It’s no secret that we are totally obsessed with Serbia! Living in Sofia, it’s a quick bus ride from Sofia to Belgrade, so we can be in the Serbian capital at a moment’s notice. Yet we don’t spend all of our time in Belgrade, instead, we love to explore all of the small towns, monasteries, and natural wonders in Serbia that we can!
Whether you choose to take go by bus, train or drive while in Serbia, here are the places that absolutely belong on your itinerary!
The Best Places to Visit in Serbia
In no particular order…
Yes, we highly encourage you to get out and explore more of the country, but if you just have a few days for a Balkan city break, start here! We adore Belgrade, which is a modern city with historic architecture and an interesting history to explore. If you just have a few days, you can go on one of the city’s walking tours to take in the highlights. Outside of these tours, we suggest that you make sure to visit Hotel Moskva (get the cake!), the Zeleni Venac market, the Sava Temple, and Tito’s Mausoleum.
We actually love it here so much that we put together this massive list of over a hundred things to do in Belgrade, plus we made separate posts detailing the best Belgrade tours and a guide on where to stay. Why? Because we are some of the travel world’s biggest Belgrade fans, and we just can’t stop singing this city’s praises.
If you do want to see more of the places on this list beyond Belgrade, so many of them can easily be seen as day trips if you are short on time. Here are our favorite day trips from Belgrade, many of which are on this list.
Selected as the European Capital of Culture for 2021, Novi Sad is in the middle of a restoration, with projects happening all over the city to spruce the place up before the crowds start pouring in. This means it’s a great time to see the city, while it is still considered more of off-the-beaten-path destinations. While not exactly a secret, it’s not the first place people think of when they start planning a vacation. The capital of Vojvodina, Novi Sad is also an excellent place from which to base yourself to explore northern Serbia.
While here, don’t skip the cathedral (not technically a cathedral, but you won’t miss it), the city’s colorful squares, and a trip over to the Petrovaradin Fortress across the river.
I’ve literally never been as deligthed by a city as I was during my visit to Subotica. The city is full of art nouveau buildings, from Synagogues to Churches to Palaces. Even the local library is a colorful dreamscape.
Start your day here with a visit to the local tourism office. They’re so helpful when it comes to giving out information to visitors, and they’re one of the friendliest tourism offices I’ve ever visited!
If you fancy some Hungarian food, you can eat a Lángos for lunch in the town square. Since Subotica is only ten kilometers from Serbia’s border with Hungary, you’ll find a great mix of Serbian and Hungarian traditions on display.
Another Vojvodina gem, Sremski Karlovci is the best place to visit in Serbia if your goal is to get your wine tourism on. Full of wineries that serve the typical local reds, rosés, and whites, the actual star here is the bermet, a spiced wine whose recipe is a closely guarded town secret. Beloved by the Austro-Hungarian royalty, bermet was so popular at the beginning of the nineteenth century that it was even served on the Titanic!
There are other beautiful gems here, like the gorgeous town square and glamorous secondary school. You can spend an afternoon here, an entire day, or even relax here for a weekend, sipping bermet to your heart’s content!
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Studenica Monastery is a historic Orthodox monastery overlooking a beautiful mountain valley in southern Serbia. Built in the twelfth century, it houses two churches. The larger and more famous is the Church of the Virgin, with the smaller church named the Church of the King.
Inside you’ll find stunning thirteenth and fourteenth-century frescoes, in the typical blue Byzantine style that can be found from Cyprus to Armenia to the Balkans. Stefan Nemanja, the monastery’s founder and the first ruler of the medieval Serbian state, is buried here.
Devil’s Town, or Djavolja Varoš in Serbian, is a naturally occurring rock formation on Mount Radan in southern Serbia near the town of Kuršumlija. There are over two hundred of these rock columns, which range from two to fifteen meters tall with strange stone “caps” at their tops.
The legend is that these are wedding guests who were turned into petrified stone for refusing the Devil’s orders to wed a brother and sister. George R.R. Martin would be proud.
