Serbia is a buzzy and boisterous country, compact enough for visitors to sample both Belgrade’s urban hedonism and the gentler pace of the smaller towns or national parks within a few days – and it’s one of Europe’s most affordable destinations to boot. Grittier than its blue-eyed neighbour Croatia, it is nevertheless an integral part of any backpacker’s Balkan tour: at the heart of the region, it gives easy access to the cluster of cultures and histories crammed into this small corner of Europe.
Serbia’s young, European-minded population brings a bubbling energy to its bars, cafés and clubs, producing an adrenaline-charged nightlife unmatched anywhere else in the Balkans. The general determination to have a good time confounds the expectations of many a traveller, arriving with memories of the 1990s, when Serbia’s name was not often off war reporters’ lips. Today, it’s just as likely to attract headlines for its crop of world-class tennis players or the annual EXIT festival in Novi Sad.
Where to go in SerbiaSerbia’s capital, Belgrade, is a sociable, hectic city that energizes and exhausts by turns. Northwest of the city on the iron-flat Vojvodina Plain sits lovely Novi Sad, window to the Fruška Gora hills, while further north – a stone’s throw from the border with Hungary – enchanting Subotica is sprinkled with early twentieth-century Secessionist architecture. Deep in the mountainous tract of land to the south of Belgrade are three key struts of Serbia’s religio-cultural heritage – Žiča, Studenica and Sopoćani monasteries. East of here, Niš is a pleasant small city to pause in en route to or from Bulgaria or Macedonia.
Top image © Aleksandar Todorovic/Shutterstock
Fact filePopulation 7.5 million (excluding Kosovo)
Area 88,361 sq km
Currency Dinar (din)
Capital Belgrade (population: 1.6 million)
International phone code 381