Serbia has something for everyone, from lively urban attractions, to calm and peaceful towns and villages that dot the magnificent countryside. It is also known for being one of the cheapest destinations in the Balkans, so if you are planning a trip to the region then Serbia is well worth a visit.
Aside from a wealth of cultural and historic relics to enjoy, there is also a swinging cafe and bar scene as well as throbbing nightlife and some of arguably the world’s best music festivals. Whatever you do, don’t be put off by Serbia’s often uncomfortable history. Times have changed, and this is one place not to miss.
Let’s explore the best places to visit in Serbia:
Serbia’s capital Belgrade is located at the intersection between the Danube and the Sava rivers, and is an eclectic, if sometimes arresting, mix of old and new styles, from 19th century buildings to Art Nouveau structures.
There is a little bit of everything in Belgrade, including the dominating Kalemegdan Fortress, located in Kalemegdan Park, the remains of which stand today. The park is also home to the Military Museum that even features the remnants of a US Stealth Bomber for those keen to learn about the military history of the region.
Aside from the fortress there are Orthodox churches, colourful facades, and quaint squares aplenty, but for something more unexpected head over to the island of Ada Cinganlija or ‘Gypsy Island’ in the south of Belgrade to find yourself at something of a self styled beach resort. Here you will find beaches that stretch along the banks of the Sava, and you can enjoy swimming, water sports like waterskiing, and a large area of parkland for those who enjoy checking out the local plant and wildlife.
Tip: Have a look at the Bed ‘n’ Beer Hostel if you’re looking for a place to stay.
Tours: For tours check out Travel & Event Team Serbia
2. Fruška Gora Mountain and National Park
Located in the region of Syrmia, Fruška Gora Mountain is found on the border with neighbouring Croatia, and is affectionately known as the ‘Jewel of Serbia’. The mountain region includes a protected area known as Fruška Gora Park, and is studded with vineyards and wineries that are well worth a visit for grape enthusiasts. Rambling, hiking, climbing and picnicking are all popular pursuits in the region, but perhaps the biggest draw here are the Orthodox monasteries that are scattered all over the countryside, some of which are said to date back to the 12th century and are now protected. The scenery here is spectacular, and many visitors come to enjoy the stunning views and unhurried pace that allows you to explore the region at your leisure.
Serbia is well known for its spa towns, once the retreat of choice of Roman emperors, and none more so than the town of Sokobanja in the east of the country. Locals and celebrities flock here for the thermal waters that are said to have deeply healing properties, and there is a public ‘hamam’ or steam room that dates from the 17th century. As well as the hot springs, visitors also travel to Sokobanja for the crisp air said to be high in negative ions and free from air pollution due to the increased elevation, leading to the phrase ‘climatic spa’ to describe the treatment that breathing in the fresh air provides.
The region of Vinca, located outside of Belgrade, is one of the most important places in the history of Serbia, as it is home to the archaeological site Belo brdo, meaning ‘White Hill’. The area was made famous by the archaeological finds uncovered in Vinca, many made of stone or bone, including statues, ornaments, and drinking vessels, and visitors can tour the site as well as the museum that showcases these examples of Neolithic culture that are said to date from approximately 5,000 to 4,000 BC. Vinca is also known as a stop off point for river cruises along the Danube, and the local docks are famous for the fish restaurants that dot the neighbourhood for those who want to try some of the freshly caught fish on offer.
If you like winter sports and happen to be visiting Serbia during the winter season, from December to April, then come to the Kopaonik mountain range and get ready to hit the slopes, whatever your level of ability or previous experience. There are a whopping twenty four ski lifts that service the area, and categories of slopes of all levels to choose from, as well as skiing and snowboarding available at the Kopaonik Ski Resort. If you happen to be travelling out of ski season, then there is still plenty to enjoy in Kopaonik, as you can partake in mountain climbing, hiking, and bird watching. Also of interest for hikers or ramblers are the wooden buildings that are plentiful in the region and include timbre shrines and churches.
6. Lepenski Vir
A famous site in the central Balkan Peninsula, Lepenski Vir dates from approximately 9,000 to 6,000 BC and features important archaeological relics that budding archaeologists are sure to love. The site features displaced and preserved buildings and sculptures, many of which feature fish motifs, as well as shrines and river stones said to represent ancient gods. The site also displays figurines from 7,000 BC in the form of pre-historic men and women in expressionistic styles.
