The capital and largest city of Serbia is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Translated to “White City”, Belgrade boasts a phenomenal history which is reflected in the culture and architecture, everywhere you turn. Bullet holes in the buildings along the streets are a constant reminder of the trouble Serbia has endured in the not-too-distant past, most recently during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Sitting in one of the numerous outdoor restaurants in the middle of the many beautiful sunny streets, it’s hard to imagine this city was ever the victim of NATO bombing, which destroyed much of the city’s buildings at the time. When I visited in 2011, everywhere I turned, the streets were lined with fabulous restaurants, cafes, shops and fruit markets, overflowing with smiling tourists and locals alike. En route to the Belgrade Fortress, the bustling streets and park area were spilling with charming market stalls, which sometimes clear when the stall owners pack up and run with their merchandise down a hidden alleyway, avoiding police. In these markets you can also get yourself a fake tattoo which will last for two days if you’re lucky.
As the oldest cultural and historical landmark in Belgrade, one of the most important things you have to see is of course Belgrade Fortress. Located 125.5 metres high, this phenomenal structure offers an outstanding panoramic view of the confluence of two wonderful rivers – the Danube and the Sava. This still remains one of the most beautiful natural lookouts I’ve ever seen.
Belgrade also offers an incredible, vibrant nightlife scene with plenty of clubs that stay open until dawn. I particularly enjoyed the popular barges which are essentially bars on boats floating along the banks of the river. In fact, in 2009, Lonely Planet put Belgrade at the number one party city in the world, in their “1000 Ultimate Experiences” guide. Walking home along the river as the sun rises, manipulating the colours of the sky, is truly the best way to end your night!
For an alternative evening, you may enjoy watching – or even joining – the masses get together and salsa the night away on the streets.
Skadarlija is another area you should definitely put on your to-do list too. As an old bohemian hang-out place for poets and artists in the early 1900s, this colourful, cobbled street remains a charming place to eat some delicious Serbian food, drink some traditional rakija, watch musicians play and peruse the local art.
Something else I’d definitely recommend doing while in Belgrade, is joining one of the guided tours. Many of these are free, although donations are – obviously – greatly appreciated at the end. This is a great way to see parts of the city that perhaps you wouldn’t have even considered exploring as well as learning more about the language, currency and of course, history of the city, including, which seems to be fairly unknown.