Novi Sad the “Athens of Serbia” and European Capital of Culture

Novi Sad is unique. For one, is the second largest city of Serbia and the capital of the Vojvodina province, an autonomous region within Serbia with 26 ethnic groups and six official languages. To most foreigners, Serbia’s second city of Novi Sad is synonymous with one thing and one thing only, the annual Exit Festival. While Exit is undoubtedly one of Europe’s foremost music events – both in terms of the level and diversity of the artists it attracts, as well as its truly unique venue at Petrovaradin Fortress – the city and surrounding area have more to offer than arguably anywhere else in Serbia or even the wider region. Novi Sad’s position at one of the continent’s true crossroads and history as a multinational commercial and transit centre has left it endowed with historical and cultural sights that even much larger cities have difficulty matching.

From the imposing fortress on the opposite bank to the churches representing numerous denominations throughout the old town’s exceedingly pleasant pedestrian zone to several unheralded but noteworthy museums and art galleries, Novi Sad has much to boast about. And within easy driving, or cycling, distance there the monasteries of Fruška Gora and the inviting Salaši tourist farms. During the summer months, people pack the Štrand, one of the Danube’s finest beaches, and a series of street festivals and other events keep the good vibes going well into the autumn.

Novi Sad isn’t nicknamed the ‘Athens of Serbia’ for nothing. Its history as a vibrant, creative city continues today in its established galleries, alternative music scene and a vibe that’s generally more liberal than that of other Serbian cities. Novi Sad is 2019’s European Youth Capital, and in 2021, it will become the first non-EU city to spend a year with the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture.

Discover Novi Sad

Numerous and various historical and cultural monuments of Novi Sad are on the streets and squares in the old center of the town. Standing atop a riverside bluff, much of Petrovaradin Fortress dates to the 17th and 18th centuries, with an iconic clock tower and a network of tunnels. Across the river is the old quarter, Stari Grad, site of the Gothic Revival Name of Mary Church and the neo-Renaissance City Hall. You can walk to all of Novi Sad’s attractions from the happening pedestrian thoroughfare, Zmaj Jovina, which stretches from the town square (Trg Slobode) to Dunavska street.

Trg Slobode Novi Sad

Trg Slobode (Liberty Square) is the largest central city square, built in the 18th century. On the edges of the square are the buildings from the end of the 19th and early 20th century. Square has always been a place to celebrate important events in the history of the city, as well as a meeting place for people and location where numerous manifestations were held.

In the middle of the square is the monument of Svetozar Miletić, casted in bronze. Together with marble stand it is seven meters high. The monument is work of Ivan Meštrović and it was positioned twice to the same place. For the first time 1939th year, during World War II when the occupier had intended to remove the monument, but it was hidden by the citizens. After the liberation at 1944, the monument was returned to its original position.

On the west side of the square is the Town Hall built in 1895th in Neo-Renaissance style, designed by architect George Molnar. The facade of the building is a striking Ionic and Corinthian columns. Facade stands out along the 16 Algerian figures that symbolize the various human activities and they are work of Julie Annika. At the top of the building is a tall tower in which there is a bell of St. Florian, patron of the city. Bell was called Matilda, by the name of the benefactress which donated the bell to the fire volunteer squad. Long time ago it served to announce by the number of hits ringtones, the position of the fire outbreak in the city.

On the opposite side of the square, is a tall catholic church “Name of Mary”. It was built in 1895th in neogothic in style. The interior is decorated with movables of Tirol carver; it has four altars and organ with 24 registers. On the windows are 20 glass paintings, the work of the Hungarian and Czech glass artist. Steep roof and tower are covered with colorful ceramic žolnai. The Clock Tower is 76 meters high.

The longest facade in the old part of town is Hotel Vojvodina, and it’s length is more than 60 meters. The building was built to serve as a hotel in the year 1854. At that time, it was the most modern hotel in the city, with luxurious rooms and bathrooms with hot and cold water, elite restaurant and respectable café.

The only modern building in Freedom Square is a shopping and business center of Apollo, built 1993rd at the site of the first permanent theater in Novi Sad, after which it was named. Cinema is located in the courtyard of the former building.

At the Theatre Square there is a large and modern building of the Serbian National Theatre that was built in 1981. The building occupies an area of over 20,000 square meters and has three scenes. The Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad is the oldest institution of its kind among the Serbs. It was founded in 1861st and since then, the show played drama. Opera was founded 1921st, and ballet performances started in 1950.

Behind the building of the theater’s is Uspen church, built in 1774th in the Baroque style. The church is dedicated to the Holy Virgin. Special values are the iconostasis, the wall paintings and carvings of Virgin’s throne, the throne of Bishops and the church furniture which are rare works of local wood-engravers. Church is decorated by a baroque tower with three bells.

