Is Novi Sad worth Visiting?

Is Novi Sad worth visiting

If you are interested in spending some time in Serbia, you might be asking ‘is Novi Sad worth visiting?’ I spent just one day in Novi Sad, and let me tell you that I was very pleasantly surprised….so much so, in fact, that I liked it better than Belgrade. Novi Sad is a very walkable city and the architecture feels more authentic. Although Novi Sad was bombed during WW2 and by NATO during the Yugoslavian war, most of the Churches and historical buildings are intact. Novi Sad is a city with green space and an exciting student life (great for going out and having a beer!) Yes, Novi Sad, in my opinion is definitely worth visiting. Let’s take a look more closely at the fabulous Serbian second city.

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One day in Novi Sad

Is Novi Sad Worth Visiting? Absolutely!

Novi Sad is definitely a city worth visiting in my opinion. I travelled to Novi Sad by train for a day trip (the train takes an hour and a half) and really enjoyed it. I preferred it to Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city, and wished I’d stayed longer! Novi Sad was the capital of culture 2022 and it has a vibrant night life with a very liberal culture that embraces diversity. The buildings in the city centre are beautiful to see (particularly the town hall and Catholic Cathedral).

Oh, and don’t be forgetting the fabulous Petrovaradin Fortress on the hilltop overlooking the city. Novi Sad has great museums, history, bars and restaurants, so if you haven’t yet considered travelling to Serbia’s second city, please do so – I highly recommend it.

How long should I spend in Novi Sad?

The great thing about Novi Sad is that it’s an extremely walkable city and it’s possible to see the sights of Novi Sad in just one day. However, although you can see the city in one day, you may like to consider staying longer to soak up the atmosphere! Treat yourself to a hostel to stay overnight there if possible…they are great value. 2 days would allow you to soak up the atmosphere, try more local foods and enjoy the nightlife of the city (sadly I wasn’t able to appreciate this as I didn’t stay overnight – one of my Novi Sad regrets!)

Getting there and away

Most people fly into Belgrade airport and then travel overland to Novi Sad, because Novi Sad itself has no airport.

I travelled to Novi Sad from Belgrade by train and it was an hour and a half journey. You can buy the ticket at the train station, but be aware that they may not speak English. It might do you a favour to have written down exactly what you want – I had a bit of a shock when I realised that what I thought was a return ticket was just one way!

Novi Sad Clock
Is Novi Sad worth visiting? Yes! Novi Sad Clock

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A top tip for anyone doing Novi Sad in one day without a car….travel from Belgrade by train and get off the train at ‘Petrovaradin’ station (not Novi Sad). This way you will be able to see Petrovaradin Fortress and the Museum, cross the river and then see the old town and side of Novi Sad. Get back on the train at Novi Sad station to head back to Belgrade. This way you can see the main sights by one straight walk rather than needing to double back on yourself.

The Pros of Visiting Novi Sad

Novi Sad is a beautiful city, with a great fortress (Petrovaradin) and a walkable city centre. You will find friendly people, great value food and good nightlife. Here are the main pros to visiting Novi Sad…

Novi Sad is cheaper than Belgrade

Novi Sad is cheaper than Belgrade for most things, including hostels, eating out and drinks. You can get hostels in Novi Sad for around Β£11 per night on average compared to Β£15-20 in Belgrade. Numbeo reprots that Novi Sad is around 33% cheaper than Belgrade on the cost of living. An average meal out will be around 200 Serbian Dinars cheaper (you would spend around 1000 Dinars in Belgrade vs 800 Dinars in Novi Sad according to numbeo.com. Although it’s not too noticeable for a short time, if you are looking at spending more time in Serbia or studying there at the university then it all adds up.

Novi Sad has an Amazing Fortress – Petrovaradin

One of the things that Novi Sad is famous for is Petrovaradin Fortress. The Fortress actually has it’s own train station and if you are doing a day trip you can disembark at Petrovaradin to start your walking tour from the fortress, then walk through Novi Sad to the Novi Sad main train station where you get on and head back to Belgrade. I did this and it made a great route, including everything I wanted to see.

Novi Sad Fortress Petrovaradin
Petrovaradin Fortress, Novi Sad

Travel Tip – After visiting Petrovaradin and the City Museum, walk across the Varadin Bridge to the other side of the city where you can explore the historical town, monuments and Churches.

Good Museums

Novi Sad has great Museums including the City Museum of Novi Sad, which is full of atillery and historical memorabilia from WW1 and WW2. It also has the Gallery of Matica srpska (full of art work by Serbian painters), a Museum of Contemporary art and a natural history museum (Institute for Nature Conservation).

Churches and Architecture

The Churches and Cathedrals in Novi Sad are stunningly beautiful. Don’t miss The Name of Mary Church (The Catholic Cathedral), St Nicolas Church and the Greek Catholic Church of St. Peter and Paul. Also there are several Serbian Orthodox monasteries around the Novi sad area (including KruΕ‘edol, Novo Hopovo and Velika Remeta).

