Belgrade guide: where to stay and what to do

Belgrade guide: where to stay and what to do

Category : Belgrade , Serbia

Here’s how to get the most out of a Belgrade city break

Serbia’s capital makes for a worthwhile city break at any time of year, with its unique blend of Ottoman relics, art nouveau architecture, Habsburg influence and, of course, socialist blocks. Despite the old world charm, there’s a lot going on, including a vibrant nightlife scene.

What to do

Stari Grad (Old Town)

Start in Knez Mihailova, Belgrade’s pedestrianised thoroughfare in the heart of Stari Grad. Its handsome 19th-century buildings are filled with shops and cafés, and buskers and stalls add to the lively atmosphere. Nip down its little lanes to find more café terraces.

Kalemegdan fortress and park

Belgrade’s biggest park hugs the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. Its shaded paths take you past medieval fortifications, museums, a zoo, gardens, churches and some wonderful views of both rivers.

Kalemegdan fortress and park has wonderful views of two rivers (iStock)

Savamala

Explore the Sava’s newly revamped riverside by the buzzing Savamala district. Lining both the Sava and Danube riverbanks are the floating nightclubs and restaurants – splavovi – that help to give Belgrade its well-deserved reputation for having some of the most raucous nightlife in Eastern Europe. Some, such as Splav Play (playsplav.com), are open all year round.

Museums

After being closed for renovations that dragged on for 10 years, the Museum of Contemporary Art (eng.msub.org.rs) finally reopened in October 2017.

Set in a fabulous modernist building in the park-filled Usce district in New Belgrade, the museum has an extensive collection of Yugoslav modern art from 1900 onwards, including works by Marina Abramovic. Open daily 10am-6pm (open till 8pm on Thursdays and closed Tuesdays); 300 dinars (£2.25) entry.

In Knez Mihailova, look out for the stately entrance to Zepter Museum (zeptermuzej.rs) – another compelling and large collection of Serbian modern and contemporary art. Open 10am-8pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and 12-10pm Thursdays and Saturdays; 200 dinars (£1.50) entry.

Make sure you check out the large collection of Yugoslav modern art (Museum of Contemporary Art/In the Same Space)

Where to stay

Belgrade hotels are incredibly affordable in comparison with other European capitals. The new five-star Saint Ten (saintten.com) in a 1929 townhouse in the Vracar district near Sveti Sava has classy, understated rooms and an outstanding restaurant. Doubles from €159, B&B.

Just steps away from the main Republic Square in Stari Grad is the four-star Courtyard Marriott (marriott.co.uk), where standard rooms are on the small side but the location makes up for it. Doubles from €77.50, room only.

There’s a touch of the Hamptons in Smokvica’s eight rooms (smokvica.rs), set in a 1919 villa in Vracar – all rustic-chic scrubbed wood with marine accents. The colourful garden restaurant serves excellent pan-Mediterranean dishes. Doubles from €39, room only.

Where to eat

The choice of restaurants in Belgrade is mind boggling, with new ones opening all the time. Enso (enso.rs) offers a sophisticated menu featuring foie gras parfait and succulent lamb shanks. Or try the five-course tasting menu with a craft beer for each course; 3,500 dinars (£26). Open daily 1pm-1am.

Fancy some foie gras parfait? This sophisticated eatery offers an affordable tasting menu (Enso)

For old-school Serbian classics, try Kalenic (00381 112 450 666) by Kalenic market, where meat and produce from the market end up on the plate. You’ll find a feast of grilled meats, including roast suckling pig and Balkan-style burgers, along with gorgeous delicacies such as slow-cooked calf’s head. Infinitely more delicious than it sounds. Open daily 8am-midnight.

Cross the River Sava to the old Austro-Hungarian village of Zemun, now a suburb of Belgrade. Along its Danube waterfront is the funky Supermarket Talas (supermarkettalas.com), which fuses Mediterranean and Serbian flavours. Try the deep-fried whitebait and homemade spicy sausages. Open daily 9-1am.

Where to drink

Belgrade does love its ramshackle garden bars squeezed into all sorts of unlikely places, rather like Budapest’s ruin bars. Ljutic (facebook.com/ljuticj), not far from the Botanical Gardens, has the obligatory shabby-chic garden behind an Art Nouveau building.

