Although its reputation took a hammering during the disastrous collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Serbia has since become one of Eastern Europe’s most entertaining destinations. Much of that is down to Belgrade, which, despite NATO bombing during the Milosevic regime, has emerged as a dynamic, edgy city with an appetite for hedonism.
Home to numerous excellent museums and galleries, a wide range of restaurants and cafés, and some of the best nightlife in southeast Europe, Belgrade is drawing comparisons with some of the world’s coolest cities. It is also helping lead the rest of the country into a bright and hopeful future, with a young generation of creative and outward-looking Serbs reshaping the historic land that was founded as a principality some 1,200 years ago.
Away from the capital, Novi Sad is an attractive, lively city with an elegant centre and picturesque fortress overlooking over the Danube. In the far north, Subotica has an array of secessionist architecture and a notable Hungarian character.
The province of Vojvodina, north of Belgrade, has some excellent wetland habitats that are home to numerous bird species, while south of the capital the countryside consists of lush, wooded valleys with hidden-away Orthodox monasteries. Scattered among the country’s more mountainous regions are a number of vast national parks.
Serbia is known for the forthright character of its citizens; its resilient culture has survived numerous occupiers and foreign rulers over the centuries. Despite their formidable reputation, visitors will find Serbs to be passionate but welcoming. As an Orthodox Christian country, it remains to a large degree deeply religious, though this fact is belied somewhat by the hedonism found in its bigger cities.
While there are still some political problems in Serbia, which has yet to formally recognise Kosovo after it unilaterally declared independence in 2008, the country has turned a corner. It is officially a EU candidate and many Serbs are hopeful of the change in economic fortunes that might be brought by becoming a full member.