I have a long and beautiful relationship with this city, that as of this post, spans 10 years. Yes, you heard me correctly, which makes Belgrade the city I’ve visited the most outside of Toronto, the city I was born in. So when it comes to places to see in Belgrade or things to do in Belgrade I’m pretty much a local.
Admittedly, the first year was a bit rocky as having a black person with dreads stroll through the pedestrian street Knez Mihailova was not typical and as a result, I received a lot of stares. Nothing racist, just collectively we were all wondering why I’m there.
Then the questions inevitably come.
Question 1: Why Belgrade?
Well, my partner in crime, Gordana, is ex-Yugoslavian and ultimately she is responsible for first bringing me to Serbia 10 years ago – I’m so grateful for that.
Along the way, I’ve made some lifelong friends there, all of which have welcomed me into their homes and into their hearts. Amongst friends and family, I’ve eaten the best lamb I have ever tasted, drank shots of the finest rakija and laughed so hard my stomach would hurt.
They’ve also attempted to teach me Serbian, which as a result, I now swear very well.
These are the people who drop everything to come to see me when they know I’m in town for a few days.
Question 2: Is it safe?
Well, if it wasn’t, I can assure you I wouldn’t have been coming back for 10 years but – let’s entertain that question for a bit.
For some reason, Serbia tends to get confused with Syria. It’s unfortunate that Syria has been dealing with some rough times as of late but they are two different countries on two different continents, so for the record, Serbia safe, Syria not safe.
I’m not trying to be facetious, but I’ve actually been asked these questions.
All that said, I’ve noticed more and more tourist walking around the fortress and visiting the Cathedral. This is great! I like to believe I had a part in that, so as an unofficial local, let me show you the places to see in Belgrade if you had two or three days.
Belgrade RS (Republic of Serbia)
- The history of Belgrade is quite impressive as it goes back to about 7000 BC and is actually one of the largest prehistoric cultures. The Vinča culture evolved around the 6th millennium BC
- Belgrade was conquered by the Romans, the Ottoman Empire and passed from the Ottomans to Habsburgs.
- Belgrade was named the capital of Serbia, once again, in 1841 while the north of Belgrade stayed as a Habsburg outpost until 1918
- Belgrade has always been a strategic location which means it has been battled over in 115 wars and raised to the ground 44 times.
- Lastly, Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia from its creation in 1918 to 2006 when the countries republics became individual countries.
Getting in and out of Belgrade
Look, I need to be honest with you.
Travelling by train in Belgrade sucks as most of the trains are old and slow. That being said Belgrade is connected to all major European capitals and is an important spot on European InterRail itineraries. If you’re coming to Belgrade by train, you’ll most probably arrive in one of its three main stations: Glavna, New Belgrade or Prokop.
Nikola Tesla is the only international airport in Belgrade, and the largest in the country and connected with major European, Middle-Eastern and North-African airports. Serbia signed the “Open Sky” agreement in 2009, which resulted in an increase in the number of flights.
Belgrade has an international passenger terminal known as Belgrade (Sava) Port, just below the Kalemegdan fortress. The number of Danube cruises stopping in Belgrade is increasing but at the moment there aren’t any regular lines between Belgrade and other cities that sit along the Danube.
Where to Stay
The Best Hotels In Belgrade
Hotel Moskva is a landmark of Belgrade and architectural gems.
It was inaugurated by King Petar I Karadjordjević in 1908 with luxurious rooms and suites.
The Belgrade Inn is located in the Historic District just steps away from one of my favourite areas of the city – Skadarlija. The Belgrade Inn is modern and comfortable with great customer service.
Hyatt Regency Belgrade is a modern 5-star hotel located in New Belgrade. It’s located across the street from Ušće Tower and Shopping Center and fifteen minutes from Nikola Tesla Airport.
Places to see in Belgrade
– (Kralja Petra location) Kafeterija
The first stop is always coffee…or beer. One of my friends of about eight years is a young talented filmmaker named Emilija.
