Castles in Serbia - A guide through Serbia's top fortresses

Given that Serbia has a great cultural and historical heritage, it is not at all surprising that the remains of ancient buildings have been preserved all over the country. Certain fortresses successfully resisted time and turmoil, while some were less fortunate, left in ruins, fragments of time that is behind us. We do have to clarify - castles in Serbia are mostly military fortifications, sometimes used as royal courts. We’ll take you on a virtual trip through the best Serbia has to offer, from south to north. From Petrovaradin to Niš, here's a taste of what you'll learn about castles in Serbia:

Slide to see the versatile nature of castles in Serbia 

Novi Sad Fortress - Symbol of Novi Sad 

If you’re visiting Serbia for the first time, we are here to tell you that you don’t have to kick it off with Belgrade. Standing as the symbol of the town, the Petrovaradin fortress is the perfect place to start exploring. Novi Sad fortress is a perfect example of the baroque style of the 18th century. The latest archaeological research indicates that the history of Petrovaradin leads us to the time when the Celts lived in this area. In the Byzantine era, the fortress was called Petricon, and since then, there are many testimonies that speak of its beauty and magnificence. The construction of the fortress lasted as long as 88 years, until 1867. Today it stands as a shining example of military fortifications of that time. The Petrovaradin fortress is of great importance to the city of Novi Sad and Vojvodina as a whole, which is why in the middle of the 20th century, it was declared a historical monument and placed under state protection.

View of the Petrovaradin across the Danube
Source: ©Mihailo Karanovic from Getty Images via Canva.com

Exploring the Novi Sad fortress 

We can safely say that even today, the Petrovaradin fortress is one of the most famous ancient buildings in all of Serbia, attracting local and foreign tourists alike. You can visit it all day, every day, with no entry fees. Some of the spots situated on the fortress are: 

  • Museums and galleries: City Museum Novi Sad and the Archives are both located here, in the heart of the fortress. They will introduce you to the long tradition and all the turmoil that happened in the area of Novi Sad, while the hidden corridors will lead you directly to the underground well that supplies water to the whole of Novi Sad. For a splash of art, visit the Atelier 61, a unique art house whose artists produce top-notch tapestry pieces. 
  • The Drunken Clock tower: Of course, an indispensable part of Petrovaradin is the famous tower with a clock, which has become a recognizable sign of Novi Sad. What sets this clock apart from the others is the large hand that shows the hours and the small hand that shows the minutes. This was done to help the sailors on the Danube tell the time fast and easy.  

Learn more about the fortress and this city's iconic spots in our blog that answers the question - Things to do in Novi Sad

Tower with a clock on Petrovaradin
Source: ©Olezzo from Getty Images via Canva.com

Belgrade Fortress - The famous landmark of Belgrade 

A fortress and a park in one, Kalemegdan is one of the most impressive points of Belgrade. Belgrade Fortress represents the core around which Belgrade was created and expanded way back at the beginning of the 1st century. From 125 meters above sea level, it overlooks the confluence of some of the most beautiful rivers in Serbia, the Sava and Danube.  Due to its favorable location, it has changed its uses, from the Roman castrum, through the capital of the Serbian despotism, to an artillery fortification. It was built to include the Lower and Upper Town, at the entrance of which you will be greeted by the Clock Tower and Stambol Gate. Although it has been destroyed and renovated more than 15 times, the Belgrade Fortress has managed to preserve traces of Byzantine, medieval, Austrian and Ottoman influence, and just one walk along its ramparts will take you through all of this.

Aerial view of the Belgrade fortress
Source: ©David Tabachnikov from Getty Images via Canva.com

Best spots on the Belgrade Fortress 

Besides it being an idyllic place for walks, the Belgrade fortress hides lots of exciting stories of old Belgrade. Follow our tips for sightseeing Belgrade and go even deeper to explore: 

  • Pobednik (The Victor) statue: The symbol of Belgrade and Kalemegdan is the famous Pobednik. It is located in the center of the plateau, in a place where many visitors enjoy a beautiful view of the confluence of two rivers. It was built by a celebrated Yugoslav sculptor, Ivan Meštrović stands proudly and looks at all the beauties that surround the fortress and which the city of Belgrade is always happy to be proud of. This is an ideal place for walking, gatherings, enjoying a beautiful day, and creating unforgettable memories.
Statua Pobednika i krošnje
Autor: Sasa Damjanovic on Unsplash
  • Ružica church: We recommend that you visit this wonderful place during the summer or spring months, when the adjacent walls of this small church are completely overgrown with green and strong ivy, while rows of bright roses bloom everywhere in the immediate vicinity.
  • Roman well and underground tunnels: When you want to take a deeper look into the history of Kalemegdan, take a tour of the many underground tunnels and visit the Roman well from the 18th century. Don't worry, experienced guides won't let you get lost in the labyrinths of Belgrade.
  • Belgrade Zoo: Did you know Belgrade is home to the oldest alligator alive? Besides Muja the gator, you'll get to see some local animals, a large collection of spiders and snakes, penguins, raccoons, and statues of the Zoo's famous former residents. 

