Belgrade’s Bohemian Quarter may be little more than a street, but what a street it is. Skadarska (also known informally as Skadarlija) is full from top to bottom with traditional restaurants and lively bars, each slightly different to the one that came before it. These are the best of the best.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
It is typically Belgrade that arguably the best restaurant on this most traditional of streets has very little to do with the history of the city. Guli eschews tradition in favour of the smells of the Mediterranean, foregoing greasy grilled meat and committing to the flavours of Italy and the rest. The small garden area is its secret weapon, a pleasant outdoor spot that somehow manages to feel separated from the blaring noise of Skadarlija, despite being literal seconds away from it.
20/44 has long carried a strong reputation for being the finest of all the clubs on the boats, and the brains behind the company have finally decided to extend that excellence inland. 20/44 now has a bar towards the bottom of Skadarlija, with an extensive terrace area that is perfect for watching the day go by with a beer or three in hand. Don’t order three at once of course.
Another excellent choice on Skadarlija, Dva Jelena (Two Deer) has fed some of the most famous mouths in modern history. Everyone from Tito to former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher nipped in here to dine over the years. The interior may not have changed in that time either, and the paintings on the walls hark back to simpler times. Dva Jelena is worth visiting for the history alone, but the food more than holds up its end of the bargain. There is a nice mixture of traditional and more creative modern fare, allied with perfect service and no small amount of nostalgia.
A Skadarlija institution since 1864, Tri Šešira (Three Hats) is another traditional restaurant in Belgrade’s Bohemian Quarter that offers as much history as it does toothsome fare. Serbian poet, painter and drunk Djura Jakšić was its most famous customer, making the tavern his home during his most productive period. Today’s Three Hats is undoubtedly different to the one frequented by the nation’s leading romantic, but the spirit of inspiration remains strong.
Skadarlija might be a part of the city with both eyes focused firmly on tradition, but the bar in its centre would fit in comfortably all over the city. A wildly popular bar that peddles a fine line in cocktails, Red Bar is more often than not rammed with the younger generations of Belgraders, beautiful women and somewhat imposing men who are there to be seen and have a good time in the process.
Another building steeped in history, Ima Dana preserves the proud tradition of Belgrade’s poets, musicians and artists. The interior hints at stories told time and time again, accompanied by the tones of local musicians playing songs of lost love and other subjects of romance. Mario Maskareli was the brains behind what lies inside, a charming restaurant that invokes feelings of genuine creativity.
A lazy (in the best way) bar at the top of Skadarlija, Šikarica doesn’t come with the brazen charm of the street it occupies but there is something distinctly ‘Belgrade’ about it nonetheless. The interior is a curious mix of retro and more contemporary stylings, making it a great choice to start, end, or simply enjoy the night.
A wildly colourful establishment in the middle of the street, Hand Made Caffe has one of the most charming terraces that mixes well with the usual offer of coffee, tea, beer and rakija. When the sun is shining this is a great place to while away the day, enjoying a lazy afternoon accompanied with a spot of people watching. There are few more enjoyable ways to spend the day in the Serbian capital.
Sticking with the hat theme, Šešir Moj (My Hat) is a little bit of a red herring on Belgrade’s most famous traditional street. Despite looking for all the world like a tavern of history and tradition, this spot wasn’t actually opened until 1990, just in time for Serbia’s catastrophic last decade of the 20th century. A carnivore’s paradise, there is plenty of variety on the grill waiting to be devoured here.
The very first bar at the top of this famous street, Familija might not be the biggest but it definitely gives the rest of the joints a run for their money when it comes to energy. The bar frequently hosts live music events, and the intimate surroundings easily create the impression of being at a sweaty club or dive bar venue. If that isn’t to your liking, the terrace is a world away from the excitement of inside.