I didn’t plan to visit Uzice, Serbia at all. I knew next to nothing about the place, my only knowledge about the city was that it exists and that’s about it. The only reason why I went there was because it made a perfect connection point on my crazy Balkans trip. What was supposed to be a must stopover turned out to be a really pleasant destination.
Table of contents
- 1 How I ended up in Uzice, Serbia
- 2 A short background of Uzice, Serbia
- 3 Hotel Zlatibor – the icon of Uzice
- 4 What to see and do in Uzice
- 5 Attractions of Uzice region
- 6 Is it worth to visit Uzice?
- 7 Plan your trip to Uzice, Serbia
How I ended up in Uzice, Serbia
I never can say no to cheap flights to the Balkans and so I ended up with a one way ticket from Warsaw to Podgorica, Montenegro for €15 only and no further plan. Eventually I found a cheap return from Sarajevo that left me with 3 days in between in the Balkans, because why not, every excuse to travel to this region is a good one.
I figured this might be a perfect opportunity to cross some off some of my Balkan bucket list items, such as going by train from Montenegro to Serbia (I’ve already done Belgrade to Bar train but the most scenic part was when it was already dark and I haven’t seen it properly) or seeing Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina. But to do these two things and eventually end up in Sarajevo I had to stop along the way to change from the train to the bus and the place where I had to do it was Uzice, Serbia.
If the connections hadn’t been that bad I would probably have gone to the onward journey right away, not giving the city a chance. But I arrived to Uzice in the afternoon and the bus to Sarajevo was only at 11 in the morning on the next day (since it was the weekend and the 7am bus didn’t go to Visegrad I had to change my plan and go directly to Sarajevo).
That left me with few hours to kill in the city. I thought there will be not much to do, that Uzice is yet another random place with not too much to offer but very quickly I’ve realized how wrong I was.
A short background of Uzice, Serbia
I was lucky as, even if it was mid September, the weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny. I left my backpack at the hostel and quickly left for a stroll around the center.
Uzice is not a big city, it has just under 60.000 inhabitants and is nowhere near the top of the list of biggest cities in Serbia. It also lacks any major highlights but there are some interesting spots to see and things to do that would keep you occupied for a day or two.
Even if Uzice looks like a fairly new city the surrounding area was inhabited already in the ancient times. The Slavic tribes came here in the 6th century and already in the 8th century the region was part of the first Serbian state – the Principality of Serbia. One of the remnants, the medieval fortress (or better to say its ruins) is still towering above the town. And that’s about it when it comes to any major monuments in the city.
Uzice developed in the 20th century, especially when it was named one of Tito’s towns after World War 2. That brought lots of investments to the city, especially in the infrastructure and the industry. In 1992 the name of the city was changed back, from Titovo Uzice to just Uzice and that name is still in use.
Hotel Zlatibor – the icon of Uzice
The center of Uzice is dominated by one of the craziest buildings you will ever see – Hotel Zlatibor. If you like concrete and brutalism architecture you will love it, otherwise you might hate it or, in the best case scenario, just curiously look at it. I found it amazing if only it had been available I would definitely have considered staying there, even if just for the experience (but I can’t complain on my accommodation either and I could see Hotel Zlatibor from the window).
Already at the beginning of the 20th century there was the original Hotel Zlatibor in Uzice. Once it was demolished the number of visitors in the city has significantly dropped and so the decision to build a new one was made. The current building was designed by the architect from Montenegro, Svetlana Radović. The grand opening took place on the 24th September 1981 and very quickly the place has become the icon of Uzice.
Back in the day it was a luxury property, often visited by foreign guests. Now it seems like the time has stopped there. Already from the outside it looks somehow dusty, like it needs a proper cleaning. The pictures I found online show a simple rooms in a 80s designer style, we would probably call them vintage now.
What to see and do in Uzice
I was falling in love with Hotel Zlatibor over and over again but there was more things to see and do in Uzice. The center was small but pleasant enough. Part of the main street – Dimitrija Tucovića – was turned into the pedestrian zone and was busy with families or groups of friends strolling around. The most eye-catching building here was the town hall, reminding me of the great architecture from the Austria-Hungary time.
The nearby main square – Trg Partizana – was surrounded with cafes and they were all full too. I found it interesting that back in the day the square was often chosen the most beautiful in Yugoslavia. Well, I wouldn’t go that far in my judgments but it was a nice place to spend some time at. Calling it beautiful, however, was a big exaggeration.
Across the Detinja river there was a small amusement park where young and old were clearly having a great time.
I don’t know if it was the weekend, the weather, the numerous weddings around (you could hear them from the nearby restaurants and Hotel Zlatibor itself) but Uzice was a really pleasant and vibrant place and I enjoyed it a lot. I just sat down on the bench at the main square and observed what’s happening around me. It was a perfect way to spend the afternoon in Uzice.
The next morning I still had some time to see another part of Uzice, more recreational area along the Detinja river. There was a city beach, some walking paths and start of the hiking trail, all in the beautiful location of the river gorge. The old railway bridge is now for pedestrians, the tracks were removed and now you can walk or bike through the well prepared trail that used to be part of the beautiful Belgrade-Bar railway line.
