Sombor is located in the extreme northwest of Serbia’s northern province of Vojvodina, bordering Hungary to the North and Croatia on the West, across the Danube River. The Sombor District has an area of 1,178 square kilometers, comprising the city of Sombor and 15 rural settlements. The area is extremely fertile and its markets are full of local agricultural bounty. The average altitude in Sombor area is only 90 m.
Sombor, located 60 km southwest of Subotica, 100 km northwest of Novi Sad, 175 km northwest of Belgrade, 220 km south of Budapest and 345 km southeast of Vienna, is thus within an easy reach of many major cities and airports, while still far enough away to provide the visitor with a separate and distinct experience. According to the latest census from year 2002, Sombor municipality had a total population of 97,263, with half the population in the city itself, and half in rural and farm settlements. Further, Sombor municipality is ethnically extremely diverse - there are 21 nationalities registered mostly Serbs (61%), Hungarians (13%), and Croats (8%).
The total length of Sombor streets is 120 km, there are 9 squares, 4 parks, the total length of the city’s famous tree alleys is 121 km. There are said to be over 18,000 trees, making Sombor the greenest city in Serbia, and for its size, surely among the greenest cities in the world, which makes the citizens of Sombor feel very proud.
History of Sombor While Sombor’s City Museum contains artifacts from the area dating to antiquity, during the late twelfth and early thirteenth century a settlement began developing, with the first written reference to the area in 1360, though at that time the settlement had no name. The settlement started growing quickly, within the estates of a well-known Hungarian family named Cobor. To the name “Cobor” a saint’s name was added, making the full name “Cobor-Szent-Mihály”. Adding the saint’s name indicated that the settlement had reached a certain size and significance, and had its own Church. Proof and confirmation of the rapid development of Cobor-Szent-Mihaly was the fortress which was built here in 1478 as a defense against the increasing Turkish pressure on the southern border of Hungary. The Turks succeeded in capturing the Fort and town in 1541. Turkish archives first mention the settlement in 1543 by the name Sombor. The name was changed when Hungarians fled to the north from the Turks, and the Serbian Orthodox population who lived here stayed and adjusted the name of Hungarian Cobor to the Serbian language, Sombor. The Turks accepted the name (the Turks usually did not change the names of settlements that they conquered). After 146 difficult years under the Turks, the people of Sombor greeted the Austrian liberation in 1687 with enthusiasm; Sombor began its long and illustrious history as a part of the Austrian Empire. The Turkish population went away with its army, and the total number of inhabitants of the town increased the same year, when 5000 Bunjevci (local ethnic group of the Catholic faith) came to town, and in 1690 when a large population of Serbs settled here under the leadership of Patriarch Arsenije Carnojevic III. Sombor became an important Austrian frontier town, on the front line of the war to liberate the region from Turkish rule, and Sombor soldiers participated valiantly in battles against the Turks on behalf of the Austrian Empire. Sombor was declared a military base in 1702, and in 1717 it was declared a military town. Military towns in the Austrian Empire had important privileges which Sombor’s citizens, Serbs, Bunjevci, and Hungarians, all enjoyed. However, in 1741 military towns were abolished, and the people of Sombor, aware of what they were going to lose by that action, gathered in 1745 to make an agreement to work for the preservation of former privileges. With the persistence of Sombor envoys in Vienna, and by signing a document on how the town elections were held and the payment of 150,000 gold Forints to the Imperial Treasury, the Austrian Empress Maria Theresa signed the charter which bestowed upon Sombor the rank of Free and Royal City in 1749. After liberation from the Turks and as part of the Austrian Empire, Sombor entered the threshold of civil society and begins its rapid development as a dynamic participant in Austrian society. Commerce and culture grew under the Austrians. Key architectural, civic, and religious landmarks hail from this age. From 1759-1761 the St. George Orthodox Church was built, in 1759 a grammar school opened, which later in 1763 became the Latin School, part of an educational tradition which continues today, as Sombor hosts Serbia’s largest teacher training faculty. The Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built 1752-1763, and construction of City Hall was started 1749-1842. The chapel of St. John Nepomuk was built in 1751; Grasalkovic Palace was built in 1763. In 1766 the First Aid office was established and the first pharmacy in the city was opened. The Krušperova Palace in 1771, the monument to the Holy Trinity was built in 1774, Mrazovic’s Norma was established in 1778, the Church of St. John the Baptist was built in 1790. Sombor’s greatest era began in 1786 when it became the seat of Bacs-Bodrog County (religious and administrative territorial unit of Hungary), including Subotica and Novi Sad. Sombor got its first post office in 1789, in 1802 the Great Backa canal was opened, in 1808 the front side of the Zupanija building for county administration was finished, and the building got its final appearance in 1882, a masterpiece of Austro-Hungarian municipal architecture. Aside from its important administrative function, Sombor based its development primarily on the agriculture of its fertile hinterland, handicrafts, trade, and education, but heavier industry was neglected. As its prosperity and prominence grew, Sombor became an important cultural center. The Hungarian reading room was established in 1844 and the Serbian reading room in 1845. The first printing house opened in 1850. The Town Library was established in 1859. The first newspapers in the Hungarian and Serbian language were printed at the same time. The Serbian Singing Society was founded in 1870. The National Theater building and the building of Serbian reading room were built in 1882. The following year, the building of Hungarian reading room was built and Historical Society of Bács-Bodrog County was founded. The first kindergarten was opened in 1865, in the Hungarian Gymnasium in 1872 and Trading School was opened in 1888. Sombor sports association was founded in 1887. The first Sombor Savings Bank opened in 1868. Sombor was connected with the world by rail in 1867, and Sombor’s first municipal park was based near the railway station in 1871. The architecture of public buildings and private buildings of rich owners have followed the various stylistic trends prevalent in Austria-Hungary and contribute to the beauty of the city, a living museum of three centuries of Central European architecture. After the formation of Banats in 1929, new administrative units, the major institutions were moved from Sombor to Novi Sad. Sombor’s power and prestige declined rapidly as it remained on the periphery of the main roads and political decision-making. The post World War II period brought demographic changes, with the settlement of mainly Serbs from Croatia. Sombor got the role of a base for raw material for the surrounding economy, and in the 1970s industrial capacities were built. Today, Sombor is a modern city with around 50 000 citizens, which has kept its charm of its illustrious past.