In the winter, everyone crowds into a cosy vaulted cellar to keep warm. Open 4pm-midnight Sunday to Thursday and 5pm-1am Fridays and Saturdays.

This popular bar boasts cheap cocktails and wacky interiors (Blaznavac)

In the attractive Dorcol district, look out for the giant bright animal murals that adorn the front garden of Blaznavac (facebook.com/blaznavac). Try the absurdly cheap cocktails while sitting in one of the most endearingly cluttered and wacky interiors in the city. Open daily 9-1am.

A few steps away from the touristy restaurants and folklore musicians of the 19th-century Skadarlija district is Bar Bajloni and Beyond (bajloni.com). This laidback bar is in old brewery and features live music and a good selection of Serbian wine. Open daily 8.30am-midnight (1am on weekends).

Where to shop

You’ll find plenty of international brands in the boutiques along Knez Mihailova. For something more Serbian, walk down nearby Kosancicev venac to Makadam (makadam.rs), a concept store attached to a little bistro. It’s full of modern takes on traditional Serbian homeware as well as clothes, jewellery, gifts and wine – all done by small-scale producers and artisans. Open daily 12-6pm; closed Mondays.

Belgrade has many food markets, but the best is south of Stari Grad in the Vracar district. Kalenic market has a dizzying number of stalls selling local produce as well as butchers and fishmongers. Although it’s open daily from 6am-8pm (8am-4pm in the winter), it’s at its best before lunchtime.

Architectural highlight

The neo-Byzantine dome of Sveti Sava temple, one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, is visible from most parts of Belgrade. One day the enormous interior will finally be finished.

Sveti Sava temple is one of Belgrade’s finest pieces of architecture (iStock)

Belgrade nuts and bolts

What currency do I need?

The currency in Belgrade is the Serbian dinar, roughly 135 to the pound.

What language do they speak?

The language in Belgrade is Serbian.

Should I tip?

Tipping in restaurants is voluntary, and usually about 10 per cent.

What’s the time difference?

Belgrade is one hour ahead of the UK and flight times average three hours.

Public transport

Belgrade’s Stari Grad is compact enough to explore on foot, although you might want to use the very cheap trams and buses to go further afield.

Best view

Climb to the top of Gardos Tower in Zemun for views of terracotta rooftops, the Danube and Belgrade’s Stari Grad in the distance.

Insider tip

When you arrive at the airport, order an official (and reasonably priced) taxi from the desk in the baggage hall and ignore the taxi touts outside.

Thanks to: Mary Novakovich – @mary_novakovich


10 Most Popular Attractions in Belgrade

Category : Belgrade , Serbia

With its turbulent, war-torn past, Belgrade is like a phoenix rising from the ashes to become one of today’s hottest European capitals. Belgrade, home to two million people, is a pretty city sitting at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. You’ll want to walk along the river banks, perhaps stopping for a drink or meal at a riverboat that’s been converted to a restaurant before visiting the attractions in Belgrade. The Serbian capital is fast becoming known as a center for international festivals; hosting more than 100 a year, for sure there will be one going on whenever you visit.

10. Avala Tower

Avala Tower

 

The Avala Tower, built in 1965 and destroyed by NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, was rebuilt in 2010, becoming the tallest telecommunications tower in the Balkans. The original tower, with an observation deck, was a source of pride for the region. Public donations paid for the tower’s rebuilding. It can be found on Avala Mountain on the outskirts of Belgrade. At 206 meters (675 feet) high, it is the fifth tallest structure in Serbia; you can literally see for miles and miles from the observation deck.

9. House of Flowers

House of Flowers

 

Josip Broz Tito led the Yugoslav Partisans in World War II, later going on to become president of Yugoslavia. A respected leader in the international stage, he died in 1980; he and his wife are burred at the House of Flowers, also known as Tito’s Mausoleum. For a while, flowers surrounded his tomb, giving rise to the name House of Flowers; the flowers are gone now, replaced by white rocks. It was built in 1975 as a winter garden for Tito, who chose to be buried here. The mausoleum today is part of the Museum of Yugoslav History.

