Do you also sometimes have a feeling like you are a tourist in your own city? I am always feeling like that! People even told me I look like a tourist on my pictures. Every time I head downtown I am amazed by the buildings, the architecture, by nature, the rivers, and every time I stop to take a photo. For me it is exactly the same when I am in my own town and when I travel abroad, I am acting as I know nothing and I see everything for the first time, and it is so much fun! That is why I am writing this detailed Belgrade guide so you can see the beauties of it, feel its great spirit and enjoy as much as I do. I did not want to just write where to go because you can see google maps for that, so I wanted to first tell you a little bit about Belgrade and then what you can see, visit, try or do. I also linked almost every sight so be sure to click on it if you need to see it on a map. Ready? We are taking off!
1. History of Belgrade
For starters I would like to tell you some history facts about Belgrade which you did or did not know, but is good to remind yourself or learn at least a little bit about every city you visit. Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe, but because of its great geographic position it was often a target of wars, bombing and conquests. The earliest settlements were found in municipality of Belgrade named Vinca, and they date from 7000 year BC. Around 600 BC this region had been populated by the Scythian and Thracian-Cimmerian tribes, and first time we heard about Singidunum was in 279 BC. Celtic Tribe known as the Scordiscs built Singidun, which under the Romans got the name Singidunum. Word dun means settlement, fence or fort, and for the word Singi it is believed that it represents the Thracian tribe Singa or the Celtic word singi which means round. It is believed that first Celtic settlements were at the place of today’s Belgrade neighborhoods Zvezdara and Karaburma. Romans started their conquest of this place in the 1st century of new era and that lasted for 4 centuries. Great flutter of this city under Romans happened in the year 86 when first stone fortification was built on the Upper town of Kalemegdan park – Castrum. Main republic square was located on the today’s place of the National bank of Serbia in the Kralja Petra street, and there was placed the main temple as well. Furthermore Roman forum surrounded with baths was located in the place of today’s Students park. Also Singidunum had 3 huge necropolis, and it is well known that their remains exist in the place between Kosancicev venac and Rajiceva street. Not many facts were know about Zemun, todays municipality of Belgrade, but once it was a city for itself called Taurunum, and same as Belgrade it had a lot of different names through history. One known thing is that there was a bridge between Singidunum and Taurunum across the Sava river, which was one of the most important roads that connected Roman provinces Moesia, Dacia, Pannonia and Dalmatia. This military road called Via militaris went from west to east and connected towns Sirmium (Sremsku Mitrovicu), Singidunum (Beograd), Viminacium (Kostolac) to Byzantium and it was protected by forts that existed in the area of today’s Belgrade. Some of them were: Mutatio ad Sextum (Mali Mokri Lug), Castra Tricornia (Ritopek), Mutatio ad Sextum Militare (Grocka), and others. Roman empire clashed and in the year of 395 and it separated into eastern and western part, and Belgrade, same as Taurunum, was lying in the eastern part of Roman Empire which later became Byzantine Empire. The end of Roman empire brought to the invasion of Barbarian tribes such as: Huns, Ostrogoths, Gepids, Sarmatians, Avars, and Slavs. Serbian settlers came to this area around 630 and the name Belgrade (White fortress) was firstly mentioned in 878 , but in the next 2 and a half centuries there is no information whatsoever about Belgrade, so the name was not seen again before the 9th century. During 9th and 10th century 3 great forces were fighting over this place: Bulgarian Empire, Kingdom of Hungary and Byzantine Empire. Serbian reign over Belgrade starts in 1284 when Serbian people started to settle here intensively and the influence of Serbian Orthodox Church was getting stronger every day. For the Ottoman Empire Belgrade was standing on the way to the conquest of the Western Europe. After the fall of another Serbian city named Smederevo in 1440, Turks were trying to take over Belgrade for one whole century and finally succeed in 1521. The main pillar of Christianity and the key for conquering Kingdom of Hungary finally fell into the hands of Ottoman Empire and the city was burned and destroyed once again. At the end of 17th century, after 167 years of peace, Belgrade was devastated by plaque and the rebellions of the Janissaries, and once more it becomes the target of war affairs. During 17th and 18th Century Turks and Austrians were constantly fighting over the rule of Belgrade, and today you can see the affection of both nations in Belgrade architecture, Turkish mostly in the center of the city and Austrian mainly in Zemun. In the year of 1801 Janissaries took over the city after which came a period of anarchy, and the peak of these happenings was the event of the slaughter of Serbian rulers and famous Serbs, which brought to 1804 and First Serbian Insurrection under leadership of Karađorđe Petrovic. In 1807 Belgrade was finally liberated, but unfortunately already in 1813 Turks got to rule the city again, which brings us to the Second Serbian