cheersGritty, exuberant, diverse and full of feisty spirit. Serbia is definitely a unique travel destination! Nestled in the heart of the Balkans, Serbia is home to fascinating history, impressive landscapes and cities boasting world-famous nightlife. In short, travelling to Serbia absolutely needs to be on your bucket list!
Serbia is a landlocked country located in the central Balkans. For those who may not have visited the region, a Balkan travel experience is unique within Eastern Europe. It’s all about history, varied cultures, and the great outdoors. Serbia boasts all of these aspects and more! Better yet, it’s still relatively off the beaten tourist track meaning you can enjoy an incredible and authentic Serbia vacation minus the crowds that you’ll find in other popular European destinations.
Below, Expat Explore lists the top reasons to visit Serbia including its cities, nature, history and character. Plus, we include some tips and info for travelling to Serbia.
Nowhere better encompasses Serbia’s eclectic mix of history, character, opulent charm and audacious spunk better than Belgrade. It’s both glamorous and grungy! The city is shaking off the dark days of a tumultuous recent past and has stepped forward to embrace its unique identity. Belgrade is known by several names including “White City” and the “Gateway of the Balkans”. It’s perched on the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers; creating a space for incredible riverside pedestrian boulevards and views.
The capital city has long been a centre for travel and trade between eastern and western Europe and Asia; a characteristic common in several Balkan cities. A number of empires and powerhouses have ruled the city; from the Romans and the Habsburgs to the Ottomans and the days of Yugoslavia. Historic influence can be seen in the mix of art nouveau, socialist, neoclassical and Ottoman architecture.
Today, the city revels in its rich cultural and historic heritage. Visit and explore the National Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Nikola Tesla Museum. See monuments like the Church of Saint Sava, Belgrade Fortress and even the House of Flowers which houses the tomb of socialist leader Tito. Spend time discovering the delights of Kneza Mihaila – Belgrade’s main pedestrian zone and shopping boulevard. Check out Skadarlija (Belgrade’s lively bohemian neighbourhood) and watch the sunset from Kalemegdan Park.
Now, we couldn’t discuss Belgrade without talking about its world-famous nightlife! Dance the night away at nightclubs, restaurants, bars, taverns and summertime river clubs called splavovi. You can even party on river barges at certain times of the year!
Belgrade definitely oozes Serbian spirit!
While Belgrade may be Serbia’s most well-known city, there is much more to discover! Novi Sad is the country’s second-biggest city and one of the most ethnically diverse destinations in the country. Surrounded by fertile plains and mountains, Novi Sad is a hub for urban art and culture. It is also famously laid back! Excitingly, Novi Sad is the European Capital of Culture for 2022! This makes it a definite must-see.
Over the years, the city’s vibe and architecture have been shaped by a number of influences including the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It’s home to an elegant city centre and the picturesque Petrovaradin Fortress. This fortress hosts the EXIT festival every year in July – it’s a super popular summer music festival held in an incredible location!
Another Serbian city that should be on your list is Niš. Found in the south of the country, Niš is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It was ruled by the Turks for nearly five centuries and Ottoman influence can still be found in the city today. Pay a visit to Tinker’s Alley, Niš Fortress and the haunting Skull Tower – an Ottoman-era building embedded with human skulls.
Related: Visit Belgrade and Niš on Expat Explore’s multi-country tours that visit Serbia.
Don’t miss out on smaller towns and traditional villages around the country. Each offers insights into the country’s storied and often turbulent past. Admire the collection of relics from different cultural and historic influences on the country. More below!
It’s not all cities and partying in Serbia! This country boasts enchanting landscapes and scenic outdoor spaces. Explore Tara National Park which is a part of the Dinaric Alps. It offers beautiful views of forests, ravines, waterfalls, lakes and the Drina River Canyon – the third largest of its kind in the world! Make your way to Đerdap National Park which is Serbia’s largest and most dramatic national park. The main attraction is Đerdapska klisura (the Iron Gates Gorge) which is an impressive 100km worth stretch of cliffs along the Danube River.
You can also visit the Uvac Canyon – here, a bright green river winds through a magnificent canyon landscape.
Serbia is perfect for active holidays! You can enjoy hiking, mountaineering, cycling and even skiing in the winter season! There are a number of great ski resorts in Serbia.
Vineyards and 19th-century ‘wine cellar villages’ criss-cross the Serbian landscape. Many wine cellars are located on the slopes of the Fruška Gora mountain in the north of the country. Serbia has a long history of wine production and some of its well-loved native varietals include prokupa and začinak.
Serbia’s history is all around; from the crumbling medieval fortresses found throughout the countryside and featured prominently in several cities, to traditional rural villages and Romanesque monasteries. As mentioned above, Serbia has weathered many historical reigns. Travellers can experience many relics today! See the striking Studenica Monastery which was founded in 1196 by Stefan Nemanja – founder of the Serbian Empire and future saint! See Stari Ras – the first capital of Serbia in the 1100s – and the monastery at Sopoćani. All three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Marvel at the views of Golubac Fortress in Đerdap National Park. Find it at the entrance to the Iron Gate Gorge in a truly magnificent setting!
There are a number of religious monuments and places of worship in Serbia. Today, religion and Serbian identity are closely connected. The country is majority Eastern Orthodox Christian.
On a trip to Serbia, the hospitality of the locals is sure to stand out! The ‘feisty Serbian spirit’ is well-known and locals love welcoming foreigners and travellers to their country. In general, Serbs can be passionate but they have a relaxed, laid back vibe and love to enjoy a good coffee and have a catch up with friends – both old and new! Don’t be surprised if you are invited to svrati na kafu (come for coffee) when you visit Serbia.
Serbia’s cuisine is another unique and enchanting part of travelling to this country. The country’s cuisine is a product of different influences over the centuries. Serbian food features a lot of meat, pastries, soups and hearty stews cooked with an exciting mix of spices and flavours! Dishes to try include roštilj (barbequed meat), burek (a savoury pastry filled with meat, vegetable or cheese), ćevapi (grilled Serbian sausages) and sarma (stuffed cabbage).
As mentioned above, Serbian wine is a must-have. Other drinks to try on your trip to Serbia include the coffee (of course) and rakija which is a fruit brandy – waring… it comes with quite a kick! Grab a glass and say “Živeli!” (cheers!).
Language: Serbian is the national language while English is widely spoken in tourist areas. Many young people speak English too.
Transport: Serbia does have international airports and trains that connect major cities internally and outside of the country. However, saying this, the best way to travel around the country is by bus! Busses and coaches visit major cities as well as smaller towns and great outdoor destinations. Renting a car is also an option, and take note, Serbs drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Cost: As is the case with most of the Balkan states, Serbia is an incredibly affordable travel destination. Especially when compared to western Europe. Guided group tours are a budget-friendly (and convenient!) way to travel Serbia as the tour price includes accommodation, transport, most meals and many cool activities.
Where to go: Must-see spots in Serbia include Belgrade and its wealth of attractions, Novi Sad, Niš and any of the spectacular national parks. It is also worth including pretty small towns and villages like Sremski Karlovci and Sirogojno on your list of places to go.
If you enjoy lively cities, intriguing history and beautiful scenery then Serbia should definitely be on your list of must-visit destinations! What are you waiting for? Start planning your future travel through Europe and trips to Serbia today!
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