Belgrade has quickly become one of our favorite European cities. Belgrade is not as visually stunning as other European capitals, but with so many gorgeous parks, lively cafes and friendly people you’ll want for nothing. Plus, it’s astonishingly cheap for a big, vibrant city. (see The Adam and Molly Index).
We visited with our friend Keith and stayed right off of the main promenade (#2) in the Old Town, which we thought was a perfect location for a short stay (see Tips for Travelers at the end.)
Here are 8 great reasons to visit Belgrade:
1. Spending an afternoon in Kalemegdan Park: This old fortress turned park sits on the convergence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. It’s consistently used and enjoyed by locals who picnic here, play tennis here and sit on the walls overlooking the rest of the city.
2. Strolling Kralja Milana Street: This promenade that runs into the Kalemegdan is full of people day and night. It’s flanked by stores, cafes and restaurants and centers around a public fountain. We walked it each of the three days and spent our evening playing hearts in a cafe and watching the crowds go by.
3. Meeting the Serbian people: the people of the Balkans continue to be the most friendly and accommodating we’ve met. English is prevalent (although we encountered no other Americans) which allows for good conversation and easy traveling, but overall the people are just flat out nice. Keith and I even had two college kids pull us from the cafe we were sitting in, walk us around the old town and take us to a club, just because they wanted to show us how nice people from Serbia are.
4. Dining at Dokolica Bistro and other great (and inexpensive) restaurants with sidewalk patios: Along with Cafe Veliki in Novi Sad, this is probably the best restaurant we’ve found in all the Balkans and a welcomed change of pace from the meat and cheese heavy specialties of the region. They serve breakfast, big fresh salads and have a variety of wine and beer. We even went back to get get salads to take with us on our drive.
5. Visiting Cathedral of St. Sava: one of the ten largest churches in the world and dedicated to the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church, this church is still under construction almost 80 years after breaking ground.
6. Getting beers on Skardarlija Street: Belgrade’s “Bohemian Quarter” is the one place in the whole city that feels touristy, but it’s a wonderful place to spend an afternoon no matter what your tastes are.
7. Relaxing in Tašmajdan Park: this park is home to Saint Mark’s church along with several playgrounds and lots of shade. During our visit these grounds were bustling with activity. If we had stayed in Belgrade longer I would have joined the dozens of others sprawled out on the manicured lawn and spent a whole afternoon with a good book.
8. Belgrade is a backpacker’s paradise: English is everywhere, the food and drinks are cheap ($1 beers) and the bar and club scene is fantastic. Plus, it’s fits in perfectly to any big Europe trip: trains and buses from all over Europe connect to Belgrade and from there, you can easily travel to by train to Moscow or Austria or take a direct bus to Istanbul.
Additionally Novi Sad is just up the Danube, only 60 miles away. Take a bus there and back for the day or, better yet, go for a few nights and see the capital of Serbia’s diverse Vojvodina region.
Food: Dokolica Bistro had fantastic and fresh food and the whole area south of Tasmajdan park was full of interesting and eclectic places to eat. Otherwise, the pizza and street food was great and there are a good amount of decent food places on the main promenade.
Getting there and away: Trains and buses will drop you off within a 10 minutes walk of Old Town and are a great option. You can find a connection to anywhere in Europe. We drove with the goal of parking the car in a garage as soon as possible and leaving it for three days. We found this pretty easy to do and parking was around $20/day. Belgrade has a great resource on parking if you go this route: http://www.parking-servis.co.rs/en/parking_facilities/garages
Museums: We went to the Tesla Museum and to the Military History Museum. The Tesla Museum has English tours but mostly focused on a few basic science experiments and not as much about Tesla the man. The Military History Museum was fascinating, covering the history of Serbian forces since the 10th century. It was especially focused on information regarding the Serbian and Yugoslav armies during the world wars, focusing a great deal on Tito’s defeat of the Ustase. But the museum didn’t have English subtitles for many of the exhibits. Also, if you want Serbia’s take on the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s you won’t find anything about it here.
Recommended Itinerary: Stay two full days, three at most. Spend a day walking around the fortress, Kralija Milana and the Skadarlija Street. Spend the next day in Tasmajdan Park and visit St. Sava’s Cathedral. If you plan to stay out late at clubs everything seems to start around midnight and go past sunrise. Check out the party barges off of the Sava river. If you have to make a choice, shorten your Belgrade stay and make sure to see Novi Sad too.