The White City
Loosing the track on how many new countries I have visited so far during this year alone, this time I land in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, in company of two of my travel friends. Thankfully we managed to find such great air fares, although this had to involve travelling there on Friday very early morning and returning Sunday on the very first flight of the morning. Unfortunately, we could not enjoy an extra full day as it could have been Sunday, but at least, we used it to recover and sleep.
Saying this, 2 days are more than enough for this city. I could not imagine another one unless going somewhere else, so yes, it’s a perfect city size for a cultural weekend trip. Very compact, cute old town and great for walking everywhere; however evolving and expanding with plenty of new construction going one and countless projects to restore the older parts becoming the next tourist destination in the Balkans.
To our surprise, the city has much more to offer than we originally though. Searching for pictures and information over the internet did not give us any greater overall idea and image of what Belgrade really is. This was a great sign as we thought we would become sort of stranded without knowing what else to do after few hours.
The old town has been beautifully restored yet mostly rebuilt since the war, and its now a thriving place to go out with hundreds of coffee places, bars and discos; and many historical buildings all located around Knez Mihailova Street and the parallel ones, running from Terazije Square to the Kalemegdan Fortress. Most of the streets in this area are also pedestrian friendly making it even nicer. Walking your way in between and all around is easy and straightforward. Let yourself go, distances are not big at all and you will enjoy every moment.
It’s beautiful to see the many architectural styles blending everywhere, but notoriously one stands out as the most relevant, the secession; or art-nouveau; and the posterior 1930’s art-deco wonders. One can only imagine how tidy and elegant this city once was before the Balkans War, but it’s also great to see many of these imposing buildings restored for future generations.
Finding a nice place where to eat is the less complicated, specially by the Old Town. The amount and choice is so wide, you will actually not know what to really get. They do have plenty of Greek places. Gyros are the most popular of all, but for a more local cuisine you should try Ćevapčići (or Ćevapi). This is a kebab style made of mince beef, lamb, pork or mixed served with flatbread and salad. It’s very tasty, although I must confess the best ones I ever had were in Bosnia, especially in Mostar.
For more information on the city’s history check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Serbia’s currency is the Serbian Dinar (RSD). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Belgrade
- Kalemegdan Fortress Dating back to 1405, it’s a very nice place full of history, beautifully restored and access free of charge. Among the buildings to see are:
-Despot Stefan Tower The most famous and pretty much symbol of the city.
-Gate of Charles VI, Clock Gate, Zindan Gate, Stambol Gate The major gates in the fortress.
-Monument to The Victor The protector of Belgrade.
-Walls of the fortress as seen from the river, one of the most beautiful views.
- St Michael’s Cathedral Original from 1840, nowadays is the Patriarchate of the Serbian Orthodox and dates back to 1935.
- Stari Grad Is the old town, full of historical buildings and squares, the main shopping streets and nightlife.
-Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts SANU House in a wonderful building from 1822.
-Knez Mihailova Street or Prince Mihailo Street, the main thoroughfare along the old town full of nice architecture. Sights include:
–Srpska Kruna Hotel Now the City Library, from 1869.
-Private Homes at numbers 46, 48 and 50, and Hristina Kumanudi’s house, Kristina Mehana, Veljko Savić’s house, all of which worth-wise architecturally speaking.
-Nikola Spasić Endowment House Built in 1889 was one of the most advanced and luxurious at the time, with shops on the street level and apartments on the two floors above.
-Nikola Spasić Passage Built in 1912 in Secessionist style.
-Republic Square The main square in the city, main meeting place and going out area:
-National theatre Built in 1869, was the first building before the creation of the square itself. Original with a lavish Renaissance style, further extensions in 1922 gave its current Vienna Secession style look.
-National Museum of Serbia Institution stabilised in 1844 and in the current building since 1952. Completely refurbished and extended, was reopened in 2018.
-Srpskih Vladara Street (Kralja Milana) Connects Fortress, Knez Mihailova and Republic Square with Slavija Square.
-Cathedral of Saint Sava While the original one stood here, but burnt down in 1585, it was never built again until 1989 with the current look.
-Nikola Pasic Square It’s the most impressive square of all in the city because of the grand and elegant buildings surrounding it, including:
-Old Royal Palace Now the Town Hall.
-National Assembly With the curious fact that between its completion in 1936 and 2006, was the seat of the Parliament of Yugoslavia and the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro.
-White Palace Former residence of the Karađorđević dynasty.
-Central Post Office Big and impressive socialist style building.
-Views of the Old Town from the Brankov Bridge, with the Danube River passing along.
- Skadarlija Street The Bohemian quarter. Although it’s only one main street, it is full of restaurants and bars serving great food.
- Terazije Square Marks the border on the Old Town and the 19th century expansion.
-Hotel Moskva One of the most precious landmark buildings in the city, dating from 1908.
-Palace Albania Built in 1940, becoming the first “skyscraper” in South East Europe.
- St. Mark’s Church Originally built in 1940, rebuilt after being destroyed in the war.
Nikola Tesla International Airport is 12km away from city centre. The bus number 72 from the departures level goes to Zeleni Venac in the city centre for 170 RSD for a single ticket. Chances are that the driver will let you in without paying as they do not take cash. Another option is to take the A1 Minibus for 300 RSD to to Slavija Square via Fontana and Train Station.
Coming overland is the next best choice due to the country’s location, neighbouring so many great countries, so touristy as well. Hence getting on a train or bus from countless cities is straightforward, for example Budapest or Szeged in Hungary; Timisoara in Romania; Sofia in Bulgaria; Skopje in the Republic of North Macedonia; Pristina in Kosovo; Tirana in Albania, Podgorica in Montenegro; Mostar and Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Ploce or Zagreb in Croatia. As you see, too many all around Serbia with overall small distances.
Within the city, distances are not big and you can easily walk everywhere. The sights are easy to follow, and it is always very pleasant to walk as much as anyone can whenever on a cultural trip. In any case, there is a good choice of trams and buses. Tram line 2 is the circle line around the old town. A single ticket costs 100 RSD.
Since we were three people in this trip, we opted to get an apartment through airb&b. This resulted is a very good deal at a very central location with all the facilities included. The apartment was in Kraljice Natalije 68, apt number 8. The owner, Tanja, was really great person who will take care of your stay. She is always available should you have a question and can be easily contacted by phone, whatsapp or viber. You can check her Airbnb apartment following this link.
There is nevertheless a great hotel choice so you should not have a problem in getting a nice deal. The important note is to get something as near as possible to the Old Town as this will save you time than having to walk far or depending on public transportation. Having a look at some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers is the best way to start your search.