8. Gardos Tower

Gardos Tower

 

The Gardos Tower is but a youngster when compared to ancient or medieval monuments; it was constructed in 1896. But it’s just as impressive as anything built centuries earlier. It’s also known as the Millennium Tower or the Tower of Janos Hunyadin, a Hungarian hero who died more than 400 years ago on the site of an earlier fortress. Some ruins from the earlier fortress remain today. Originally one of five towers built by the Hungarians to celebrate 1,000 years of rule in the region, the landmark is located in Zemun, 20 km (13 miles) from Belgrade.

7. Nikola Tesla Museum

Nikola Tesla Museum

 

Well over a century ago, Nikola Tesla energized electricity, inventing the AC system, the electric coil and related items. Generations later, these inventions would lead to a car named after him, the Tesla electric car. They also led to a museum dedicated to his work in central Belgrade. The Nikola Tesla Museum contains thousands of documents, books, photographs and drawings related to his work of electrifying the world. The museum also houses interactive exhibitions including computerized models of his inventions.

6. Crkva Svetog Marka

Crkva Svetog Marka

 

Crkva Svetog Marka, or Cathedral of St. Mark, was basically completed in 1940 on the site of a wooden church dating back to 1835. Located in central Belgrade’s Tašmajdan park neighborhood, it is one of the largest churches in the country; not too far away is Parliament building. . Above the outside entrance to the church, you’ll find a mosaic of the Apostle Mark for whom the church is named. The church is filled with centuries old icons; several rulers are buried in the crypt.

5. Knez Mihailova Street

Knez Mihailova Street

 

Every city has one: a street that oozes charm, is lined with historic buildings and is where shoppers snap up bargains. In Belgrade, this street is Knez Mihailova Street, named after a Serbian prince. Less than a mile long, the street dates back to the Ottoman days, though it never really came into its own until the 19th century when the wealthy started building homes here. Historic buildings along its path include Srpska Kruna Hotel, built in 1869; private homes at 46, 48 and 50 Knez Mihailova, that date from the 1870s, and Greca Kraljica, a coffee shop in an 1835 building.

4. Temple of Saint Sava

Temple of Saint SavaW
ith a 134-meter (440-foot) high dome, the Temple of Saint Sava dominates Belgrade’s skyline. To make it even taller, the dome is topped with a gold cross almost 12 meter (40 feet) high. The largest Orthodox church in use today, it is dedicated to Saint Sava, an important medieval personage who founded the Serbian Orthodox church. It is located on the Viacar Plateau, where Saint Sava is thought to be buried. Construction on the white marble and granite church started in 1935, halted during World War II and resumed in 1985. Though it is still under construction today it is already one of the most popular attractions in Belgrade.

3. Ada Ciganlija

Ada Ciganlija

 

Ada Ciganlija is an island cum artificial peninsula in the Sava River/Lake that runs through central Belgrade. With its pretty beaches and sports facilities, Ada draws upwards of 100,000 visitors a day during the summer. Nicknamed “Belgrade’s Sea,” Ada’s peninsula is filled with thick forests that resemble a wilderness area, so you might see deer, rabbits and fox. Houseboats, a weekend retreat for Belgrade residents, can be found at the northern end. Ada Ciganlija is an athlete’s dream with dozens of sports facilities ranging from tennis to rugby to rowing, with artificial facilities for alpine skiing and snowboarding.

2. Skadarlija Street

Skadarlija Street

 

Skadarlija Street may not be very long, just 400 meters (1,340 feet), but it’s the most famous street in Belgrade. Located in the Old Town, it connects Despot Stefan Boulevard with Dusanova Street. The street is lined with vintage buildings. With a bohemian atmosphere, Skadarlija Street is considered Belgrade’s version of Montmartre in Paris. In fact, it was known as the Gypsy quarter in the 19th century. It’s a place where poets gather for Skadarlija Evenings at the house of the late poet Dura Jaksic, and where the Children’s Street Theatre performs circus acts. The restaurants and outdoor cafes welcome diners, including celebrities, from all over.

1. Belgrade Fortress

#1 of Attractions In Belgrade

Because of its strategic defensive location, people have lived at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers since Neolithic times. Then the invaders moved in, first the Celts and later the Romans, who built a palisade here, followed by the Huns and the Goths. It was a Serbian leader, however, in the 15th century who really beefed up the fortifications here. The fortress is remarkably intact, occupying a large chunk of the area. Besides the fortifications, the official fortress area includes a church, a museum and several popular parks.


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