Kalemegdan Park/Fortress is the first place I ever visited 10 years ago with Gordana, her childhood friend Jagoda and her husband Ljuban. It is both the oldest and most historic landmark in Belgrade that is divided into two parts: Little Park and Great Park.
It’s a great place to relax or take a stroll.
Saint Petka (Kalemagdan)
Saint Petka is a Serbian Orthodox Church and one of Belgrade’s prized landmarks. My friend Jagoda told me that Saint Petka is the protector of women: Girls, Sisters, Daughters, Mothers, Aunts, Grand-Mothers. The stone-built church has these beautiful mosaics, as well as a spring that is believed to have holy water running from it.
Gordana told me on the day she was to travel to Toronto, Canada to try and start a new life she came here to say a prayer and ask for protection.
It was touching and I had to mention it.
Ružica Church (Kalemagdan)
Every time I visit Kalemagdon there is a wedding happening here at Ruzica Church. It is one of Belgrade’s oldest churches and which has been around since the 16th century. It was constructed in 1867 and has more than a century’s worth of transformations.
The church was used as a gunpowder storage facility during the 18th century, a military church during the mid 19th century and it was severely damaged during World War 1 – which put it through another transformation.
Ruzica Church has chandeliers made of weapons which is pretty cool!
Military Museum (Kalemagdan)
The Military Museum was founded in 1878 and has over 3,000 ancient and modern items. Roman swords, daggers, helmets, crossbows, helmets, armour, shields as well as Western medieval weapons. Head outside and you’ll find tanks and cannons on display.
Mali Kalemegdan is a traditional yet modern place to enjoy traditional dishes The interior has elements of an old Serbian house with a beautiful garden that overlooks Kalemegdan Park.
Be sure to try their house draft beer – Zaječarsko Pivo
Knez Mihailova is Belgrade’s main shopping and pedestrian area and the busiest section of the city. It has tons of cafes, restaurants, bars, museums, shops and vendors which make it perfect for people watching – or being watched…
Let’s just say – black men with dreads is not a common thing to see roaming the streets of Knez Mihailova.
Republic Square – The Monument to Prince Mihailo
Republic Square is believed to have been built in the 19th century and is the meeting place for the locals… “Meet me by the horse” or “Vidimo
The pedestrian street Knez Mihailo is named after Prince Mihailo – a Serbian Prince who rid Serbia of Turkish control during the 19th century. In the middle of Republic Square, there is a monument dedicated to Prince Mihailo.
City Garden is located on Knez Mihailova close to Kalemegdan on the roof of a mall. Is one of my favourite places with some incredible views of Belgrade.
They have great food, great cocktails, great wine, great food and great views – wait I said that already.
Whenever I come back to Belgrade my good friend Sunčica (Sunny) loves taking us to a different bar around Belgrade. Sinnerman is my favourite for two reasons; The live Jazz music will get you in a good mood and the view from the top is spectacular!
As you can see in the photo, the elevator is sketchy but totally worth the risk haha!
Things To Do In Belgrade
The Boutique is a trendy restaurant with three locations each with its own unique ambiance. They use local, fresh ingredients and with two locations along Knez Mihailo it’s perfect for people watching!
Farmer’s market (Zeleni Venac)
Zeleni Venac is the oldest green farmer’s market in Belgrade which has been in operation for over 170 years. Strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, apples, bananas, pomegranates.
Gordana bought a frigging watermelon and made me lug it back to the Airbnb – and I don’t even like watermelon.
This monument contains the names of all the key generals of the Serbian army who commanded in the First World War.
Saint Mark’s Church
Saint Mark’s Church is dedicated to Jesus’ apostle and evangelist Mark. Although Saint Mark’s Church is not as large or as ornate as The Church of Saint Sava, Saint Mark’s Church’s architectural beauty is just as captivating. Saint Mark’s Church was built during both World War I and World War II (1931-1940).
