Belgrade is the Serbian capital, and one of the most charming European cities. Each travel guide about Belgrade contains three important items: Kalemegdan Fortress, the bohemian quarter Skadarlija, and the rivers.
But that is just the beginning. A turbulent history has left traces on the city’s facades, streets and it’s spirit. However, the spirit of Belgrade is what foreigners like the most and what brings them back to revisit.
Of course, the people living there are also partially responsible for that. Most of the people living in Belgrade are always in a hurry, but they wouldn’t mind helping you or making you feel welcome over a glass of rakia and a meal, most often containing meat.
Serbs love sports and are very competitive. Belgrade is also home to the two biggest sports societies and rivals in Serbia: Red Star and Partizan.
Although there are a lot of significant historic buildings throughout the old part of the city, there is also a modern, business hub of the capital – New Belgrade. Today, Belgrade, whose name in Serbian means the “White City,” is an important economic, educational and cultural center of the Balkans.
Here are some of the best things to do in Belgrade.
Belgrade Fortress: Kalemegdan
Belgrade Fortress is located on the rocky ridge above the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube. The giant statue of Pobednik (the Victor) dominates the fortress and is a symbol of Belgrade.
Kalemegdan Fortress had served for centuries to defend the city from numerous invaders. Many tourists are interested in exploring above-ground and underground facilities. In the Kalemegdan Fortress complex, you can visit the zoo, Ruzica, the oldest church in Belgrade, as well as the Military Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
When it comes to the underground facilities open to the public, Roman Well should definitely be on your list. Kalemegdan Fortress and the park surrounding it are also where people like to hang out, especially in the summer.
Knez Mihailova Street
When you head away from the fortress, through the beautiful Kalemegdan Park, you’ll come across the most famous Belgrade street. Knez Mihailova Street is a popular pedestrian zone. There are boutiques of popular world brands, restaurants and cafes. Also, this is a place where you can enjoy seeing many street musicians, artists and performers.
After a 10-minute walk, you can reach the central town square called Republic Square with the famous monument of Prince Mihailo on a horse. The National Theater and the National Museum are also here.
National Museum and National Theatre of Serbia
The National Museum of Serbia is located in the city center, on Republic Square. With more than 400,000 artifacts, it is the largest museum in Serbia. You can see the most famous relic, the medieval Miroslav’s Gospel, a manuscript from 1180 that is a part of the UNESCO Memory of the World. There are also busts of Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian, and works of Picasso, Titian, Van Gogh and other great artists from all over the world.
After a complete renovation that lasted several years, the National Museum opened to the public in 2019 and is now a notable tourist spot in Belgrade.
The National Theater, founded in the second half of the 19th century, is one of Serbia’s most important cultural institutions. It has two stages and three art ensembles: opera, ballet and drama. If you love the theater, check its repertoire during your stay. The National Theater and its beautiful hall are definitely worth visiting.
Old Town Municipality
The municipality of Stari Grad (Old Town) occupies the central part of Belgrade. Within it is Dorcol, the old part of Belgrade known for its urban charm. The only mosque in Belgrade, the Bajrakli mosque, is located in Dorcol. There are also buildings from the Roman and Ottoman periods, the oldest residential house in Belgrade and the First Belgrade Gymnasium. You can also enjoy the excellent nightlife on Strahinjica Bana Street, known for its many restaurants and cafes.
There are several museums in this part of Belgrade. You can visit the Museum of Illusions, the Museum of Chocolate, the Museum of Applied Arts, the Museum of Science and Technology, and the Ethnographic Museum, one of the first museums in the Balkans.
The botanical garden Jevremovac, with a rich collection of plants, is also worth a visit. Plants grown here are not only from Serbia but from other regions of the world. The Japanese garden is especially attractive.
Skadarlija and Cetinjska Streets
Skadarlija, the famous bohemian quarter, is not far from Republic Square. Belgrade’s unique corner houses top restaurants with beautiful gardens, delicious food and live music. Skadarska Street is narrow, paved with cobblestones, and represents the heart of Belgrade’s bohemian spirit.
You can visit some of the most famous restaurants and cafes, like Tri Sesira (Three Hats), Mali Vrabac (Little Sparrow) and Dva Jelena (Two Deers). You will be delighted with local specialties, such as good wine and the famous Serbian alcoholic beverage, a rakia.
When it comes to food, you should try cevapcici, the barbecue specialty, or sarma, minced meat rolled into a cabbage leaf. You shouldn’t miss out on komplet lepinja, a loaf of bread with a sauce, eggs and kajmak, as well as burek, a type of cheese pie.
When you’ve had enough food and drinks, consider visiting Cetinjska Street. It’s located near Skadarlija, and it is a favorite gathering place for young people. It is known as a center of art events, also featuring interesting cafes and nightclubs. Here you can drink craft beer and high-quality coffee. You can also enjoy poetry evenings, concerts and the great atmosphere of nightclubs like Elektropionir, Kenozoik and Polet.