Insurrection in 1815. In 19th Century Belgrade got a lot of important things: Big school, National theater, Konak Kneginje Ljubice, Cathedral church, Topcider court, government, ministries, press, first high school, electricity, many important buildings and the fact that Turks were finally leaving Belgrade alone, which was a step to its greater and faster development, and cultural prosperity. In 20th century Belgrade got a Railway station and boat dock, but new troubles were now on the horizon galloping towards this unfortunate city. World War I started in 1914 and Belgrade was constantly bombed for 4 months at the beginning of the war, and 7 days and nights at the end of the war. During these long 4 years Serbia lost 28% of its population, and Belgrade was among the cities that suffered the most while the center city neighborhoods Dorcol and Savamala were burnt to the ground. After the liberation of Belgrade it becomes a capital of Kingdom of Serbs, Croatians and Slovenians so it started constructing, renovating and spreading towards Zemun, Avala, Cukarica, Sava and Danube. Not long after in 1941 starts World War II and Belgrade is bombed again, just not by Austrians, but buy the Germans who occupated the city. For those, again 4 long years, Belgrade itself lost 50 000 people, all the bridges on Sava and Danube, National library was burnt to the ground, a lots of buildings were damaged like General Staff, Old Court, Post Office, and bombs dropped even on the Republic Square and Palace Albania, airport, plants, shipyard, refinery, Terazije square, Faculty of Law, Bajloni market, but also a maternity hospital when 22 mothers and babies lost their lives. The damage was huge and priceless. After this second war Belgrade finally gets on his feet so it becomes a capital of new Yugoslavia, and despite the poverty people start the renovation, expansion and development of state and residential buildings. Unfortunately this is not the end of destruction of Belgrade. In 1999 NATO forces again bombed Belgrade for 78 days when again a lot of military, state and residential objects, cultural monuments, hotel Yugoslavia, several hospitals, Avala tower, and many more buildings were damaged or destroyed, and again lives lost. From the beginning of time this city was bombed, burnt and destroyed 44 times and run over with 115 wars, but every time it resurrected and renewed with the same love and passion by its people. More detailed info on the city history you can find on this site, here also and also there is a summary of Important Years in city history.
2. How Belgrade looks like today?
The guide of one city should start from the beggining so I will start from its begining wich is the city center. Todays center of Belgrade has several neighbourhoods: Kosančićev venac, Dorćol, Skadarlija, Terazije, Vračar… One of the most famous Belgrade meeting spot is Republic Square. On the square there are also the monument of Knez Mihailo, National museum and National theater, two fountains in front of which you can see Cultural center of Belgrade, and nearby is also monument to Branislav Nusic in the park of Dr. Zoran Djindjic, as well as one of the most famous bohemian quart Skadarlija. Then from there you can go into the main Belgrade street Knez Mihailova which is surrouned by Terazije and Kalemegdan from one side, and Kosančićevog venca and Dorćol from the other side. This is a pedestrian street with lots of beautiful old buildings such as: Palata Albanija, Ruski car, Grčka kraljica, Delija fountain, lots of galeries, endowment and the passage of Nikola Spasic, house of Hristine Kumandi where today ois famous restaurant Snežana, renewed mural from 1984 right accross Rajićeva shopping mall, and both are located before Kalemegdan. In the street of Vase Čarpića wich goes paralel with the main street you can see Etnographic museum, Students park i monument to Dositej Obradović, Akademic plato and monument to Petar Petrovic Njegoš, Yugoslav cinematheque, Kolarac endowment etc. Now one of the largest parks in Belgrade is Kalemegdan, which consists of Upper and Lower town, park and the fortress. I must say Kalemgdan has one of the most beautiful sunsets and view and it is most visited sight of all because every day 5000 people goes to see it. You can take a walk in the park, chill while lookng to the river or see some cultural monuments like: Pobednik, Roman well, Fountain of Mehmed Pasa Sokolovic, Military museum, National observatory, Natural history museum, church Ružica i church Sveta Petka, Dino park, Zoo i Amusement park. Kalemegdan has many gates and towers such as: Stambol gate, Nebojša tower, Sahat tower, Vidin gate, King gate, Baroque gate, Dark gate, Despots tower etc.. If you would go out of Kalemegdan at the place called Little steps you would be right at Kosancicev venac. Here you can see church of Archangel Michael best known as Cathedral church, then the oldest tavern in Belgrade Question mark, Konak kneginje Ljubice, house of Krsmanovic family where is embassy of Austria today, home of Mika Alas, remains of the old National library… Also in this place between Kosancicev venac and Knez Mihailova street there are many more famous historical and cultural buildings, while Obilicev venac and Kosancicev venac streets are, not long ago, also made pedestrian streets. Beneath Kosancicev venac there is a port where you can go by Big steps and then Brankos bridge, after which you can see Sava promenade and neighbourhood Savamala where currently Belgrade on the water is being built.
