Vojvodina is a special place in Serbia, an autonomous province that has a distinct historical and linguistic past. Throughout the centuries of its existence, Vojvodina maintained a unique identity of its own, despite being part of empires and nations as diverse as Roman, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavia.
Vojvodina is home to 26 unique ethnic groups and has six official languages, which include Serbian (obviously), Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, Croatian, and a little-known Carpathian language called Rusyn that is similar in structure to Ukrainian.
Most often, you will see signs in both Serbian (in Cyrillic and in Latin alphabets) as well as Hungarian – here is an example from Subotica.
Despite Vojvodina’s tourism potential, this region of Serbia is still little-visited by international guests. While the cities of Subotica and Novi Sad are by no means secret to Serbs, foreign tourists often don’t know these gems exist.
We believe that is on the verge of changing, and if you are tempted to visit Vojvodina, here’s our guide including our best Vojvodina travel tips and our top recommendations for places to visit in Vojvodina.
Vojvodina Travel Tips
Give yourself time to do it justice
We don’t recommend trying to travel all of Vojvodina in just one day, even on a comprehensive day trip: there is simply too much to see!
I first visited Vojvodina on a city trip to Novi Sad, where I spent one one my three days in the city exploring Fruška Gora. On our second trip to Vojvodina, we rented a car and drove to Subotica and Lake Palić for the day. On our third trip, we did a guided day tour from Belgrade that included monasteries, wineries, Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad. I would recommend giving yourself at least 3 days to travel Vojvodina.
Novi Sad is about to experience a huge tourism boom. It was voted #3 on the list of cities to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet, a high honor that dedicated European travelers will surely take note of. Novi Sad is also slated to be the European Capital of Culture for 2021, which is also sure to bring in more tourism.
Right now, Novi Sad is beloved by Serbians but little-known abroad, so I recommend visiting as soon as you can to enjoy Vojvodina before the crowds do.
Knowing a little Serbian will be helpful
When traveling in Vojvodina, we didn’t encounter a huge language barrier and we were able to get our points across speaking only English. However, if you are visiting smaller towns or want to speak with the locals, Serbian is the most commonly known language and the most useful. I find knowing numbers (you’ll want to master up to 10,000 since you are dealing in dinars) and basic yes, no, please, thank you, and greetings is sufficient.
If you happen to speak one of the five other official languages of Vojvodina, give it a whirl – you never know! I often end up speaking a weird blend of Bulgarian/Serbian/Russian and find that mostly people understand me when I need to make my point across and we don’t have English as a common language.
Try the wine and cheese (and rakija, if you’re brave!)
Vojvodina is an agricultural region with fertile soil perfect for winemaking and other agriculture, partly because of the unique geography of the region. When you are in Vojvodina, you are actually on what used to be the bottom of the sea, and the mountain of Fruška Gora used to be an island! As a result, the terroir of the region is unique and home to delicious food and wine.
Fruška Gora is broken into two nicknamed regions – the “wine” region (viniculture and produce) and the “swine” region (animal agriculture – pork production as well as dairy). We especially loved the goat cheese from Fruška Gora! Also, you should be sure to try bermet, a unique sweet dessert wine that is only made in Sremski Karlovci. It was so beloved in the past that it made the sommelier’s list for wines to bring on board the Titanic.
Places to Visit in Vojvodina
Novi Sad is the administrative capital of Vojvodina and its cultural heart. It is the second-largest city in Serbia, with 250,000 residents. Located on the banks of the Danube River, Novi Sad has a lot to offer, including beaches in the summer, a yearly music festival called EXIT that draws tens of thousands of people to the city, and one of Europe’s largest fortresses.
Yet despite being only one hour away from Belgrade, it is completely unique in terms of architecture and feel of the city. This is largely because of Novi Sad’s many years underneath Austro-Hungarian rule, which resulted in the architecture being much more similar to Central European styles you’d find in Vienna or Budapest rather than what you see just an hour south in Belgrade. In particular, the tiled rooftop of Novi Sad’s distinctive cathedral (which is technically not a cathedral at all) is reminiscent of Austro-Hungarian architectural styles.
While in Novi Sad, there are several things you should not miss, including the Name of Mary Church, Cathedral Square, Liberty Square (the main city square), the Old Synagogue, the lively pedestrian zones, and Danube Park.
Technically outside the city of Novi Sad, the fortress is in the town of Petrovaradin, which is just across the Danube from Novi Sad. Still, as the fortress is an easy walk from downtown Novi Sad – no more than 20 minutes or so – the fortress is largely considered to be part of Novi Sad.
At the fortress, you’ll see the clock tower, old fortress walls, and have great views over the Danube, including the many bridges spanning the river. Most of these bridges are not original as they were destroyed during the NATO bombings in 1999. There are also restaurants and art galleries that have nestled themselves in the walls of this old fortress, giving it new life.
Also in the fortress, you can see the City Museum of Novi Sad. Another cool thing you can do at Petrovaradin Fortress is explore the tunnels underneath the building, though you must go with a guide as there are nearly 20 kilometers of tunnel and it’d be almost impossible to find your way out without a tour guide.
Fruška Gora is the name of the only mountain in Vojvodina, but it also refers to the 266 square kilometer National Park, which is the oldest in Serbia. Inside Fruška Gora, you’ll find not only hiking trails, but also still-functioning monasteries (over a dozen of them) as well as delicious wineries.
There’s so much to do in Fruška Gora that we have an entire post on it pending, but for now, we recommend leaving a day to road trip between some of the monasteries or take a guided tour of the wineries. Our favorite monastery, and the most famous, is Krušedol with its distinctive (albeit not original) red gatehouse.
An art nouveau gem more perfect that anything we’ve seen anywhere else, Subotica is a photographer’s dream and truly one of the most photogenic cities in the world. There are few buildings in the world comparable to the grandeur of the facade of Raichle Palace, a former palace that has been converted into an art museum featuring both paintings as well as applied/decorative arts original to the palace. Liberty Square is also breathaking, with its gorgeous City Hall and distinctive yellow library flanking the sides of the square.
In Subotica, you’ll also find a gorgeous but mostly disused synagogue, as well as the cathedral of Vojvodina which has a giant crack down the facade. There are also several colorful houses and streets worth perusing while visiting Subotica. We recommend forgetting the map and just wandering around the city with your camera out and jaw dropped.
Eight kilometers from Subotica, you shouldn’t miss a visit to this gorgeous lake if you are exploring Vojvodina by car. This lake is exceedingly tranquil and a great place to spend a hot summer’s day.
When we visited in mid-October, there were only a few other people there – a handful of local teens and a fisherman or two. It is a great place for catching the sunset in Vojvodina and is definitely off the tourist path. There are also hiking and cycling trails around Lake Palić if you want to get into the nature a bit. According to legend, the lake was made of tears – looking at how glassy and still the water is on a lovely evening, you can see why!
Part of Fruška Gora, we can’t help but feel like the cute picture-perfect town of Sremski Karlovci merits a section all of its own. Home to a palace, a beautiful town square, an ultra-Instagrammable red and yellow gymnasium (school), a city museum, and the Chapel of Peace where the Treaty of Karlowitz was signed, this tiny town has way more charm than you’d expect.