Is Novi Sad worth visiting

There are also some amazing palaces and halls to take a look at. Don’t miss the following…

  • Novi Sad Clock Tower
  • Novi Sad City Hall
  • Bishops Palace
  • City Assembly of Novi Sad
  • Novi Sad Synagogue
  • Tomin Palace (Art Nouveau)
Bishops Palace Novi Sad
Bishops Palace, Novi Sad

Bars and Nightlife

Because Novi Sad is a popular student city, it has great bars and nightlife with excellent value beer! Some of my favourite places to have a drink in Novi Sad are Skripa Pub, Zenit Books bar and Kota 84. The Brick Bar, Graffiti and Pub Lazino Tele are also really popular. Expect to pay around Β£2 ($2.50) for a beer in Novi Sad, and you may find it even cheaper at Happy Hour or on student nights.

The Cons of Novi Sad

Novi Sad overall is a really lovely place to hang out. However, as it’s quite small, there are many tourists who will tell you that one day in Novi Sad is enough. There are also more language and cuural challenges as Novi Sad is still relatively undiscovered – it certainly hasn’t received the influx of mass tourism that places like Prague and Venice have.

Relatively Small city

Novi Sad is a relatively small city by European standards, and it won’t entertain you for weeks! Most tourists are happy with spending one day there done as a day trip from Belgrade. Some people will spend a few days there and explore some of the surrounding countryside and monasteries. But overall, although Novi Sad is worth visiting, it’s not the place to be spending a week or more. That said, if you were a digital nomad looking to kick your shoes off for a few weeks and relax and work remotely, I would certainly consider Novi Sad as a temporary base.

Language challenges

Because you are more ‘out in the sticks’ so to speak, and Novi Sad doesn’t get too many tourists, you are likely to find the language barrier more of a challenge in Novi Sad than Belgrade. Most speakers speak Serbian and most restaurants have menus in Serbian, although I did find several menus in English (particularly the modern burger bars!) But, this does make your Serbian experience more authentic, and you could try out a few phrases on Duolingo!

Novi Sad is very Cold in Winter!

I travelled to Novi Sad during the springtime (May) and it was mild and comfortable. However, I would recommend that you avoid Novi Sad in the winter months. In December and January it can drop to -1Β°C. Take a few layers if you are travelling in the autumn or winter, including a base layer and a warm Gortex outer jacket.

Excessive Smoking

Sadly, you will find that people smoke quite excessively in Serbia, and Novi Sad is no different. You might find people smoking in bars, and even lighting up in restaurants when you are about to start eating your meal! The smell can be off putting and will certainly be a health issue for asthma sufferers.

Most important Novi Sad Travel Tips

  • Carry plenty of Serbian Dinars in cash as well as your credit/debit card (The Serbian Dinar is a closed currency so you won’t be able to get it in advance – draw out cash at the first ATM you come to).
  • Ask someone to write in Serbian your requirements for your train ticket (and whether it’s a return journey) – in Belgrade and Novi Sad station they did not speak English!
  • Wear a sturdy pair of walking shoes as you will be walking from the fortress across the bridge to the old town and it’s not a walk for fancy shoes or high heels!
  • Avoid protests and rallies in the main square, which can turn violent (this is infrequent but something to be aware of).
  • Don’t get your phone, wallet or money out in busy places such as train stations or main old town squares to avoid pickpockets.
  • Where to stay – I stayed at Garni Hotel Zenit which is right by the National Theatre and City hall, and is excellent value. Another great option is Hotel Fontana just 300 feet from the historical centre.

What to Pack for Novi Sad

  • Use a good backpack – a small hand luggage (mine is the Deuter Groden 20) plus a medium sized backpack with a mesh back support is perfect. Many places in Novi Sad and Belgrade don’t have lifts, so a suitcase would be a bit of a nightmare.
  • Canvas Tote bag – For supermarket shopping to avoid paying for plastic bags.
  • Medications – Particularly asthma inhalers and antibiotics for infections that you are prone to – Medicines like this are not so easily available in Novi Sad.
  • Serbian Dinars (draw cash at the ATM when you arrive in Serbia) and credit/debit cards – my Barclays VISA worked well in Novi Sad and Belgrade, but in Novi Sad there are more ‘cash only’ restaurants and cafes.
  • Jeans, leggings, T-shirts and jumpers – any comfy clothes and have layers at the ready for the cooler months.
  • One or two sets of nicer evening wear (such as a warm/jumper dress and shoes) if you plan to go out at night – Serbian women do dress up a fair bit and you don’t want to feel too out of place.
  • Sturdy walking boots – if you do a day tour of the city you will cover a lot of ground.
  • Light fleece or outer shell jacket (Spring and Summer) – mine is a fleece from Tog 24.
  • Warm Gortex Jacket (I recommend Berghaus) plus a Scarf and bobble hat (Autumn and Winter).
  • Thick warm walking socks – I like Bridgdale hiking socks or Volcom Ski Socks.
  • Refillable water bottle – mine is a SIGG and it’s lasted me ages and travelled half way around the world with me!
  • Western Balkans Lonely Planet Guide Book – I love to travel with a Lonely Planet and this one has some good recommendations for travel in the Balkans region.

Overall View – Is Novi Sad worth visiting?

Overall, Novi Sad is definitely worth visiting and is completely doable as a day trip from Belgrade. If you are looking to explore the monasteries and surrounding areas, I would plan a few more days and stay overnight. For me, Novi Sad was more beautiful than Belgrade, and if I was staying for a few weeks as a digital nomad to work on my laptop, Novi Sad would actually be my preferred option out of the two! Don’t miss the beautiful architecture, interesting museums and student party atmosphere of Novi Sad while you are travelling in Serbia!

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