Below Knez Mihailova street there is a lot of famous city center streets where you can see Cukur fountain, Vuk and Dositej museum, and all of these are a part of famous old city neighbourhood named Dorcol which goes to Danube where you can take a walk on Dorcol promenade. At the other side from Kalemegdan there is Terazije where you can see Palace Atina, Hotel Moscow, Terazija fountain, park Terazijska Terasa, one more House Krsmanovic, building of Ministry of justice of Serbian Kingdom.. On the other side there is Nikola Pašic square with his monument, and nearby are History museum, National Assembly, Pionir park, Main Post office, park Tašmajdan where is also St. Marco church… If you go from Terazije square further by street of King Milan, you would also see: Ministry of Education, Old court i City government, Girls park and Andric venac across from each other, New Court, Museum of Ivo Andric, most famous building which got the name by the city – Beogradjanka, Student cultural center, Flower square and monument to Borislav Pekic, Yugoslav drama theatre, Park Manjez, park Mitic hole and finally Square Slavija which got a beautiful fountain not long ago. From this place when you go to Bulevar oslobođenja you would come to the biggest and most famous Orthodox church in Balkan temple of St. Sava on the Vracar Plato where are also placed monuments of Saint Sava i Karadjordje, but also National Serbian library, and right across are Karadjordje park i park of Milutin Milankovic. Nearby are also placed museum of Nikola Tesla, Park Kirilo and Metodije, monument to Vuk Karadžic, Botanical garden Jevremovac…
Except of the city center Belgrade has a lot more sights to be visited like Novi Beograd which has the most beautiful quays by Sava i Danube, then Great war island, Ada Ciganlija i Ada Međica which are river islands, and quay behind old fair, and about these things you can find more info in my previous post about Belgrade. Also make sure not to miss Zemun, Glavna street, Muhar i Gardoš neighborhoods where is also most beautiful Millennium tower and that place is also the origin of Taurunum, and it is known as Gardoš kula. If you have more time you can visit viewpoint on Bežanija i ski-run in Košutnjak park, which same as Gardos have the best viewpoint, then park Topčider, and you can also go the mountain nearby Avala.
3. Where to go, what to try, see and visit?
So first part was about the sightseeing, but here I want to make a little summary for you guys of things to see, try, visit, etc.
Clubs, bars, pubs and cafees
They are really all over the city but here are some parts where you can find the most of them: Cetinjska street, Skadarlija, Kosančićev venac, Obilićev venac, Savamala, Sava quay, Flower square, Port of Belgrade, Dunube quay, Zemun quay, Kej oslobođenja, Ušće Save into Danube, quay Old fair, Ada Ciganlija…
Restaurants of national cuisine:
Tri sesira, Mali Vrabac, Dva Jelena, Sesir moj, Durmitor, Trpeza, Milošev Konak, Kovač, Velika Skadarlija, Frans, Careva cuprija, Mala fabrika ukusa, Stara srpska kuća, Reka, Tabor, Stara Hercegovina…
As well as cafes and bars these are also all over the town, but there are 2 famous streets in Belgrade that have a lot of fast food stands and among people they are called The Food Avenue and The street of the hungry: Bulevar Zorana Đinđića and Goce Delceva streets.
Food and drinks:
Karađorđeva *rolled veal or pork steak, stuffed, breaded and baked (or fried)
Cevapi *minced grilled meat famous in Serbia
Pljeskavica *famous Serbian burger made out of minced meat
Sarma *minced meat rolled into cabbage leafs, this is the most famous Serbian dish
Burek *pastry dish made with cheese or meat, or it can be empty
Ajvar *made of peppers it is like a salad or you can just put it on bread like jam
Gibanica *it is like a pastry dish made out of eggs and cheese
Kajmak *something like a sour cheese cream, you can put it on bread like jam
Also check these articles below for a better explanation and also maybe something that I did not add to the list, or just to get a better picture of the flavors and how something is made.
I hope that this guide will be very useful to all the people who are visiting for the first time, but also maybe for the rest that already have stayed here, but maybe there is something new to be found out. I wish you a great stay in Belgrade, for sure it will be fun, so enjoy every spot of the city while you can. To see some photographs go to Postcards.