A cosmopolitan country, Serbia is steeped in history and is a melting pot of cultures, a juxtaposition of East and West. In its architecture, music, arts, and cuisine, you can see the influences that have come from Byzantine, Roman, and Ottoman empires. There’s much to see here. Historical cities and sites, lush wine regions, cities by the Danube river, museums, national parks – these are a few among the many gems that Serbia holds. Here we list five reasons why you must add Serbia to your travel bucket list.
A European Country That’s Visa Free for Indians
In September 2017, Serbia introduced visa-free entry for all Indian passport holders for a stay of up to 30 days. For visa-free entry, Indian nationals traveling to Serbia must carry the required documents (as per Serbian regulations) which includes a valid passport, return air ticket, documentary proof of confirmed hotel booking, a letter of invitation. If you are visiting as a tourist, you will need a proof of payment for the trip issued by a travel agency (voucher or any other type of payment receipt). However, you cannot travel to other countries, including Serbia’s neighboring countries and other European countries, by virtue of visa-free entry into Serbia. In other words, Indians coming to Serbia need to have visas for other countries if they intend to visit those countries from Serbia.
A Buzzing Nightlife
When you think of Eastern Europe, partying might not be the first thing that pops into your mind. But, locals among the Balkan nations can testify to the Serbian capital Belgrade being a party-loving city. World-renowned DJs add to the glamor at clubs like Barutana, located within the walls of the Belgrade fortresses, making the capital of former Yugoslavia a must for party fanatics. From ’70s-style disco nightclubs and floating lounges known as splavovi (or splav) anchored along the riverfront, to a Frank Zappa theme club, or dinner at Beton Hala, there’s a lot to do here if you decide to stay up late in Belgrade . You must hang out at Skadarlija, Belgrade’s bohemian quarter. Its cobbled streets have seen artists, poets, and Roma gypsies since the early 20th century. Browse the art galleries and antique stores, stay in one of the old hotels, have a meal at a restaurant while being serenaded by musicians.
The trendy Skadarlija neighborhood of Old Belgrade, Serbia John Wreford, Shutterstock
Enjoy the best of Serbian cuisine at the many restaurants in Belgrade. Vsit the art installations on the newly renovated waterfront park, dance to Turbofolk at a party on a splavovi – a floating raft club which will travel along the banks of the Danube and Sava rivers. Check out the dome of St. Sava Church and illuminated stone walls of the centuries-old Kalemegdan Fortress which hover over the capital’s skyline. Indulge in a meat-kebab dinner and Turkish coffee at a Belgrade cafe. Your days will be filled with rich experiences.
The Wine Regions
Not many know that this part of the world has a long history of winemaking. If you are looking for a laidback European holiday in the midst of stunning rural landscapes, try Vojvodina, a rustic region full of mellow villages in the rolling ranges of Fruška Gora national park. The area is dotted with picture-perfect villages and Orthodox monasteries dating back several centuries. A two-hour drive from Belgrade will take you to this picturesque area, also one of Serbia’s oldest winemaking regions famous for its rich agricultural soil and traditional farms.
Sremski Karlovci in Vojvodina is well-known for its vineyards Shutterstock
The baroque-style town of Sremski Karlovci is well known for vineyards and small, family-owned cellars. The vineyards are mostly scattered over the Fruška Gora hill with the Danube river to its north. The Bermet wine of Serbia is the most famous. It was served on the Titanic, and even used to bribe Austrian Empress Maria Theresa. Legend says that it was In the fertile lands of Fruška Gora mountain that Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus planted the first vineyard. Today, there are more than 60 privately owned wine cellars here. Do visit the more than three centuries old Museum of Beekeeping and Wine Cellar Zivanovic at Sremski Karlovci, and taste some dessert sweet wines, such as white and red Bermet, and Reisling too.
Pretty Towns With Ooodles of History
By the Danube river at Liberty Bridge in Novi Sad, Serbia Andrei Privizer, Shutterstock
Serbia is peppered with picturesque places like Zemun, an old and historic peppered town with red-tiled roofs. Climb up to the old tower of Gardos for the panoramic view over Zemun and Belgrade. The pedestrian-friendly streets are lined with cafes and bars. Novi Sad is another picture-perfect town – it will remind you of Greece. Located in Vojvodina, an autonomous province of Serbia, the town is overlooked by the majestic Petro Varadin Fortress. It has quaint farm stays with excellent traditional fare. It has been awarded the title of European Capital of Culture for 2022, based on the concept of four bridges: freedom (creative industry and youth culture); hope (devoted to cultural facilities and public spaces), rainbow (migration and resolving conflict) and new (cultural heritage and hospitality). Then there’s Nis, with a hoary history (it’s the birthplace of Constantine the Great) and monuments such as a Roman-era fortress and Ottoman baths, Nis’s more recent history is bloody. Some 10,000 citizens were shot here during WWII. Today, it’s a hospitable, safe town, with street stalls offering hearty delicacies such as burek (pastry filled with meat or cheese), friendly locals and great summer weather. The town of Topola was home to Karadorde, leader of the 1804 uprising against the Ottoman rulers of Serbia, the five-domed Church of Saint George with mosaics is worth a visit.
Then there are the museums in Serbia. You must have a dekko at the Nikola Tesla Museum which is dedicated to Serbia’s most prominent inventor and scientist. Also check out the musuems on Zepter, Yugoslav History, and the Beekeeping museum.
Memorable farm stays
If you are looking for a laidback European holiday in the midst of stunning rural landscapes, book a stay in a traditional farm – many of these have been converted into farmstays, or ‘salaš’. You can find them all over Vojvodina. The word ‘salaš’ comes from the Hungarian ‘szállás’, which means accommodation. These are family homes with an attached farm, eateries, and sometimes even a stable horse. Watch out for signs saying ‘vinski podrum’ – this means they have a wine cellar, and you can sample from it. The farms have become quite popular as venues for destination weddings as well. You should definitely ask for the local Serbian wines at a salaš.
The Vojvodina region has many gentle hiking paths and stunning lakes. If you are a cycling enthusiast, try the Danube Bike Path along the iconic river past idyllic villages. It goes all the way to the Iron Gates gorge on the Romanian border. You can take a tour of the monasteries, or drive down to the picture-perfect riverside town of Novi Sad. And of course, there’s Belgrade to escape to when you want to live it up a bit.
There are several airlines like Qatar Airways which do run connecting flights. Delhi has no direct flights to Belgrade but many carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Lufthansa, and KLM, ply between the cities with halts.
Indian nationals can visit Serbia without a visa for a period not exceeding 30 days from the date of entry, within the span of a year.
Where to Stay
The atmospheric Metropol Palace in Belgrade is a good choice – it has hosted the likes of Che Guevera, Anthony Quinn, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Bobby Fischer and Jawaharlal Nehru. A communist-era showpiece, it has now been remodeled and relaunched as a luxury hotel in the heart of Belgrade.