Ah, the magic of Belgrade! A place where you can dance until sunrise seven days a week, where the most beautiful women live and where you always feel like you’re home no matter where you’re from. Needles to say, Serbian capital is a perfect destination for anyone looking for an adventurous holiday, where hospitality crackles in the air and people are overwhelmingly friendly. So the good thing is that you don’t need your selfie-stick; passers-by will be more than happy to take your photo, guide you to a right direction and have a friendly chat.
First thing first – Belgrade is often called low-budget New York, because of its mix of cultures and colorful variety so there is a way to travel here with a small amount of money. That doesn’t mean that you cannot find posh places: if you want to spend, there is plenty ways to do it, starting with crazy nightlife, fancy restaurants and luxurious hotels. Today however, you only have 48 hours to explore Belgrade, so let’s get going!
Day One, 12 am
Most of the locals don’t know the name of one of the most beautiful street in Belgrade. If you promise to keep it a secret, I’ll tell you it’s Kneza Sime Markovica, a street where you will find the Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Residence of Princess Ljubica, along with a true pearl of art-deco (and one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgrade) the French embassy. Parallel to this street is also famous cobbled Kosancicev Venac Street that captures the true spirit of old Belgrade.
At the corner of Kneza Sime Markovica and Kralja Petra Street, you’ll find the remains of the oldest post office in Serbia but also the oldest kafana. Kafana is a term that should be taken seriously in Serbia, and the best word I can think of to describe it, is a tavern. If you say it’s a restaurant, locals will be offended, so just know it’s a place where you can eat traditional food, drink traditional beverages and listen to (you’ve guessed it!) traditional music. Kafana “?” changed its name often during the decades, and was even known as “Kafana at the Cathedral”. Still, church authorities weren’t too happy to promote drinking so the owner put the temporary “?” sign and this funny name remained until today. Speaking of alcohol, in Serbia it’s never too early to start drinking the famous alcoholic drink rakija that is, besides its taste, often attributed with healing powers. However, although it may seem all innocent and sweet, a percentage of alcohol can range to up to 65 %, so drink responsibly.
Go up Kralja Petra Street and after a few minutes, you’ll bump straight into Knez Mihailova, the main street in Belgrade. This is a pedestrian zone and shopping center where you’ll find a number of historic buildings, galleries and urban houses, but also street art, local musicians etc. But before you walk through Knez Mihailova, go to amazing Kalemegdan, the beautiful park and old fortress with an unforgettable view on the confluence of two rivers Sava and Danube. Here you will also find the Victor or Spomenik Pobednik, a symbol of Belgrade and the Belgrade ZOO Park that is situated in the lower part of Kalemegdan.
Once you’re enjoyed Kalemegdan, you can have a nice, detailed stroll through Knez Mihaila. In the middle of the street, you’ll find the white Delijska drinking fountain, which dates way back from 17th century (and again, not many locals know its name). Buy some souvenirs along the way and take a photo at the public square, in front of the Knez Mihailo statue. This is the main meeting point for the locals (who decided to show their love to animals by simply naming this place “at the horse”). As it is time for lunch, you have to try pljeskavica or ćevapćići (local food specialties) in Dorćol, the old urban neighborhood in Belgrade that is only a minute away from the square. One choice might be popular Strahinica Bana Street, where most of the restaurants and cafes are located, and where many locals come just to be seen. This is because this street is also known as Silicon Valley, where silicon can be also interpreted as implants that many girls (and boys!) put in their body parts.
As Serbian eating portions are quite big, it’s time to continue walking so go through Terazije square, and take a few photos in front of Hotel Moskva where, among others Albert Hitchcock and Robert De Niro stayed. A few minutes away is also Nikola Pasic square with a beautiful fountain, where locals tend to “swim” when Serbian nation win some meaningful sport awards. However, I advise you to shower in your hotel and head straight to Serbian parliament, the House of the national assembly, to take more nice selfies.
Once the sun is set, it’s time for Skadarlija, a vintage, bohemian quarter, with many kafana’s, so you can eat, drink and dance – Serbian style. Wikipedia compares this quart with Parisian Montmartre, but I dare to say it may be better as it welcomed famous people like Jimi Hendrix and George Bush. If the music is too slow for you, you can go straight to Cetinjska, which is only a minute away. This is a new hotspot for many bars and clubs that follow the alternative hipster trend and is a real disco Mecca these days (so the dress code is shabby).
After Skadarlija and Certinjska, it’s time for a real Belgrade nightlife. One of the many cities foreigners compare Belgrade to is also Berlin, and Savamala district will show you why. Graffiti, loud music, many bars and clubs, beautiful people – this is the place flooded with taxies over the weekends. All I can advise you to do is to relax, go with the flow, raise your hands in the air and shut off your phone to begin exploring the true spirit of Belgrade.
