19 Best Things to Do in Serbia
Between the charming medieval villages and the lush valleys and forests, Serbia is a hidden gem in the middle of the Balkans. Despite its tumultuous history over the past few centuries, this landlocked country has emerged as one of the most fascinating destinations for travelers.
Unlike other countries in Europe, Serbia has remained relatively untouched by mass tourism. From the hospitality of the locals to the rich culture of its war-torn past, everything in Serbia feels authentically real. Whether you’re interested in outdoor sports, ancient ruins, or even epic music festivals, you’ll find what you’re looking for on this list of things to do in Serbia.
19. Zaovine Lake
Nestled on the southern slopes of the Tara Mountains, Zaovine Lake is considered the crown jewel of central-west Serbia. Surrounded by lush green trees and rolling hills, this tranquil lake an ideal location for anyone wanting to relax in nature.
It may come as a surprise, but Zaovine Lake is entirely human-made. However, water quality is very high, which makes it a popular destination for swimming, boating, and fishing. You can also walk across the dam for unparalleled views of the Beli Rzav valley.
Learn more about Serbian culture with a visit to Drvengrad. This ethno-village was originally built in 2002 as the setting for the movie Life Is a Miracle. As you walk around this quirky village, you’ll find picturesque buildings like a library, art gallery, sports hall, cake shop, and even a church.
As your tour Drvengrad, take note of the street names. Many of them are named after famous celebrities, including Bruce Lee, Nikola Tesla, Che Guevara, and Ingmar Bergman. If you happen to be visiting in January, you’ll also be able to attend the Küstendorf Film and Music Festival, which is held in Drvengrad each year.
Located south of the Danube River, the archeological site of Gamzigrad should not be missed during your trip to Serbia. Dating back to 298 AD, this complex of Roman ruins was built by Emperor Galerius and remains one of the most important Roman sites in all of Europe.
The complex consists of basilicas, temples, thermal baths, and monuments. The entire area was believed to be built to honor Galerius’ mother, who was a priestess of a pagan cult. You can also visit the mausoleums of Galerius and his mother, both of which are also located on the premises.
16. Golubac Fortress
No trip to Serbia would be complete without a visit to the spectacular medieval Golubac Fortress. Built into the side of a giant rock looking over the Danube River, the fortress is comprised of winding bridges and steep stone walls and towers.
The tumultuous history of the fortress dates back to the 14th-century. Although it has survived over 120 attacks, the Golubac Fortress was also taken over by the Turks, Hungarians, Bulgarians, and Austrians. In 1867, it was finally handed over to the Serbians. You can tour the Golubac Fortress by foot or admire its beauty from a Danube Riverboat tour.
15. Sremski Karlovci
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful towns in Serbia, Sremski Karlovci is known for its baroque architecture, charming townhouses, and boutique wineries. As you walk through this tiny village on foot, you’ll find picturesque photo opportunities around every corner.
Stop by the Orthodox cathedral of Saint Nikolaj, the Chapel of Peace, or the red marble Four Lions Fountain. It’s also worth visiting a few of the Sremski Karlovci’s wineries, many of which are located right in town. You can also head a mile out of town to visit the rolling vineyards in the countryside.
14. Iron Gate (Derdap Gorge)
Connecting the borders of Serbia and Romania are the Iron Gates – several wide gorges along the Danube River. It was initially constructed in the 1960s as a dam to help control the river, but it’s now one of the most popular destinations for boat trips and river cruises.
As you navigate through the passages, you’ll have some of the most stunning scenery as your backdrop. Surrounded by steep rocky cliffs and dense green forests, there is plenty to see during your journey. Try and spot the Roman Tabula Traiana plaque, the Mraconia Monastery, and the carved face of Decebalus.
For a bit of fresh air and nature, head to the town of Sokobanja in eastern Serbia. Situated on the banks of the Moravica River, this spa resort town attracts thousands of visitors every year, who come for the thermal baths and air spas.
In the town, you’ll also find Roman thermal bath ruins and 16th-century Turkish Hamam baths. This clean air quality and healing spring waters are believed to help treat numerous illnesses, like asthma, emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatism.
12. Davolja Varos
Filled with towering, jagged rocks, Davolja Varos is easily one of the most unusual attractions to see in Serbia. Located in the Radan Mountains near the village of Dake, these unique rock formations can be anywhere from 7 feet to 50 feet in height.
The rocks were formed millions of years ago by active volcanic activity, which eroded the rocks into their iconic tower shape. Besides admiring their unique appearance, you can also visit the natural springs in the area.
11. Skull Tower
Not for the faint of heart, the Skull Tower is a giant structure in the city of Nis with over 950 skulls embedded in the walls. The skulls come from Serbian soldiers who were blown up by their own commander after being outnumbered by the Ottomans during the First Serbian Uprising in 1809.
While the entire Serbian force was killed, the blast did manage to destroy many Ottoman soldiers while they were approaching the city. As a result, the Ottoman Empire built the tower from the skulls of the fallen rebels as a way to warn future rebel forces. It is now seen as a symbol of independence by the Serbs.
