Serbia is one of those off-beat, unspoken-of countries that one doesn’t think of putting in their bucket list. I also probably wouldn’t have made it, had it not been for the pandemic. Considering that in 2021, most countries were still closed or battling high cases of Covid-19, only the smaller, lesser-known countries had opened their borders for tourism and Serbia was one of them. For me, just being able to get out and explore a new country is more important than checking off items in my travel bucket list, so I booked my tickets and landed alone in Serbia, wide-eyed like a child in a new school, ready for an adventure, not knowing what to expect. Of course, I had my 1-week itinerary for Serbia planned out before I travelled but the destination had changed last minute, leaving me with very less time to do my research.
Is 1 week too much for Serbia? I always say that if you really wish to explore a country in-depth, you need way more than a week. But like me, if you are really pressured on time, even 5 days are enough. With short trips, I always make it a point to balance out checking off the key ‘touristy’ places to visit and spending some time in the countryside or exploring something off-beat and lesser known.
My suggested 1-week itinerary for Serbia starts from the capital city, Belgrade. If you have less time, only 1 day is enough in the city or if you’re more of a city person than a nature-loving one, then you could choose to spend even more than 2 days, soaking in the vibe. I highly recommend renting a car to explore the outskirts but when you’re in Belgrade, renting a car is the worst idea so I’d recommend doing it only once you’re ready to leave the city.
Read here about All you need to know about planning a road trip in Serbia.
Day 0 & 1: Belgrade
Belgrade is easy to explore on foot/ using public transportation. A lively city, Belgrade deserves at least 1 day in your 1-week itinerary for Serbia, if not 2. For a detailed 2-day itinerary, with tips and suggestions, click here to read my post on What to do in Belgrade in 2 days.
Day 2: Novi Sad via Sremski Karlovci
This is when I recommend you rent a car. Novi Sad is hardly a 1-hour drive from Belgrade if you take the toll road A1 (which is highly recommended, even though you’ll end up paying about €5. It might seem pricey but it’s totally worth it. If you’re a wine lover, I recommend a detour to this sleepy wine town called Sremski Karlovci, just 20 minutes before Novi Sad. Home to historical buildings, both Baroque & neoclassical, it is a charming little town with narrow, winding cobbled stone streets, wineries at every corner, and little boutique selling local delicacies, harvests, and handcrafted goods. Park right outside the village center and prepare to spend about 2 hours here, exploring the charming neighbourhoods and shopping for some souvenirs (of which, wine should be in the list). Walk into one of the many hidden wineries, some of which are in the yards of the locals who own vineyards and are into grape harvesting. There’s nothing like trying some fresh, locally made wine.
You’ll be in Novi Sad by afternoon, which gives you the entire evening to enjoy the laid-back vibe, the thriving urban art scene, some amazing local food, suave cafes, and bustling market where you can buy unique souvenirs. Start from Freedom Square, flanked on all sides by some of the most historically significant & architecturally grand buildings. Visit the Orthodox Cathedral, The Name of Mary Catholic church, and the hidden alleyways, replete with street art and charming cafes.
From here, take the Zmaj Jovina, Novi Sad’s main pedestrianised street, clotted with pastel-colored outdoor cafes and bistros. This is also where you’ll find The Manual Company, known for its collection of unique souvenirs.
In the evening, cross the bridge over the Danube to Petrovaradin, where you can visit the famous bakery of Novi Sad, Multi Tarte. They close early, so make sure to get there before 5 pm if you don’t want to miss out on the best cakes, desserts & Serbian classics in the city. The apple-vanilla pie comes highly recommended!
From here, visit the Petrovaradin Fortress. A winding brick staircase will take you to the top where you can enjoy the open-air museum with the fortress walls, arched gates, and some areas converted into terrace cafes & restaurants, offering dazzling views of the city below from a vantage point. Novi Sad is known for its nightlife, due to the young crowd that lives there. It’s lively, entertaining & wild, in parts. A tiny street called Laze Teleckog is full of affordable pubs, best for a night crawl. There are also classic nightclubs and strip clubs (for both men & women!).
Suggested budget place to stay in Novi Sad: Garni Hotel Planeta Inn
Day 3: Day trip to Subotica
In my 1-week itinerary for Serbia, I made sure to include this off-beat, charming art nouveau town, about an hour’s drive from Novi Sad. You could spend the whole day here easily, with a relaxed vibe and tranquillity. For details on how to get here and what to do, read my post on Why you should visit Subotica from Novi Sad.
In the evening, you can return either to Novi Sad or Belgrade. If you choose to return to Novi Sad, your drive to Zlatibor on the next day is bound to be longer (3.5 hours) vs Belgrade (2 hours, 45 min).
Day 4: Zlatibor
You’re likely to have a long drive during the day so I’d recommend you keep this day at Zlatibor a little relaxed. Zlatibor is the best city to base yourself for exploring Tara National Park & Uvac Special Nature Reserve. If you have less than a week and are short on time, you may choose to head to Uvac Special Nature Reserve on the same day (prepare for another 1 hour+ drive).
Else, Zlatibor itself has a few interesting places you may visit. The change in scenery itself is a very pleasant experience because now you’re in the middle of lush green mountains. This is also where you can experience activities such as hang-gliding & paragliding (in the summer). The newly opened Zlatibor Gold Gondola Lift is a fantastic way of enjoying panoramic views. It connects the center of Zlatibor with its highest peak and the ski center Tornik, via Lake Ribnicko, where the Middle station is located.
Another cute place I stumbled across while driving in Zlatibor was El Paso City, a unique theme park named after an American city located on the border between the USA and Mexico. Based on the reality, the Zlatibor imitation city is located on a river that divides it into two parts. While one side is a cowboy town and an Indian village, the other has a Zlatibor hamlet. Designed in the style of these settlements from the 19th century, featuring replicas of log cabins, tents, caravans, and weapons, one could also book accommodation here or just visit it for a meal/ exploring. There’s a small fee to enter if you’re just visiting.
Suggested overnight stay in Zlatibor: Apartments Nika
While this little homestay is about 10-min walk from the city center, I loved that it was in a quiet, idyllic part of the town. I highly recommend visiting the cute restaurant, 2 min walk from the homestay, called Мирис дуња (Serbian for Miris Dunja), which is extremely cozy, cute & quiet. Alternatively, if you want to head to a more lively place, there are many in the city center.
Day 5: Uvac Special Nature Reserve
Zlatibor forms the perfect base for 3 nights, in your 1-week itinerary for Serbia. On this day, head to Uvac Special Nature Reserve. It’s best to get an early start to the day, especially if you choose to take the boat tour. For details on how to get there, what to do and where to go, read my post on Everything you need to know about visiting Uvac Special Nature Reserve.
Day 6: Tara National Park
Prepare for a delightful day of exploration in the gorgeous mountains of Tara National Park. Excellent lakes, stunning hiking trails, historical villages & beautiful riverside restaurants make this place worth spending an entire day (if not more), in your 1-week itinerary for Serbia.
While there is a lot to see in this area, if you only have a day, read my detailed post on What to see in 1 day in Tara National Park, Serbia.
Day 7: Back to Belgrade via Golubac Fortress
If you’re in Serbia for only 5 days, you can skip this part altogether. However, if you have time, it makes for a great roadtrip to visit this medieval fortress Golubac in the East side of Serbia, and drive through the idyllic Đerdap National Park, enjoying splendid vistas over the Danube, and visit the Silver Lake (Srebrno jezero).