Road trippin’ through the Balkans is one of my favourite summer pastimes: it’s affordable, the countries are compact enough that it’s easy to pack in a lot of stops, and most importantly the scenery is ridiculous. Hello mountains, canyons and waterfalls!
Serbia checks all those boxes, and the country’s most popular areas all happen to be in the western region, making it possible to hit all of them during an action-packed week.
From itinerary planning to can’t-miss spots, here’s how to see the best places to visit in Serbia during the ultimate 7 day road trip.
Map of what to see in Serbia in one week
- Belgrade to Novi Sad: 1 hour
- Belgrade to Tara National Park: 3 1/2 hours
- Tara National Park to Zlatibor: 1 ½ hours
- Zlatibor to Belgrade: 3 hours
Day 1 + 2: Belgrade
Kick off your Serbia itinerary in the capital, Belgrade, which is a beautiful historic city on the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers.
Beograd seamlessly blends old and new, with Soviet-style buildings and a hilltop fortress playing backdrop to bohemian neighbourhoods, hipster coffee shops and one of Europe’s best nightlife scenes.
The top landmarks are all within walking distance which makes it possible to see the highlights of Belgrade in one day, so having a couple of days here allows more time for meandering and soaking up the ambiance of the lively former Yugoslavian capital.
Some of the best things to do in Belgrade are:
Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park
An absolute must-do in Belgrade is visiting Kalemegdan, a massive city park set on high slopes overlooking the rivers and city below.
The fortress perched at the top has sweeping, panoramic viewpoints in all directions, and houses Ruzica Chuch (the oldest in Belgrade), a zoo, the Military Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victor statue. The sculpture was originally located in the city centre, then was moved up to the fortress as its depiction of a naked man was deemed too risque for women to see everyday.
Book a tour to see the maze of caves, bunkers and passageways below which date back to the Turkish, Austro-Hungarian and Roman rule.
Book one of these guided tours which includes a trip to the fortress:
When locals say “meet me by the horse”, they’re referring to this popular plaza in the heart of the city where a statue of Serbian Prince Mihailo on a horse proudly stands. Republic Square is Belgrade’s central meeting place, framed by the Serbian National Theatre and National Museum.
Saint Sava Temple
This towering, 82-metre-high masterpiece is one of the world’s largest orthodox churches, and can hold a staggering 10,000 people.
Fountains lead up to the grand entrance, the opulent Byzantine-style underground crypt features shimmering gold chandeliers, frescoes and Murano glass mosaics, and its dazzling exterior is fashioned from white marble and a 4,000 tonne copper dome.
Knez Mihailova Street
This 800-metre long pedestrian-only shopping street is lined with elegant buildings dating back to the 1800s, which now house outdoor cafes, restaurants, hotels, shops and art galleries.
This city hot spot also passes by important landmarks like Republic Square and the National Museum of Serbia, and leads right into Kalemegdan park.
This ‘city within a city’ is a 20 minute drive from downtown, and is a maze of neighbourhoods with artisan shops, markets and a bustling tree-lined waterfront with floating bars and restaurants.
One of the best views in Belgrade is found at the top of Gardoš (also known as the Millenium Tower), which dates back to the 9th century and is perched on a hilltop. Head up to the viewing platforms (200 rsd per person) which overlooks the river and a sea of orange rooftops and church steeples.
It’s well worth booking a guided city tour to understand more about Belgrade’s long history and hidden gems, and boat tours are a great way to see the city skyline from a different vantage point:
Where to stay in Belgrade
Moxy Belgrade: With a fantastic location just a short walk from Republic Square, the Moxy Belgrade is perfect for millennial-types thanks to communal workspaces, a restaurant and bar, funky lounge areas and amenities including a gym and ironing room.
Rooms are modern, clean and blissfully soundproof, and the friendly staff are helpful with booking everything from airport transfers to restaurant reservations. Click here to book
Day 3: Novi Sad
One of the most beautiful places in Serbia is the city of Novi Sad, also along the banks of the Danube.
Home to centuries-old churches, a hilltop fortress and streets lined with pastel neo-Renaissance facades, Novi Sad’s long history is a contrast to its energetic, youthful vibe thanks to the university, frequent festivals and lively plazas.
Some of the best things to do in Novi Sad are:
Nicknamed the ‘Gibraltar on the Danube,’ this is one of Europe’s best preserved fortresses. Constructed between 1692 and 1780, it features 12 gates and 400 cannon outlets over 120 acres.
There are a few restaurants on site, has fantastic views looking back at the city and river below, and also hosts events like the EXIT music festival and annual Tamburica Fest.
The Upper Town has a Clock Tower, art studios and terrace, while the Lower Town houses underground military galleries.
This elegant square is the heart of the city, and framed by City Hall (built in 1895, featuring statues of Greek goddesses on its facade) and the Roman Catholic Name of Mary church (also known simply as ‘the Cathedral’, and has a 73 metre high tower).
There are shops and restaurants all around, and it gets particularly busy in the evening when locals come down to hang out at the outdoor cafes.
Zmaj Jovina and Dunavska Streets
These are the main streets in the lively pedestrian zone, featuring spots like the city library, Novi Sad’s oldest house, shops and restaurants tucked down passageways, parks and the stately Bishop’s Palace of the Backa Bishopric.
