As our goal of visiting every country in the Balkans takes us to Belgrade, Serbia, we visit the second country on this leg that neither of us had been to before. It was one we were excited to visit.
First, we recommend leaving any expectations for this post-conflict destination behind because they will be confounded. Making your way through the city will be equally thrilling and exhausting as every corner packs centuries of history and culture shaped by migration, conquest, and war.
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Belgrade, Serbia is an audacious city that is determined to present itself in a different light. Read on to find out why traveling to Belgrade is worth it this summer.
Best Things to Do in Belgrade, Serbia
Marvel at the Architecture
Belgrade, on the path of all armies breaking into or out of the Balkans, has been destroyed and rebuilt around forty times. NATO bombing remains are still found throughout the city resembling the “time of transition” and the renovated ones can be easily told apart. Due to its rich history, different architectural styles can be observed throughout the city, from the medieval and ottoman periods, modernity, and brutalism, to contemporary. One place where the mishmash of styles can be witnessed is the Republic Square or in the New Belgrade neighborhood.
Seemingly haphazard at times, the city is always in the process of creation and redefining itself. It is no wonder that architecture is considered one of the most prestigious professions to have in Belgrade.
Watch the Sunset at Kalemegdan
To get your bearings together, the best place to start exploring Belgrade is at Kalemegdan. This fortress with underground tunnels, erected by the Romans in the 1st century, is the official symbol of the city. From here get a panoramic view of the Danube and Sava rivers’ confluence, the charming neighborhood of Zemun, up-and-coming New Belgrade, and the bridges that connect these eclectic points.
Inside the fortress, visit the little Rose church, the oldest church in Belgrade, that was once used to store gunpowder. Take a moment to inspect its chandeliers made entirely of bullet casings, swords, and cannon parts.
The best time to visit the fortress is at sunset when the city wears a beautiful cloak of colors. After taking in the views, stroll through the parks surrounding Kalemegdan and where you can challenge the locals to a game of chess.
Travel Back in Time to Yugoslavia
The Museum of Yugoslavia is one of the most visited museums and for a good reason. Spreading over three buildings, we recommend setting aside an entire afternoon for browsing the artifacts, Yugoslavia’s president Tito’s mausoleum, and the incredible gifts he received in his lifetime.
Belgrade was built among the remains of ancient settlements of Celts, Romans, Bulgars, Magyars, Turks, and Austrians. With such rich history, there are infinite stories and myths to learn, and the perfect place to do that is this underground tour. After exploring intriguing locations you get to enjoy some local wine.
Church of Sveti (Saint) Sava
The church of Saint Sava is the Balkan’s most prominent and the world’s second-biggest Orthodox church. This fact is made obvious when looking at the city skyline or standing under the dome. It features intricate mosaics, frescoes, and chandeliers the construction of which was frequently interrupted by wars.
Visit the Tesla Museum
One of the highlights of our trip to Belgrade, Serbia was visiting the Tesla Museum where you can learn about Nikola Tesla, see his final resting place, interact with some of the exhibits and have fun learning. This museum houses many of the documents and archives of his life’s work. There are personal effects as well as his ashes encapsulated inside a spherical brass container. The tour takes an hour or so.
Visit St. Mark’s Church
St. Mark’s Church is a Serbian Orthodox church located in the Tasmajdan Park. While we were there, they were replacing the mosaic over the altar. We loved seeing these glass tiles up close and marveling at the installation.
Belgrade, Serbia Best Neighborhoods
Each visitor will pick out their favorite district or cluster – of historical, bohemian, and contemporary rebuilds. But the best way to take in different angles the city has to offer is by foot. The neighborhoods spread out on both banks of the rivers, but are connected by waterside promenades and bridges that are perfect for long walks, runs, or cycling.
The pedestrian street Knez Mihailova, peppered with shops, cafes, and galleries, connects Kalemegdan and the riverfront with Republic Square.
From Republic Square, you can make your way to the more affluent side of town, Dorcol. This part of town makes for a great place to find your accommodation because of its central location and great options.
On the way to Dorcol is one of Belgrade’s main tourist attractions, the bohemian quarter Skadarlija made famous by the actors and writers that frequented its kafanes (taverns) back in the day.
A walk down from Knez Mihailova towards the Sava river through the cobblestone roads of the historical quarter Kosancicev venac will take you to the urban creative hub of Belgrade – Savamala.
Zemun, the oldest part of Belgrade, seems like a separate small town in itself because it used to belong to the Hapsburg Monarchy up until World War II. Visit Hotel Yugoslavia, which used to be the epitome of socialist luxury. Then enjoy the views of the Danube over a drink at the promenade which takes you to Brankov bridge where you can cross back to the old town or continue to New Belgrade.
Best Places to Eat in Belgrade
Serbs are family-oriented and hospitable people, who will always ensure that as their guest you are well fed above all else. Traditional Serbian cuisine is a fusion of Turkish, Mediterranean, Hungarian, and Austrian influences. It is rich in meat, cheese, and pastry, and drinking Turkish-style coffee is a favorite pastime in Serbia.
The main dishes to sample are cevapi, grilled sausage served with flatbread, onions, and sauces; sarma, rolls of ground beef, and rice wrapped in pickled cabbage or grapevine; and burek, layered pastry filled with cheese, spinach, or minced meat. Serbia also produces its own wines and national spirit called rakija, fruit brandy, which comes in different flavors.
Here are our top restaurant recommendations in Belgrade, Serbia to suit every budget and include must-try items. Keep in mind that most restaurants in Belgrade allow smoking so if you are a nonsmoker, make sure to ask to be seated in a non-smoking area or opt for outdoor seating.
This restaurant offers a modern take on Balkan cuisine, which has been praised by the Michelin Guide, with a focus on creating an unforgettable experience.
This restaurant with the peculiar name “Question Mark” is the oldest restaurant in Belgrade and the oldest kafana in Europe. It is located in one of Belgrade’s few remaining Ottoman-style buildings and ordering a Turkish coffee is a must by tradition.
Tri Šešira (Three Hats)
Located in the heart of Skadarska street, this iconic restaurant symbolizes the best of Belgrade. It opened more than 150 years ago in a building where the craft workshop used a logo of three pleated hats.
Belgrade has its very own genuine dessert called Moskva Snit which originated at the Moskva hotel. It is a fruit and crème cake that has been served at the hotel for the last 40 years.
No eatery list is complete without a quality rooftop! Mama Shelter on Knez Mihaila, which is also a boutique hotel, offers stunning views of the city in a cozy atmosphere. Great place to finish a full day of walking around the city.
With so much to see and learn at every turn, we recommend setting aside at least five days in Belgrade. It is an ideal playground for foodies, and history and architecture aficionados. It is a city full of resilience and soul. We hope to have convinced you to add it to your bucket list.
We loved our time in Belgrade and we hope our visit will inspire you to put this vibrant city on your travel list. Check out our video below of our time in this wonderful city!