Novi Sad is the largest city in Vojvodina, an autonomous province in Northern Serbia. Novi Sad, like much of the region, is heavily influenced by Hungarian culture, especially its architecture. While the rest of Serbia was ruled by the Ottoman Empire, Novi Sad was under the control of the Austrian Empire from 1716 until 1918. The Austrians put the Hungarians in control of this part of Serbia and for many years they were subjected to Magyarization, a process intended to make the region more Hungarian.
Novi Sad’s city center is one of the most beautiful we’ve seen in the Balkans. The promenades are flooded with cafes and the side streets are full of small restaurants which, come evening, are brimming with people.
Novi Sad hosts the EXIT Festival every July when more than 200,000 people flood into the city for four days of music on multiple stages. The main stage is right in the heart of the Petroveradin Fortress which is across the Danube from the center of Novi Sad.
Petroveradin Fortress is one of many fortresses along the Danube but its location, at the frontier of several empires, has led to its occupation by Romans, Hungarians, Serbs, Ottomans and Austrians. In fact it was here, in 1716 that the Austrians defeated the Ottoman Turks and ended the Ottoman Empire’s threat on central Europe.
Along with Belgrade, we found Novi Sad an extremely pleasant place to spend the day reading, to sit and enjoy the parks and river and to spend the evening in a cafe. It rained most of the time we were there but the city was still busy, the parks were crowded and the cafes were full.
We also had two of our best European meals in Novi Sad. The first was a super cheap but really tasty hamburger from a street stand (served ćevapi style with raw onions and kajmak). Feeling a bit tired from the driving, we decided to eat our hamburgers while watching an episode of Bob’s Burgers (but we had to watch it on the floor near the hallway to get internet).
But our best meal, perhaps in all of Europe, was Veliki, a great restaurant off the main promenade. We feasted on ribs, Hungarian fritters and a big salad. The meal was so good we went back the next day for breakfast and got salads to take with us on the road.
Novi Sad is as an essential stop on any trip to Serbia and by seeing both Belgrade and Novi Sad you’ll quickly understand the effects the Great Powers had on this country. But it’s also the perfect place to relax for a few days, walking along the river and sitting in the square watching the people go by.