I’ve never been to Novi Sad. In fact, I’ve never really travelled across Serbia. Back when I lived in Belgrade, before I moved to the UK, I was a student. I was more interested in travelling abroad or spending summers on the coast. So, I’ve never really seen anything in Serbia.
But, things change. Now that I’ve been in Belgrade for over two months, I decided to at least see places close to Belgrade. There are many interesting nearby towns and cities that you can see in one day, although I generally prefer to stay a bit longer and take time to see everything properly.
So, my first trip outside Belgrade was to Novi Sad.
MY HOTEL, MATICA SRPSKA & ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH
Novi Sad, although the second biggest city in Serbia, is much smaller than Belgrade. Now that I’ve been there, I can tell you that you can see everything that there is there to see in one day. But, I didn’t want to rush. I also wanted to have time to absorb the city and its energy.
So, I booked a very nice “Garni City Hotel Veliki”. I didn’t want to bother with apartments, this hotel is in the city centre and I had it for a very good price. An ongoing coronavirus epidemic is massively affecting the tourist industry, with good deals available to people that can and are willing to travel. So, I seized the opportunity.
The hotel is in Nikole Pašića street, where there are some other hotels, but there are also restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and other shops. It’s also only a five-minute walk from the Old Town.
In that same street, close to the hotel, I went to see two important historical buildings. One of them is Matica Srpska, the oldest Serbian literary, cultural and scientific society.
It was established in 1826 in Pest, at the time when the Serbs started serious movements for liberation from the centuries old Ottoman occupation. Matica Srpska’s task was to maintain the Serbian cultural identity while bringing the Serbian nation closer to modern European trends.
Undoubtedly, it’s one of the most important cultural institutions in the country, in a beautiful building.
Directly opposite, there is the Saint Nicholas Serbian Orthodox church. Originally built in 1729, the early 18th century Baroque church was the oldest in Novi Sad, but it was destroyed in the 1849 uprising. The church that exists today was rebuilt after that.
THE OLD TOWN
Having seen the Matica Srpska building and the Saint Nicholas church, I returned back towards the main pedestrian area of Novi Sad – the Old Town.
The first important building, right at the start of the pedestrian zone, was the Platoneum Building. It houses a branch of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Novi Sad.
I don’t think that it’s possible to visit this building inside, the same as you can’t visit the Academy in Belgrade.
Immediately next to the Platoneum building, there is the Cathedral Church of the Saint George the Martyr. This church is the seat of the Serbian Orthodox Eparchy of Bačka.
Bačka is a geographical area within the Pannonian plain, divided between Hungary and Serbia.
The original church, built in 1734, was also destroyed in 1849. Thus, the church that we see today was built between 1860 and 1880, with the final completion in 1905.
I wanted to take a photo of this church from a different angle, so I went behind, to Republic Square. But, the trees were obscuring the view, so I couldn’t take a single good picture.
Republic Square, in the photo below, is a big square with a monument to King Petar I Karađorđević. Surprisingly for Novi Sad, it’s not a pretty square, although there you will find a green market and also many interesting places where you can have something to eat.
ZMAJ JOVINA STREET
From Republic Square, I came back to Zmaj Jovina street. That’s where the Old Town starts. The Old Town is small but densely packed with historical building, lined one after the other.
As it often happens during my travels, important historical buildings are under restoration. While I fully appreciate that such structures have to be maintained and kept in pristine condition, I’m unhappy that I can’t see them in their full glory.
When I was in Turkey last year, it happened very often and I missed seeing some of the most important historical monuments. Unhappiness comes from the fact that I don’t know if I will ever go back to those places. For example, in Konya I missed the mausoleum of the Seljuk Sultans and several more Seljuk era sites, they were restoring them when I was there.
The same happened in Novi Sad with one of the most beautiful buildings – the Orthodox Bishop’s palace. In the photo below, you can see one restored side of the building, the rest was covered in scaffolding.
Undoubtedly, it’s a magnificent structure and I will certainly go back to Novi Sad at some point in the future, hopefully they will finish the works on this building by then.
Zmaj Jovina street is the main pedestrian street between the Orthodox Bishop’s palace and Liberty Square. The street is beautiful. All 19th century buildings have been beautifully restored and it’s precisely here that you can see the Austro-Hungarian architectural legacy in Novi Sad.
You will find various restaurants, bars and coffee shops in this and adjacent streets. It’s a perfect place to sit down and take some time to absorb the magical atmosphere around you.
It’s in Liberty Square that you understand that Novi Sad has a different past to Belgrade. The Belgrade’s main Republic Square also contains two majestic buildings, but it’s nowhere as beautiful as the main square in Novi Sad. This is where the Austro-Hungarian legacy reaches its peak, represented by magnificent structures all around.
One of them is the Roman Catholic the Name of Mary church. Built in 1894, this Neo-Gothic structure dominates the square.
A monument in the centre of the square is dedicated to Svetozar Miletić. He was among the most important political leaders of the Serbs in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The monument was done by the most prominent Yugoslavian sculptor Ivan Meštrović, in 1939.