Kafeterija (Vračar location)
This location was the very first location my friend Emilija brought me to and since then, every time I visit St. Sava Chruch, I grab a coffee.
Orasac is not only one of the oldest restaurants in Belgrade it is a leader when it comes to traditional Serbian cuisine. The restaurant’s interior will make you feel like you’re eating in a Serbian grandma’s kitchen – while listening to live Serbian music.
I’ve eaten here twice. Gordana’s late father used to take her, her brother and her mother here for lunch and dinner.
The Temple of Saint Sava
On my list of favourite Cathedrals, St. Sava is in the top 10. It’s a beautiful cathedral. It’s also Gordana’s brother’s favourite cathedral so it was the first place he wanted to take me on my first visit to Belgrade.
The Church of Saint Sava is the largest Serbian Orthodox church in the world and is noticeable from almost anywhere in the city. It’s 82 meters tall, has more than 49 bells in its bell tower and a stunning 4000-to dome topped with a gold-plated cross.
At the time of this post, the cathedral is still under construction. I was granted rare exclusive access which I’ve documented in the video just above.
The crypt which was under construction in the video is now complete.
Slavija Square is a major commercial junction and round-about. It used to be called Dimitrije Tucović Square but over the years I’ve watched it as it was rebuilt into a beautiful water fountain.
Skadarlija (Dinner & Drinks)
After Kalemegdan, Skardarija is the second most visited tourist attraction in Belgrade. Otherwise known as the bohemian quarter Skardarlija preserves the ambience of traditional urban architecture. It is located in the Stari Grad (Old Town) neighbourhood.
Its the perfect place to find traditional food, drinks and music.
Black Turtle Pub
Another great pub with a few locations around Belgrade that my good friend Sunny introduced me to. The Black Turtle Brewery opened 2010 in the village of Kukujevci.
I tried this blueberry flavoured beer that was absolutely delicious!
One of my favourite neighbourhoods in Belgrade is Zemun. Its a great place for shopping, eating food, grabbing a dring of strolling by the water.
Gardos Tower, also known as Millenium Tower is a memorial tower that celebrates a millennium of Hungarian settlement throughout Central Europe.
Venice is located right beside the Danube river and is the type of place that you grab a beer, sit back and enjoy the breeze. It has top-quality seafood from the river and standard meat dishes from the barbecue.
It was built in 1913, which makes it over 100 years old and one of the best restaurants in Zemun.
Ada Ciganlija is an artificial island that lies on the Sava River. My good friend George first brought me here many years ago and it is a fantastic place to enjoy a day windsurfing, swimming, kayaking, sun tanning, etc
Ada rests right in the middle of Belgrade giving visitors a serene panoramic view of the city.
Dunabe & Sava Boat Cruises
One of the first things I did during my early trips to Belgrade was a sightseeing boat cruise along the Dunabe and Sava rivers. Gordana’s childhood friend Jagoda really wanted to make a good first impression of Belgrade.
Coincidently the lady with the beautiful smile is Sunny’s sister Zorana which I did not know at the time. Interesting how Sunny and I found each other and became good friends.
The boat cruise is a relaxing one in a half hour tour that and gives you beautiful views Belgrade Fortress and the city. Although Zorana’s smile is reason enough to take the cruise she does not work there anymore so you’ll have to settle for beautiful views and relaxation.
Topčider Park & Milos konak
The Residence of Prince Milos, also known as Topcider Park, was once the royal residence of Serbian royalty Prince Milos Obrenovic. The estate was built in 1831 after Serbian gained independence from the Ottoman Empire. Today, Topcider Park is home to the Museum of the First Serbian Uprising.
I was always open-minded but travel helps me stay open-minded.
I have met people in Belgrade that have shown me hospitality on levels that I have never experienced before – even though I was different. They have become some of my dearest friends.
I want to say congratulations to my good friend George on the birth of his daughter
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