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Many towns in Serbia are full of history, but only one can lay claim to being the King’s Town. That is the literal translation of Kraljevo, the central Serbian city famous for the coronation of seven kings and a lot more. The city is an intriguing mix of old and new, and 24 hours should be enough to get the best out of it.
Get your bearings in the main square
Kraljevo has plenty of good accommodation options, and Hotel Botika is arguably the best. Its location allows you to start your day by checking out the nearby monument to those who died in World War II, before heading to the intimidatingly named Square of the Serbian Warriors. The square dominates life in Kraljevo, and it is easy to see why.
The square is also known as Milutin Square, and it is the eponymous statue around which life flows in town. The monument is in honour of those who died in the wars that ravaged Serbia between 1912 and 1918, and it also acts as one of the largest sundials in Europe. Cafes, restaurants and shops ring the square, with four pedestrian streets jutting off it in each direction.
Lunch with a view and a bit of tragic history
Stay on the main square for lunch, but head up to the fifth floor of the Turist Hotel and the pizzeria of the same name. The pizza is the best in town, but the real charm is in the fantastic panoramic view from the terrace. There isn’t a better vista in town. and the full majesty of Kraljevo’s main square is best experienced up here with the birds.
After a big lunch and some fantastic views, it is time to head out to Kraljevo’s most sombre memorial. The Kraljevački Oktobar (Kraljevo’s October) memorial park is located a short walk from the city centre, just behind the train and bus stations. Completed in 1970, the park honours the memories of the more than 2,000 civilians who were executed here by the Nazis in 1941. The memorial park has been neglected in the years since the demise of Yugoslavia, but it remains a poignant homage to lives lost to fascism.
If such intense and traumatic history doesn’t sound particularly appealing (and we can understand why), head instead to the National Museum and the Church of the Holy Trinity. The latter is the oldest building in town, and the former offers a typically robust look at the long and proud history of the Serbs.
A riverside stroll
The intensity of the memorial complex will likely require some recovery time, so head back towards the main square and continue on towards the Ibar river. A plethora of sporting facilities sit between the promenade and the river itself, along with a host of cafes, restaurants and the rest. Most of these are well worth a stop, but we’d recommend simply taking in the walk itself ahead of refreshment and sustenance elsewhere.
Traditional food, not so traditional drinking
Befitting a city with such a long and storied history, Kraljevo is home to a number of traditional restaurants that hark back to the glory days of modern Serbia. Kralj gets our nod, and not just the linguistic link of the name. It is always recommended to eat at the king’s restaurant when in the king’s town, after all.
To round off the day in delightfully symmetrical fashion, head back to the main square to see the nighttime energy of Serbia’s 10th largest city. Simply pick an adjacent street and hop from bar to cafe and back again, sampling rakija or something a little easier on the morning brain.