One of the best places to visit Roman ruins in Serbia, Gamzigrad-Romuliana is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO:
The Late Roman fortified palace compound and memorial complex of Gamzigrad-Romuliana, Palace of Galerius, in the east of Serbia, was commissioned by Emperor Caius Valerius Galerius Maximianus, in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries. It was known as Felix Romuliana, named after the emperor’s mother. The site consists of fortifications, the palace in the north-western part of the complex, basilicas, temples, hot baths, memorial complex, and a tetrapylon. The group of buildings is also unique in its intertwining of ceremonial and memorial functions.
I visited as a day trip from Belgrade, but you can also choose to stay overnight in Gamzigrad which is a small but locally popular spa town.
Most pair a visit to Lake Palic with Subotica since its right outside of town, yet there are actually enough things to do here on the lake that you could easily enjoy a few peaceful days here relaxing, fishing, and touring the local wineries.
If you do only make it for a quick stop on a longer Serbian road trip or visit from Subotica, I suggest coming at sunset and experiencing the vibrant colors of the sky kissing the water.
Tara National Park
Located in the Dinaric Alps, Tara National Park includes the Drina River Canyon, which is one of the largest in the world. If you love adventure and getting out on the water, you’ll want to visit one of the park’s two lakes, Perućac and Zaovine, which are famous for the conditions they offer to would-be kayakers and those going out in canoes.
The park also offers tons of great options for those looking to go hiking, chase waterfalls, or even stay a few days in a cabin in the woods.
Drvngrad to Mokra Gora on the Šargan Eight
We are suckers for scenic train rides, and one of the most famous scenic train rides in the Balkans is to take the Šargan Eight narrow-gauge train from Mokra Gora to Drvngrad. From the route, you can see three of Serbia’s most important mountains, Tara, Zlatibor, and Šargan.
The trip is short, with tons of great opportunities for photography. Yet you might love it so much that you decide to do it again and again.
One of Serbia’s famous bath towns, Vrnjačka Banja has many hot springs which both locals and tourists enjoy. The healing properties of these hot springs have been well known for thousands of years. Roman soldiers came here in the second century and spread the news of the medicinal hot springs across the Roman Empire.
Today, four of the springs are used for their healing and recreational properties. The town is well visited year-round since there’s a popular festival here in the summers and in winter its located conveniently near a ski resort town.
Another of Serbia’s medieval Orthodox monasteries, Sopoćani was built in thirteenth century close to Ras, the then-capital of medieval Serbia. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sopoćani and Stari Ras together form a site celebrating this historic Serbian state. According to UNESCO:
The frescoes in the Sopoćani Monastery church, dating from about 1270-1276, are among the finest in Byzantine and Serbian medieval art. These exceptional paintings represent the work of the best artists of that period who were unable to work in the territory of the Byzantine Empire and found refuge at the court of the Serbian king. At Sopoćani these artists introduced a refined spirit of antiquity to the prevailing medieval conventions.
Many people visit Novi Pazaar to use as a base for trips to the monasteries of Sopoćani and Studenica, but it’s actually an interesting city in its own right, full of social realist architecture. It’s also one of the only truly multicultural cities left in Serbia, with Christians and Muslims working together and praying peacefully side by side.
Serbia’s fourth-largest city doesn’t get many visitors, but I think that’s a shame! Kragujevac is a walkable, interesting city with a lovely pedestrian street, a beautiful red-and-white Orthodox cathedral, a handful of interesting museums, and a gorgeous park in the middle of town. But its most interesting site is the nearby Šumarice Memorial Park, which is home to a dozen interesting spomeniks (abstract socialist memorials built during the Yugoslav era) that honor the lives lost during the Nazi occupation of Serbia. Kragujevac was the site of one of the most horrible days in Serbia’s history, when nearly 3,000 men and boys were killed in one single day. The memorial park and associated Museum of October 21 are well worth a visit during your time in Kragujevac.
Both Zlatibor the mountain and the village are great places to visit, known for its beautiful nature, great skiing, and access to cultural tourism. In the winter, come here to ski and enjoy a snowy retreat, while you can come in summer for hiking and to enjoy the stunning wildlife.