During summer, this strip of beach along the left bank of the Danube is one of the top hangout spots in Novi Sad. Along with plenty of palapas and loungers, it hosts sporting events, festivals and concerts.
This fun spot is near the end of Kralja Aleksandra street, and is a tram-turned cafe.
Trams were once used to connect downtown Novi Sad to Štrand, and when they were eventually decommissioned Trčika (which means ‘running tram’) was turned into a cafe and restaurants complete with a large outdoor patio and a bar where passengers once sat.
Getting from Belgrade to Novi Sad
It takes less than 90 minutes by driving, taking the train or bus from Belgrade to Novi Sad.
To leave from Belgrade’s central bus station, pre-book a ticket on Flix Bus for about $20 round trip. Taxis from the Novi Sad bus station to the city centre cost about $7. Passengers are also required to pay 190 dinar to enter the bus terminal in Belgrade, which can be purchased from the ticket booth on the far left hand side.
There are also guided day trips from Belgrade to Novi Sad, including some with wine tasting:
Day 4 + 5: Tara National Park
Exploring Tara National Park is one of the best things to do in Serbia to see the country’s wild, untouched beauty.
The crown jewel is Tara mountain, which is surrounded by gem-toned lakes and rivers, thick forests, panoramic viewpoints and the dramatic Drina River canyon. The park has been protected since 1981, and is home to 153 bird species and more than 50 different kinds of mammals including bears and roe deer.
Highlights of Tara National Park include:
The ‘carpet meadow’ is a unique natural phenomenon in the Crveni potok reserve where the meadow sags underfoot, which feels like you’re stepping on a plush rug.
This tourist area with restaurants, cafes, hotels, swimming pools and beaches is especially popular during the summer months.
One of the best viewpoints in all of Serbia, thanks to its vantage point of Lake Perućac, the Drina Canyon and neighbouring Bosnia.
Hop on this narrow-guage railway, which dates back to the early 1900s and was built to connect Belgrade to the Adriatic Sea.
Drina River House
Considered one of the most photogenic spots in the region, ‘the House on the Drina’ is a log house dramatically perched on stones over the river, and found in the small town of Bajina Bašta.
Spend a couple of days hiking, relaxing or rafting in the park, and to make the most of your time here a guided tour is good idea. A trip to Tara National Park can also be combined as a two-day trip to Zlatibor.
Day 6 + 7: Zlatibor
End your one week Serbia trip in the alpine town of Zlatibor, which is one of the country’s most popular mountain escapes and wellness destinations.
During winter it’s known as a ski getaway, while the warmer months bring adventures like mountain coasters, e-biking, paragliding, hiking, caving and ATV rides. There’s a cute town centre complete with a ferris wheel, fountain show and traditional market, as well as lots of outdoor cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
Start your first day in Zlatibor by taking a ride on the Gold Gondola, which has bragging rights as the world’s longest panoramic gondola.
The nine-kilometre-long route takes 25 minutes each way and starts from the town centre, then glides above sparkling Lake Ribnica and the rolling hillsides en route to the Tornik ski resort.
Spend the afternoon exploring attractions a short drive from town like the 22-metre high Gostilje waterfall, Stopića Cave which is one of Serbia’s largest caves, and the Old Village open air museum in Sirogojno.
In the evening, dine on traditional Serbian fare at one of the restaurants facing the main plaza, Kraljev Trg. It also has an impressive water fountain display, complete with a sound and light show at night.
The final day in Serbia is for hitting the trails by heading out for a guided hike, e-bike ride or ATV tour, or simply relaxing at the hotel spa before the drive back to Belgrade or wherever your next destination is.
Where to stay in Zlatibor
VIP Casa Club Zlatibor: This hotel is actually made up of a cluster of buildings about a 10 minute walk from the town centre, and rooms on the higher levels have fantastic views.
A great option for groups, most rooms are apartment-style with multiple bedrooms, living room, kitchen and private balcony (note: the split-level studio rooms have a very steep staircase so those with accessibility issues or young children should avoid booking this room type).
On-site amenities include the excellent Casa de Vinos restaurant, a bar and a pool, hot tub, sauna and steam bath. Click here to book
Driving in Serbia
To pull off this itinerary, it’s imperative to rent a vehicle since buses and trains add quite a bit of time.
We were pleasantly surprised by the roads in Serbia: other than getting detoured a few times due to construction, the roads are generally well-marked and paved.
Tips for driving in Serbia:
- It’s very helpful to have cell service during a road trip; sign up for an e-SIM from airolo to keep connected and avoid high roaming fees. It’s a good idea to download an offline map in case you lose service and take a wrong turn or encounter construction.
- Keep small change handy for toll booths; credit cards are also accepted
- Some websites state that an International Drivers Permit is required in Serbia. We rented through Discover Cars and were never asked to produce one since our licenses (from Denmark and Canada) are written in English.
Multi-day tours in Serbia
I get it–driving in a foreign country isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, it’s still possible to see all of the places on this one week Serbia itinerary by either hiring a local tour operator, or booking day trips to Novi Sad, Tara National Park and Zlatibor from Belgrade.
Here are some great options, including multi-day tours:
Best time to visit Serbia
The shoulder seasons of March to May and September-October are ideal times to visit Serbia thanks to mild temperatures and less crowds. However, it can be rainy during spring, and some summer attractions won’t have opened for the season yet.
July and August means hot temperatures, and peak prices for accommodation.
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