One of Europe’s most affordable destinations, Serbia, although grittier than its blue-eyed neighbor Croatia, is nevertheless an integral part of any backpacker’s Balkan tour. 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. Expect to be greeted with a hearty three-kiss zdravo (hello), rakija (wine) and Å¾iveli (cheers).
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN SERBIA
Meet the man on the 100DIN note, Nikola Tesla, at one of Belgrade's best museums. Release your inner nerd with some wondrously sci-fi-ish interactive elements .
Belgrade Underneath Belgrade: Delve into Belgrade's tumultuous past – from Roman times until the Cold War – on this fascinating two-hour tour of subterranean caves, bunkers and secret passageways.
Serbia's largest music festival: The looming Petrovaradin Citadel of Novi Sad keeps a stern eye on proceedings, loosening its tie each July to host Serbia's largest music festival – EXIT – hosted at its beautiful fortress.
Ski: Kopaonik, situated around PanÄiÄ‡ev Peak (2017m), has 44kms of ski slopes, 23 lifts, and is a pleasant hiking base.
Spa: Buff up your spirits at the spas close to Kopaonik or at the rich thermal springs of the Vrnjacka spas a little further away or at that of Krupaja Spring.
Belgrade: Outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious Belgrade's urban hedonism and past unfolds before your eyes: socialist blocks are squeezed between art nouveau masterpieces, and remnants of the Habsburg legacy contrast with Ottoman relics.
Sights: Skadarska, bohemian hang-out of poets and artists in the early 1900s, is today a cobbled street famous for its Balkan taverns, strolling musicians, cafés and art galleries. In summer, the street music, theatre and cabaret performers entertain passers-by. The city’s most attention-grabbing attraction is the Kalemegdan Fortress.
Do: For a spot of rest and recuperation, head west to the verdant suburb of Zemun, or further south towards the island of Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade’s own miniature beach resort.
Eat: Tuck yourself into a private opera box at Little Bay and let the salmon in beer and tarragon sauce or a traditional English roast lunch melt in your mouth as a live opera singer does wonderful things to your ears.
Northern Serbia: Home to more than 25 ethnic groups, six languages and the best of Hungarian and Serbian traditions, Vojvodina's pancake plains mask an unrivalled diversity. While the hilly region of Fruška Gora keeps the noise down in hushed monasteries and ancestral vineyards, Novi Sad is a chipper town with all the spoils and none of the stress of the big smoke.
Sights: Štrand, one of Europe's best by-the-Danube beaches, is 700m-long stretch of sand that morphs into a city of its own come summertime, with all manners of recreational diversions attracting thousands of sun-'n'-fun seekers. The sugar-spun art nouveau marvels, a laid-back populace and a delicious sprinkling of Serbian and Hungarian flavors make the quaint town of Subotica a worthy day trip or stopover. Its Town Hall behemoth – a curious mix of art nouveau – may have had a playful dab at by Gaudí.
Do: Walk to all of Novi Sad – from the happening pedestrian thoroughfare, Zmaj Jovina, which stretches from the town square (Trg Slobode) to Dunavska street. Have a good gawk at the iconic clock tower in Petrovaradin Citadel: the size of the minute-hour hands are reversed so far-flung fishermen can tell the time.
Southern Serbia: The softly rolling hillsides studded with low red-roofed houses are the setting for three of the country’s most precious medieval monasteries: Å½iÄa, Studenica and SopoÄ‡ani. Niš is a lively city of curious contrasts, where Roma in horse-drawn carriages trot alongside new cars, and posh cocktails are sipped in antiquated alleyways. Zlatibor's rolling hills are a peaceful privilege to explore any time of the year. Novi Pazar is the cultural centre of the Raška region (known interchangeably by the Turkish 'SandÅ¾ak'), with a large Muslim population, where Turkish coffee, cuisine and customs abound. Sights: Despite several Serb revolts; the Tower of Skulls and Niš Fortress are reminders of Ottoman dominion. The 58 of the initial 952 skulls of the dead Serbs that the Turks beheaded, scalped and embedded, remain as a proud monument of Serbian resistance at the Tower of Skulls.
Event: Niš Fortress, today, is a sprawling recreational area with restaurants, cafes, market stalls and ample space for moseying. It hosts the Nišville International Jazz Festival each August and Nišomnia , featuring rock and electro acts, in September.