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    Visiting Serbia For the First Time

    One of the first countries we visited when we began the Grand Adventure was the Balkan nation of Bulgaria. We were, and still are, smitten with Bulgaria. It had everything we wanted; beautiful beaches, historic sites, delicious food, friendly people and all at a very inexpensive price. So we have made an effort to visit as many other Balkan countries as we could over the years including Romania, and Albania. This is how we ended up Visiting Serbia For The First Time. We only had a week, so we didn’t see it all, but here is what we saw while Visiting Serbia For The First Time in April.

    Belgrade Church of Saint Sava


    Located in a central part of the Balkans, the region has been an important crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa for thousands of years. Wikipedia says – In 1217 the Kingdom and national church (Serbian Orthodox Church) were established, under the Nemanjić dynasty. Next in 1345 the Serbian Empire was established, spanning most of the Balkan peninsula. Serbia became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1540. Next in 1929 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes adopted the name Yugoslavia. But in 1946, Yugoslavia became a socialist federation of six republics: Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia,

    When Yugoslavia broke apart in 1990, the Balkan wars began pitting former allies against each other. Inter-ethnic fighting between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovnia, escalated and included Kosovo and Serbia. The Yugoslav war left economic and political chaos that is still visible today.

    On the Danube looking across at Romania

    Through Our Eyes

    Serbia today, through our eyes, is a progressive country with several beautiful historic cities, UNESCO sites, good roads and infrastructure. It is not advised to drink the water, and EVERYONE smokes, but the traffic is much better than what we experienced in Albania and most people speak a little English. It is very inexpensive. During our six day visit we visited the largest city, Belgrade where we spent one full day. We did a day trip from Belgrade to Golubac. Then we traveled for one night to Novi Sad, two nights to Zlatibor and then back to Belgrade.

    Sunrise in Belgrade

    If you are considering Serbia, do your research to decide what is most important to you. We had read some recommendations that said don’t bother with Belgrade, but we actually enjoyed our time there very much. So depending on what you are looking for, Serbia has great food, nice museums, historic towns, prehistoric sites, beautiful nature and hiking and much more.


    We arrived at the Nikola Tesla Airport mid afternoon. The airport is actually pretty nice and we found arriving quick and efficient. But then we tried to find the car rental area and that was a bit of a wild goose chase. Signage is tiny and we missed the sign and wandered around for awhile. We finally realized we had to cross a major road, with no cross walk, where we found these container type buildings housing the car rental companies. Both odd and inconvenient as we stood outside in the rain. Eventually we were sorted and in the car heading to downtown Belgrade.

    Our hotel was fantastic. Garni Hotel Bohemia, I highly recommend for several reasons; exceptional service, parking available, laundry available and a great breakfast. On top of that we could walk everywhere we wanted to go from the centrally located property in the beautiful historic cobbled pedestrian street called Skadarlija.

    Garni Hotel Bohemia

    We arrived early evening and we were pretty tired. But we took a walk around our neighborhood getting a feel for the location. Instead of Serbian food (more of that comes later), we took the plunge to have a burger and fries at a highly rated little hole in the wall called Burgos. Definitely a nice change of pace and so delicious.


    Free Walking Tour

    Next morning, after a delicious breakfast at the hotel, we took a nice walk to meet up with a Free Walking Tour Belgrade. I’ve said before how much we enjoy doing these tours, it’s always an excellent introduction to a new city. Our tour provided some interesting historical information about the city, religion, ethnic troubles and culture. We walked a lot… visiting several pedestrian areas, churches and the Belgrade Fortress where we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Danube River.

    Belgrade Fortress

    Following our tour we visited the really amazing National Museum of Serbia enjoying some surprising painting and sculpture as well as some fascinating antiquities from the region. I highly recommend you visit the The National Museum of Serbia when in Belgrade. Leaving the museum we were treated to an unexpected folk dance performance on the Republic Square.

    Republic Square
    National Museum of Serbia

    For dinner we went to the highly rated Tri Sesira restaurant, founded in 1864 and serving the most traditional of Serbian foods. The food was really good, but we thought the service was poor and a bit “uppity”. Many tourists visit this restaurant so their snooty attitude to the customers was a surprise.

    Tri Sesira

    Golubac and Lepenski Vir

    Day Two we headed out on a road trip, with no expectations. We had read about two places to the east that were worth a visit. It was a bluebird day and the drive was beautiful with views of the Danube and small towns along the way.

    Golubac Fortress

    Our first site of Golubac Fortress was a great surprise, reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty. Originally a Roman settlement, the fortress was built around the 14th century, passing through the hands of the Ottomans, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Austrians before the Serbs secured it once and for all in 1867. Recent renovations of the Fortress have made it more accessible to visitors. It is a beautiful spot for a picnic and lots of tour buses come here, so arrive early in the day if you can.

    Golubac Fortress


    Just a few miles down the road, with a sign that is easy to miss, you come to Lepenski Vir. I had no idea how incredible this prehistoric site was. Lepenski Vir, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, is an important archaeological site of the Lepenski Vir culture. It includes Mesolithic Iron Gates Hunter-Gatherers period and transition to Early Neolithic Early European Farmers period of the Balkans.

