“Whoever was lucky enough to wake up in Belgrade this morning can rest assured that for today they’ve achieved enough in life. Any further insistence on something more would just be immodest.”
(Duško Radović, Serbian writer)
Being an 80’s child, I was actually born in another country. Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia till 1992. I’ve visited Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro until now, so there was one more country of ex-Yugoslavia I’ve had to discover – Serbia. A weekend escape in Belgrade was perfect for another road trip. Located in the South of Europe, part of the Balkans, Serbia shares land borders with Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Albania, and Romania.
At first glance, Belgrade doesn’t impress; it is a rough, grey city, sidewalks are cracked, buildings are still wounded from the 1999 NATO bombs. However, I know not to give much meaning to first impressions and Belgrade surely surprised me after three days. It is a vibrant metropolis, Serbs possess that Balkan hospitality. Everyone is prepared to help you, I was impressed by how friendly they are. “Prijatno” (pleasant) is how they say thank you and goodbye in one word in the end of every encounter. Made me smile every time and I’ve been infected by their kindness.
I’ve spent three days in Belgrade, which is more than enough to see all the city has to offer. I’ve lived in a new Airbnb outside the city center (it was easier to park our car), but buses are cheap and connections are great. The best is to buy a three-day bus ticket, which also includes trams. City center is relatively small and walkable, but we still used the public transport quite a lot.
Below you can find my recommendations on what to see in Belgrade:
- Discover the Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress
Kalemegdan is Belgrade’s central park and fortress complex on a hill. The ancient fortress overlooks the river Sava and Danube confluence. In the wide park you can find Roman Well, Statue of the Victor, Belgrade Zoo, Military Museum, on the way to the Belgrade Fortress you can buy souvenirs. The park offers a lovely walk and I’ve heard it is a great spot to watch sunrise and sunset. It is supposed to be romantic.
- Knez Mihailova street
Walk down the main street in Old Town (Stari Grad). Prince Michael Street is a pedestrian zone, shopping avenue and home to many cafes and restaurants. It is among the most iconic parts of the city and has a history stretching back as far as Roman times. This street is the head of Belgrade’s nerve centre. Explore also streets next to the main one. If you walk all the way to the end of Knez Mihailova Street, you’ll end up in Kalemegdan Park.
- Bohemian Skadarlija
Skadarlija it is my favorite part of Belgrade. It is a vintage street, an urban neighborhood. Perhaps it is the most lovely and my favorite because it reminds me of romantic Montmartre, which happens to be the most beautiful part in Paris for me. Skadarlija is famous for its wooden cobbles, flowers, taverns. The history of this Bohemian Borough began in the 1830’s with the settlement of Gypsies in the abandoned trenches in front of the ramparts. There are galleries, antique shops, bars and restaurants where you can enjoy traditional Serbian meals, such as čevapčiči (grilled mincemeat) or Karađorđeva Steak. You can dine in famous oldest tavern Tri šešira (three hats) or in Dva Jelena (two deer). For desert, try traditional very sweet baklava.
- Take a day off in Ada Ciganlija
Ada Ciganlija is actually an island in the River Sava. It has become popular destination for people of Belgrade. One can call Ada Ciganlija as some kind of Belgrade’s playground. It is a good place for swimming, sunbathing, water skiing, rowing, cycling … There are many cafes, restaurants, popcorn, ice-cream and pancakes stalls along the lake banks. Ada Ciganlija is worth visiting any time of the year, though most cafes are closed during winter. We visited this popular Belgrade spot on a sunny weekend in April and there were already crowds of walkers and swimmers.
- Visit Josip Broz Tito’s grave
Tito was the president of Yugoslavia died in 1980 and is buried in the House of Flowers. It is located on the grounds of the Museum of Yugoslav History in Dedidnje in Belgrade. In the mausoleum, his wife Jovanka is also buried beside him. Photos of the funeral that was attended by many world political leaders are displayed all over the museum; there is also an exhibition on Tito’s life and work.
- Church of Saint Sava
Temple of Saint Sava is a Serbian Orthodox Church and it is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. Majestic building was built on the Vračar plateau, where it is though that, in 1595, Turkish Sinan Pasha has burned St. Sava remains. This memorial cathedral is an organic component of Belgrade’s contemporary skyline, the highest point of the dome is 70 meters in height.
In addition to sights mentioned above, do not miss a walk pass the St. Mark’s Church, National Assembly of Serbia and if you’re into science visit Nicola Tesla Museum.