Other than Belgrade, a trip to Serbia must include Subotica. According to many, Subotica is the country’s most beautiful city. Additionally, the city is a multicultural heaven, with Hungarians, Serbians and Croatians living next to each other. Although ideally located on the railroad connecting Budapest and Belgrade it has somehow remained undiscovered. There are plenty of things to see and do in Subotica: the city is famous for its elegant architecture, green parks, great food and laid back atmosphere. Hence, spending a day or two in this wonderful place is a must.
What to See in Subotica – Art Nouveau
In Subotica you will find outstanding examples of Art Nouveau architecture. Actually, Subotica is probably the city with the most art nouveau buildings in Serbia. In Austro-Hungary, the movement was called Secession. At that time, Subotica was at the forefront of the movement. Most buildings are quite colorful and are decorated with world famous Zsolnai ceramics from Pécs. You will see numerous interesting buildings but the following three deserve special attention.
City Hall (Gradska Kuća)
The City Hall is undoubtedly Subotica’s most famous landmark. Built between 1908 and 1912, it’s Serbia’s most imposing public hall. Budapest born architects Komor and Jakab designed it. Notice how art nouveau’s floral elements blend with Hungarian folklore decorations harmoniously. The impressive Council Hall with stained glass windows is the building’s highlight. You can take any of the daily organized tours through the building.
The Subotica Synagogue is one of Europe’s most exquisite religious buildings. The same architects that designed the City Hall designed it. The temple was built in 1908 and incorporates typical elements of Hungarian Secession like tulips, carnations and peacock feathers. Unfortunately, the building was left to rot for decades, until it got a complete reconstruction a couple of years ago. Strangely enough, it is closed most of the time. Therefore, you can go inside only on special occasions.
Raichle Palace (Rajhlova Palata)
If you arrive to Subotica by train, the first building you’ll notice is the fabulous Raichle Palace. Unlike the first two buildings it is not free standing and it’s much smaller in size. Ferenc Raichle built it in 1904 as his home and artistic studio. The Palace was built with expensive materials and is quite exotic. Perhaps, the latter is due to its vibrant colors and odd forms. Fortunately for us, it is still in use, housing Modern art gallery ‘Likovni susreti’.
As mentioned above Subotica is Serbia’s most multicultural city. Apart from the beautiful Synagogue, the city is full of interesting religious buildings. Amongst these, three churches built in the 18th century stand out: the Cathedral, the Franciscan church and the Serb Orthodox Church. Considering that Subotica is rather small you should be able to visit all three on foot.
The Subotica Cathedral is baroque and dedicated to St. Theresa of Avila, the Spanish Carmelite monk from the 16th century that is the city’s patron. The temple is a so-called minor basilica and the seat of the Diocese of Subotica. On October 15th, 1773, the day of Holy Theresa of Avila, construction began with the laying of the foundation stone. Take note that all structural and decorative elements are baroque. The central part crowned with the statue of Mary Mother of Jesus connects the two towers on the main façade.
On the other hand, the neo-romanticist Franciscan Church is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. The church and the adjacent monastery are the oldest religious buildings in Subotica, and amongst the oldest in all of Serbia. In fact, locals call it the Old Church. Franciscans moved into the Subotica Fortress in 1686. Initially, they improvised a church inside the fortress. However, in 1729 they began building a brand new church. They incorporated the old fortress walls into the church. That’s why the south tower is part of the church’s main façade.
Serb Orthodox Church
Finally, the baroque Serb Orthodox Church is dedicated to the Holy Ascension. In the 18th century, two churches occupied the site, one smaller than the other one. Unfortunately, the small one didn’t survive the pass of time, leaving only the big one for us to admire today. The original church is from 1726, but the present look is the result of a thorough reconstruction done 100 years later. The church is a one nave building with an apse and transept to the east, and a narthex and a bell tower to the west. One could say it’s the typical Orthodox Church in the area, Vojvodina.
Just 8 kilometers to the east of Subotica we find Palić. The place is pretty famous all around Serbia due to beautiful Palić Lake, the largest natural lake in the country. The Lake is now connected to Tisa River and apparently unsuitable for swimming. Nevertheless, it is a great place to walk about. Even more, amongst the lush Great Park (Veliki Park) you will spot elegant art nouveau buildings. Our favorites are the beautiful Water Tower, Grand Terrace, Music Pavilion and Ladies Bath (Ženski štrand). There is also a large Zoo, but Happy Frog doesn’t approve of keeping animals in cages for our entertainment, so please avoid.
What to Do in Subotica
Explore the City Center on Foot
Spend some time exploring Subotica’s central pedestrian area. Walk about Freedom Square (Trg Slobode), the main street Korzo and the small Matije Korvina Street. Be sure to notice the pretty buildings that dot the area. You shouldn’t miss the two large fountains on the square, made of colorful Zsolnai ceramic tiles. The beautiful City Library is there too. Finish your walk in the Ferenca Rajhla Park in front of the train station. Some of Subotica’s nicest houses are right across the park.
