Are you planning to spend a weekend in Novi Sad, Serbia? Today’s article will give you a complete itinerary and share the most important things you should do during your weekend trip to Novi Sad.
I’ll be honest with you: if you arrive to Novi Sad by train like I did, you will probably feel a bit disappointed at first. You will be greeted by the view of high rise tower blocks and unattractive surroundings and you’ll probably feel like you’ve made a bad choice.
But that is far from true! Novi Sad is an important city in Serbia, it is beautiful and offers you a lot of things to see and do there.
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 there’s more that the Exit Festival in Novi Sad!
Novi Sad (literally meaning 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.
Where to stay in Novi Sad
Before even thinking about visiting the city and its attractions, you need a place to sleep.
Novi Sad is, just like Serbia overall, a very cheap place offering great accommodation at amazing prices.
This means that you can get all pampered in a 4-star, centrally located hotel like Lanterna Rooms for a fraction of the price you’d pay in other countries.
If you still want to keep the budget as low as possible and you don’t need more than a comfortable bed in a clean room in a great location (since you’ll be out and exploring the city anyway), I recommend the Sova Hostel. You won’t be disappointed!
Weekend itinerary for Novi Sad
The city is laid out in a simple grid system which makes it easy to navigate. Still, I would suggest getting an old school tourist map from one of the shops around the main square (Trg Slobode), close to the city hall.
Which is your first attractions!
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. Serbia always had a particular charm to me and I always felt at home in all cities I visited, no matter how large or small they were.
I also 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 in, as well as great places that sell amazing pastries – you have to try the homemade ones as they are simply delicious!
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 program of cultural and musical events for your enjoyment. Double check to see if they are actually operating – during these times, nothing can be taken for granted anymore.
The city is also home to the infamous Exit festival which has an eclectic mixture of music for all tastes. It’s actually one of Serbia’s biggest music festivals, with people coming from all over the world for it.
The current world situation with the ongoing pandemic has put it on hold, but I’m sure it will get back sooner rather than later and could be one of the main attractions in the city if you’re into music and festivals.
Just prepare for the city to get extremely crowded and especially loud during this time, when it’s very common to see younger people under the influence of alcohol (and maybe more) roaming the streets and going crazy.
But all in all, it’s not dangerous or something like that – just that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
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, so don’t be too brave and stay close to the shore.
There are always trained lifeguards on hand, but you’re better safe than sorry.
Also have in mind that the Danube is not the cleanest river in Europe and arrives to Novi Sad after going through several other countries and collecting debris along the way.
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.
Sometimes, it’s these off the beaten path destinations that manage to surprise you and charm you the most, simply because they are not as popular as other places and still have that local charm and unspoiled innocence.