In the area of present-day Serbia, there are remains of dozens of fortresses built in strategically important places – by the river, trade roads and along the borders of the former empires.
Built to protect the cities, estates or monasteries, the fortresses were an important part of the military strategies of medieval rulers. Some of them had a purely military purpose, and in them, you can see former military camps, arsenals, and barracks. Within others, real small towns developed, where houses, schools, and shops were located, as well as churches and mosques, whose remains you can see today. One of the oldest fortresses in Serbia is the Old Ras (Stari Ras), and it is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List together with the surrounding monasteries Sopoćani and Đurađ’s pillars (Đurđevi stupovi), as well as the Church of the Saints Peter and Paul, the Holy Apostles, known as Peter’s Church.
Today, the fortresses in Serbia are telling the story of the turbulent history of these landscapes and turning visitors to the era of medieval rulers, knights, and great battles. Some of them got a new life, new energy, and a new purpose – they hold cultural and artistic events, and the walls of some medieval fortifications are now preserving parks, galleries, and even museums.
Fortresses on the Danube river
As a natural border dividing Europe into the northern and southern parts, the Danube River was often the battlefield for the domination of numerous tribes and peoples including the Celts, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Hungarians, and the Serbs. To establish their borders, many rulers built fortifications right on the banks of this river. Some of them today stands proudly as witnesses of the turbulent history of these areas, ready to reveal all their secrets to visitors.
In the fertile valley of Vojvodina, in the vicinity of the town of Bač, where the entire region was named Bačka, there are the remains of the oldest Austrian fortress in Serbia. It is believed that this once powerful fort was built at the time when the king was Carlo Robert.
The tour of the Bačka Fortress with a well-preserved tower and several auxiliary towers evokes the atmosphere of the XIV century – when the walls of this fortification were an important part of the defense system of the Austrian Empire.
The Petrovaradin Fortress
The fort built from 1692 to 1780 was designed by Austrian military engineers according to the system of French fortresses of the famous builder Voban. Going through the Upper Town next to the Arsenal and the Office Pavilion, all the way to the Lower Town where there are office apartments, hospitals, and barracks, you will discover how to live in a “city inside the city”, reserved for guardians of the fort. And if you want to hide from the sun and the wind, slip under the surface and walk 16 kilometers long caves that, like a labyrinth, lead you to the exciting underground world of the Petrovaradin Fortress. Every year in July, the Petrovaradin Fortress becomes the capital of the party as well, because it hosts the famous music festival Exit.
One of the main tourist attractions of the Serbian capital, Belgrade Fortress, is a favorite place for walking and resting both Belgradians and the capital’s guests. The first fortress at the confluence of the Sava in the Danube was built by the Celts, but its present-day appearance of the fortress owes the people who came after them. Between the 2nd and 18th centuries, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hungarians, and the Turks adapted the fort to their needs, which is why this building is still characterized by an eclectic style in which everyone can find something from an epoch close to him.
Looking at the completely peaceful Smederevo landscape, it’s hard to believe that at this place a spear between two medieval empires was broken several centuries ago. Built in the 15th century on the initiative of the Serbian despot Đurađ Branković, the Smederevo fortress is the last large building of Serbian military architecture. Located in the then Serbian capital of Serbia, the fortress soon became the scene of many Serbian-Turkish conflicts. The magnificent building of the Smederevo fortress still today conveys numerous legends about defeats and victories to those who are willing to listen.
On the right bank of the Danube at the entrance to the Đerdap canyon, there is another architectural jewel of this region. Built in the XIV century on an inaccessible cliff above the Đerdap canyon, the Golubac fortress was the scene of numerous conflicts between Serbia and Turkey at that time.
By diving the Danube in the surroundings of the Ram village, tourists are like magic attracted by the star structure of the fortress, which has been built on the right bank of the 15th century until today. The witness of the struggle for the supremacy between Christianity and Islam, the fortress Ram was conquered and lost by the Byzantines, Hungarians, and Turks in order to rule it with medieval Serbian despots.