Belgrade is a funny old city. It was sold to us as a grey post communist city with nothing to see and nothing to do other than get drunk! We didn’t either carry much love for Serbia either after visiting Bosnia before and hearing such woeful tales of crimes committed during the war. But we always travel with an open mind and what we found in Belgrade was a modern city thriving in the new era, a city with an energy unlike any other and a fascinating and mixed history just waiting to be uncovered below its harsh exterior.
Explore the bohemian district (Skadarlija)
This area is probably one of the real highlights of Belgrade and a real surprise too. We actually wandered upon this district on the first night by chance and were a little spoilt by thinking the city would be entirely like this! The cobbled streets and old drinking houses offer traditional romany live music and Rakija until the early hours. Here is where the night start in this party city! Not only that but it has a real creative and historic feel to it, and it is no wonder as this is where all the cities artists and writers used to live. They all had studios in these traditional houses and would drink for inspiration, thus making this the go to drinking street in the city. Now it is one of the only remaining examples of old Belgrade.
Take a free walking tour:
Belgrade is a city of many different periods in history, from the Ottomans to the Slavs and Yugoslavia afterwards. History here is there to be found but is often a little hidden by the post soviet architecture and can be difficult to find. Everyday at 11am underneath the statue in Revolution Square there are free walking tours. These give you an invaluable insight into the culture and history of this city as the country as well as showing you the locations for some of the main sights in the city!
Party all night long:
Belgrade is a well know party city, the residents even continued to party as the city came under attack from NATO and famously saved one of their main bridges by staging a party protest on it. Every night in Belgrade is a weekend and everywhere you look their is a party going on. Straddle up and prepare yourself, in Belgrade if you party, you party hard! The rakija will be flowing and you will surely get drank under the table by the fierce locals! Take one of the party boats for an unforgettable night!
See the fortress that gave Belgrade it’s name:
Belgrade, or Beograd in Serbia translates as The White City, so named after the white walls of the citadel that sits proudly above the town. Built back in 535 this huge complex consists of towers, gardens, museums and offers some amazing views over the new part of the city and the place where the Rivers Sava and Danube combine. The fortress itself is free to visit and is a must do when in Belgrade. Here the atmosphere is always chilled and the history really quite impressive.
See Tito’s grave and the remnants of Yugoslavia
As the last strong hold of the communist powerhouse that was Yugoslavia, Serbia still holds on to many things from that area as the defacto holder of that name. Many countries that left Yugoslavia got rid of all traces of communist from their towns and cities, many other nations of the USSR also did the same. But here in Belgrade if you look close enough there is still evidence of this once great nation of nations. One of the most telling artefacts on where the country stands on the history of communism is Tito’s grave. Here you can see the burial place of the famous hero and leader of Yugoslavia alongside his wife in the magnificently kept Winter Gardens. It might not be Lenin’s mausoleum, but it is a cool piece of history to see.
Visit the impressive St. Sava cathedral
One of the most stunning and impressive buildings in the Serbian capital is that of the Orthodox cathedral of St. Sava. This huge church is still under construction and has been since 1935 with the outside being completed in 1989. This impressive building is one of the largest churches in the world and sits on an important place for the Serbian Orthodox religion: The place on which the Ottomans burnt St. Sava when they invaded the city. Here the faithful often queue outside the door the pray inside and people travel across the country just to step foot inside. The walls might be strangely bare but it is a moving and somewhat strange structure non the less.
The Nikola Tesla museum
Nikola Tesla is the man famed with inventing electricity, although often credited to Benjamin Franklin many people believe it was indeed Tesla instead who first came up with the idea. Regardless of who got there first there is no doubt the impact Tesla had on the modern world and that we would be no where near where we are now if it wasn’t for his genius. Here in Belgrade there is a museum dedicated to the work and life of this great man with some amazing interactive exhibitions!
See the buildings NATO bombed in 1999
One of the major events of recent European History has to be the Balkan war. All over this region you can see scars that this terrible war left and Serbia is the same. However Serbia’s scars are a little different, they are ones inflicted by NATO in a successful attempt to stop them from attacking Kosovo. Serbia were the aggressors in much of the events of the Balkan war and learning about it before we visited didn’t warm us to them all that much. Here in Belgrade you can see the buildings NATO bombed during that raid. Who knows why they still stand, indeed some are finally being pulled down, but these once busy office building stand eerily frozen in time as a reminder of the atrocities of that war.
The street art
Belgrade has to be one of the best cities for street art, if you wander around anywhere in the capital you are sure to come across creative, witty and beautiful pieces made to make you think. In particular the area around the universities art buildings house some great examples of a youth in revolt within Belgrade trying to get their voices heard!