Uvac Special Nature Reserve
The meander in the Uvac River, located in the Uvac Special Nature Reserve, is my nominee for the prettiest (and most Instagrammable) place in Serbia, but this great aerial shot does not require a drone. There are actually twelve lookout points above the gorge, so you can get great photography here without spending thousands of dollars on specialized equipment.
While Uvac is off-the-beaten-path for international travelers, there is so much to do here! Nature lovers can admire the variety of flora and fauna, while spelunkers can explore the area’s caves.
Krušedol Monastery has a very different look an feel from the monasteries in Serbia’s south. That’s because it is located in the Fruska Gora region of Serbia that was part of Austrian-controlled Vojvodina. While the outside looks like a Baroque masterpiece, inside you’ll find familiar Orthodox frescoes and a gorgeous red gate stands out front.
If you’re looking for Serbian souvenirs, this is a great place to pick up goods made by the monks who run the monastery. They have honey, lavender goods, and icons for sale.
Technically a part of Belgrade today, the historic town of Zemun was a world away from Belgrade during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Millenium Tower in Zemun, known as Gardoš Tower, was built to celebrate a thousand years of Hungarian control of the region, while the rest of Belgrade, just across the river, was under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, traveling from the Stari Grad of Belgrade to Zemun, you’ll notice this difference. Instead of beautiful Ottoman and Byzantine-inspired buildings, the churches here are Baroque and the houses are short and colorful.
The third largest city in Serbia, Niš is located in the southeastern part of the country near the border with Bulgaria. It’s a popular city for fans of dark tourism who want to make the trek to Skull Tower. Those interested in World War II history will want to spend time learning about the local concentration camp that was here and visiting Bunbanj Memorial Park, the local Holocaust Memorial (just please, refrain from taking pics of yoga poses and selfies here).
There’s enough to do in Pančevo that you can easily enjoy a day or two here, but if you don’t have that amount of time to spare, it’s still a good place to stop on your way from Belgrade if you’re driving north. Here you can see the roadside memorial to the victims of the local purges during the Holocaust.
An important town in south-central Serbia, Kraljevo is also a great place from which to base yourself to visit the beautiful Orthodox Žiča Monastery. While here, make sure to visit the beautiful central town square and spend an afternoon strolling along the Ibar river.
Looking like a medieval masterpiece fit for Game of Thrones, Golubac Fortress sits impressively astride the Danube River. Built in the thirteenth century as one of the fortifications to protect the Serbian state, it became an important setting for battles between the Ottoman Empire and Hungary as they clashed to control the region in subsequent years. Today its an important historic site, yet its visited just as often by thirty Instagrammers looking for perfect fortress pics (not that we can blame them).
Zasavica Nature Reserve
Though it is last on this list, Zasavica Nature Reserve deserves a spot on your Serbia travel itinerary nonetheless. A great place to get out and experience nature, there’s a boat for tourists, opportunities for fishing and hiking, and a campsite for car camping. This is a great place to getaway from the bustle of city and town life, and simply commune with the gorgeous nature reserve in peace.
Serbia Travel Resources
Headed to Serbia? We have some great travel resources to help you with your trip. First read our guide to planning a trip to Serbia, which covers visas, budgets, vaccines, and much more. We also have a Balkan currency guide which explains how money works in Serbia and local tipping customs.
Next, you’ll want to read our guide to shopping in Serbia so you know which souvenirs are truly local gems.
If this will be one of your first trips in the Balkans, check out our massive list of things to know before traveling the Balkans as well as our Balkan bus, road trip, and itinerary guides.
We publish new content about the Balkans almost every day! For more information about traveling to Serbia and the Balkans, bookmark our Serbia and Balkan travel pages so you can find out what’s new before your trip.
Finally, Make Sure You Come to Serbia with Travel Insurance
I’m sure you’re aware that travel insurance is essential for traveling in Serbia, the Balkans, or anywhere in the world! Allison and I have both been paying customers of World Nomads for the last three years. We love the peace of mind it gives us in case of emergencies, accidents, illnesses, theft, or trip cancellation or disruption.
While Serbia is perfectly safe to travel around, there’s always a risk inherent in everyday travel, so it’s better to play it safe. The saying goes “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel” is true!
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