    Lepenski Vir is the oldest planned settlement in Europe and has unique, trapezoidal-shaped houses seen nowhere else. Its culture has yielded not only the earliest discovered portrait sculptures, but also the first sculptures larger than life-size in the history of human art. The site Lepenski Vir is located at the so called “Iron Gates” of the Danube, approximately 150 kilometres east of Belgrade. The excavations conducted by D. Srejovic (1965-69) on a sandy bank terrace, measuring 170X50 m., revealed a settlement which was inhabited between 6600 and 4500 BC. Man I love this stuff. What a great discovery. Don’t miss this.

    Lepenski Vir
    Lepenski Vir

    There is more to do in this region, if you have time, spend another day. But we headed back to our Belgrade hotel and prepared for an early morning departure.

    Novi Sad

    Day three we headed North. Our destination was the city of Novi Sad, but our first stop was the historic Danube city of Sremski Karlovci. We arrived fairly early on a Sunday morning, the village was quiet. So we walked through the pedestrian area admiring the historic buildings and beautiful churches. Then following our Map My City App we wandered up through the hills around the city to a viewpoint. The site appeared to once have been a lovely spot, but now graffiti and vandalism had ruined it. The view though still worth it. We took another route back to the city, enjoying the flora as we headed back to our car. This region is one of Serbia’s wine regions, I recommend if you have some time, to check it out. The wines we had in Serbia were surprisingly delicious!

    Sremski Karlovci
    Petrovaridin Fortress

    Novi Sad

    Our next stop was Novi Sad, only about five miles from Sremski Karlovci. We parked at the bottom of the Petrovaridin Fortress and walked up the steps the way the ancient people would have. But you can also drive and park at the top. The fortress, built in 1692, has a fabulous view of the Danube and is a popular tourist destination. You can walk all around the ramparts and there are a few shops and a restaurant. We almost missed the museum, as the signage was not very good. I am so glad we found it. A fascinating chronological history of the region, the prehistoric people and the fortress. There is also a glimpse into the vast labyrinth that weaves beneath the fortress, most of it still uncharted.

    Petrovaridin Fortress
    Petrovaridin Fortress Museum

    We made a stop to see the Monument to the Victims of the Raid. On the quay that today bears the name Quay of the Raid Victims, occupying Hungarian forces carried out a mass shooting of more than a thousand innocent citizens of Novi Sad in the so-called “January Raid” from January 21 to 23, 1942. The bronze composition “The Family”, 4 meters tall, was erected at that place in 1971. It’s a beautiful sculpture and memorial that includes all the names of the victims. Worth a visit.

    Monument to the Victims of the Raid

    Next we headed to our hotel on the other side of the river. I was not happy with this hotel so I am not going to recommend it. But we really enjoyed walking at sunset around the beautiful historic town and then heading to Fish & Zelenis’– a fabulous seafood restaurant that was one of the best meals we had in all of Serbia.

    Novi Sad main square
    Fish and Zelenis’


    Day four we enjoyed a lovely drive heading towards the mountain town of Zlatibor. The rolling green hills and bucolic farmland were a beautiful surprise as we headed to the Gostilje waterfall for a short hike. It was cooler and damper in this forest area but we enjoyed walking through the trees and enjoying the multiple levels of the waterfall. It felt good to get some exercise and breath the fresh air.

    Beautiful green hills
    Gostilje waterfall

    Mountain Town

    After our invigorating hike we headed on to Zlatibor, the mountain ski town at 3000 feet. Wow, it was not what I was expecting. Recent construction has at least tripled the size of the destination. A gondola takes skiers or hikers up the mountain. The town is littered with construction cranes as hotels, retail and restaurants are quickly changing the look of the old town. Our apartment hotel, the Vila Masa, was a nice surprise, brand new and beautiful with an excellent breakfast included.

    The weather was chilly but we walked around the town to see what there was to see. It had been a long day so we enjoyed a room picnic and called it an early night.

    Next morning we were up early and walked to the Gold Gondola about a mile from our hotel. We took some time to explore the market, full of local cheese, wine and salami as well as traditional souvenirs. We headed to the gondola, hoping to get in a hike before the forecast rain began. The gondola ride was fun, about 20 minutes, and provided a great perspective of the sprawling area, former farmland, now being built up with condos and homes.

    Delicious local products at the market
    Top of Gold Gondola

    At the top, it was a bit chilly, but only a few patches of snow was visible. We had hoped to find some great hiking trails, but there wasn’t really as many as we had assumed. But we put in a couple miles, and had just turned to head back when the rains started.

    Zlatabor Mountain Hike

    Back in town we visited a very traditional Serbian restaurant Jezero. Our time in Serbia was coming to an end and I still had not eaten the famous Sarma, (stuffed cabbage). It was so delicious. I am going to make this at home.

    Sarma Serbian Cabbage Rolls

    Back to Belgrade

    Our final day we took a couple of hours to drive back to Belgrade hoping to have plenty of time to visit the Nikola Tesla Museum. The highly rated museum does not take reservations or sell advance tickets. Guided tours are offered a few times a day and we were optimistic. Despite arriving an hour in advance to the museum we were turned away. I’ve heard great things about this museum, but we did not see it. I hope you have better luck.

    Church of Saint Sava

    We took a walk to see the famous Church of Saint Sava, built in the 1930’s, before heading to a hotel at the airport, where we slept just a few hours, our Uber arriving at 4:00am for our 7:00am flight to Vienna. Farewell to Serbia.

    Thank you for reading my post Visiting Serbia for the First Time. See last week’s post A Visit to Lake Ohrid North Macedonia. We love it when you comment and share our posts. Thank you.