Smederevo fortress - Home of the Serbian knights 

Of course, this text would be truly incomplete without the famous and very significant Smederevo fortress, which played a great and important role in the Serbian medieval despotism. At that time, the fortress was an administrative, military, cultural, and church seat built by the famous and famous despot Đurađ Branković. Today, this is one of the better-preserved fortresses that still resists the past and preserves what is most significant in Serbian history, tradition, and culture. It is certainly a place that everyone should visit at least once and hear important parts related to the rich, but often difficult and turbulent past of the medieval Serbian state. The Smederevo fortress was built for the purpose of defense against the Turks, so it is an attraction in itself that is really worth your visit.

Aerial view of a fortress remains in Smederevo
Source: ©MilanMaksimovic from Getty Images via Canva.com

Smederevo fortress trivia - What makes it unique 

The Smederevo fortress was built by the cousin of the great despot Stefen Lazarević in 1428. It is located in a significant position, at the confluence of the Jezava River and the Danube, and with its impressive size, it occupies as much as 11 hectares of land. The fortress consists of the Big and Small Town, two equally important parts. Throughout the long history of the fortress, another impressive 19 towers with strong ramparts were built. Today, the architecture and precision with which this masterful building was built fascinate many architects and visitors to the fortress. It's also good to note that:

  • When construction had just begun, the despot ordered that the fortress be of the most modern architecture of that era and built of the highest quality materials. That is why it represents the greatest achievement of medieval military architecture in Serbia
  • The fortress was built so fast that many workers died from exhaustion and fatigue. There is also a folk tale about a fairy called Jerina that tells a story of her enchantment to the workers.
  • It survived the greatest damage during the Second World War when a large explosion of ammunition destroyed its inner court. 
  • The best time to visit the fortress is in September, during the Smederevo Autumns, an event in honor of wine in Serbia. Traditionally held for decades now, this festival celebrates grape production, wine-making (and drinking) practices, and local medieval heritage with a series of panels, exhibitions, and a knight parade. 

Source: ©urbazon from Getty Images via Canva.com

Golubac fortress - Best preserved medieval fortress in Serbia 

In the Đerdap National Park, a fortress has stood proudly since the 14th century overlooking the Djerdap gorge. It was built with 10 towers and two gates, divided into front, back, and upper town. During its lifetime, the Golubac fortress belonged to the First and Second Bulgarian Empires, Byzantium, was part of Prince Lazar's state, and fell into the hands of the Turks before it finally came to Prince Mihail Obrenović's possession in 1868. For the needs of the main road, which connects the eastern parts of the Balkans with Serbia, significant damage was caused to the fortress and its narrow surroundings, making the upper parts unreachable due to thick vegetation. Major renovation and reconstruction works were done in 2019, and ever since then, the fortress has become a tourist hotspot. If you decide to go to the fortress today, you will be able to approach it on well-maintained paths and roads, conquer all its parts, some only accompanied by employees, but also visit the Golubac city museum, which keeps over 100 exhibits found at this location. 

Woman in front of a fortress holding her hat
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Conquer the ramparts of the Golubac fortress

There are four types of tickets at the entrance which you can buy, depending on how long you want to stay in the fortress and how far you are willing to climb. Tickets range from 600 to 800 dinars: 

  • Zone 1 - Green zone offers you a visit to the Palace and towers 8, 5, and 9 for the cost of 600 dinars
  • Zone 2 - Blue zone  includes access to towers 3 and 4 and costs RSD 800
  • Zone 3 - Red zone takes you to the same places as the green zone but includes an additional visit to Tower 7 for 800 dinars. We recommend this one only to people in good shape, and you'll be accompanied by the climbing staff. 
  • Zone 4 - Black zone includes a visit to the Hat Tower and access, just like the red zone, is allowed only to adults with a special companion. The price is 1,200 dinars.

