Rising from the ashes, Belgrade has gone from a city completely destroyed 44 times in 115 wars, to the all-powerful capital of Yugoslavia and modern day Serbia.
The main streets are full of life and lined with beautiful art nouveau masterpieces. The back ones – dark and empty, leaking gutters from grey, tired-looking buildings.
This. Is. Belgrade.
(I only stayed in Belgrade for 2 nights and it wasn’t long enough. If you’re thinking of going and you want to see everything, you’ll need at least 3 nights, if not 4 – which, I’ll be honest, I did not expect.)
Knez Mihailova is the central street of The White City. It goes all way from Kalemegdan Park (where the fortress is) to both Republic and Terazije Square.
Here you’ll find all the cafes and restaurants you want, bookshops, coffee shops, local and international shops, hostels and hotels, a museum or two, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. It’s an absolutely gorgeous street filled with a variety of architectural styles (especially the best of 19th century), pretty fountains and good vibes.
Kalemegdan & Belgrade Fortress
How to get there: You can’t miss it. Head for Knez Mihailova and it’s on the very end, just past the Rajićeva shopping centre, which is handy for picnic supplies!
Kalemegdan is the park area outside of the fortress and it’s Belgrade’s largest park. Kale means “fortress” and “megdan” means battlefield in Turkish so it’s a pretty literal translation.
Fun fact: It’s believed that Attila The Hun was laid to rest at the bottom of the Danube back in the 5th century, and local legend has it that his body was in fact buried under the fortress itself.
When you enter the park, there are a couple of options:
You can continue straight on and you’ll pass a row of little stalls (if it’s after 10am) selling souvenirs, ice creams, drinks, etc. before coming to the Monument of Gratitude to France.
Or you can turn left and walk along the path adjacent to the river Sava and around to Pobednik (The Victor) statue. It’s not the Sava Promenade though, that’s on lower ground outside of Kalemegdan.
I did the two above, but the next option is to turn left. According to Google Maps, this takes you by toilets, restaurant and a playground before reaching the Luna Park amusements.
Inside the fortress you’ll find (if you don’t get lost!) canons and tanks, historic gates, picturesque chapels and spectacular views of the Danube and Sava rivers. Charge your camera for this one!
Exploring Kalemegdan and Belgrade Fortress is a must for anyone visiting Belgrade! But beware, it’s bigger than it looks and you’ll need at least half a day here.
Stari Dvor & Novi Dvor
How to get there: Kralja Milana, in front of the National Assembly.
This is the Old Palace (Stari Dvor) and New, or Presidential, Palace (Novi Dvor) which are nice to see, but you can just plan your route so that you pass them on your way somewhere. 🙂
Like, Slavija for example…
Slavija is one of Belgrade’s largest and busiest squares. The traffic here is the most chaotic in the whole city as cars, buses and trams have to navigate around a roundabout (and each other!) where 6 streets meet. Of course, there’s more to see here than traffic jams (as regular as they are). There’s restaurants, bars, a shopping centre, not to mention St. Sava’s Temple.
In 2017 Trg Slavija was renovated. Where an old marsh pond used to be (I’m talking before 1880), a fountain has been built. And I’m not talking about any old fountain here. I mean a 32 metre dancing and singing fountain. Well, I couldn’t hear any music coming from Slavija Fountain but there was definitely a light show. Maybe the traffic was too loud. 😉
Oh, and there’s also a “#Београд” (#Belgrade) sign for you to pose with too, if the mood so takes you.
St. Sava’s Temple
How to get there: 5-10 mins walk (depending on traffic, haha) from Slavija Square.
The Temple of St. Sava was named after a teenager who gave up royalty to live an ordinary and simple life. In the 12th century Rastko Nemanjić ran away to Mt. Athos in Greece where he became a monk. He chose the name Sava and dedicated his life to the Serbian Orthodox Church. From thre, he became Serbia’s first archbishop. Sava’s remains were burned on Vračar Hill, which is where the temple was then built.
Many look at St. Sava as the eastern version of Barcelona’s Sagrada Família. Both of these iconic buildings were slowed down by war and today, are still incomplete.
One of the largest Orthodox Churches in the world, built in the Serbian-Byzantine style and 70 metres high, this is one stunning sight.
Bonus: There’s a monument to Nikola Tesla down the path to the right of the church.
Gardoš Tower / Millennium Tower, Zemun
Price: 200 RSD
How to get there: From Sinđelićeva in Zemun, it’s a 5 minute walk up Grobljanska.
It didn’t look far on the map and it was a nice (35°C!) day so we decided to walk to Zemun. This is what ate up a lot of our time, because although it’s only 7-8km, it takes a long time when it’s hot, you’re taking photos and getting lost! And of course, the mandatory ice cream breaks!
I’d like to add that we got lost in the little streets of Zemun, not getting there. Following the river isn’t that difficult! I’m not that bad!
Up until 1934 Zemun wasn’t even in the same state as Belgrade, despite only being across the Danube. Between 1739 and 1918 it was part of the Habsburg Empire while Belgrade belong to the Ottoman.
Zemun is known as Belgrade’s most distinctive and charming neighbourhood because even though it’s now a suburb of Belgrade, it doesn’t feel like part of a capital city. It has red roofs, churches (most famously Belgrade’s oldest church – Nikolajevska), fishing boats, markets, old cemeteries and of course, the Gardoš Tower.
The Gardoš Tower officially opened on August 20th, 1896 to celebrate a 1000 years of Hungarian settlement in the PannonianPlain. I didn’t know what that meant either.
Basically: The Pannonian Plain (AKA the Hungarian Plain), is flat and known for farming in Central Europe. It covers Hungary (who’d thought it?), East Austria, Southern Czech Republic and Northern Croatia and SERBIA. The Danube cuts the plain in half. So now we all know. 🙂
The Gardoš (or Millennium) Tower is also protected as a Monument of Culture and also a Spatial Cultural-Historical Unit of Great Importance, so guys, it’s a big deal! If you’re up for climbing an old spiral staircase (it’s not too bad) you’ll get amazing views of Zemun, Nikolajevska and Saint Dimitrije churches, and the rivers from the top!
Anyway, we had this crazy notion and actually got a bus back! So we got the number 15 bus from Zemun to Zeleni Venac, showered and went out for the Sunset River Cruise we’d booked before we arrived in Belgrade.
Cruise Belgrade: Sunset River Cruise
Price: €13 or 1500 RSD
How to get there: They meet you at the entrance to Kalemegdan.
This was a well deserved rest after running around Zemun all day! The evening was cooler, we had a nice breeze on the boat and we didn’t have to move for an hour and a half! The guide told us about the bridges we sailed under, some facts about the fortress as we went by, and then a bit on Zemun and showed us the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers where we then watched the sun set. It was, of course, beautiful. On the way back towards the port we saw the nightclubs and bars along the river banks begin to light up and a few steeples in the distance. Not that we should compare cities, but just don’t expect a Budapest river view, ‘kay?
I didn’t have time to see St. Mark’s Church in Tašmajdan Park or the Nikola Tesla Museum. 🙁
So Belgrade, I didn’t see enough of you as I’d hoped. It looks like I have no choice but to come back 😉