WHERE IS ŠABAC?
Sabac is approximately 90km from Belgrade, which means that you can go there in the morning and come back in the evening. However, I stayed there one night in a very nice three-star Alibi Hotel, right in the city centre, opposite the Serbian Orthodox church. If you ever go to Sabac, I strongly recommend this hotel. It was comfortable and very clean.
So, I went to Sabac because it wasn’t far from Belgrade and I also wanted to see one more place in Serbia. I went there right at the end of October 2020. By that time, the weather in Serbia started to be unsettled and I had to chose carefully when to travel, because I wanted it to be a sunny day with a blue sky. I booked everything one day before travel, reassured by the weather forecast. However, the following morning, I woke up to a grey sky. I wasn’t very happy, but I didn’t cancel my trip.
A nice, sunny day makes a huge difference. We all know that. I arrived to Sabac around noon and the rest of that day was rather depressing. But I was lucky because, the day after, the sun came out and I managed to revisit the central city area before returning to Belgrade. You will see the difference between a sunny and a cloudy day in the photos in this post.
WHAT DO I THINK OF ŠABAC?
First of all, let me say that I am very glad that I went to Sabac. It was a perfect excursion and I saw a place that I’ve never seen before. But I suspected that it would be the same as Smederevo. I was right. Both places have similar history. Sabac was also conquered by the Ottomans in 1459, but the Hungarians recaptured it in 1476. It again fell under the Ottoman rule in 1521, when Suleiman the Magnificent also conquered Belgrade.
So, Sabac was in the Ottoman Empire for more than 350 years. The same as Belgrade, it started to develop into a modern European city in the second half of the 19th century. Prior to that, it was a typical Ottoman provincial mahalla, with narrow street and mosques everywhere.
I also need to mention that Sabac was the front line city in the First World War, with some of the most important battles happening in its vicinity. The Austro-Hungarian army heavily bombed the city and also committed atrocities. But, I don’t want to go into too many details, you can find numerous articles about the city’s history on the internet.
The point I want to make is that, because of its history, Sabac is not a place where you will see grandiose palaces, monumental buildings and elegant city squares adorned by charming buildings with fairy-tale like facades, the way you can see in cities and towns in Vojvodina, just across the Sava river.
But, that’s OK. Sabac has its own identity and it’s not that you can’t see anything there, far from that.
WHAT TO SEE IN ŠABAC?
Everything that you would want to see in Sabac is in the city centre. Sabac is a small place, with even smaller centre. It means that you can see everything in one day, even if you include a visit to the museum. You would also have plenty of time to have a lunch or sit somewhere for a coffee.
Like everywhere in Serbia, there are numerous restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the main pedestrian area. Anyhow, no visit to a new place is a proper visit without taking time to sit down and enjoy the moment while you absorb the city and its people. Wherever I go, I try to make every moment of my visit special.
SAINT PETER AND PAUL SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
I started my tour of Sabac at the Saint Peter and Paul Serbian Orthodox church. I was in a hotel directly opposite the church, in Masarikova street. In fact, this cathedral church is probably the most visible symbol of the city. But unlike in other places that I visited earlier, it is not in the main city square.
The church was built in 1831 at the initiative of Jevrem Obrenović, the younger brother of Prince Miloš Obrenović I. He lived in Sabac for 15 years, which he used to transform it to the modern European city.
One of the greatest Serbian romantic painters, Pavle Simić, painted the icons of the iconostasis in 1855. The church suffered in the First World War, the bell tower had to be rebuilt in 1922. Finally, the Russian painter Andrej Bicenko painted the wall and ceiling frescoes in 1931. It took exactly 100 years for the church to be completed.
ARCHPRIEST JOVAN PAVLOVIĆ’S HOUSE
Immediately next to the church, you will see the Archpriest Jovan Pavlović’s house. Built in 1846, it’s the only example of the Balkan architecture of that era in the city now.
The former semi-gymnasium, built in 1857, houses the National Museum today. In the photo below, you can see that it’s not far from the Saint Peter and Paul church, in the same street.
On the other side of the road, directly opposite the National Museum, is the Sabac Library. In my opinion, together with the Serbian Orthodox church, it’s one of the most important symbols of the city.
