Belgrade is a city with long history and a striking culture. It has a population of 2 million citizens and includes many historical boroughs, suburbs, fortress, parks, the Sava and the Danube rivers, waterfront, islands and resorts. In case you know what you are looking fo and provided you have armed yourself with the local wisdom and their useful tips , you will definitely enjoy a variety of things to do and places to be in Belgrade. On this occasion we present you our top 5 places.
Old Town (Stari Grad)
Stari Grad is a historical part of Belgrade. The locale where the original city was built. It includes the main pedestrian zone Knez Mihailova, the main square called Republic Square , Terazije square, Dorćol neighborhood that consists of Upper and Lower part, beautiful Kosančićev venac neighborhood, the bohemian quarter Skadarlija and the landmark of Belgrade Kalemegdan fortress.
Architecture is diverse, ranging from baroque, neoclassicism, art nouveau to socialism era. There are a few buildings, such as the Museum of Vuk and Dositej and Museum of Theatrical arts located in what used to be the houses from the Ottoman Era. Charming little coffee shops, secluded bars, ice cream parlours, restaurants, museums, theaters, Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, state-owned and independent galleries are the main features of this municipality. Cobble stone roads and lanes of Kosančićev venac and Skadarlija seem to reflect the spirit of yesteryear. Traditional kafanas with vintage traditional music in Skadarlija delight both the locals and the travelers.
Photo: Sanda Vitorović
Savamala represents a historical part of Belgrade as well. It is part of the municipality of Savski venac, but in the cultural, sociological and geographical terms it’s a quarter in its own right. It stands underneath Kalemegdan fortress, at the riverfront, near the train and the main bus station, and it sort of meanders around Karadjordjeva district. Savamala is the most chichi borough of Belgrade being home to the cultural centre Grad, Mikser festival, independent art galleries, Beton hala and numerous bars and clubs. It’s the most creative borough of Belgrade, coated in graffiti and street art.
Zemun, a city within a city. For the locals it represents a town in its own right, and for the Belgradians it is viewed as part of the city of Belgrade. Zemun is actually one of Belgrade’s most culturally significant and urbane municipalities. That atmosphere around Zemun today is an aftermath of its past. Until XIX century, Zemun was a town in the Austrian Empire (Habsburg Monarchy) while Belgrade was under the Ottomans, which explains why cultural differences have survived between the two. Zemun has evolved from a merchant town perching on the border cross between the Turkish and Habsburg domains. There seem to prevail picturesque facades and more western-like architecture in the Zemun downtown. But the differences from Belgrade are more than just architectural. Zemun has always been a place with multinational and multi-religious merchant community. It used to be the main Customs checkpoint en route from the East to the West.
Rafts on the river (splavovi)
You may have heard about Belgrade Splavovi , i.e. rafts on the Sava and Danube rivers. These slap up ‘boathouses’ have been mostly converted into night clubs, bars and restaurants. Some of them are open during the entire year, while others work only during summer and spring seasons. The most popular ones are situated on the banks of the Sava river, right across Brankov Bridge. Here are a few names for you: 20/44 (electronic music/house, disco), Svemirska kafana (electronic music/techno & house), Shake & Shake (commercial foreign music), Freestyler (R’n’b, House, Hip Hop), Sound (house), Hot Mass (house), etc…
As a term of endearment the Ada is called the “ the sea of Belgrade”. It’s an island with a river beach. There is a nude beach for those less shy that is. Ada is a perfect place to spend your idle hour. You can go for a swim, sunbathe, picnic, dinner in one of the restaurants, coffee in one of the numerous bars, walk around, do some sports, have a go at water skiing and bungee jumping, ride a bike and the like. The river banks is neat and tidy. There is scenic beauty on the island. Ada is definitely a place to be, while your spending your summer holidays in Belgrade.
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.