Touring the Art Nouveau Architecture of Subotica

Last Updated on: 21st March 2023, 11:54 am

Right along the border with Hungary is one of Serbia’s most endearing towns. Subotica has long had more Hungarians than Serbs, and their influence over the area’s architecture remains clear. Many of the remarkable buildings around town were built in the Hungarian Secessionist style of the early 20th century, and we’ll be covering all of the must-see landmarks in the following Subotica guide.

Most of the landmarks below can easily be visited on foot, with the exception of Lake Palić, which involves hopping on a local city bus. Subotica can easily be visited as a day trip from Novi Sad, which you can learn more about below. Architecture fans may want to spend a night or two in town, however.

Central Subotica Guide

Before touring the beautiful buildings of Subotica, let’s briefly go over what it is that makes them special. Many of them are representative of the Art Nouveau style that flourished throughout Europe from around 1890 to 1910.

The movement emphasized curves and shapes influenced by forms found in nature. Both floral motifs and geometrical patterns were trademarks of the style, while the movement also sought to elevate the status of decorative and craft-based arts.
Proponents of Art Nouveau also formed secessionist movements to counter the traditional styles that had long been promoted by European art academies.
Numerous offshoots of Art Nouveau then developed throughout Europe, such as the Hungarian Secessionist movement, which blended the new art style with traditional Hungarian architecture. This unique and charming style is largely what you’ll find throughout Subotica today.
Subotica Guide

Raichle Palace (Modern Art Gallery Subotica)

Arguably Subotica’s most iconic building is the Raichle Palace, which now doubles as a modern art gallery. The exquisite structure was built in 1904 by architect Ferenc Raichle. 

Having completed his studies in Budapest in 1891, Raichle moved to Subotica in 1895. He created numerous buildings throughout the city in an eclectic mix of styles, though he’d gradually come to prefer Art Nouveau, the style which inspired this home.

Subotica Guide

While Raichle would live here for several years, he’d eventually go bankrupt in 1908. Leaving town, he moved with his family to Szeged, Hungary and later Budapest. In Hungary, he’d continue designing buildings while also working as a painter.

There are a lot of details to take in here, such as the ornate roof tiles and ceramic decorations of the exterior. While unique in its own right, the structure is somewhat reminiscent of the houses designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Subotica Guide

Supposedly, the building usually costs money to enter. But when I opened the door, there were no staff to be found, except for some people moving around furniture in one of the upper rooms.

The bottom floor features a small modern art exhibition, while the upper floor contains some artifacts from the historical building along with some brief explanations.

Subotica City Hall

Subotica’s unique City Hall, which some regard as the centerpiece of the city, was designed by architects Marcell Komor and Deszö Jakab in 1910. Like many important landmarks throughout the city, it was designed in the Art Nouveau, or specifically Hungarian Secessionist, style.

In addition to its imposing 76 m-high tower, the red-colored building is also known for its stained glass windows. Interestingly, Ferenc Raichle had also created a design for the City Hall that was never implemented.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

Tours of the building take place daily at noon. Otherwise, visitors are prohibited from entering. This is a shame, as there are no buses departing from Novi Sad between 8:25 and 10:35 (see below). Unless you take the early bus, you’ll end up just missing the tour.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

Nearby the City Hall is a beautiful park with plenty of seating areas and outdoor cafes. While, as mentioned, everything in this Subotica guide can easily be seen in a day, I regret not having spent at least a night in town to fully soak up the atmosphere.

City Museum Subotica

I often like to visit local museums to obtain information that you can’t normally find in guidebooks or online. But the City Museum of Subotica wasn’t quite what I expected.

It’s largely comprised of paintings, much of them portraits and still life. They range from 1830-1930, and were all painted by Hungarian artists once living in Vojvodina.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

It’s not until the upper floor that you’ll find any historical information. Surprisingly, the room contains an impressive collection of old skeletons. (The museum gets so few visitors that I had to find someone to turn on the lights!)

Sone of these skeletons belong to the Sarmatians, a group of horse-mounted warriors of Iranian origin who came to the region during Roman times. Others belong to the nomadic Avars and then various groups from the Middle Ages.

The building itself, designed by the Vago brothers in 1906, was once the residence of the Dömötör family and built in the Viennese Secession style. (Entry to the museum costs 150 RSD.)

The Subotica Synagogue

Subotica’s synagogue – just one of several left in the country – is among the town’s most impressive buildings. It’s also among the most unique synagogues in the world, being the only to utilize Hungarian Art Nouveau.

Subotica Guide

Designed by architects Marcell Komor and Deszö Jakab, it was constructed in 1902. This would be their first major project in the city before going on to create the City Hall and other important buildings.

The tent-like structure is centered around a 40 m-high dome. Standing outside, take note of the roof tiles that were created in the city of Pécs, Hungary.

Subotica Guide

Stepping inside, the first thing you’ll notice is the perfect symmetry of the design. Looking closely, you’ll spot various floral motifs in addition to peacock feathers. The interior utilizes a wide array of colors such as turquoise, orange, yellow and purple.