Relax in a Forest
Relax in Mulberry Forest (Dudova Šuma), a 200 year old city park. You won’t be walking entirely alone, since hedgehogs and squirrels inhabit the park. On the other hand, if you want to exercise there are a couple of basketball courts, tennis courts, and plenty of gym equipment. Additionally, there is a refreshing open air swimming pool. Unfortunately, there are no more mulberries in the park. To get there, walk along the Aleja Maršala Tita Avenue, remnant of socialist times.
Bike Around the City
Get a city bike card at the SU BIKE office in Djure Djakovica 23. Bring your passport and a couple of dinars for the card and rental fees. The card allows you to take a bike at any of the five bike stations scattered all around town. Four of them are in the city and one is in Palić, so you can bike all the way to the Palić Lake. We took the bike line that goes all along the road to Palić, and once there, biked around the Great Park and along the lake. You can rent your bike any day from 7 AM to 8 PM and return it at any time.
Go on a Day Trip
As you can see, there are plenty of things to see and do in Subotica to keep you busy for a couple of days. If you are lucky and have more time, we have a few suggestions. If you are into horses, you must go visit the Kelebija Livery Stable, close to the Hungarian border. You’ll be able to ride a horse, relax in a garden, and have lunch in a traditional restaurant. If charming little cities are your thing, visit Sombor, 60 kilometers southwest from Subotica. On the other hand, if you prefer larger cities, cross the border and go to Szeged in Hungary. To us, it is one of the nicest cities in Hungary. Even better, go to Pécs. However, you need a car for that.
Where to Stay – Hotels in Subotica
We are sad to report that Subotica’s accommodation offer doesn’t match its beauty. There are only three** hotels inside the city, all of them overpriced. Patria and Galleria are 4 star hotels while PBG Garni Hotel is 3 stars. Hotels in Palić are much better value for money. Nevertheless, staying in downtown Subotica is a better idea, unless you are looking for a quiet getaway. Perhaps the best option is to rent an apartment through the official Subotica web or any other apartment rental website.
** Hotel Forum Garni opened downtown in 2019. The apart-hotel offers spacious rooms in a great location.
Where to Stay in Palić
Since Palić is a popular resort town in Serbia, it has a wider selection of accommodation. There are 4 hotels in Palić, and all are 4 stars. Besides, several grand old villas are now guesthouses. The best hotel in town is undoubtedly the Garni Hotel & Spa Palić Resort. The award-winning hotel has big rooms, a nice spa, a swimming pool, and views. Garni Hotel Park doesn’t have a spa or a swimming pool, but it is part of the historic park. In fact, the hotel’s building is the original neoclassical pavilion from 1860. If you prefer staying in a historic villa, then Guest House Vila Lujza is for you.
Subotica used to have a tram, but it fell into oblivion. Actually, you can still see an old wooden tram parked at the beginning of Matka Vukovica Street. Today, buses serve the city and the suburbs. Since most of the sights are in a very small area, you probably won’t need them. To get to Palić, bike (as mentioned above) or take bus number 6. There is a bus stop on Maksima Gorkog Street, across the Patria Hotel, in downtown Subotica. Finally, you can also take an inexpensive taxi. Remember to ask if the taxi has a taximeter or agree to a price.
How to Get to Subotica
As mentioned above, Subotica is on the main road that connects the capitals of Serbia and Hungary. Unfortunately, at the moment, no trains operate from Belgrade. The railway line between Belgrade and Novi Sad is under repair, so no trains link the two cities. What’s more, trains from Belgrade to Budapest are affected too. Currently, only one train from Budapest to Novi Sad stops in Subotica. Nevertheless, several trains go from Subotica to Novi Sad. You can take a bus to Novi Sad and then the train to Subotica. The journey lasts 4 hours. Of course, you can take a direct bus from Belgrade and be in Subotica in 3 hours. Buses also connect Subotica with Szeged in Hungary.
Where to Eat – Restaurants, Bakeries and Cafés
Subotica is full of great bakeries, restaurants and coffee shops. However, three places are not to be missed. Without a doubt the best restaurant in town is Caffe Boss in Matije Korvina. The place is so big it practically occupies half of the street. You can sit under a tree and indulge in delicious national dishes as well as in international flavors such as Mexican and Chinese. Special mention goes to their dessert menu! The best burek (baked dough pastry) is in Lipa, and though the place is small the food is first class. Watch out for all the grease! Another place worth mentioning is Pelivan in front of Subotica City Hall. They have been preparing superb ice cream for almost 100 years!
Do not worry about putting on some extra weight. As we mentioned above, you will need energy to walk for hours about the city, bike through the park, play tennis or swim. Who would have thought that Subotica, Serbia’s most beautiful city, has so much to offer?