Explore the city centre
With less than 60,000 people living in the city, Valjevo isn’t what you would describe as a ‘big city’. Don’t make the mistake of taking that as a negative however, and the city centre of this famous town has plenty to offer anyone who makes the trip. The centre of Valjevo is very pedestrian friendly, and has a variety of buildings waiting to be enjoyed and explored.
The National Museum and the Grammar School are two good examples of modern Serbian culture and architecture, but it is the tragic elements of the town that shine brightest. The Muselim’s Konak is the oldest preserved building in the city, an 18th century house along the river in which Serbian leaders were held before being executed at the famous Slaughter of the Knezes.
The Nenadović Tower is also a fine construction with a dark past. The tower was initially built as a military lookout, but the Ottomans took it over and used it as a prison. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good place to be imprisoned.
Serbia’s most beloved poetess
After that rather intense morning, we suggest getting out of the city for a little bit of nature and no small amount of culture. Located just 7km from Valjevo, the village of Brankovina is a major attraction in its own right. It was here that the aforementioned Nenadović family originated, along with one of the most famous writers in Serbia’s modern history.
Desanka Maksimović is arguably Serbia’s most beloved poetess, and she was a fixture in the nation’s culture throughout the 20th century. Maksimović was the first female to penetrate the patriarchal traditions of Serbian poetry, and the village of Brankovina has become something of a shrine to this titan of prose.
Traditional food and the definition of defiance
Once you’ve had your fill of culture in Brankovina, head back to Valjevo to dive back into the city’s troubled history. But first, food! The city is full of great traditional restaurants and pizzerias, but Kraljevica Marka gets our nod. A traditional Serbian spot in the city centre, it is a local favourite with walls that tell the tale of this fascinating city. Be sure to fill up, as you’ve got some walking ahead of you.
Once your grilled meats have been properly digested, head south towards the hill known as Vidrak. The 20-minute walk is a little bit of a windy one (not to mention entirely uphill), but what awaits at the top is worth every step. Standing tall with arms aloft, the monument to Stjepan Filipović is as defiant as memorials get. Filipović was executed on this spot by the Nazis, but he managed one last moment of rebellion. With the noose around his neck, Filipović threw his arms in the air and screamed ‘smrt faśizmu, sloboda narodu’ (death to fascism, freedom to the people). The statue captures that moment magnificently.
There is also a lookout point up here, offering panoramic views of Valjevo and the surrounding region. If this isn’t the best place to catch the sunset, we are out of ideas.
An idyllic time machine
As the old adage goes, it is wise to save the best until last. Tešnjar grabs that accolade in Valjevo for many, and it is easy to see why. This is the old part of town, built during Turkish times and fantastically preserved. The cobblestone street, which often pops up in historical films, is lined with cafes, stores and craft workshops, and while maybe not as lively as it once was, it still represents the finest Valjevo has to offer.
With history in the rearview mirror, head to Kneza Miloša for a few bottles of Valjevkso pivo or even something a little stronger. Valjevo is an intriguing mix of history and modernity, a city with a tragic past but a fantastically energetic present.