The Best Ways to Spend New Year's Eve in Serbia

Belgrade at Night | © Mladen Coko/Flikr
Belgrade at Night | © Mladen Coko/Flikr
Photo of John William Bills
29 November 2017

The big day is almost upon us. Of course, the ‘big day’ in question could be a whole host of things, from birthdays to Christmas to the celebration that closes out the year and ushers in the new one. It is that latter party that we’re going to take a look at here, by setting out some ground rules when it comes to a December 31 celebration in the Serbian capital.

Belgrade has a reputation for its nightlife that is only surpassed by the nation’s chaotic reputation as a whole. The freedom that comes with ending a calendar year often brings out the best (or worst) in people. Serbia is a magical country to visit at any time of the year, and New Year’s Eve may be the most entertaining. Here’s what to keep in mind if you’re in Belgrade on the last day of the year.

New Year’s Eve isn’t actually New Year’s Eve

Being a country in the Eastern Orthodox world, Serbia does some things a little differently to states in the west. The Serbian Orthodox Church actually organises itself around the Julian Calendar, which is 13 days behind the Gregorian version that we know and love. For the church, the new year is ushered in on the evening between January 13 and 14. Most of the population celebrates the Gregorian new year though, so the streets will still be full on December 31.

The Cathedral of Saint Sava is an Orthodox church in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, the largest in the world. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an important figure in medieval Serbia. It is built on the Vracar plateau, on the location where his remains are thought to have been burned in 1595 by the Ottoman Empire's Sinan Pasha. From its location, it dominates Belgrade's cityscape, and is perhaps the most monumental building in the city. The building of the church structure is being financed exclusively by donations. The parish home is nearby, as will be the planned patriarchal building.

Plan ahead

While Belgrade is famous for its spontaneity and controlled chaos, it really pays to be organised when it comes to New Year’s Eve. Tickets will sell out for events, and there will be next to no chance to get one on the day itself. If you turn up expecting everything to fall on your lap then you will have an immensely frustrating evening to say the least.

Don’t start early

New Year celebrations in Belgrade will go long into the night, so don’t make the mistake of starting your fun too early. The midnight countdown is merely the start of the excitement, so anyone who finds themselves four or five beers in by that time is going to be in for a long, long night. Belgrade nights begin late generally, but the NYE fun is extreme even by Serbian standards. You don’t want to run out of steam before the party begins.

Don’t make this mistake in December! | © Kulturni centar Grad/Facebook

Give yourself time

On December 31, it often feels as though all of Belgrade’s one and a half million citizens come out to celebrate the new year. With that in mind, getting from points A to B is invariably going to take a little more time than usual. If you plan on moving around during the evening, give yourself extra time to deal with traffic, both human and vehicle.

Head to the rivers

If you are planning on spending your evening in bars and clubs, your best bet is to head for the water. Don’t go jumping into the Sava or the Danube (although it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a few overexcited revellers take the massively foolish plunge), but instead make a beeline for the barges that have made Belgrade a true nightlife powerhouse. This is where the main parties will be.

Belgrade at Night | © Dani Lavi 0007/WikiCommons

Wrap up

It might seem like obvious advice, but it can’t be overstated. Serbia has some pretty harsh winters, and December 31 certainly isn’t going to see an unexpected heatwave. There is plenty of action in the parks and squares of the city, so anyone who doesn’t plan on partying indoors should wear layer upon layer upon layer. Festive cheer can only warm you up so much.

A Serbian winter | © Wikimedia Commons

Home comforts

The centre of the city will be alive with parties in every bar, pub and club, but the best way to bring in the new year when in Belgrade is undoubtedly at the home of a local. The intimate nature of house parties will show you the true side of the Serbs, with the added bonus of not having to queue for toilets or deal with excitable doormen. Just don’t forget to take off your shoes.

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