The best things to do in Belgrade Serbia
Belgrade wasn’t exactly on my bucketlist of cities to visit. I couldn’t think of any exciting things to do in Belgrade Serbia. Neither did I consider the capital of Serbia as a holiday destination.
I ended up in Belgrade on my way to Lebanon anyway. The cheapest ticket to Beirut was with Air Serbia with a long lay-over in Belgrade. I wasn’t expecting much, but that is maybe why it was such a pleasant surprise. I found that there were actually lots of interesting things to do in Belgrade.
Why visit Belgrade Serbia?
I must be honest that I was maybe a bit biased against Serbia. My first visit to the Balkans was to neighbouring Croatia and Bosnia. Back in the early 2000’s stories from the civil war after the dissolution of Yugoslavia were still fresh in the minds of the people.
More than 20 years later, the war is obviously long over and what I found was a new youthful spirit combined with an old Eastern European feeling. It is becoming one of the more hipster cities in Europe and there are plenty of things to do in Belgrade.
Old industrial buildings from Belgrade’s past as a communist city under Tito’s rule have been transformed into cultural centers. In addition there is beautiful architecture, green parks and a lively fresh produce market right in the centre.
I couldn’t imagine a better way to spent a long transit. Was it enough for Belgrade? Did it taste like more? In one day I could only get to the most important things to do in Belgrade, but it was just the tip of the iceberg and it definetly tasted like more. Two years later I returned for a longer visit to do the city justice.
In this post I will share with you the best things to do in Belgrade Serbia.
The best things to do in Belgrade Serbia
1. Sava cathedral
The Sava cathedral is actually not a cathedral, but the largest and biggest Eastern orthodox church in the world. Therefore it is among one of the best things to do in Belgrade.
It is dedicated to the holy Sava, the founder of the orthodox church in Serbia. The outside is more spectacular than the inside. Despite its importance, the inside of the church is rather simple with a small iconostasis.
2. Knez Mihailova street
From the Sava cathedral I walked through Belgrade’s main shopping street. Knez Mihailova is always busy and you will often find musicians playing their latest songs. It’s lined with elegant Austrian Hungarian buildings painted in pastel colours that makes this also one of the most beautiful streets in Belgrade.
3. Zeleni Venac market
Just around the corner from Knez Mihailova lies Zeleni Venac. In this neighbourhood you will find one of the oldest green markets in Belgrade that is still functioning.
It’s a great place to look for fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whatever is in season. Despite its central location it is often overlooked by tourists and a very local affair.
If you want to try some Serbian food this is the place to go. Jars with homemade ajvar (red pepper spread), kajmak (cottage cheese spread), pickled peppers and local honey make great souvenirs. You can also try some local cheese or ratluk (the Serbian version of turkish delight).
4. Kalamegdan fortress
One of my favourite places in Belgrade is the Kalamegdan park and the Belgrade fortress. It’s a popular place for both young and old. Old men are playing chess while young couples are exploring their new found loves.
It’s best visited in the afternoon when you can see the sun set over the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers.
5. Danube river
The mighty Danube river is one of the reasons why Belgrade is such a great city. The best views on the river are from the Kalamegdan fortress. Another great way to enjoy the Danube river is to go on a Danube river cruise or walk through the Park of Friendship and the neighbouring Usce park where you will find several restaurants on the river bank.
6. Skadarlija, the bohemian quarter
One of my favourite things to do in Belgrade was exploring Skadarlija. This small vintage neighbourhood is full of young people, nice cafe’s and colourful restaurants.
The history of Skadarlija began with the settlement of gypsies in 1830. In the nineteenth century several inns and cafe’s opened up that attracted prominent writers and actors. The car free cobblestoned street is still lined with art galleries and has a creative spirit.
7. Republic square
Republic square is the main city square in Belgrade and a great place for people watching. It is also home to some important landmarks such as the National Theatre, the National Museum, the Serb Army house and the monument of Prince Mihailo on his horse. Therefore the square is known among locals as kod konje (by the horse).