Tanurdžić palace is the largest palace in the city. Its side wing is in Zmaj Jovina Street, on its longest side it follows the street Modena, while the second wing and a hotel belong to the third Ilija Ognjenovic street. It was built in 1934th bahaus style by a project of architect George Tabaković  for the wealthy merchant Nichola Tandžurović. Part of the building enlarged in 1940 and adapted in hotel, now known as Hotel Putnik.

Zmaj Jovina Street            

Zmaj Jovina Street is one of the oldest streets in Novi Sad. It extends from Liberty Square to the bishop’s palace. It gained today’s appearance in the second half of the 19th century, during the reconstruction of the city after the bombing. The street was once a place with a number of craft and trade shops, and it was called Magazinska alley. By the early 20th century along the street, everything was working from early morning until afternoon, and after cleaning it was a place for an evening promenade.

At the end of the street, in front of the bishop’s house, since 1984, there is a monument of Jovan Jovanovic Zmaj, the most famous children’s poet, after which street bears its name. The bronze figure is 230 centimeters high and it is placed on the granite pedestal.

At the end of the Zmaj Jovina street, where street separates in the two directions, one toward Danube Street (right), the other toward Pašićeva street (left), stands Vladičin court. It is a residential palace of the Serbian Orthodox Bishop of the Diocese of Backa. The building was built in 1901 in the Serbian-Byzantine style, designed by architect Vladimir Nikolic. The facade is covered with red bricks and decorated with a yellow colored plastic, which are work of Julius Anika, in the pseudo-mavar style. The interior contains a large number of portraits, carved furniture and many other historical and cultural values.

Dunavska street

At the beginning of the Dunavska streets, on the corner on the left, there is the city library in the house that was built in 1895. Dunavska Street is probably the oldest street in Novi Sad. It consists of three parts: from the direction of Zmaj Jovina streets are one-floor houses on the left and right, whose ground floor premises are used for various stores, the second part is the Danube park on one side and command of the garrison, the Museum of Vojvodina and the Historical Museum, on the other side, while in the third part, near the Danube river, is a House of the officers. On the left side of the street are houses in neo-baroque style.

Dunavski Park is the oldest and most beautiful park in Novi Sad. It was built on marshy land, which was often flooded by Danube River. The first trees were planted in the 19th century. Little Lake is a remnant of the former ponds, at that time called Little Liman. In the lake there is a small island, called Erzsébet, after murdered Austrian empress, and on the island there was a weeping willow tree planted. In the middle of a small lake, there is a fountain nymph, the work of the first Serbian educated sculptor Djordje Jovanovic. In the park there are monuments of Đura Jakšić, Branko Radičevića and Miroslav Antic, the famous Serbian poets.

Go to Petrovaradin Fortress

One of the largest fortresses in Europe. It was built and rebuilt between 1692 and 1780, its design based on the system of fortification developed by French Marquis de Vauban. The fortress covers an area of 112 hectares, and has 13 gates and 16km of underground passages spread over 4 levels. Owing to its size, thick walls and 400 cannons, it was considered unconquerable and earned the name of the ‘Gibraltar on the Danube’.

The erstwhile barracks and underground passages are nowadays converted into the premises of the Museum of the City and numerous art ateliers, galleries, and artisan workshops. The terrace of the fortress, by the Clock Tower, boasts splendid views of the town. The clock on the Tower is unique in that the big hand tells hours and the small one minutes. This was allegedly done so that the boatmen travelling on the Danube could see the time from a long distance. The clock is slow when it is cold and fast when it is hot, so people have dubbed it a ‘drunken clock’. The fortress features several restaurants and night clubs and it is famous for EXIT – the best music festival in Europe in 2007. Were it not for the scarcity of garbage bins and rather random park cleaning service, it would have been perfect.

You may get to the top plateau of the fortress by car, just follow the signs for Leopold Hotel. If on your way up you should see a lonely vehicle and some commotion inside, don’t worry, with the crime rate so small as in Novi Sad, that must be an amorous couple, but give it a wide berth anyway. The long arched passage is too narrow for two-way traffic, so do follow the instructions by the officers placed at its ends, who communicate the arrival of vehicles to one another over the radio set. You can get to the fortress by bus Nº3, taxi, or take a leisurely walk, because it is not too far.

Visit Fruška Gora National Park

A lonely mountain in the gentle Pannonian Plain, not far from Novi Sad. It spreads about 80 km lengthwise east to west and about 12-15 km north to south. The highest peak is Crveni Čot at 539. This lovely mountain enjoys protection by the state, as it has been proclaimed a national park. Pastures, orchards and vineyards adorn its slopes, and the higher parts are covered with dense deciduous forests (the largest linden community in Europe) providing shelter for various animals, such as deer, doe, mouflon, jackal, boar and lynx. Fruška Gora attracts everyone who loves beautiful landscapes, a swim in the mountain lake, fishing or hunting, picking mushrooms, mountaineering, visiting monasteries or wine tasting. You can also see vestiges of several fortifications and other archaeological sites. Walking trails are several kilometres long and well marked.

