How to Spend 24 Hours in Novi Sad, Serbia

The sun sets over the Serbian Athens
The sun sets over the Serbian Athens | © Slobodan Kunevski/shutterstock

As the travelling world continues to open up toward Serbia, more and more tourists are looking beyond Belgrade for their Srpski fix. The second city of Novi Sad is growing ever more popular by the day as a result and not just because of the manic EXIT Festival that takes over every summer. If you’ve only got 24 hours in Novi Sad, let us be your guide.

Novi Sad Synagogue and Freedom Square

The obvious (and logical) place to start in Novi Sad is the city centre. Before getting to the epicentre however, visitors are recommended to stop off at the city’s synagogue. One of the major cultural institutions of the city, the 20th century structure synagogue is used more for events and concerts than religious ceremonies in the modern age. It is still a great place to start your exploration of Serbia’s second city though.
Freedom Square (Trg Slobode) is the main event in the town, a big square closed in from all sides by sumptuous architecture and no small amount of history. Two major buildings dominate the square, both showstoppers in their own right. The Neo-Gothic Catholic Cathedral stands opposite the Neo-Renaissance City Hall in a battle of the Neos, with a statue of Svetozar Miletić located in the middle, like a fiery referee.
Miletić was the leader of the Serbs in Vojvodina in the 19th century and had two tenures as mayor of Novi Sad, making him one of the most prominent political figures in the modern history of the city. The square around his statue offers plenty in the way of quick coffee stops too, so get your caffeine fix in.

Novi Sad’s majestic synagogue

The Bishop’s Palace

A short walk from Freedom Square lies the Bishop’s Palace, sitting snugly at the end of the fabulously named street Zmaj Jovina. The palace is the work of Vladimir Nikolić, although Nikolić’s worries about public perception meant the project was attributed to Hungarian architect Ferenc Raichle. The palace is also fronted by a statue of another Novi Sad great, poet Jovan Jovanović Zmaj.

Jovan Jovanovicć Zmaj stands in front of the Bishop’s Palace

Petrovaradin Fortress

It might come as a surprise to some, but Petrovaradin Fortress isn’t actually in Novi Sad. Well, it is somewhat, but Petrovaradin and Novi Sad are the two municipalities that make up the big city itself. Either way, the fortress that plays host to EXIT Festival is arguably the best known tourist attraction in all of Vojvodina.
Travel writers have often referred to it as the ‘Gibraltar of the Danube’, a lazy comparison but one that makes a lot of sense. Work on the fortress began way back in 1692. 88 years passed before it was completed, the delays came as a result of the almost constant wars between Austria and Turkey at the time.
The last time the fortress was used in an offensive military action was way back in the middle of the 1800s, and over time it has become better known for what is found here as opposed to what is destroyed from here. The Clock Tower is among the most fascinating things, known by many as the ‘Drunken Clock’, as the long hand shows the hour and the shorter limb tells the minutes. Many a tourist photo has been taken with this unusual timekeeper in the background.
Petrovaradin is home to one of Europe’s most famous festivals, the annual extravaganza called EXIT Festival. Locals claim that the party loses some of its lustre every year, but it shows no signs of slowing down. The Prodigy, Beastie Boys, Garbage and Pet Shop Boys are just some of the artists to have plied their trade in the grounds of the fortress.

A dramatic look at Petrovaradin in winter

A romantic dinner with a view

Novi Sad has plenty of great options when it comes to chowing down, but the views offered by Terasa probably take this particular biscuit. With the drunken clock in full view and vistas across the Danube to the city centre doing most of the work for you, there simply isn’t a more romantic setting in this underrated gem of a city.
The food also happens to be pretty good, which is obviously rather important. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available from here, but a plate of gourmet cuisine as the sun sets over the river is every bit as sumptuous an experience as one assumes it would be.

Drinks and dancing at the cultural centre

Novi Sad’s nightlife isn’t about to come out and claim superiority over that of Belgrade, but don’t think about selling it short. This is a lively city once the sun goes down, and revellers won’t find themselves short of spots to dance the night away.
One of our favourites isn’t a bar or club in the classic sense however. Dom b-612 is one of Novi Sad’s student cultural centres, and the city centre spot has an energetic calendar of live music, speaking, and comedy, meaning there is always something going on here. The beer is cheap and the atmosphere could not be more inviting. It is the perfect way to end a thrilling day in Serbia’s second city.

Another night at Dom b-612

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