It was Sunday morning, the weather was still gorgeous so the area was filling up with people who were ready for some exercise. At that point I regretted a bit that I need to go back to the center and then head onwards to Bosnia and Herzegovina. I would gladly have spent this sunny day hiking around and enjoying the beautiful nature around Uzice.
Above the old railway tunnel, high on the steep cliff of the Detinja river you will find the remnants of the old town of Uzice, with the fortress dating back to the turn of the 12th and 13th century. That’s another part of Uzice I really wish I had time to visit as it looks really impressive from the pictures and from the city itself.
The remnants of the fortress are surrounded by the river from three sights and are a perfect example of the medieval Serbian fortification architecture. Exploring the fortress is already the reason why I would like to visit Uzice again!
I was really happy to find some street art around too! And not only murals related to the history but also some cool and really pretty ones too. It was such a nice surprise as street art always brings a smile on my face and it was the same with Uzice. That made me enjoy the city even more!
Attractions of Uzice region
But the reason why Uzice is worth visiting is the surrounding nature. I think Serbia is a hugely underrated country. Everyone focuses on the more popular Balkan destinations and overlooks Serbia. I admit it was a bit similar with me too but now, after seeing how stunning the area around Uzice is, I want to return there really badly to explore some more.
On the outskirts of the city you will find Zlatibor mountains, one of the main skiing destinations in Serbia.
Only a short ride away, on the edge of Tara National Mark, there is a village Mokra Gora. It’s the starting point of the Sargan Eight – a famous narrow-gauge railway line with stunning views. With 22 tunnels, 5 bridges and the line twisting and turning so it resembles the shape of number eight the Sargan Eight is considered one of the engineering wonders. It was in my initial plan to go for a ride but a terrible bus connections (as it often is in the Balkans) made me postpone it for some other time.
The railway was rebuilt at the beginning of the 21st century, with a great help of Emir Kusturica – a famous Balkan film director (you have to see his movies, especially those set in the region!). He also built a traditional village Drvengrad that was the scenery for one of his movies, “Life is a miracle”, but now it is yet another attractions in the region.
I’ve seen all these places from the bus window, passing them by on the way from Uzice to Sarajevo, and my heart was aching I can’t go out and explore. Travelling in the Balkans without a car really can be a challenge…
Is it worth to visit Uzice?
Before I left to catch my bus to Sarajevo I went to the train station again as the platforms make a great viewing point of Uzice. The location of the city is one of its best assets, with surrounding green mountains, houses with red rooftops glued to the hills and Hotel Zlatibor in the very center.
It reminded me a bit of Sarajevo, like a very tiny version of it. That and a combination of other things: the atmosphere, the location, the green spaces and brutalism architecture made me really enjoy Uzice. If you are in the area I really recommend you going to Uzice too!
After this random stopover I really want to see more of Serbia (I’ve been only to Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad and Subotica so far) – if the rest of the country is such a pleasant surprise as Uzice then I’m all in!
Plan your trip to Uzice, Serbia
How to get to Uzice
There are 6 direct trains from Belgrade to Uzice, the journey time is between 3h12min and 3h53min, depending on the connection. The first class ticket is 1024 Serbian dinars ($10 / €8,65) and the second class ticket is 716 dinars ($7 / €6). You can find the connection here (remember to type “Beograd” for Belgrade).
There is also a direct train from Bar and Podgorica in Montenegro – if you are going from that direction I can definitely recommend it as the views are just breathtaking!
There are even more bus connections from Belgrade but the travel time is similar so if I had to choose I would go by train as it’s more comfortable. But if you are interested here is the link to the Belgrade bus station and all the schedules.
There are also connections from/to other cities in Serbia and abroad you can check the schedule at one of the websites like Balkan Viator but they are not really reliable and the best is to check directly at the bus station. You can also ask at my Facebook group about travelling in the Balkans, maybe one of the members will be able to help you!
When I was checking online connections to Visegrad there were at least few of them listed but as it turned out there was only one bus per day going and I had to change my plans on the spot to adjust, that’s how travelling in the Balkans is…
Where to stay in Uzice
I stayed at Hostel Uzice (8.9/10 on Booking) and I can definitely recommend the place. It was only 5 or less minutes walking to the train and bus station as well as to the center and the recreational area. I stayed in the private room with the bathroom (the price was around €25), it was clean and spacious and I could see the center with Hotel Zlatibor just outside the window. The owner was super nice and friendly, he would also organize the tours to the surrounding area for the fair price if that’s something of your interest. Click here to see the reviews and current deals.
Other places to stay in Uzice worth considering:
How to get around Uzice
Walking is your best option as everything is just so close. Train and bus station are located next to each other, across the river from the center.
Where to eat in Uzice
I have a problem with the Serbian cuisine as it’s full of meat and most likely I won’t find anything vegetarian in the menu. Also all the restaurants I’ve seen around were closed for weddings so I just went for a quick bite and ended up with pizza, my comfort food just about everywhere. There was a really fine fast food point called C’est la Vie on the other side of the street from the main square.
Map of Uzice
Here is a map of Uzice I made with all the places mentioned above. If you need it for your travels just download the .kmz file from Google Maps and upload it on your phone!
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