Visitors are also free to walk up to the second floor to take in the views from above. One of the synagogue’s most unique features is its colorful stained glass windows that were created in Budapest by Miksa Róth.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

During services, the synagogue could seat as many as 1600 people. But with the local Jewish population having dwindled after World War II, it’s since become property of the city. 

The structure was recently restored as part of an expensive renovation project in 2018. Now mainly functioning as a museum, this architectural gem costs 250 RSD to enter.

Subotica Guide

More Subotica Architecture

There are still several more architectural highlights to see around central Subotica. Continuing with the Art Nouveau theme, be sure to check out the Town Tenement Palace, built in the Viennese Secession style.

Subotica Guide
The Town Tenement Palace & the City Library
Subotica Architecture
Former Subotica Savings Bank

Located in the main square surrounding the City Hall, it sits right next to the Neo-Baroque City Library (under scaffolding at the time of my visit).

Within the main pedestrian avenue, don’t miss the Former Subotica Savings Bank, designed by Marcell Komor and Deszö Jakab in 1907.

Subotica Guide

Subotica’s main cathedral is the Catholic Cathedral of St. Theresa of Avila. Predating many of the other structures in this Subotica guide, it was built in 1779 in the late Baroque style. Notice the two large cracks going right down the middle!

It now sits within the ‘Square of the Victims of Fascism,’ which also contains a monument dedicated to those who perished during WWII.

Lake Palić

Subotica Guide

A quick 8 km bus ride from central Subotica is Lake Palić, which can easily be incorporated into your day trip. From Subotica, simply wait at a bus stand on the main road and take a number 6 bus heading east.

Palić is not just a lake, but is home to even more Art Nouveau gems!

Stepping off the bus, the first landmark you’ll encounter is the Water Tower. The fairytale-like structure was built in the early 20th century and has long marked the entrance to the Palić Spa.

It’s known for its colorful wood carvings and it was designed by architects already mentioned several times in the Subotica guide above: Marcell Komor and Deszö Jakab.

Subotica Guide

Moving on south through the forested pathway, you’ll soon encounter the elaborate Grand Terrace. Constructed in 1912 by the same popular duo, it remains the largest and central building of the Lake Palić area.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

Not only does the huge building contain three exhibition halls, but the arch in its center serves as the official gateway to the lake. Under renovation at the time of my visit, there was no possibility to step inside.

Subotica Guide

There are plenty of restaurants and inns along the lake, though those coming for a short visit can easily see all the notable buildings on foot in under an hour. 

Those with more time in town can rent a bicycle and explore, as this area only represents one tiny portion of the entire lake.

Subotica Guide

Right along the water’s edge is the Women’s Lido. The wooden folk art-inspired building was built in 1912 in order to give women privacy while they swam. It now functions as a cafe.

Taking the pathway back to the main trail, you’ll also pass by some other beautiful buildings – some in use and others abandoned. While my visit took place in autumn when few people were around, this area is presumably teeming with life in summer.

Subotica Guide
Subotica Guide

Additional Info

The easiest way to get to Subotica from Novi Sad would be by bus, which takes around 90 minutes. Unfortunately, however, morning departures are not hourly.

If you don’t make the 8:25 bus, you’ll have to wait until the next bus at 10:35, arriving in Subotica at 12:10.

While this means you’ll miss the City Hall tour, arriving in the afternoon would still give you plenty of time to see the sites in the Subotica guide above before returning home.

Luckily, the return buses to Novi Sad leave hourly in the afternoon. Check the website for accurate info on timetables in Serbia.

Note that while rail is technically another option, the journey lasts over double that of the bus trip!

Want to see this one-of-a-kind town but don’t have the chance to base yourself in the Vojvodina region while visiting this Serbia? Consider a day trip from Belgrade like this one, which includes the main architectural highlights in Subotica along with Lake Palić.

By far, the best place to stay in Novi Sad is its historical center. Highly-rated options include Garni Citi Hotel Veliki, or for those on more of a budget, Guest House Villa Lord.

In my case, I intended to stay within walking distance of both the main bus station and the city center. Finding a nice-looking rental apartment on Booking at a good value, I checked its location on Google Maps and was relieved that it would indeed be walkable to both.

It wasn’t until closer to my stay that I checked more carefully, noticing that the addresses on Booking and Google were totally different! Despite the names being the same and the pictures being similar, I ended up on the western edge of town, far away from everything. Unfortunately, the booking was non-refundable.

Novi Sad has a decent public bus network so I was still able to get to wherever I needed. But traveling through the ugly modern parts of Novi Sad each day really diminished my impression of a city that’s most well-known for its beauty.

I imagine that most people who rave about Novi Sad are those who base themselves in the historical center and never leave. And if you can afford it, that would certainly be the best thing to do. Otherwise, basing yourself near the bus station would be convenient for day trips throughout Vojvodina.

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