A yet unexplored destination by India outbound, Serbia has a lot to offer Indian travellers, from architectural legacy to natural beauty, experiential activities to best of F&B. It is also the only European country where Indians can visit without a visa
Located between Central and Southern Europe, the Republic of Serbia is known for its rich cultural heritage. The land-locked country, that covers an area of 88,361 sq km (including Kosovo) is a destination that has everything for a new age global Indian traveller. Adding to its attraction as a destination is the fact that it is the only European country that has a no-visa policy for Indians.
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is considered a gateway between the East and the West. Among the many unique aspects of the city is its location at the confluence of Sava and Danube rivers. The city is famous for its cosmopolitan culture, heritage and vibrant nightlife. The Republic Square in Belgrade is the most recognisable square surrounded by important buildings like the National Museum, the National Theatre and the statue of Prince Michael on a horse. Standing on the flower beds surrounding the statue are interesting cutouts of well known artists whose works have been displayed inside the museum, like Pablo Picasso. A short walk away is the pedestrian zone, which has many stores both sides of the street, great shopping option for haute couture and high street fashion. One can buy old books and vinyls from a street vendor or stop and enjoy the performance of street musicians.
The key tourism attractions in Belgrade include St Sava’s Temple, Zemun old city area, National Museum, Belgrade Fortress, the Victor, St Michael’s Cathedral, Gardos Tower, and others. St Sava’s Temple has been undergoing restoration for sometime now. The beautifully restored central dome prepares one for the stunningly golden crypt, where the work has been completed. Tales from the Bible come alive in the colourful murals.
Turkish Airlines, which flies to Mumbai and Delhi, is well connected to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. The flying time between Istanbul Atatürk Airport and Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is 1 hour 40 minutes. Travellers can enjoy the excellent facilities at Turkish Airlines International CIP Lounge, while awaiting their connecting flight.
Another important place of worship is the Cathedral Church of St Michael the Archangel, a Serbian Orthodox cathedral in the old city. Right across the church is the Question mark tavern, which is the oldest tavern in Belgrade and considered a cultural monument. Nearby is the Residence of Princess Ljubica, which is a perfect showcase of typical Balkan architecture.
The Belgrade Fortress is another important highlight. Interestingly, a section of the moat around the fortress has been converted into tennis court, there is inspiration enough in the country with Novak Djokovic as a national hero. There are a large number of cannons lined up inside the fortress. One of the most famous landmarks in Belgrade is the statue of the Victor, in the Belgrade Fortress – it commemorates Serbia’s victories over the Ottoman Empire and and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Also located inside the structure is the Dinosaurs Park, which has gigantic replicas of primitive creatures making sound and also some movement, delighting young visitors.
The House of Flowers is the memorial of Josip Broz Tito, former president of Yugoslavia. His wife, Jovanka Broz, is also buried here. The museum has interesting objects and artefacts gifted to the president, while the extensive gardens have beautiful statues.
A drive through the new town gives a visitor an experience of another facet of Belgrade. Many architects come here to see the famous Belgrade Blocks. The Zemun old city area in Belgrade is a great location to spend an afternoon, with a lunch at one of the quaint restaurants by the Danube riverside.
No trip can be complete without experiencing the vibrant nightlife of Belgrade, which can be enjoyed every day of one’s stay in the beautiful capital of Serbia. Metropol Palace Belgrade is a luxurious accommodation option, with great views of the city from its rooftop restaurant, particularly at night. The city has only one Indian restaurant, Diwali Mahal, which serves excellent food for those pining for some special fare from India.
Day trips from Belgrade to nearby towns and cities reveal the multifarious facets of Serbia as a tourism destination. Novi Sad is the second largest city in Serbia. The town has a languid air about it with its pedestrian walkways, the impressive Square of Freedom, which is dominated by the catholic Church of the Name of Mary. In the pedestrian zone, the statue of the much loved children’s poet Uncle Jova Zmaj is prominently positioned outside the Bishop’s Castle. Novi Sad has often been called ‘Serbian Athens’ because of its beautiful architecture and the environment of the city, a must visit for all travellers to Serbia. The Petrovardian Fortress, which towers over the city, is the location for the popular Exit Festival, the annual music festival held here. While visiting Novi Sad, a dinner at traditional farmhouse Salas 137, is another unique experience for visitors.
Located about eight km from Novi Sad is the town of Sremski Karlovci, on the banks of Danube. This little town, with its many impressive monuments, also has a lot to offer to the visitors in terms of experience. Topping the list is wine tasting and honey tasting at the Zivanovic Vinery. There is also a Museum of Beekeeping in the premises, which traces its roots to the story of how the bees saved the life of the founder. A visit to the 300 years old cellars is included in the tour. There is a small shop from where visitors can buy some exclusive wines and honey varieties which are not available elsewhere. A short walk from the winery is the small Museum of Matches, which has a few interesting exhibits.
It is also advisable to include the town of Topola in the itinerary. The main highlight here is St George’s Church also known as Oplenac. It is the mausoleum of the Serbian and Yugoslav royal house of Karadordevic and located on top of the Oplenac Hill. A walk through the woods leads to the marble monument, set amidst trees and vineyards. The church is famous for its colourful mosaic work, almost 40 million cubes and 15,000 shades. The 725 compositions mostly comprise life of Jesus and stories from the Bible. The medieval rulers of Serbia are also represented prominently. 28 members of the royal house are buried in the crypt.