When plans were announced to knock down many buildings in Belgrade’s Savamala district in order to build a massive modern waterfront area that nobody wanted, those who enjoyed the lively atmosphere of Savamala’s vivid nightlife could be forgiven for thinking the game was up. Rather than sit and sulk, a number of intrepid locals decided to open up a new nightlife district, in place of what was once a brewery but had become little more than a car park and a place to wash automobiles.
The car park on Cetinjska had long been considered prime real estate that was being criminally underused. Situated behind Belgrade’s famous Skadarska street (known as Skadarlija) and not far from the equally beloved Bajloni market, this part of the city had long received much in the way of traffic with little retention. With a number of unused buildings circling the car park in the old brewery, the lightbulb went off, and plans for a new Savamala were set in motion.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Cetinjska is now the epicentre of Belgrade’s nightlife. The boat clubs might still get the majority of the press, but it is Cetinjska that locals flock to in search of a night of excess and entertainment. The unused buildings have been transformed into a veritable feast of bars, clubs, pubs and more, and the phrase ‘something for everyone’ more than fits the bill.
Cetinjska has become the place to go for people looking for a relaxing coffee in the afternoon or vibrant live music in the nighttime. It isn’t just Savamala that Cetinjska has gone a long way toward replacing however. The new hotspot has also filled some of the gaps left by the demise of legendary Belgrade alternative spot BIGZ, the former publishing house turned cultural mishmash that suffered with the opening of the Radisson Blu in 2015.
BIGZ was full of bars, galleries, clubs, rehearsal spaces and studios, and the variety at Cetinjska can be seen as something of a spiritual successor to its predecessor on Bulevar Vojvode Mišića. Zaokret, Polet, Elektropionir and the rest are more than just bars and clubs. They are true multimedia locations, with the usual nightlife complimented with art, music and more.
It can be said that the latest developments may cause Đorđe Vajfert and Ignjat Bajloni to bust out a little smile from beyond their graves. It was Vajfert and Bajloni who controlled the beer factory that once stood on this spot, and long after both men’s deaths, the former brewery now focuses on alcohol all over again.
The moustaches of Vajfert and Bajloni are seen frequently around Cetinjska today, but the vessels carrying them are far from rich industrialists. When it turned into a party spot, Cetinjska was known for its all night parties, but sanity has prevailed, and things now tend to shut down in the early hours. The street that gives the district its name is still residential, after all.
What’s next for Cetinjska? New places open as old ones close, but the whole thing is always taking place under a shadow of sorts. The latest rumour on the street is that there is a deadline on it all, and plans to knock everything down and build a shopping centre are already in place. This seems somewhat unlikely, considering the district’s proximity to the Skadarlija quarter that the city authorities are so very proud of, but the unfortunate truth is that money talks. Just ask Savamala.
Whatever the future holds, right here right now Cetinjska is the place to go if you’re looking for a night out in Belgrade. It manages to feel established and fresh at the same time, flying the flag proudly for Serbia’s capital once the sun descends for the day. The boats might get the press, but Cetinjska is the beating heart of partying in Belgrade.