Nikola Tesla Museum
After a 20-minute walk from Cetinjska Street through Tasmajdan Park, you can reach the Nikola Tesla Museum. The legacy of the famous Serbian scientist and inventor attracts more than 100,000 visitors annually. You can see amazing inventions, exciting experiments, original documents and photographs, as well as the suit worn by Nikola Tesla.
The Nikola Tesla Archive is registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, due to its exceptional importance for world’s electrification and technology development. This museum also holds the urn with Tesla’s ashes.
The Temple of St. Sava
Approximately one kilometer (.62 of a mile) from Nikola Tesla Museum is the Church of St. Sava, the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans. It is located in Vracar, the smallest but most densely populated municipality in Belgrade.
St. Sava, after whom the temple is named, is one of the most celebrated saints in the Orthodox world and the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. He was also the son of the great Serbian medieval ruler Stefan Nemanja.
One of the landmarks of Belgrade, the impressive Church of St. Sava is visible from many parts of the city.
The Museum of Yugoslavia
The Museum of Yugoslavia is located approximately halfway between the Temple of St. Sava and the Sava River. It was formerly known as the Museum of Yugoslav History. This museum preserves memories of the former country of Yugoslavia, whose capital was Belgrade, which existed between 1918 and 1992 when it broke up into six countries.
The House of Flowers is part of this museum complex. It houses the grave of former Yugoslav President, Josip Broz Tito. Tourists from all over the world who remember and respect Tito are common visitors to this museum.
Ada Ciganlija and Floating River Clubs
Ada Ciganlija, a favorite picnic place of many Belgraders, was once an island on the Sava River that was turned into a peninsula. During the summer, tens of thousands of people visit Ada Ciganlija every day. It is an excellent place for recreation, various water sports, walking or simply enjoying a cup of coffee in one of many cafes.
Floating river clubs (called “splav” in Serbian) are great places for nightlife. Dozens of clubs, many featuring live music, are located on the river, along both banks of the Sava.
In addition to nightclubs, there are also several restaurants. When you are there, you can cruise the Sava River in one of the accessible boats. You will enjoy the view of Belgrade from an entirely different perspective.
New Belgrade and Zemun
If you cross from one bank of the Sava River to the opposite one, you’ll find yourself in New Belgrade, a new part of the city that features numerous office buildings. To start, you can take a walk along the Sava quay. In search of interesting places in New Belgrade, you can visit the Belgrade Arena and attend a basketball game or a music concert. If you like shopping, check out Delta City and Usce shopping malls.
Belgrade Beer Fest, a multi-day festival with numerous outdoor music events, takes place in Usce Park every summer. Concerts of world-famous musicians are also held in this area, such as the Rolling Stones and Metallica.
You should also visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses more than 35,000 works of art by the most famous Yugoslav and Serbian artists from the 20th century.
Near the park Usce lies a beautiful Zemun quay. If you walk along the quay for 3-4 kilometers (1.86-2.48 miles), you’ll reach the Gardos tower in Zemun. From this famous cultural and historical monument, you can admire an extraordinary view of the Danube River, Zemun and other parts of Belgrade.
Day Trips from Belgrade
If you’ve seen everything you wanted in Belgrade, maybe it’s time to head outside of the city. Avala is a mountain near Belgrade, only 511 meters (1,676 feet) high. It can be reached by car in less than half an hour. It is known for the mausoleum that is the monument to the Unknown Hero.
However, most visitors are attracted by the Avala Tower. It was built on the site where the old Avala Tower was demolished in 1999 during the NATO bombing. This new one is more than 120 meters (393 feet) high, and there is a restaurant and a spectacular lookout on the top floors. You will be blown away by the incredible view of Sumadija, the central part of Serbia.
Novi Sad is the second-largest city in Serbia, and it’s only an hour’s drive from Belgrade. You will surely like the architecture and the vibe of this city. Nearby is Fruska Gora, a beautiful picnic area with numerous wineries and monasteries.
Belgrade can also be a good base for touring neighboring countries. Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, is only four hours away, and Sarajevo is five hours away by car from Belgrade. You can also reach Budapest after a four-hour drive. Many airlines have cheap flights from Belgrade to various parts of Europe, so Barcelona, Vienna or Istanbul are only a two- to three- hour flight away.
Belgrade’s blend of culture and fun-loving spirit makes this city irresistible. And although Belgrade is a capital city where almost one-third of Serbian citizens live, other parts of the country also hide some breathtaking natural wonders.
Author Bio: Based in Serbia in Europe, Marija Stojanovic Petkovski worked as a journalist but realized writing about the most beautiful places in the world is something that inspires her. She is sure that a pint of good craft beer perfectly accompanies a tasty homemade lasagna. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her children and spending time outdoors with her family.