Day Two, 12 pm
If you have been drinking only rakija, you don’t have a hangover (for sure!), but you still need to try fresh burek, a traditional Serbian pastry found in bakeries, filled with meat or cheese. Try exploring the lower part of Dorćol, where you will also find various cafes to start your day fresh and shiny.
From Dorćol, go to Danube quay, locally known as 25. maj – a perfect place for a walk, sports and recreation. The best thing you can do here is rent a bike and ride it all the way to Ada Ciganlija lake. On your way, you’ll pass by many football, basketball and tennis courts, below Kalemegdan fortress and see gorgeous Nebojsa tower built way back in 1460. You will also ride through Belgrade Waterfront or Belgrade on water, a project that has the aim to revitalize old neglected bank of Sava river.
Once you get to Ada Ciganlija, a huge, delightful artificial lake, all you can do is relax: catch the sun at the beach, swim in the lake or have a cocktail in one of the many nice bars out here. Still, if your adrenaline is too low, you can go water skiing, bungee jumping or wander through an adventure park (or just look at Belgrade girls in swimming suits).
Take your bike and catch a boat ride to New Belgrade and go see Zemun, now part of Belgrade, but once a town on its own that still showcases the urban life of the 18th and 19th century. Zemun residents still deny that they are part of Belgrade so don’t be surprised if they say you’re in another city (that is only a 25 minutes walk from the Belgrade center). The main Zemun’s landmark is Gardos tower or Millennial tower, where, according to the legend a famous Hungarian solder Sibinjanin Janko died.
Cycle back the Zemun quay and cross the Brankov most (or Branko’s bridge) over river Sava. They say that this bridge that connects New Belgrade with old town has more than 40 suicidal attempts a year, but I guess they all give up as this bridge has one of the best views over Belgrade. Another secret is that, due to its geographic position, Belgrade has one of the best sunsets in the world, so once you return your bike, go ahead and enjoy the view in one of the many trendy restaurants in Beton Hala district.
The night is still young, so grab a cab and go to Vračar, the district that has most expensive real estates prices within Belgrade and the highest proportion of university-educated inhabitants according to Wikipedia. Still, you don’t have to play smart as it also has one of the best restaurants and bars in the city and it’s a ideal place to start your evening. It’s also a place where you will see one of the largest orthodox temples in the world, the Saint Sava temple or Hram Svetog Save, the Belgrade’s most visible and instantly recognizable landmarks. Although still under construction, this 82 m high temple looks magnificent at night, so you shouldn’t miss it.
Once you’re done with sightseeing, it’s finally time for nightlife, and today you’re going to splavovi or floating clubs and bars, surely one of the Belgrade’s trademarks that are mostly situated on the banks of Sava river. The good news for smokers is that you can light everywhere, so there’s no need to miss the fun if you get into a conversation with a handsome nonsmoker. Even better news is that most of splavovi don’t charge an entrance fee, but you might still need to reserve in advance because even the clubs with the capacity of 500 people may be full. The best thing that these floating discotheques provide is a truly amazing experience where you get to listen to your favorite beat while enjoying the sunrise on the river.
Day Three – 10 am
You need to get up a little earlier today and go relax in the Tašmajdan park (or simply Taš), a perfect green oasis in the heart of the city. It’s an ideal spot for people with kids and pets, with music fountain and a nice running path. If the children’s noise or running is not your thing after a night out, just walk to St. Marko’s church or Crkva Svetog Marka where you’ll find the tomb of Stefan Dušan, the most important Serbian (medieval) king.
From Taš, catch the famous tram 2, the oldest form of transport in Belgrade, which used to be pulled by horses way back in 1892. Line of tram 2 is specific as it circles around the very heart of Belgrade and will lead you, one way or another, to the same place where you started from. Only a few stops away, you’ll exit on Slavija square, one of the busiest squares in this city that connects 6 streets, while blending trams, trolleys, buses and cars. A 5 minutes walk will take you to Karađorđe park, named after Karađorđe Petrović, the famous leader of Serbian first rebellion against Turks. Here, right beside National Library, you get to see St. Sava’s temple during the day, and yes you need to see it twice. This impressive church that can take in more than 10000 people is built in the honor of Saint Sava, Serbian founder of Serbian Orthodox church whose remains were burned at this very place.
If you look at the clock, you’ll see it’s time to go home, but I can guarantee you’ll be sad to leave. Once you got to feel the pulse of this remarkable city, you’ll find it hard to explain what is it exactly about Belgrade that makes you feel so cozy and warm. Famous Serbian writer Momo Kapor said that Belgrade is not really a city but a metaphor, a way of life and looking at things. That’s why in the end, I’ll tell you another secret: while you’re here, you can enjoy history, architecture, culture and cuisine, but the truth is that Belgrade is inside of us, not around us… so you can peacefully go home with part of Belgrade soul inside of you.
Enjoy your stay 🙂