Novi Sad is a young, energetic and culturally rich city and as such has been given the title of “European Capital of Culture” for the year 2021. It is also known also as “the Serbian Athens” due to its remarkable culture and history. Located on the river Danube, Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia and only one hour drive North of Belgrade. It was not on our intended route, but our new best friends, Cathy and Dave were there so we decided to head North to join them on a sightseeing tour of Novi Sad.
Things to Do In Novi Sad
Home to EXIT Festival
Novi Sad is home to the EXIT festival, one of the best music events in Europe, with some of the best musicians in the world gathering to play on the various stages. The festival takes place in July every year and 2018 saw 198 000 revelers descend on the city.
Sunset over the Danube
Arriving in Novi Sad just before sunset the promenade alongside the river Danube was teeming with people strolling, skateboarding, pushing prams and relaxing on the grass, as we drove past. We headed over the Varadin Bridge through the Starigrad (Old Town) to the parking lot at the base of the Petrovaradin Fortress, where we were going to spend the night. We had a lovely cycle around the old town, stopping to watch the changing coloured lights on the Varadin Bridge and then going up to the Fortress to watch the sunset.
The next morning we made our way up the hill to the Petrovaradin Fortress, where we met Cathy and Dave under the Clock Tower. The time looked wrong until we realised that they had swapped the long and short hands on the clock. The big hand tells hours and the small one minutes. This was done so that the time would be visible to the boats passing by on the river far below.
It was incredibly hot and we were all sweltering so took refuge in the restaurant at the Fort. We had been on the road for nearly two months and this was the first time we had company whilst eating out. It was oh so lovely just to relax and enjoy some adult conversation and laughs over a few beers. A quick stop for a piece of pie lengthened into a long lazy lunch with stunning views over the Danube.
Originally used as a repository for Austrian rulers treasures, the fortress is now a major art center, housing art galleries, artisan workshops and the Museum of the City. It is also home to the hugely successful EXIT festival. Its mysterious underground system of halls stretching for 16 km continue to intrigue locals and visitors alike.
Sightseeing Tour of Novi Sad
All the sights in Novi Sad are within walking distance and actually follow a nice loop. Here’s the sightseeing tour of Novi Sad that we did.
The city of Novi Sad was virtually destroyed during the 1848 Revolution, so architecture from the 19th century dominates the city centre.
Starting from the Petrovaradin Fortress, we walked across the Varadin Bridge spanning the majestic river Danube. Turning slightly to the right, we made our way through Dunavski Park. This beautiful park has nice walkways, grassy areas to relax and a pond with ducks. There were some newly hatched duckling when we passed by which were very cute.
From the park, we entered the oldest street in Novi Sad, Dunavska street. This pedestrian promenade extends the length of Dunavska street and then turns left down Zmaj Jovina Street, ending at the main Liberty Square (Trg Slobode). It is the heart of the city and the central meeting place of visitors and tourists alike. Restaurants and bars line the two streets creating a vibey atmosphere that extends late into the night.
Where Dunavska and Zmaj Jovina Streets meet, you’ll find the majestic building of the Serbian Orthodox Bishopric of Backa. Peeking out behind this, with its steeple pointing up to the sky is Saint George’s Cathedral, Orthodox church.
We wandered down Zmaj Jovina Street, stopping to look into all the side alleys. Some led to bars and nightclubs, others to hairdressing salons and metalworks shops. We found one alley with a funky looking restaurant so stopped for a little pint.
At the end of Zmaj Jovina Street, the Name of Mary Catholic Church presides over Liberty Square with the Austro-Hungarian Town Hall looking on from the opposite side of the square.
We wandered past the Serbian National Theatre and had a little peek inside the Church of Dormition of Theotokos. Crossing the road main road and backtracking a bit, we made our way to the Novi Sad Synagogue on Jewish Street.
Walking through the lane to the side of the Jewish Synagogue, we passed some interesting graffiti and soon found ourselves at Trg Mladenaca (the square of the young people) with its Chinese looking monument.
A little further on we once again reach Varadin Bridge and so completed our sightseeing tour of Novi Sad.
Free Walking Tour
Should you prefer a guided tour of the city, there are free walking tours every day at 5 pm. There is no need to book, just meet in front of the Serbian National Theatre
Relax on the Beach
Novi Sad has one of the most beautiful beaches on the Danube. Lovely white sand and lots of restaurants lining the beach makes this a good place to spend the day. Unfortunately, time didn’t allow for us to check this out.
Listen to Balkan Music
We were treated to a band practicing Balkan songs in the park next to where we were wild camping. They played the most heavenly music and we couldn’t help tapping our toes along to the tunes. The nightlife in Novi Sad is excellent so you will have endless places to listen to music.
We wild camped in the parking lot below the Petrovaradin Fortress. There were no facilities. There are some restaurants close by in the Old Town, about an 8-minute walk away.
GPS: 45.2519, 19.8682