Fruška Gora monasteries

Founded between the 12th and 15th centuries, orthodox monasteries were the focal point of the spiritual and cultural life of Serbs during the Turkish occupation. Notable persons from Serbian history lie buried in Krušedol Monastery: Despot Đurađ Branković, King Milan Obrenović, Princess Ljubica, Patriarch Arsenije III Čarnojević. Only 16 monasteries out of 35 have been preserved to this day – most were ravaged and looted during the 2nd World War and they enjoy UNESCO protection. Although the majority of the monasteries in Fruška Mountain are situated on the territories of other municipalities, Novi Sad is the centre from which to sightsee at the “Northern Holy Mountain”. On the northern slopes of the National Park, the nearby monasteries of Beočin and Rakovac, as well as a monastery on the territory of the city Kovilj, are worth paying a visit too.


This sandy beach on the Danube is the focal point of entertainment for all ages during the hot summer days. As many as 15,000 people come daily to the lido: old men playing chess, families enjoying a picnic, men and women indulging in a bit of dalliance, beach babes and posers who come to see and be seen, and anyone looking for good fun in the sun. Set against the background of a large park with deep shade, this 700m long lido has regular beach facilities, including toilets, showers, 700 changing booths rented out for the entire season, security and lifeguard services, emergency paramedics, several cafés and restaurants. In summer, Štrand hosts numerous events and sports competitions.

You need to be careful when you swim in the Danube because of its strong currents that may quickly overtake you if you are not a good swimmer. The water purity is checked and while it is safe for swimming, it is not safe to drink, so keep your mouth closed as you swim.

EXIT music festival

Exit is an award-winning summer music festival which is held at the Petrovaradin Fortress in the city of Novi Sad, Serbia. It was officially proclaimed as the ‘Best Major European festival’ at the EU Festival Awards, which were held in Groningen in January 2014, while its sea edition Sea Dance festival won the “Best Mid-Sized European festival” Award in 2015. The EU Festival Award is considered as one of the most prestigious festival awards in the world.

This festival, founded in 2000 as an onset to the democratic revolution in the country, attracts more and more visitors every year. It has a wider variety of music genres such as Rock, Dance, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Folk, and Techno. Many world famous bands played on the festival (Slayer, Moloko, Iggy Pop, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang-Clan, Public Enemy, Billy Idol, Pet Shop Boys, The Cult, HIM and many DJs from around Europe and Asia) and in 2004 it was listed as the biggest cultural event of South-Central/Eastern Europe

Getting to Novi Sad

Novi Sad has good transport connections with nearby cities thanks to its great position. It is located about 80km to the northwest of Belgrade, about 300km from Budapest, 424 km from Ljubljana, 309km from Zagreb, 548 km from Podgorica, 480 km from Sofia, 150km from Timisoara (Romania), 100 km from the border town (with Hungary) of Subotica and about 100km from the Romanian border town of Jimbolia.

By plane

The city itself doesn’t have an airport and the closest one is Nikola Tesla International Airport (IATA: BEG)  near Belgrade (about 70 kilometers). There are no direct buses from the airport. Some taxi companies run regular cars between Belgrade Airport and Novi Sad.

Other useful airports with low-cost flights might be:

Budapest Ferihegy International Airport (IATA: BUD)  (247 kilometers from Novi Sad, serving numerous low-cost airlines, the best way to get to Western/Northern Europe by plane)

Timisoara Traian Vuia International Airport (IATA: TSR) (126 kilometers from Novi Sad, serving Wizz Air

By car

E-75 highway that connects Belgrade and Budapest passes by some 5km from Novi Sad. Toll fare for passenger cars coming from Belgrade is 240 RSD (or 3 EUR). Prices for other types of vehicle (bus, truck) are higher. If you want to go in the direction of Zagreb, Ljubljana take E-70 highway which is some 40km south/west of Novi Sad.

By bus

Using the bus is the most recommended option. The bus stations for long-distance trips is “Old bus station”, at Bulevar Jaše Tomića 6 near the train station.

Within Serbia, Novi Sad is connected by bus to all other major cities. The most frequent route is the one from Belgrade, with buses leaving every 15 minutes during peak hours and a total of nearly 100 journeys each day in each direction.

Internationally, the city has frequent bus connections to Sofia in Bulgaria, Budapest in Hungary, Zagreb, Vukovar, and Osijek in Croatia, Sarajevo and Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Budva, Tivat, Podgorica, Herceg Novi in Montenegro. It is also reachable from Germany and Austria.

For urban, domestic long-distance and international bus timetables in Serbian and English, visit the web site of JGSP Novi Sad, the city public transport company.

By train

Daily trains to and from Budapest are around 20 euro (Return tickets are 26 Euro). They are 6 person shared compartments though, and going north may be filled with kids going to Budapest to party.