In the photo below, the 1892 building with a pink facade on the left is the JNA House. It’s interesting that it’s still keeping this name. JNA is short for Yugoslav National Army. But, that army disappeared at the time when Yugoslavia disappeared.
Undoubtedly, the most magnificent building in Liberty Square is the 1895 Neo-Renaissance building that houses the Novi Sad Town Hall.
In the photo below you can see how big Liberty Square is.
Finally, the Hotel Vojvodina completes this square. Built in 1854, it’s the oldest hotel in Novi Sad, continuously operating for 166 years.
FURTHER AFIELD FROM THE OLD TOWN
I continued my walk around Novi Sad passing by one of the most important theatres in Serbia – the Serbian National Theatre. Founded in 1861 by the Serbian National Theatre Society, it currently resides in the 1981 building that you can see in the photo below.
Despite the fact that I’ve moved away from the most central historical area, to my surprise I came across six more important and interesting historical buildings.
The first one, immediately next to the Serbian National Theatre, was the Baroque 18th century Serbian Orthodox church of the Holy Mother’s Ascension, built in 1774.
Only a short walk away form the Church of the Holy Mother’s Ascension, I went to see the Protestant Slovak Evangelical Church, built in 1886 in Baroque and Neo-Classical styles.
As you can see in the photo below, immediately next to the Slovak Evangelical Church, there is the Hungarian language Novi Sad Theatre, established in 1974.
From there, I went back to see the Reformed Christian Church built in the Neo-Gothic style, in 1865.
At a short distance from this church, there is the Novi Sad Synagogue in Jevrejska street, built in 1909.
Finally, I arrived to the Matica Srpska Gallery. This building houses a museum, with a magnificent collection of Serbian medieval icons and 18th and 19th century paintings.
The historical area of Novi Sad consists of many smaller pedestrian streets, in addition to the main Zmaj Jovina street. I wanted to see them all, so I went back to where I started my walk around Novi Sad.
From the Orthodox Bishop’s Palace, Dunavska street runs towards Dunavski Park.
As you can see in these photos, this street also contains beautifully restored buildings, plus you will also find some interesting restaurants and coffee-shops there.
Having finished the tour of the Old Town, I decided to visit the most magnificent historical site in Novi Sad – the Petrovaradin Fortress.
To get there, I had to cross the Varadinski Bridge over the Danube river. Novi Sad extends along Danube, with most of the city on the left bank. Petrovaradin, including the fortress, is on the Danube’s right bank.
Although some sort of fortification existed in this place for many centuries, the fortress that we see today was constructed in the 18th century. Unlike the Belgrade Fortress, which is also a very important historical site, the Petrovaradin Fortress remained intact. That’s why I think that it’s much more impressive.
To get to the fortress, you have to pass by the Catholic Saint Gorge Church. This Baroque church was built by the Jesuits in 1714, after expulsion of the Ottomans.
I arrived to the Clock Tower, within the fortress, which is one of Novi Sad’s most recognisable symbols.
From there, I went for a walk around the fortress. The Novi Sad City Museum is in the photo below. I didn’t visit this museum, I was more interested in exploring the fortress.
If I go back to Novi Sad and the fortress, I will go to see this museum.
The long yellow building within the fortress is the “Hotel Leopold I”. Although it’s in a spectacular location, personally I would never consider staying there because it’s too far from the city centre. It’s possible to walk, distances in Novi Sad are small, but if you have a choice of staying in a hotel located in the Old Town, perhaps it makes no sense to stay in this hotel.
Anyway, it’s everyone’s personal preference.
PETROVARADIN LOWER TOWN
A beautiful, small Petrovaradin Lower Town below the fortress is only a small part of the city area that’s called Petrovaradin. I went to see this particular area because from the fortress it looked stunning.
I started at the Belgrade Gate, built in 1753.
The rest of the Lower Town is clearly geared towards tourism. As you can see in the photos, all buildings have been beautifully restored and they project a very beautiful image.
You will find some restaurants and coffee-shops in this area.
I have also seen some small hotels and signs offering accommodation. So, this is also where you can consider to stay if you come to Novi Sad.
But, even if you just visit the fortress, make sure that you go for a walk around the Lower Town. It’s really beautiful, moreover all houses seem very freshly restored and right now they look their very best, with their splendid 19th century architecture.
NOVI SAD BY NIGHT
In the evening, after my dinner, I went for a walk around the historical Old Town.
The city authorities made sure to beautifully illuminate the most important historical buildings.
The impressive Catholic Cathedral, with its beautiful lighting, dominates the Liberty Square and the surrounding area.
I stayed in Novi Sad for nearly three days. Perhaps, it was too long. Novi Sad’s historical area is small and you can see everything in one day, although I think that two days are perfect to visit the city properly.
After all, you wouldn’t want to only run around, you would want to take time and sit in one of its many restaurants or coffee shops, to enjoy the beautiful city and its people around you.
There are also some fabulous museums in Novi Sad, so it takes time for all that.
But one thing that I can say with certainty is that I will go back as soon as I can.