Best things to do in Serbia
A cosmopolitan country, Serbia is steeped in history and is a melting pot of cultures, a juxtaposition of East and West. In its architecture, music, arts and cuisine you can see influences from the Byzantine, Roman and Ottoman empires. There is a lot to see here. Historic towns and sites, lush wine regions, Danube towns, museums, national parks – these are just a few of the many gems that Serbia has to offer. Here we list five reasons why you should add Serbia to your travel bucket list.
A visa-free European country for Indians
In September 2017, Serbia introduced visa-free entry for all Indian passport holders for a stay of up to 30 days. For visa-free entry, Indian nationals traveling to Serbia must have the required documents (as per Serbian regulations), including a valid passport, round-trip air ticket, documentary evidence of booking confirmed hotel and an invitation letter. If you come as a tourist, you will need proof of payment for the trip issued by a travel agency (voucher or any other type of payment receipt). However, you cannot travel to other countries, including Serbia’s neighboring countries and other European countries, under the visa-free entry to Serbia. In other words, Indians coming to Serbia must have a visa for other countries if they intend to visit those countries from Serbia.
A lively nightlife
When you think of Eastern Europe, partying might not be the first thing that comes to mind. But, people from the Balkan nations can testify that the Serbian capital, Belgrade, is a city that loves to party. World-class DJs add to the glamor at clubs like Barutana, located within the grounds of Belgrade’s fortresses, making the capital of the former Yugoslavia a must for party fanatics. Seventies-style disco nightclubs and floating lounges known as splavovi (or splav) anchored along the river, in a Frank Zappa themed club or a dinner at Beton Hala, there is plenty to do here if you decide to stay up late in Belgrade. You must hang out in Skadarlija, the bohemian district of Belgrade. Its cobbled streets have seen Roma artists, poets and gypsies parade since the beginning of the 20th century. Browse art galleries and antique shops, stay in one of the old hotels, dine in a restaurant while being lulled by musicians.
Enjoy the best of Serbian cuisine in the many restaurants in Belgrade. Visit the art installations in the newly renovated riverside park, dance to Turbofolk at a party on a splavovi – a floating raft club that will travel along the banks of the Danube and Sava. See the dome of St. Sava Church and the illuminated stone walls of the centuries-old Kalemegdan Fortress soaring above the capital’s skyline. Treat yourself to a meat-kebab dinner and Turkish coffee at a Belgrade cafe. Your days will be filled with rich experiences.
The wine regions
Few people know that this part of the world has a long history of winemaking. If you’re looking for a laid-back European vacation amidst stunning rural landscapes, try Vojvodina, a rustic region full of meek villages in the hilly ranges of Fruška Gora National Park. The region is dotted with picturesque villages and centuries-old Orthodox monasteries. A two-hour drive from Belgrade brings you to this scenic region, also one of the oldest wine regions in Serbia, famous for its rich agricultural soil and traditional farmhouses.
The baroque style town of Sremski Karlovci is well known for its vineyards and small family wineries. The vineyards are mainly scattered on the Fruška Gora hill with the Danube to the north. Bermet wine from Serbia is the most famous. It was served on the Titanic and was even used to bribe Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. The legend says that it was in the fertile lands of the Fruška Gora mountain that the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus planted the first vineyard. Today there are more than 60 private wine cellars here. Visit the more than three-century-old Zivanovic Beekeeping Museum and Wine Cellar in Sremski Karlovci, and taste sweet dessert wines, such as white and red Bermet, as well as Reisling.
Pretty towns with heaps of history
Serbia is dotted with picturesque places like Zemun, an ancient and historic town dotted with red-tiled roofs. Climb to the old Gardos Tower for the panoramic view of Zemun and Belgrade. The pedestrian streets are lined with cafes and bars. Novi Sad is another perfect city – it will remind you of Greece. Located in Vojvodina, an autonomous province of Serbia, the city is dominated by the majestic fortress of Petro Varadin. It offers quaint farm stays with excellent traditional cuisine. It has been awarded the title of European Capital of Culture for 2022, based on the concept of four bridges: freedom (creative industry and youth culture); hope (devoted to cultural facilities and public spaces), rainbow (migration and conflict resolution) and new (cultural heritage and hospitality). Then there is Nis, with an ancient history (it is the birthplace of Constantine the Great) and landmarks such as a Roman-era fortress and Ottoman baths, the more recent history of Nis is bloody. Some 10,000 citizens were slaughtered here during World War II. Today, it is a hospitable and safe city, with street stalls offering hearty specialties such as burek (pastry stuffed with meat or cheese), friendly locals and lovely summer weather. The town of Topola was home to Karadorde, leader of the 1804 uprising against the Ottoman rulers of Serbia, the five-domed Church of St. George with mosaics is worth a visit.
Then there are the museums in Serbia. You must have a dekko at the Nikola Tesla Museum, dedicated to Serbia’s most prominent inventor and scientist. Also discover the museums about Zepter, Yugoslav history and the beekeeping museum.
Memorable farm stays
If you’re looking for a laid-back European holiday amid stunning rural scenery, book a stay at a traditional farmhouse – many of these have been converted into farmhouses, or ‘salaš’. You can find them everywhere in Vojvodina. The word ‘salaš’ comes from the Hungarian ‘szállás’, which means accommodation. They are family houses with an adjoining farm, restaurants and sometimes even a stable. Beware of signs saying ‘vinski podrum’ – it means they have a wine cellar and you can taste some. Farms have also become very popular as venues for destination weddings. You should definitely ask for the local Serbian wines in a salaš.
The Vojvodina region has many quiet hiking trails and beautiful lakes. If you are a cycling enthusiast, try the Danube Cycle Path along the iconic river past idyllic villages. It goes as far as the Iron Gates Gorge on the Romanian border. You can take a tour of the monasteries or drive to the perfect riverside town of Novi Sad. And of course, there’s Belgrade to get away to when you want to party a little.
There are several airlines like Qatar Airways that offer connecting flights. Delhi has no direct flights to Belgrade, but many carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa and KLM, shuttle between cities with stopovers.
Indian nationals can visit Serbia without a visa for a period not exceeding 30 days from the date of entry, within one year.
Where to stay
The atmosphere of the Metropol Palace in Belgrade is a good choice – it hosted Che Guevera, Anthony Quinn, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Bobby Fischer and Jawaharlal Nehru. A centerpiece of the communist era, it has now been renovated and relaunched as a luxury hotel in the heart of Belgrade.