The beautiful city of Novi Sad, situated in the north of Serbia, is probably most famous for the EXIT music festival that happens here every July.
Visit at any other time of the year however, and you’ll find a laidback, very local city that oozes friendly charm, unpretentious sophistication, culture, history and some gorgeous surrounds.
When I visited Novi Sad in Serbia as part of my summer eastern Europe adventure in 2018, there were very few other tourists around. But I have a feeling that may well have changed now given Novi Sad has been named the European City of Culture 2022!
Yes prepare for this place to become wildly popular… and for a good reason!
Because from an ancient fortress and quaint Old Town, to beautiful Danube views, a riverside beach, a lively café culture and even a national park on the doorstep, there’s no question Novi Sad is a delightful stop – one which can provide a welcome relief from treading the busy traveller route of Prague, Berlin and Budapest.
So, if you’re looking for somewhere a little different, yet still bubbling with a vibrancy and diverse range of things to do, look no further than Novi Sad.
Here’s my ultimate travel guide to visiting this great Serbian spot…
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My stay in Novi Sad was kindly sponsored by Varad Inn Hostel but, as always, all views are my own.
Why Visit Novi Sad?
Named the European Youth City in 2019, as well as the European Capital of Culture in 2022, Novi Sad is on the rise!
Long known within Serbia as a happening, student city, with a vibrant culture and tradition of activism, Novi Sad is becoming well known on a bigger scale as a place that makes the perfect addition to a Belgrade excursion…. or even an ideal city break in its own right.
If you’re visiting in July, EXIT festival held annually at this time, is the perfect excuse to go and party Serbian style (oh how the Serbs love to party!), but at other times of the year, Novi Sad is a wonderful addition to a longer eastern Europe excursion.
Allowing just a few extra days here on your way south from Budapest, west from Sarajevo, north from Belgrade or east from Romania or Bulgaria is a great idea and a superb chance to get away from simply visiting the capital cities and ticking those sightseeing boxes!
Oh and did I mention Novi Sad is also crazy cheap?!
Get here before the world catches on and the pries go up!
When to Visit Novi Sad?
Being a complete winter-phobe, there’s no question I’d suggest visiting Novi Sad in the summer, when film festivals, music festivals, street performance festivals, dance festivals and general merriment is in full swing.
That said, making this a winter break would bring a snowy splendour of a time – especially with the city’s picturesque setting on the banks of the Danube. just make sure you travel with a thick coat and some even thicker socks, gloves and boots if you’re planning on doing this.
How to Travel to Novi Sad?
Situated in the north of Serbia, about an hour from Belgrade, backpackers can make their way to Novi Sad from a variety of directions.
Here’s the most common…
#1 Belgrade to Novi Sad
The nearest airport to Novi Sad is Belgrade, find a cheap flight here using Skyscanner and then hop on a local bus straight from the airport to Novi Sad – it will take less than 1.5 hours.
If you’re arriving into the centre of Belgrade from another European city, then hopping on a bus is again your best bet.
Leaving from the Main Station in Belgrade every 20 minutes or so, the bus to Novi Sad costs around 10€ and takes 1.5 hours.
If you’re travelling from Bosnia, Croatia, Romania or Bulgaria, you’re likely to arrive via international bus into Belgrade, so stay at the station and head straight out to Novi Sad.
Essentially bus is the way to go here, so buy your tickets in advance (to save the queues) via Busbud.
#2 Budapest to Novi Sad
Top tip alert!
Bus and trains from Budapest travelling south generally stop in Novi Sad.
This makes it the perfect city to break up the journey as you travel from the Hungarian capital, south, to elsewhere in Europe.
How Long to Stay in Novi Sad?
Novi Sad is a small city, but it does offer a ton of stuff to do.
As such, I’d allow at least 2-3 nights for your trip here.
On day 1, I’d advise spending your time exploring the Fortress as well as the Old Town here, along with the modern centre of the city and its many shops, cafes, restaurants and churches.
Strolling along the Danube, checking out one of the many parks and hitting the Strand Beach are also must-dos.
With another day or 2 up your sleeve, there’s plenty of day trips you can make from Novi Sad, including to the surrounding national parks, vineyards and monasteries. Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more…
Alternatively, if you are on a short timeframe and are only just squeezing Novi Sad in, then it pays to know you can also this city as part of a great day trip from Belgrade.
Which means there really is no excuse not to come here!
Top Things to Do in Novi Sad
Where to start when it comes to the best things to do in this city?
So the first thing to do in Novi Sad is a hike up to the Fortress – hello FREE activity! – and snap the amazing Danube and countryside views from the top.
Next stroll through the Old Town and across the bridge to the city centre.
Here you can wander the shops, cafes, churches, parks and squares to your heart’s content.
You should also return in the evening when all the streets here come to life with alfresco diners and drinkers bringing a great atmosphere to this pedestrianised area.
Zmaj Jovina is the main eatery / bar strip in the city centre, so head here and the surrounding streets if you’re after a good time.
