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What started as a small photo-sharing app has gone on to become the defining trend in photography. Instagram is inescapable, and finding the most ‘Instagrammable’ spots in a city sits near the top of many travel bucket lists. Belgrade doesn’t disappoint.
Belgrade’s most romantic spot is also one of its most photogenic, although that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers is best seen from the edge of Kalemegdan, Belgrade’s sprawling park and fortress that is deservedly the number one attraction in town. There are many picture-perfect parts to the park, but you can’t beat the sunset over the rivers.
The largest Orthodox cathedral in the Balkans is as beautiful as it is big. The history of the Church of St. Sava is storied to say the least, but the tumultuous 20th century is truly in the rearview mirror today. A gleaming white example of Serbo-Byzantine architecture, trying to get the entire church into one 1080 x 1080 frame is one of Belgrade’s many challenges.
A two-for-one here, as we take a trip out to Belgrade’s most independent municipality — Zemun. Gardoš is the undoubted jewel in Zemun’s crown, and a walk up the hill is a must when in the area. The Millennium Tower stands proudly in its centre, an Instagrammable monument in its own right, but it is the view of Zemun and the Danube that well and truly wins out.
We won’t lie and say that every single street is a winner, as that clearly isn’t the case. We have no problem saying that Dorćol is Belgrade’s most fascinating neighbourhood however. Regarded as a bit of a ‘no-go area’ during Serbia’s difficult ‘90s, the downtown district has blossomed into a treasure trove of cafes, restaurants, shops and murals, including a host of interesting street art dedications to national and international heroes.
Travel is all about unique experiences, about finding those images that are only discovered in one place alone. Belgrade has plenty of them, but few are as arresting as the much-maligned Genex Tower. The city’s Western Gate looks like an imposing dystopian horror house, complete with rotating spaceship on top, and it is undoubtedly one of Belgrade’s most memorable pictures. Feel free to photoshop an evil genius stroking a cat on top, if you like.
The hotel’s glory days might be behind it, but Hotel Moskva remains one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the city. The hotel stands on Terazije, a boulevard in the centre of the city, that connects downtown with Vračar, and Hotel Moskva is its most famous spot. It is a little bit pricey for a room, but a perfectly framed photograph of the facade is absolutely free.
Belgrade’s central meeting place is Republic Square, a city centre plaza surrounded by splendour and energy. To be precise, ‘kod konj’ (below the horse) is the actual central meeting place, but the entire square offers plenty waiting to be photographed. The horse in question takes top billing, along with the prince that rides on top of the trusty steed.
The second half of the 20th century was all about building things bigger, but the largest bridge in town is a decidedly 21st century construction to say the least. Opened in 2012, the Ada Bridge crosses the tip of the eponymous island, and may well be the most recognisable of the city’s river crossings. It is also rather delightful to look at, its cables and arches magnified by those summertime sunsets.
It is somewhat difficult to get the entire street in one splendid shot, but Belgrade’s Bohemian Quarter is worth the multiple shots that will inevitably be taken. Skadarlija is one of the many nightlife centres in the city, a traditional cobblestone street packed with restaurants, bars and cafes. It might not be particularly bohemian and it certainly isn’t big enough to be called a quarter, but Skadarlija is still rather beautiful.
The Church of St. Sava might get all the major press when it comes to houses of worship in Belgrade, but don’t sleep on the rest. The Church of St. Mark was the city’s largest until the temple was built, and it might just pip Sava’s temple in the beauty stakes. A pretty picture of Byzantine Revival architecture, this beautiful building stands at the tip of the equally attractive Tašmajdan Park.
It is unwise to try and ignore the 20th century social architecture in Belgrade, as you’ll miss out on visuals like the one provided by Beograđanka. An imposing skyscraper between the city centre and Slavija Square, Beograđanka is one of the true symbols of Belgrade, and its monolithic size puts it in clear juxtaposition with everything around. A visual as interesting as it is arresting, that’s for sure.
The word ‘divisive’ comes to mind. Slavija Square has long been the bane of the city centre, a large square and roundabout that is almost always clogged up with cars, buses and whatever else is foolish enough to try and traverse it. The government recently decided that the best way to fix the mess was to build a massive fountain in the middle, but not just your ordinary water display. This is a fountain that lights up at night, and plays a variety of pop songs to enhance the mood. It is completely ridiculous, but you won’t find a better concentration of the madness of Serbia than Slavija Square once the sun goes down.
Heading back to Kalemegdan, the fortress is full of gates and walls that once represented the borders of Belgrade itself. The Inner Stambol Gate is the main one in the area, a well preserved statement of intent with a tower and flag to enhance the feeling of entry. The gate takes its name (in a roundabout way at least) from Istanbul, the former Ottoman capital.
It might not get the coverage that the Western City Gate gets, but its Eastern counterpart creates a visual every bit as imposing. The Eastern City Gate is actually a complex of three huge residential buildings, each 28 storeys high and about as brutalist as Belgrade gets. There aren’t many more impressive sights in the city than the three towers rising up out of the fog on a winter’s morning.
When the weather is good (sometimes too good), Belgrade seemingly shuts up shop and transfers all its energy to the seaside. Not the actual seaside of course, but the city sea known as Ada Ciganlija. Full of recreation, fun and the rest, Ada is the place to be when the sun is shining and the temperature is high. Saying that, the beer garden is one of the best summer nightlife spots in the city as well. It also happens to be immensely beautiful.