Built in 1854 as the Bishop’s Palace, it houses the Sabac library since 1955. I didn’t go inside because I was not sure that the library was open and, anyway, I wasn’t going to borrow any book from the library.
The photo below shows the sunny side of the Sabac Gymnasium, around the corner from the National Museum and Sabac Library, in Vojvode Mišića street. The main entrance was in the shadow and the photo that I took was too dark to see anything, plus the trees further obscured the view. The gymnasium was built between 1892 and 1935, in four stages, although you would never tell. All additionally constructed parts match the initial building exactly.
Next, I went to see the pedestrian area. It consists of two streets, Gospodar Jevremova and Karađorđeva, divided by an intersection with Masarikova street. In fact, I would say that this junction is the centre of the city, rather than the main city square. This area is where some other notable buildings are. But as I’ve mentioned, this pedestrian zone is very modest compared with equivalent areas in Novi Sad and Zrenjanin.
Karađorđeva street starts with two prominent buildings. One of them is the former National Bank of Serbia, built in 1937, which now houses the tax office. In the photo below, you can see its proximity to the Saint Peter and Paul church. The centre of Sabac is very small.
On the other side, you will see the Zeleni Venac Hotel, built in 1931.
The second building from the hotel, which you can see better in the photo below, is Sabac Diocese. Otherwise, the building belonged to the famous merchant Arambašić, who constructed it at the end of the 19th century to be his residence.
At the end of the street, you will find the Sabac Theatre, in the former Crafts Home building. Constructed in 1933, the building was subsequently adapted to house the city’s main cultural institution.
When I saw the building of the Hotel Sloboda (Freedom), I asked myself: “Why would Sabac need such a big and expensive four-star hotel”? By its architectural style, I knew that it was built either in the 1970s or 1980s. Indeed, it was built in 1977, at the time when Sabac was a very prosperous industrial city. A lot of people came to the city for business reasons and that’s why the communist government constructed this huge hotel.
Of course, almost nothing of that industrial glory remains, so I don’t know how many people visit Sabac today. Also, the hotel is more expensive than other equally good hotels in the city, so I’m not sure how they manage to survive. Although, the hotel has been completely renovated and it looks good.
GOSPODAR JEVREMOVA STREET
The other part of the pedestrian zone, Gospodar Jevremova street, starts with the Krsmanović House. Built in 1891, it dominates the intersection with Masarikova street.
In fact, you can get a good idea of this area and the pedestrian zone from the photo below. You can see the four buildings that I’ve already mentioned. The former National Bank of Serbia and Hotel Zeleni Venac are opposite the Krsmanović House and you can also see the Sabac Diocese building.
In the photo below, you can see one of the two Twin Buildings, constructed in 1906 and 1907. Today, they house government institutions and the police.
One more notable building in this street is the Sabac Cultural Centre, constructed in 1922.
No pedestrian street in Serbia exists without restaurants, bars and coffee shops. Although not as numerous as in other places in Serbia that I’ve seen, in Gospodar Jevremova street they all looked very nice and inviting. I’ve already mentioned that food standards in Serbia are very high and that you are guaranteed to eat well in most places, for little money. But the best of all is that there are no chains, every place has its own authentic cuisine, style and appeal.
ŠABAC MAIN SQUARE
Circling back to what I said earlier about Sabac’s history, here is a photo of the city’s main square. Certainly, it’s very different from main squares in Novi Sad, Zrenjanin, Sremski Karlovci and Pančevo. Even the main square in Smederevo looks more impressive than this.
I finished my tour of the city by visiting the monument to Jevrem Obrenović.
SHOULD YOU VISIT SABAC?
On the way to the bus station, I passed by the Municipal Archives building. It’s one more notable building in the city, but a bit further away from the centre. Built in 1865, it was a Regional Hospital and now it houses the archives since 1981.
If you live in Belgrade or in any place close to Sabac, I would say that you should go there, at least for a day. It’s always interesting to see a new place. Moreover, you can visit the National Museum and the Serbian Orthodox church where you can see masterpieces by one of the greatest Serbian 19th century romantic painters. Just that should be enough to make you think of visiting Sabac.
If you are visiting Serbia as a tourist, for a short period of time, perhaps you should consider other destinations. Although I am very glad that I’ve seen this city and will have nice memories for the rest of my life.