10. Zica Monastery
The Zica Monastery was built in the 13th-century and is known for being the first Seat of the Serbian Archbishop. With a history spanning over 800 years, it’s one of the most religiously significant buildings in Serbia.
The structure and design of the monastery are almost as notable as the church itself. The outside of the monastery is painted a bright shade of red, and the domed rooftops are an equally vivid shade of blue. Inside, you’ll find numerous frescoes depicting Stefan Prvovencani and his son, along with Apostles Peter and John. There are also some frescoes in the north and south choir showing the crucifixion.
9. Uvac Canyon
If you’re interested in spending a few days admiring the majestic landscape of Serbia, then make sure to visit Uvac Canyon. The winding curves of the Uvac river as it meanders through the tree-line canyon walls are something you need to see to believe.
For the best views of the canyon, make your way up to the Uvac Viewpoint. You’ll find a wooden lookout deck where you’ll have a dramatic birds-eye view of the main section of the canyon. The viewpoint can be reached by car or a leisurely five-mile hike starting from Zlatar Lake.
8. Kopaonik Ski Resort
Planning a visit to Serbia in the winter? Then make sure to add a trip to Kopaonik Ski Resort to your itinerary. This winter wonderland is the main ski resort town in the country and boasts 28 different ski lifts catering to skiers of all levels.
Even if you’re not hitting the slopes, you can still take advantage of the other activities at the resort. There are numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs to keep you entertained all evening. You can also attend the Big Snow musical festival, which is held each year at the end of March.
7. Subotica City Hall
Subotica City Hall is one of the most breathtaking works of architecture in the entire city. Built in the early 1900s, this art-nuevo style building is the landmark of Subotica and was designed by Hungarian architects Marcell Komor and Dezso Jakab.
Although it’s a working city hall, the building is still open for visits. You can even climb the tower and admire the view from the neighboring observation deck. Inside the building, you’ll find four inner courtyards and three halls that are used for meetings and events. During your visit, make sure to look at the 16 stained-glass windows in the Grand Hall.
6. Petrovaradin Fortress
The Petrovaradin Fortress is not just a symbol of medieval architecture, it’s also an important landmark in Serbian history. Nicknamed the “Gibraltar on the Danube,” this fortress has a rich and significant history. It survived 180 years of Turkish ownership before it was surrendered back to the Austrians.
The most notable feature of the fortress is the clock tower. Unlike other clocks, the minute and hour hand on its face are reversed. Since the hour hand is longer than the minute hand, sailors and fishermen can read the time from far away. Besides the clock tower, you can also visit the tunnels that lay beneath the foundation of the fortress.
Although many travelers come to Serbia to visit Belgrade, they often overlook the pristine region of Zlatibor. Situated in the western mountains of Serbia, Zlatibor is an outdoor lover’s paradise. With a plethora of hiking, skiing, and swimming opportunities, there’s something in Zlatibor for every type of traveler.
There are several charming towns to visit in Zlatibor. Sirogojno, Jablanica, and Tripkova are just a few places where you can relax in the countryside of Serbia. Besides resort-style hotels and restaurants, many of these villages also have facilities, like swimming pools, sports tracks, cottages, and restaurants.
4. Studenica Monastery
As one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, Studenica Monastery is an impressive site that you won’t want to miss. Founded in 1190, the monastery seamlessly blends two architecture styles – Romanesque and Byzantine.
It’s known for its expansive collection of frescoes, including the crucifixion representation from 1209. This fresco is widely considered to be the most prominent artistic achievement in Serbian history. There is also an on-site museum housed in the 18th-century monastic residence. Inside the museum, you’ll have to opportunity to see numerous artifacts and treasures from the church.
3. Church of St. Sava
Perched atop the Vračar plateau is the Church of St. Sava, the main cathedral of the Serbian Orthodox church. It’s only 100 years old, so it’s relatively new compared to many other churches in the country. However, it’s still seen its fair share of history, and even survived the German occupation during WWII.
When in Belgrade, it will be hard to miss this stunning architectural achievement as it dominates the city’s skyline. Modeled after the Hagia Sophia, the Church of St. Sava is one of the largest churches in the world.
2. Exit Festival
Serbia hosts one of the largest and most popular music festivals in all of Europe. The Exit Festival combines rock, techno, hip hop, metal, and reggae, and attracts more than 200,000 festival-goers each July. Since it was found in 2000, Exit Festival has won the award for Best Major Festival in two different years at the European Festival Awards.
Held at the iconic Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad, Exit Festival is an experience that all music lovers will want to tick off their bucket list. With over 40 stages, it’s not hard to find a performance that sparks your interest. The Killers, David Guetta, Jason Derulo, The Prodigy, and Wiz Kalifa are just a few performers who have graced the stages in the past.
1. Belgrade Fortress
Take a step back in history and explore the historic Belgrade Fortress. Since its initial construction in the 3rd-century, the fortress has been torn down and rebuilt many times. For this reason, you’ll find different cultural influences left behind from the Romans, Turks, and Astro-Hungarians.
Visit the modern church of Sveta Petka in the lower town, or walk among the grassy fields in the park in the upper town. You’ll also be able to see a 1950s bunker, an 18th-century Roman well, and even an Austrian gunpowder magazine.