When I travel I like to enjoy destination as a local, when I am back I usually long for travelers opinions
about my hometown, first because their enthusiasm is contagious and second because they push me to notice all those little details that otherwise will blur into everyday routine. This is what I aim with this column; I’m not living in Belgrade, I am not an expert or neither up-to-date, but I just wish to tell to the world how amazing this town is, and do it with the excitement of someone who is discovering Belgrade wonders one piece after another.
Stari Grad, the old town, is the most ancient and charming area of Belgrade with its cobbled, narrow
streets, its beautiful churches –among which the Cathedral itself- and historical architectures, its decadent buildings overlooking the Sava river and its crowded, smoky taverns. When I wandered through its decadent alleys for the very first time I was surprised by the quiet and silence you can find here, even being so close to the beating heart of the town. The elegance of its fading building totally captured my attention and I felt absorbed into an atmosphere from the past when I discovered the picturesque Kosančićev Venac.
The most popular attraction of the area is the landscaped Kalemegdan Park, located at the top of Belgrade peninsula, that is at the extremely scenic confluence of the Sava and the Danube. Besides enjoying the breath-taking view, here you can have a walk and visit its several museums, such as the National History within the Belgrade Fortress. The first impression I had of Kalemegdan is that it is way bigger than I expected. I also remember that particular light of a winter morning, a soft haze gloving through the bits of light coming from the water of the river. While I was wandering around this beautiful park I happen to meet two extremely nice local girls giving me a surprise gift with a card saying “don’t forget ever how beautiful and nice you are in this world and don’t be scared of the generous stranger”.
Just outside the park you can eat at the most ancient tavern of Belgrade- Znak pitanja, yes, it caters to tourists, but I’m happy I wasn’t the usual skeptic because there I enjoyed a quite good traditional meal.It is called Znak pitanja (The Question mark) since 1892 when the former name “Cathedral’s Café” started to be inappropriate. If you are looking for something less traditional, you should enter Stari Grad ancient alleys and reach Supermarket Deli, the little son of the trendy concept store in Dorcol: same lovely Serbian design, but concentrated in a smaller venue. Across the way there is Amelie, a very nice, cozy bar poetically enlightened by many little lights and a vintage sewing machine at the entrance.
What I loved the most about this area since the very first time I crossed the Brankov bridge on the airport
shuttle is the street art all around, included some pieces by popular international street artists. In 2008 the local Municipality invited the French artist Remed, who painted “La Santa de Beograd” in Karadjordjeva street. There is something on the gray, wide surface of Belgrade buildings making them perfect for street art. And I love how Remed’s drawing matches with the architectural elements of the façade.
Photo: Jovana Markovic
One year later during Belgrade Summer Festival, the Italian artist BLU painted a metropolitan monster chewing up a surviving tree. I’m always amazed by BLU’s art and especially by his ability to read a building’s shape, like he showed here.
Besides street art, brand named stores and touristic cafeterias, Knez Mihailova boasts the most elegant architecture of Belgrade, dating at the glorious Kingdom of Serbia’s age. So I’ve been looking up all the time to don’t miss all the beautiful architectural details decorating the buildings; my favorite one is the couple of sculptures sustaining the balcony of the pharmacy, while my general feeling was a total amazement for the contrast of styles between several facades of the same building.
On this street you will also find the Kulturni Centar Beograda, kind of merged with the Tourist Information Centre and all its souvenirs (which by the way I didn’t find so bad and actually some of them are by young, talented Serbian designers); at the less tourist targeted side of the venue, the cultural centre organizes contemporary art exhibitions, concerts and several cultural events. I had the impression of a less vibrant atmosphere compared to other cultural venues in the city, but I hope next time I’ll be in Belgrade it will prove me wrong!
When I was in Belgrade I didn’t have the time to explore it all, so now I’m determined to keep a bucket list
of what I can’t wait to do when I will be back there. Next time I will be in Stari Grad I won’t miss the occasion to drink something at Beton Hala, the formerly abandoned quay along Sava river which now is full of restaurants and cafés, and to check out TORO, one of those restaurants in Belgrade with furniture to die for!
Author: Giulia Blocal Travel
/////// BELGRADE on blocal-travel.com ///////
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.