The third largest city in Serbia, located in the south of the country, Niš is known for being a university town as well as the birthplace of the Roman emperor Constantine. As such, there is a relaxed and fun-loving vibe to the city, as well as a number of attractions of historical importance, not least the Memorial of Constantine the Great, proudly on show in the centre of the city. Another place of historic note in Niš is the Niš Fotress, built in the 18th century, and it is here that the two sides of the city expertly meet, as the area in front of the fortress is home to rows of cafes that are much loved by the student population looking for some rest and relaxation.
The Zlatar Mountain Range, topped by the highest peak Golo brdo, is not a particularly well kept secret in Serbia, as locals flock here to enjoy all that the region has to offer. The area is full of meadows, lakes, and forests, and its elevation and fresh air have put it on the map as a kind of spa location for those looking to relax and commune with nature far away from the sprawling cities. During the colder months, those who enjoy winter sport can indulge in skiing on the many slopes accessible via a dedicated ski lift that provides stunning views over the lush valleys beneath. There are also three artificial lakes that offer opportunities for boating, rafting, and fishing, as well as a number of picturesque wooden churches and monasteries scattered around the countryside.
If you come to the city of Leskovac in southern Serbia for one thing only, then make sure that it’s the meat. The city attracts hordes of visitors for its annual Roštiljijada or Barbecue Week held in September, a festival that celebrates all things grilled meat over a period of five days of revelry. To fully get into the meaty spirit, the main section of the city is closed off from cars, and food stalls set up in order for traders to show off their wares, and cooking competitions, music events, and performances are also held.
Oplenac, in western Serbia, offers a completely different view of the country, and is an important cultural and historical site due to the St George Church and the Oplenac Mausoleum. The church, also known as Oplenac Church is an Orthodox church built in the 1900s that is also the final resting place of King Peter I, and the mausoleum section itself houses the remains of 26 members of the Karadordevic royal family. The church and mausoleum are said to be some of the most beautiful buildings in all of Serbia, in particular due to the decorative and impressive mosaics that cover the inside.
11. Novi Sad
The second largest city in Serbia, Novi Sad is the capital of Vojvodinia Province, and is a stop on the tourist circuit that is definitely not to be missed. The city is perhaps most famous for its dominating landmark, the Petrovaradin Fortress, a protected building that dates from the 17th century and keeps a watchful eye over the city, as well as the EXIT music festival that is held annually in July, and is said to be one of the key summer music festivals to attend in the whole of Europe. Picturesque spots in the city are also plentiful such as the Varadin Bridge that spans the Danube, and you can also enjoy river cruises to take in the city from the water if you prefer. For those who like history and culture, visit the Stari Grad area of the city, where you will find war memorials, museums, art galleries, bars, and cafes that make it the perfect place to wander the streets and soak in the atmosphere.
12. Mokra Gora
Mokra Gora is a lush valley with spectacular landscape that also houses the village of the same name whose claim to fame is its period railway. The village has been restored to resemble its original state in days gone by, and a must-do activity here is to visit the famous railway station and take a train ride through the Mokra Gora valley, taking in all the sights along the way. The track is shaped like a figure eight and neatly loops back to Mokra Gora at the end of the trip.
If you fancy doing something a little different in Serbia then don’t miss out on another attraction in the Mokra Gora valley, this time Drvengard or ‘Timber Town’. The village was actually originally built as a film set by local director Emir Kusturica for the film ‘Life is a Miracle, and the village has stood ever since and is now a fully running ethnic open-air museum. With a strong dedication to the arts, there are film festivals, music concerts, art classes, and workshops held at Drvengrad throughout the year.
Close to Mokra Gora you will find the quaint village of Sirogojno that also features an open-air museum or self styled ‘ethnic village’ that includes period timbre structures like a traditional Serbian dairy, an inn, and a bakery. Locals are on hand to demonstrate traditional arts and crafts from the region, and Sirogojno is said to be an excellent place to sample the local food and drink, with traditional Serbian dishes lovingly prepared from recipes handed down over centuries. If you want to try the local tipple then you can have a glass or two of ‘rakija’, a Serbian brandy.
15. Drina River
If you want to experience an adrenalin rush in the great outdoors then head to the west of Serbia to explore its wealth of majestic scenery and extreme sports options. Of these, the Drina River is known as a great spot for those who want to try their hand at white water rafting, and you can sign up with a number of local companies who will take you out on the water with trained guides who will show you how to raft safely as well as talking you through the diverse flora and fauna in the region as you float by.