Long before the EXIT music festival put Novi Sad on everyone’s radar, the city had come to my attention in the early 1990s as the birthplace of tennis player Monica Seles. Along with tours to EXIT, Novi Sad has become a popular day trip from Belgrade, given the relatively short distance between the two cities.
Novi Sad is Serbia’s second largest city and is the capital of the Serbian autonomous province of Vojvodina, a region bordered on three sides by Romania, Hungary, Croatia and a few miles of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
NOVI SAD HISTORY:
Located on the European transport artery that is the River Danube, it’s not surprising to learn that Novi Sad was founded as a trading city in the late 17th century after the exit of the Ottoman Empire, so a relatively new city by European standards.
Novi Sad was subsumed into the Hapsburg Austrian Empire and the mark of this empire is plain to see in the architecture of the city centre. Petrovaradin Fortress, across the river from the main city centre, was re-built in its present state by the Austrians to act as a defence barrier against the Ottomans.
After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Novi Sad became part of the various forms of Yugoslavia and Serbia, although the Axis powers controlled Novi Sad during World War II. The 1999 NATO bombing impacted on Novi Sad greatly including the destruction of all of the city’s Danube bridges.
NOVI SAD SITES:
Petrovaradin Fortress is the site of the EXIT music festival held every July since the first gathering in 2000. It is said to have developed as a protest against the Milošević regime. Three months after the first EXIT festival Milošević’s political career ended when he lost the presidential election. EXIT has gone on to attract the top acts in various music genres and regularly appears in lists of best music festivals in Europe.
Petrovaradin Fortress is probably the main attraction in Novi Sad but the city centre is a gorgeous place for meandering, coffee and cake. Freedom Square (Trg slobode) is your number one people-watching point and features two of Novi Sad’s best known and impressive buildings: City Hall and the Catholic Church of the Name of Mary.
The streets leading from Freedom Square are simply gorgeous, lined with colourful 19th century buildings and dotted with eateries and boutiques. Even the city’s McDonalds was set in an attractive building. The most famous of Novi Sad’s streets is Dunavska, adjacent to Dunavski Park.
Novi Sad’s tranquil atmosphere and beautiful architecture made it an excellent day trip from Belgrade. Despite travelling there in high season it lacked crowds which gave it a sense of space, and the city would make an ideal stop on a tour of Serbia.
GETTING TO NOVI SAD FROM BELGRADE:
Bus: At least one bus every hour departs Belgrade’s Central Bus Station and the journey takes approximately 1.5 hours, costing roughly the Serbian Dinar equivalent of €6. Private bus companies operate the route and you must return with the same company you travelled on the outward journey with. For convenience buy single fares and travel with different companies. Given the frequency of buses on the Belgrade to Novi Sad route there is no need to book in advance, the exception may be during the EXIT festival.
Train: Trains from Belgrade to Novi Sad are not as frequent as buses with the journey taking slightly longer but the price is similar. Further information can be found on the Srbija Voz website. Note that Belgrade is known as Beograd on this site’s timetables.
The DK Eyewitness guide to Serbia was excellent for getting a colour visual guide to Novi Sad. Get your copy from Amazon here.