Word of Mouth: Novi Sad, Serbia

A glimpse at the culinary, art and design scene of 2021's European Capital of Culture

by Leora Novick

Named in advance the European Capital of Culture for the year 2021, there is no shortage of art, design, and culinary delights in Novi Sadmore than enough to tempt travelers away from Serbia’s more frequented destination, Belgrade. Nestled on the banks of Danube River and just north of the Fruka Gora national park, the city’s region marks the confluence of Croatia, Hungary, and Romania. Despite the lure of these three neighboring countries, there is plenty to do and see in Novi Sad alone, where a visit begins in the heart of the historic district. When you think of the city, you may think of musicand specifically Exit Festival, one of the more popular festivals across Europe now in its 18th year. Yet Serbias second largest city has much more to offer than a basecamp for festival fans. Whether youre wandering through the city center, admiring the synagogue and church that crown the historic district, sunbathing along the Danube river on a warm day at The Strand, or admiring the street art in the Chinatown district, each moment spent here is a wonderful melange of past and present.

Hotel Leopold I

The Petrovaradin Fortress is an iconic landmark in Novi Sad, the ideal spot for lookout views and a prime place to begin your historic guide to the city, yet our favorite way to enjoy is with an overnight stay at the Hotel Leopold I. Built within the fortress walls, its a chance to sleep within history, and experience the old-world Serbian glamour that one imagines existed before the war. Damask crimson curtains, uniformed staff, and gilt edges lend this property a regal air.

Pavle Beljanski Museum

Follow the line of history from the 18th century to the early 20th with a visit to the Pavle Beljanski Museum, located in Novi Sads City Center district. A private collection, this museum features 37 important Serbian artists, with an emphasis on the two World War periods. Beginning with modernists like Nadeda Petrovi and Milan Milovanovi and diving further down Serbias timeline with works from Sava umanovi, Milan Konjovi; a visit here is mandatory in the education of Serbian artistic history.

Sala 137

The culinary scene in Novi Sad is a pleasantly diverse experience. There are classic nods to Serbian cuisine, more often found at the many salas or farmsteads peppered around the city. At Sala 137 you can enjoy hearty fresh-from-the-farm fare like evapi with potatoes, savory soups, and platters of cheese and charcuterie. More modern options have sprouted up in town like Tegla’s (with their salads served in mason jars) and Project 72 Wine & Deli, an ode to modern Serbian cuisine with its bright ambiance and local produce, paired with Serbian wine.


For a true sense of change in Novi Sad, a visit to the citys Chinatown is a must. Not a literal Chinese neighborhood, the area is a former industrial area that began its rebirth through artists and students, as is often the case. Former factories and manufacturing shops have slowly given way to theaters, concert venues, and a nightclub scene. A little gritty and exciting, this neighborhood was one of the key factors in designating Novi Sad a 2021 European Capital of Culture.

Pozorite Mladih

For more family-friendly fun, consider a visit to Pozorite Mladih, the local Youth Theatre. A living piece of history, this venue was the first puppet theater in all of Serbia, established in 1932. Damaged badly during WWII, it has since been rebuilt and has shared over 20,000 performances to date.

Images courtesy of respective venues