When arriving by train or bus to Novi Sad you may feel some disappointment like I did. You are greeted by the view of high rise tower blocks and unattractive surroundings, which may not fill you with optimism. A certain amount of perseverance is needed to unlock the treasures that this city holds for the city break traveler – and you will indeed have a great weekend in this relatively unknown location. Because it’s not all about the Exit Festival!
Novi Sad (literally New Plantation) is the second largest city in Serbia. It is also the second cultural center in the country. Once known as the “Serbian Athens”, this city is steeped in history and also offers many different activities to its visitors.
The city is laid out in a simple grid system which makes it easy to navigate. But I would advise to buy a tourist map at one of the shops around the main square (Trg slobode), near to the city hall. I headed straight for the popular city square with its imposing city hall and cathedral overlooking both sides of it. Here you will find people relaxing and soaking up the very informal atmosphere that this city has. I like shopping so I headed down Dunavska which is the main shopping street, where you will find a mixture of shops to spend your dinars.
You can also talk a pleasant walk through Stari Grad (Old Town) whilst admiring the neo-classical buildings. There are many shops, cafes, restaurants, monuments and museums in this area. One museum is worth a special mention, the Museum of Vojvodina with exhibitions of Serbian culture. The Gallery of Matica Srpska and the Gallery of Fine Arts are also well worth a visit if you enjoy the arts like I do.
There is also the Serbian National Theater and Novi Sad Synagogue with a varied programme of cultural and musical events for your enjoyment. The city is also home to the infamous Exit festival which has an eclectic mixture of music for all tastes. Other festivals of interest are the Novi Sad Samba Festival, Novi Sad Jazz Festival and The Novi Sad Literature Festival, so you really are spoiled for choice if festivals are your thing.
In the summer months head for the Štrand which is an organized beach nestling on the banks of the River Danube. The beach is very popular and can be crowded. One word of caution, the current in the Danube is strong but it is safe and there are always trained lifeguards on hand.
Overlooking the Danube at the other bank of the river is the Petrovaradin fortress with its imposing walls and commanding viewpoint. It’s a hilly climb to the fortress but you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the city and Fruška Gora. There’s also an excellent restaurant on the terrace where you can dine whilst taking in the views. I enjoyed visiting at night time also as it gave me a different feel for the city and a stunning night time view.
If you want to venture outside of the city then I would recommend a trip into the Fruška Gora National Park. This area of outstanding natural beauty with its rolling hills, pine-clad forests and lush meadows will give you a different perspective to the hustle and bustle of city life. You can get an authentic insight into traditional rural life by visiting one of the many Salaš (Farms), where you can sample homemade food and beverages in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. There is no need to rush; you can stay all day at your leisure whilst sampling the unique hospitality on offer.
Novi Sad has its own pace of life whilst offering many different activities for its visitors to enjoy. It’s a city that seems much overlooked in the city break market but I would highly recommend it to you as an affordable and interesting travel destination.