8. Marcus church
The marcus church is a serene place. I found it more beautiful inside than the more famous Sava cathedral. From Knez Mihailova street it is a small detour.
Zemun competes with Skadarlija for being Belgrade’s most charming neighbourhood and it’s a world away from the concrete appartment blocks that dominate the newer parts of the city.
Zemun was actually a seperate town with a long history and it was once part of the Roman, the Byzantium, the Mongol, the Ottoman and the Habsburg empires. It only became part of Belgrade in 1934, but for many it is still a distinct and unique place.
Zemun has plenty of interesting things to do such as climbing Gardos hill for beautiful views, vidsiting the synagogue or strolling along the riverside.
10. Free walking tours
The young people of Belgrade are quite proud of their city and are happy to guide tourists around to show the alternative side of Belgrade or the remnants of its communist past under Tito. There are several excellent free walking tours offered by Belgrade the Alternative Guide, Belgrade Free Tours and Belgrade Walking Tours. If you want to explore the alternative side of Belgrade on your own I can really recommend this Hipster guide to Belgrade.
11. Visit a Museum
Belgrade has a number of interesting museums such as the Tito museum, the Nikola Tesla museum, the Museum of Yugoslav history and the National museum.
I’m not a big fan of museums myself and I found that there were so many other things to do in Belgrade that I never found myself visiting one of them, but I heard that the Tito museum and National museum are worth a visit.
12. Buying quirky souvenirs
Belgrade is also the place to buy quirky souvenirs. Tito magnets, putin t-shirts and unfortunately also a lot of nationalistic stuff that shows Serbia still hasn’t given up on its expansionist dreams. In line it is also supporting Putin. A tshirt claiming Alaska belongs to Russia with Putins stern looking face on it. It can be yours for a few euro’s.
13. Try Serbian food
The market will make you hungry. Luckily, Zeleni Venac is also home to some cheap local restaurants and bakeries. Serbian cuisine is quite similar to neighbouring Croatia or Bosnia. This means lots of meat and fresh salads.
For lunch I tried out the Balkan version of kebab called cevapcici in which they stuff the pieces of meat in a breadroll with raw onions. It was served with ajvar (red pepper spread) and kajmak (milk based cheese spread). Both dips are delicious with the grilled meats you find in Belgrade.
For a true Serbian meat feast order a rostilj, or a Serb grilled meat platter. This often includes cevapcici, pljeskavica (Balkan hamburger) and homemade sausages. Another Belgrade favourite is the sopska salad that I almost always ordered as a side dish for the necessary greens.
When I was in Belgrade it was cherry season and the market of Zeleni Venac was full of them, so my dessert was cherries as much as I could eat. During my other visit I had tufahije, A Bosnian dessert of apple in sweet syrup, cream and walnuts.
Where to eat in Belgrade Serbia
There are plenty of plsaces to eat in Belgrade Serbia. In fact, Belgrade is a great place for foodies with cheap restaurants serving huge portions of Balkan delicacies.
There are restaurants everywhere in Belgrade. If it comes to location the riverside restaurants in Usce are a winner with beautiful views over the Danube river. Charming Skadarlija or Zemun are also great places to eat.
For cheap eats go to Zeleni Venac. Either buy local delicacies at the market or try some of the fast food eateries. One of my favourite Serbian restaurants on a budget is Mala Gostionica.
The best cevapcici in Belgrade is available at Walter Sarajevski Cevap. The menu also has some other Bosnian recipies. I can recommend Tufahije for desert. Apple stuffed with walnuts and cream.
Where to sleep in Belgrade Serbia
If you prefer to stay in charming Zemun I can recommend Hostel 1910
How to get to Belgrade Serbia
Belgrade has a central location in the Balkans and there are frequent buses to other big cities in Serbia such as Nis, Novi Sad and others. There are also frequent buses to neighbouring countries, for example to Sarajevo (6 hours), Sofia (6 hours), Timisoara (3 – 4 hours), Zagreb (5-6 hours) and Budapest (4-5 hours).
For train lovers don’t miss one of the most scenic journeys in Europe. Read more about this trip on my post about the Montenegro express: the train from Belgrade to Bar
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