We also recommend the permanent exhibition of the fortress called the Panorama of Centuries, which will faithfully and vividly present all the important events that took place during the long history of the Golubac Fortress. In the immediate vicinity of the fortress, there is also a prominent archaeological park where medieval exhibits found in the fortress and on its territory are exhibited. 

Niš fortress - From Huns to modern times jazz hotspot 

If you come to Niš, it is impossible to avoid visiting the Niš Fortress, which is located in the very center of the city, surrounded by strong stone ramparts on all sides. The fortress boasts a really long, very turbulent history that reaches the time when the Huns ruled these areas. After it suffered catastrophic damages, a novel ruler Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire, rebuilt it from the ground up. Fortified ramparts and its good, strategic position made it a perfect place for the Turks to conquer and use for warfare. Today, it stands as a symbol of the city of Nis, one of the most visited castles in Serbia and home to one of the most visited jazz festivals in the world - Nishville. 

Entering gate of the Nis fortress
Source: ©ShevchenkoAndrey from Getty Images via Canva.com

Spots on the Niš fortress you shouldn't miss 

First of all, the gates of the Niš fortress are striking and are an impressive attraction in themselves. The fortress of Niš has 4 large and magnificent gates: Stambol Gate, Vidin Gate, Great Gate and Belgrade Gate. All 4 gates are a symbol of centuries of life and a long tradition, and today they are very well preserved and perfect for your photo backdrop. The two gates got their names due to their orientation - The Belgrade Gate faces Belgrade, and Istanbul looks towards Istanbul. One of the most famous monuments of the Niš fortress is the monument of the great Milan Obrenović and the liberators of Niš, which is located on the left side of the main entrance. Once you've entered the fortress, pay a visit to: 

  • Arsenal: This former military building is now used as an exhibition space by the Gallery of modern art, which gives a nice touch to the already mesmerizing works of art.
  • Ancient baths: If you were a resident of Niš in the 4th and 5th centuries, you had to be clean to enter the property of the Fortress. That's why these baths stand close to the entrance and were used for quick rinses upon entering.
  • The palace with the octagon: It is believed this palace belonged to Constantine the Great, and restoration works show it's from the 4th century
  • Hammam, Turkish bath: A traditional style bath from 1498 is the oldest saved property from the Ottoman empire 
Ancient building on the Nis fortress
Author: Milica Spasojevic on Unsplash 

Vojvodina castles - Serbia’s best-kept secret 

Serbia’s northern region of Vojvodina is home to over 60 stunning castles, dating even three centuries back. Even though some of them are in ruins due to rough history, weather, and poor management, you can track most of them for at least a fun photo. Today, the ones that stood the test of time are among the most beloved weekend trip destinations turned into hotels and top-notch restaurants perfect for tasting traditional Serbia dishes. We’ll tell you about two of them, others you’ll have to discover on your own: 

  • Kaštel Ečka: A rich man named Lukač Lazar bought a piece of land way back in the 1780s with the vision of building an estate with a church for his workers. Over the course of 30 years, this castle became so much more, and people from all over central Europe came to visit it. Even dough it suffered terrible damage after its last owner moved to the US, it was renovated almost fully and has kept its red-stone charm. On your visit, you can explore the very room where Franc List entertained the ball guests, a fountain in the center of the park, and old stables. 
Bašta i prilazni put koji vodi ka Kaštelu Ečka
Author: Bojan Kojičić
  • Kapetanovo: If you love haunted spots, this one is for you. Believed to be haunted by the owner's wife, Kapetanovo is located in the middle of huge Vojvodina plains, giving it a nice kick. It was designed and built by the Polish prefect Botka Bela in 1904, which he made in the likes of the castles in his country. After he gambled away this castle, his wife set herself on fire and died at the property. To this day, legends speak of a woman in a dress that haunts the castle every August and little strands of blond hair that appears when the grass is maintained. Kapetanovo was renovated and made into a hotel and a restaurant. Do you dare sleep in it? 
Bela fasada Dvorca Kapetanovo
Author: Sara Tanasković

Castles in Serbia through a map 

As a parting gift, we're giving you this map that shows you all the before-mentioned castles and fortresses, with a nice bonus of 10+ locations, as we know you won't be able to stop exploring. Use it for orientation, faster and easier trip planning, or for mapping your driving routes. Do yourselves a favor and go on a castle hunting trip in Serbia, you won't regret it. Before you go, learn everything you need to know about Serbia in our blog - Explore Serbia. Bon voyage!