With an indelible mark of its turbulent history, successes and failures, world wars, student protests, bombing, kingdom, revolution, socialism, democracy, literally almost nothing seems to have bypassed Belgrade so far. It has suffered a thousand blows and hundreds of sorrows but still somehow it has managed to keep its everlasting soul. According to the popular belief as of recent Belgrade is the new promising European capital having risen from the ashes over the past 15 years.
Fancy visiting this invincible city that worldwide magazines and blogs are writing about?
The city is located at the mouth of the Sava and the Danube rivers, where the Panonian Plain meets the Balkans. Complete with all the suburbs Belgrade hosts a population of around 2 million. The rivers gave rise to the Belgrade port, but not just that but spectacular views, riverboats converted into night clubs, bars and restaurants, islands and beaches on Big War Island and Ada Ciganlija, riverbanks such as Ada Huja and Ada Medjica, scenic nature, green parks to name but a few. The Danube quay seems to be perfect for long walks and sports: running, rowing, cycling, playing tennis in one of the tennis courts or working out in the open air gyms. On the island of Ada Ciganlija visitors can enjoy many things, such as: swimming, bungee jumping, roller blading, playing football or baseball, climbing, eating out or just visiting the Adventure park .
If you wish to relish the opportunity of visiting ‘this oasis of peace’, Ada Medjica may well be the right choice for you. If not, you can take one of the IBike tours . Getting to see Belgrade this way gives it a complete new angle.
Believe it or not, Belgrade is one of the oldest European capitals. Because of its location, was oft a target of the eastern, northern and western invaders. The first city was made by the Celts before the New Era, the name of which was Singidunum at the time, in the first century AD it was conquered by The Romans. The Roman Well, Belgrade Fortress known as Kalemegdan, underground tunnels and prehistoric Vinča archaeological site now stand in silent testimony to the ancient past. In Belgrade you are bound to hear the old tales and potted history of the Ottoman reign in this part of the world, what happened to the Serbian Royal dynasty, why Yugoslavia entered into the Second World War, how the Communists came to power and built an enlarged state and many other interesting lessons in history you may have missed out on before .
If you want to know more about the lifelong president of Yugoslavia, the late Josip Broz Tito and the First Lady of Yugoslavia Jovanka Broz , do visit the most popular museum in Belgrade, Museum of Yugoslav history, located in the lovely suburb called Dedinje. If you are on a mission to find out more about Serbian royal dynasty visit the big complex of Royal and White palace located in Dedinje as well. You might as well explore which kind of works of art their members owned, what the first private cinema in the Balkans that was frequented by President Tito looked like, who Davorjanka Paunović was, why the fresco located on the dome of the church featuring Jesus Christ has a bullet hole right through Jesus’s head and what on Earth the purpose of the Olympic swimming pool was in the first place.
Belgrade has a diverse architecture, from Baroque and Neoclassicism to Modernism and Brutalism. Take a walk around Belgrade, get to know both Serbian and Yugoslav cultural heritage there’s so many tales one can hear, and if you are into sightseeing don’t forget Kalemegdan fortress in downtown of the city and sacral monuments: Temple of Sveti Sava,Ružica church and Cathedral
HOSPITALITY & DYNAMICS
According to Tourist Organisation of Serbia, Belgrade hosted around million tourists last year. Tourists pointed out hospitality as a strong point of Serbia. Generally, citizens of Belgrade tend to be friendly and open to visitors. Belgrade is not as crime ridden as other big cities around the world seem to be, but of course girls and young women will be well advised not to go for nightly walks on their own to some rough parts of the city
The city is dynamic. People are outgoing and they love to get together in the parks, bars and clubs. There’s always something going on. If you know what you want and if you are well-informed, you definitely won’t get bored in Belgrade.
EMERGING FESTIVAL CULTURE
Belgrade hosts around 100 diverse festivals and the most of them are international in character. Some of them are well established as Bitef (theatre), Belef (Belgrade Summer Festival), October Salon (contemporary art), Belgrade Jazz Festival and International Film Festival with a long tradition or emerging festivals as Resonate (Art & Technology), Citam Citas (Books), Belgrade Design Week, Mikser (Art & Design), Free Zone Film Festival, Beldocs (documentary film festival), Belgrade Dance Festival etc. There’s something for everybody from design, movies, contemporary art to music, theater, performing arts and literature. The majority of the festivals offer quality program, useful information and make cool parties and additional events.
