A few months ago, I got lost on a website that listed various Art Nouveau buildings all over Europe. That’s how I stumbled upon the city of Subotica, a true hidden gem of Art Nouveau architecture! So when I decided to spend a few weeks in my Croatian hometown, I knew I had to drop by Subotica. A city in the north of Serbia, it’s a short car ride away from Osijek where I was visiting friends. They had never heard of the city before so it was a new experience for everyone!

art nouveau café in subotica serbia

A city in Serbia, Subotica is right next to the Hungarian border. Historically speaking, it was a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until WWI. The mixture of the two cultures shows in more ways than just in the architectural style. I overheard a lot of Hungarian on the streets that day which is no surprise when you look at the population of Subotica. With more Hungarians than Serbians and a sizeable community of Croats, it’s a truly multicultural city!

With such a diverse history and culture, it’s a place worth a day trip or even a night stay. Personally, I can see myself returning here with the intent of revisiting some of the stunning buildings. Mostly because I’m dying to see their interiors! While I recommend that you get lost in its streets, there are a few spots in Subotica that you must see. Here’s a succinct list of those places!

Subotica synagogue

Believe it or not, the Subotica synagogue is the second largest synagogue in all of Europe. This beautiful Art Nouveau marvel was built in 1902 and was the very first Art Nouveau building in the city. Today it’s the only surviving Jewish place of worship in a Hungarian Art Nouveau style. The repeated motifs of peacock feathers and flowers are matched with colorful roof tiles created by the famous Zsolnay ceramics. In fact, this manufacturer is responsible for many Art Nouveau decorations because they were frost-resistant. Towering over everything is the magnificent cupola that I wish I could have seen up close. Unfortunately, we missed out on the opening hours so we didn’t visit the synagogue. One more reason to return to Subotica, I guess!

art nouveau synagoge in subotica, serbia

Raichle Palace, Subotica

The most imposing building in Subotica has got to be the Raichle Palace. Formerly, the private mansion of the architect Ferenc Raichle, today it houses the Modern Art Gallery. A stunning work of art full of intricate Art Nouveau elements, this is the one place you shouldn’t miss when visiting Subotica! The ornate palace entrance immediately grabs your attention. And not only because it’s the first building you notice as you get off the train station!

raichle palace in subotica

The facade is a wonderful flourish of juxtaposing colors, materials, and curvy forms. Mosaics, wrought iron, ceramics, wood, and stained glass complement each other. The upside-down heart pattern is repeated in different ways in various details. It’s so beautifully peculiar that I could easily picture it inside a Wes Anderson movie! Behind the gallery, you’ll find its courtyard which today belongs to Boss Caffe, probably the best restaurant in town. From the terrace of this gorgeous café-restaurant, you can marvel at the palace’s architectural details.

Subotica City hall

Dominating the main square in Subotica is not a church but a splendid city hall. Dating back to 1908, this Art Nouveau wonder houses administrative institutions, as well as shops and banks. You can even climb up for an unparalleled view of the city! The architecture style is this playful version of Art Nouveau interspersed with Hungarian folklore elements. The result is not just a distinctive Art Nouveau style but an idiosyncratic design that stands out. It’s impossible to miss the two blue fountains in front of the town hall. In an electrifying shade of blue ceramics, it’s another project by the aforementioned Zsolnay ceramics!

The most beautiful McDonald’s you’ll ever see

Situated inside an Art Nouveau building, it’s hard to find a prettier McDonald’s than this one in Subotica. It occupies the lower floor of the 1908 town hall building. Now I’m someone who has never eaten at McDonald’s and this place didn’t change that. However, my curiosity for an Art Nouveau interior was impossible to ignore so I had to walk in. Granted, the ads and logos indoors were relatively subtle but I did find myself imagining this as a local restaurant or café. Either way, I dare you to find a more impressive McDonalds out there!

art nouveau city hall in subotica
mcdonalds in subotica

Like no other city I visited so far, Subotica feels like a genuine hidden gem. I’m sure everyone would love it but I also know not enough people know of it and even fewer have actually visited it. It’s as if I’m sharing this big secret with you all by writing this blog post! One explanation for its unusual architecture is the influence of Secession. The Hungarian Secession was the most original Art Nouveau variant and Subotica showcases that perfectly.

art nouveau building in subotica

To be completely honest, Subotica delighted me even more than I thought it would. It’s this odd blend of cultures where I forget which country I’m actually visiting. Normally, Serbian cities tend to feel somewhat reminiscent of Croatian cities. But Subotica is a whole other world. Some of the buildings look like whimsical illustrations come alive!

art nouveau buildings in subotica

More than any other architectural style, Art Nouveau makes me feel like I’ve traveled through time. And that feeling was impossible to shake off during my visit to Subotica. Looking back on the photos now, it’s almost surreal that I walked down those streets. I can’t wait to return one day and revisit this dazzling city!

art nouveau palace raichle in subotica
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