For something more relaxing, walking along the Danube to the Strand – Novi Sad’s answer to a beach, which is loads of fun and costs just 75 Dinar entrance – about $1 USD!
With grass and sand to lie on, take a towel, a good book and enjoy catching some rays here on a summer’s day – it’s Novi Sad perfection!
Best Day Trips from Novi Sad
As talked about earlier on this in this article, I said we’d discuss the best day trips from Novi Sad, after all, I definitely recommend enjoying at least 1 or 2 of them if you can.
Here’s my pick of the bunch…
#1 Sremski Karlovci
If you’re staying at Varad Inn, this is a super easy day trip because all you need do is take the #61 or #62 bus from basically outside the hostel door!
In 15 minutes you’ll be in the quiet town of Sremski Karlovci.
Situated on the banks of the Danube, this place is famous as a local wine-growing region, so cellars and wine shops abound with plenty of tastings on offer.
Get stuck in with this great guided day trip there!
The panoramic view across the city and Royal Gardens also deserve a special mention.
#2 Iriški Venac
Situated in the heart of Fruška Gora National Park, this is a great day trip if you want to take in the beauty of this landscape here without having to plan a multi-day hike or hire a guide.
Enjoy the views as you feast over a delicious Serbian lunch and then head out by local bus to explore the ancient monasteries, such as the Novo Hopovo Monastery, that dot the scenery here.
How to Get Around Novi Sad?
Both bus and trains to Novi Sad arrive into stations that are located next to each other, just north of the city centre.
Hop on bus #61, #62, #64 from these stations to get to the city centre or simply walk across the bridge to the Fortress and Old Town.
Once in the downtown area, it’s then safe and easy to walk everywhere in Novi Sad.
Strolling along the promenade, adjacent to the Danube, is particularly pleasant, with cyclists, runners and rollerbladers all making use of this car-free track.
Taxis are extremely reasonable in Novi Sad too and, quite amazingly in my experience, never rip you off.
Short trips around the city won’t cost you more than a dollar or 2 in a taxi, but do make sure the meter is in use!
Alternatively, Car:Go is a great rideshare app to use across Serbia, that works like Uber.
Top Spots for Eating & Drinking
No trip to Novi Sad would be complete with getting stuck into some Serbian beer, wine and rakija (local lethal spirit made from fruits like plum, apple and quince!)
Local foods worth trying include Burek and Kajmak.
Here’s my following recommendation for eating and drinking in Novi Sad:
Craft Beer: Mazut
Live Music: Corto
Dinner: Toster Bar
Best Place to Stay in Novi Sad?
As far as I’m concerned there’s only place you should stay in Novi Sad if you’re a budget traveller and that’s the fabulous Varad Inn Hostel.
Recommended by Lonely Planet’s Eastern Europe guidebook, as well as me!, this family-run guesthouse, set in a heritage building, is perfectly located below Novi Sad’s Fortress in the gorgeous Old Town.
With dorms, privates, ensuites, a small guest kitchen and cute courtyard, this is a wonderfully chilled spot, with some of the friendliest staff ever!
Staying 3 nights, I had a hard job to pull myself away from the lightning wifi speed, relaxed feel and the new Serbian friends I made here!
Altnertiavely, if you want something with a little more space and comfort, then check out Crystal Apartments in the centre of Novi Sad, which came with brilliant ratings and reviews.
4 Key Packing Items for Novi Sad
#1 Good Camera – You will be snapping aplenty during your time in this city and will need a good camera to do this unique place justice. I highly recommend the Sony A6000, which I use for all my travels and love, not least because it’s light, compact and robust!
#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Novi Sad, so make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. I love mine.
#3 Good Water Bottle – All that Serbian sightseeing is thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water in Novi Sad is drinkable… and free!
#4 Good Backpack – And to carry your water bottle, camera and guidebook, you’re going to need a decent backpack that will help you balance the weight as you walk. In my opinion, you can’t go past the Bobby Anti Theft Backpack, which is also perfect for helping you avoid pickpockets too.
Travel Insurance for Serbia
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
Alternatively, if you’re a long-term traveller, digital nomad or frequent remote worker seeking travel health cover, check out Safetywing’s Nomad Insurance policies.
When to Visit After Novi Sad?
Well the obvious option if you’re not coming from there already, is Belgrade is the alluring capital of Serbia has a lot of fun to offer.
Check out my list of the top things to do in the city here.
Otherwise, Budapest is another easy city to get to from Novi Sad and you certainly need to visit here and relax in the amazing baths at least once in your life!
Check out my list of the top things to do in Budapest here.
Otherwise, Timisoara in Romania, Zagreb in Croatia or Sarajevo in Bosnia Hercegovina are also good options!
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
So there you have it, my ultimate travel guide to visiting Novi Sad in Serbia.
Have you been to this gorgeous city before?
What was your favourite thing to do there?
Tell me all in the comments box below…