKING & CYCLING IN SERBIA
The best time for outdoor activities in Serbia is from May to October. Remember to pack a rain jacket when hiking in the mountains as May and June are also the wettest months!
BEACH OPTIONS IN SERBIA
While Serbia may not have a coastline, they do have a few lake & river "beaches" which can be enjoyed over the summer months of June to August. Check out Bela Stena, Silver Lake, Bosa Noga and the Lakes in Bela Crkva.
KITESURF IN SERBIA
If you're desperate for a spot of wind in Serbia mostly for windsurfing but also the possibility of kitesurfing, head over to Palic Lake where the wind may be suitable from March to November.
SERBIA TRAVEL COSTS
While still a total bargain by European standards, Serbia is not quite as cheap to discover as it once was. It remains one of the most inexpensive destinations on the continent however, and you’ll find that your dollar travels an extremely long way in the country.
Usually, to travel cheap, you must travel slow, and that is true more often than not. Even so, for the brief visitor to Serbia, most of the best things to see and do are absolutely free, while the ‘do’ part of that sentence invariably means ‘eat and drink’. The high-end restaurants in Belgrade aren’t cheap, but you can get absolutely fantastic meals for as little as $10 USD a head.
SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF SERBIA
- Marvel at Belgrade's mighty Kalemegdan Citadel and party the night away on a splav (river barge nightclub).
- Witness the laid-back town of Novi Sad as it morphs into the state of EXIT every July.
- Steel your eardrums (and liver) at Guča's Dragačevo Trumpet Assembly, one of the world's most frenetic music festivals.
- Escape reality in the fantastic village of Drvengrad, built by director Emir Kusturica for indie drama Life is a Miracle.
- Goggle at splendid surprises bursting from the Vojvodinian plains, including the art nouveau treasures of Subotica.
- Ponder the creepy, cryptic rock towers of Djavolja Varoš.
- Ski, hike or just take the mountain air in the magical villages of Zlatibor.
Revel in three days of cultural and culinary exploration in Belgrade, allowing for at least one night of hitting the capital's legendary night spots. Carry on to Novi Sad for trips to the vineyards and monasteries of Fruška Gora and Sremski Karlovci.
Follow the above itinerary then head north for the art nouveau architecture of Subotica, before slicing south to Zlatibor en route to traditional Serbian villages, the eerie Djavolja Varoš and the lively city of Niš.
Outspoken, adventurous, proud, and audacious: BELGRADE is by no means a 'pretty' capital, but its gritty exuberance makes it one of the most happening cities in Europe. It is here where the Sava River meets the Danube (Dunav), and old-world culture gives way to new-world nightlife. Grandiose coffee houses, quirky sidewalk ice-creameries, and smoky dens all find a rightful place along Knez Mihailova, a lively pedestrian boulevard flanked by historical buildings all the way to the ancient Kalemegdan Citadel, the crown of the city. The cobblestoned strip of Skadarska east of Trg Republike was the bohemian heartland at the turn of the 20th century; local artistes and dapper types still gather in its legion of cute restaurants and cafes. The once-derelict, now-dapper Savamala creative district is Belgrade’s hip HQ, with bars, clubs and cultural centers that morph into achingly cool music/dance venues come sundown. Dress codes and attitudes are far more relaxed here than in other parts of the city.
NOVI SAD is a chipper town with all the spoils and none of the stress of the big smoke. Locals sprawl in pretty parks and outdoor cafes, and laneway bars along pedestrian thoroughfare Zmaj Jovina, which stretches from the town square (Trg Slobode) to Dunavska street, pack out nightly. Novi Sad plays host to the annual eclectic EXIT festival – the largest in southeast Europe - with an annual tally of over 200k merrymakers.
Fruška Gora is an 80km stretch of rolling hills where monastic life has continued since 35 monasteries were built between the 15th and 18th centuries to safeguard Serbian culture and religion from the Turks. With your own vehicle you can flit freely between the 16 remaining monasteries; otherwise, ask about tours at tourist offices in Novi Sad and Sremski Karlovci. Public transport gets you from Novi Sad to villages within the park, from where you can walk between sights.
Sugar-spun art nouveau marvels, a laid-back populace, and a delicious sprinkling of Serbian and Hungarian flavors make the quaint town of SUBOTICA a worthy day trip or stopover.
NIš is a lively city of curious contrasts, where Roma in horse-drawn carriages trot alongside new cars, and posh cocktails are sipped in antiquated alleyways. Niš was settled in pre-Roman times and flourished during the time of local-boy-made-good Emperor Constantine (AD 280–337). Explore the Niš Fortress and the Tower of Skulls.
Novi Pazar is the cultural center of the Raška/Sandžak region, with a large Muslim population. Turkish coffee, cuisine, and customs abound, yet some idyllic Orthodox sights are in the vicinity: this was the heartland of the Serbian medieval state.
One of the most sacred sites in Serbia, Unesco-listed Studenica was established in the 1190s by the founder of the Serbian empire (and future saint) Stefan Nemanja and developed by his sons Vukan, Stefan, and Rastko (St Sava). Active monastic life was cultivated by Sava and continues today, though this thriving little community doesn't mind visitors.
Djavolja Varoš (Devil’s Town) in Serbia's deep south, is a trippy cluster of 202 natural stone pyramids looming eerily over bright red, highly acidic mineral streams. According to local whispers, the towers – which teeter between 2m and 15m in height and are topped with creepy volcanic ‘heads’ – were formed after guests at an incestuous wedding were petrified by an offended god.
Kopaonik National Park - as well as the ski-resort in the Kopaonik Mountain in southern Serbia. Kopaonik is the major ski resort of Serbia, with a total of 23 ski lifts. A national park spread over 118.1 km2 (45.6 sq mi), Kopaonik has a rich historical heritage
WHAT TO EAT IN SERBIA
Serbia is famous for grilled meats; regional cuisines range from spicy Hungarian goulash in Vojvodina to Turkish kebabs in Novi Pazar. Vegetarians should try asking for 'posna hrana' ('meatless food'); this is also suitable for vegans.
Kajmak - Along the lines of a salty clotted cream, this dairy delight is lashed on to everything from bread to burgers.
Ćevapčići - The ubiquitous skinless sausage and pljeskavica (spicy hamburger) make it very easy to be a carnivore in Serbia.
Burek - Flaky meat, cheese, or vegetable pie eaten with yogurt.
Karađorđeva šnicla - Similar to chicken Kiev, but with veal or pork and lashings of kajmak and tartar.
Rakija - Distilled spirit most commonly made from plums. Treat with caution though!