BUOYANT ART SCENE
From Yugoslav contemporary art in Dedinje and internationally acclaimed artists in the city centre to the new media art and design in Savamala, Belgrade is home to all manner of contemporary art galleries. The art scene is small in scope but pretty visible, works of Belgrade-based but also foreign artists are on display in these galleries. Some of them are public institutions as MOCAB (Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade) and KCB (Cultural Centre Belgrade), whereas others are independent enterprises. Read more in our recently published article Belgrade’s 10 Must-Visit Contemporary Art Galleries.
Also, check out Belgrade murals and street art in the city centre and Savamala quarter. Belgrade reportedly reminds people of Berlin for its architecture, street art and vibe.
Rest assured that in this city you will not be hungry at any point. From traditional restaurants in Skadarlija street, so-called bohemian quarter and oldest kafana in Belgrade Znak pitanja to hip and fusion bite restaurants as Dijagonala, Zaplet, Supermarket, Homa and the like, Belgrade is home to rich and varied gastronomy. You can eat Serbian traditional dishes such as sarma, gibanica, pihtija and barbecue or some modern elaborate and sumptuous foods depending on your tastes and preferences.
Visiting cafeterias and bars is the old habit of the locals, and as you already know ‘old habits die hard’. So, in Belgrade you definitely will not get thirsty because there are bars on every corner of the city. Popular cafeterias are Przionica, Kofein and Kafeterija on Dorćol, but also well known bars are Drinka, Amelie, Smokvica, Tapas, Tezga downtown and Galerija in Zemun. New bars spring up like mushrooms. There are so many of them, starting from coffee places and indoor bars as Bivši and Ljubičica to wine bars and pubs. When people have a space where renting is not an option they tend to convert it into a bar Read our article about best bars in Belgrade.
Belgrade is famous for its exciting nightlife. From the most famous house and techno at the Tube in Dorćol and commercial touch of Plastic to underground places as Drugstore in Palilula and all manner of boathouses and rafts on the coast of the river Sava, Belgrade is home to many clubs. It’s not alive throughout the whole week and neither is it Berlin, London nor Amsterdam, but sometimes it offers quite enough. Parties in various locations, from Dom Omladine and SKC to 20/44, the Tube and KC Grad have hosted so many big names from electronic music industry. There are two seasons, summer/spring and fall/winter, during the summer/spring season rafts on the river Sava take charge, while the majority of clubs in the city are closed waiting for the cold weather season to start all over again with new line ups. Belgrade club scene is ephemeral at times in that one year some clubs are all the rage and hip, while in the next are totally passė or even closed down. Belgrade has many emerging DJs and music producers and some already well established artists as Marko Nastić, Lea Dobričić, Dejan Milićević, etc. This city hosted a very first Boiler room party in SEE region during Mad in Belgrade music festival.
Read more in our article Belgrade’s best clubs
SUBURBS & NATURE
Belgrade has some delightful suburbs. Some of them are historical parts such as Zemun, in the Roman times known as Taurunum. Then comes Senjak which is located 3 km south-west of downtown Belgrade, on top of the hilly cliff-like western slopes of Topčidersko Brdo, overlooking Belgrade Fairground right underneath and the Sava river. Dedinje is located on the eastern slopes of the hill of Topčidersko Brdo, 7-8 kilometers south of downtown Belgrade to which it is connected via the Kneza Miloša Street. It is adjoining to the neighborhoods of Senjak (west). Dedinje is generally considered the wealthiest part of Belgrade, and it is where numerous villas and mansions are owned by members of the city’s plutocracy, as well as many diplomatic residences. All the areas of Belgrade mentioned are superb in their own right. Don’t forget to visit Vračar, which is viewed as a refined area quite close to downtown. It stands out for its old architecture, residences and fine restaurants.
HIP QUARTERS & CREATIVE DISTRICT
The hip quarters in Belgrade are definitely Dorćol, Lower Dorćol and Kosančićev Venac. Those areas are the centre of Belgrade and the most ancient parts. Here you can find pedestrian zone, shopping areas, main squares, museums, art galleries, hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs,pubs, Belgrade fortress, faculties, cobble streets and the real spirit of the city. Lower Dorćol with its industrial feel is recently becoming very hip due to trendy bars and restaurants, but also Savamala area so-called “Creative District” enriched with murals, street art, clubs, creative industries and art galleries.
Remember to drop by Cultural Centre Grad in Brace Krsmanovica street, Mikser House and G12 New Media Hub in Karadjordjeva , Urban Incubator Nova Iskra in Gavrila Principa street and to restaurants in Concrete Hall on the bank of the river.
And to sum up this article I will give you one more reason to visit Belgrade- Because it’s COOL!
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.