We aren’t supposed to have favourites, but it’s difficult to avoid putting Dorćol at the top of our pile when it comes to Belgrade’s finest neighbourhoods. The old part of town is full of nooks and crannies, which each offer something different to enchant the curious visitor.
Belgrade’s finest cafes are found in Dorćol. Every street seems to have at least one place that’s perfect for a lazy day of book reading and people watching, each idyllic caffeine spot offering something different from the last. Whether it’s escaping the summer heat or locating some in winter, Dorćol’s cafes are one of the city’s finest assets.
Sticking with the cafe theme, many guidebooks and blogs seem obsessed with referring to Dorćol’s Strahinjića Bana as ‘Silicon Valley’, suggesting that women from this area have had plastic surgery and are waiting to be discovered by rich businessmen. Both women and Strahinjića Bana deserve better than to be stuck with an offensive myth. It’s a street full of excellent restaurants, cafes and bars, offering something for everyone.
For centuries, Belgrade was occupied by the Islamic Ottoman Empire. More than 250 mosques were dotted around the town, and the presence of Islam was difficult to ignore. A lot has changed since the revolutions of the early 19th century, and just one mosque remains. The Bajrakli Mosque is situated in Dorćol, just a stone’s throw away from Meduza, and is a poignant reminder of a painful past.
Situated in Lower Dorćol is Dorćol Platz, a regenerated cultural centre and market that is a true hub of creativity in this vibrant part of town. The Sunday market is particularly interesting, with a host of second-hand and homemade gifts. We’re particularly fond of the ceramic unorthodoxy shown by independent artist Fatamozgarije, who sets up shop here. If you’re looking for an ashtray in the shape of a turtle, you’re in luck.
Most of the graffiti across Belgrade falls under the ‘regrettable’ category; childish scrawls of loyalty to Kosovo and love letters to Partizan or Red Star are some examples. Not all football graffiti is terrible though, and Dorćol is home to some of the most delightful murals in the city. Initiated by the group known as Grobarski Trash Romantizam, a number of Partizan legends are depicted alongside artists, actors, musicians and more, espousing the core beliefs of the club and everything that is great about the beautiful game.
The house at 10 Cara Dušana is a fairly unassuming structure, but it has seen more history than any other house in the city. That is because it’s the oldest surviving building in the city, a 1727 house initially intended to be used by a local saddler. A mixture of luck and good fortune has seen it survive to the current day. It also housed the first bakery that’s open 24/7 in Yugoslavia, proving that history never stops.
Jelisaveta Načić was the first female architect in Serbia, but unfortunately, that doesn’t mean her work was readily embraced from the get-go. She struggled to find gainful employment, but was eventually afforded the respect she deserved. Her finest piece of work is undoubtedly the St. Alexander Nevsky Parish in Dorćol, a fine construction that seems to pop out of nowhere on one of the neighbourhood’s main roads.
There is an undeniable artistic bent to the streets of Dorćol, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find some of the city’s finest vintage shops in this part of town. Whether you’re looking for home accessories or some classic vintage clothing is irrelevant; you’re going to find the items you need in Dorćol. Some of the country’s best fashion designers do their work in the neighbourhood too, further enhancing the artistic trend.
Dorćol functions very much like a typical European old town, but with the added advantage of being a very attractive part of the city to live in. You’ll find many of the city’s best restaurants here, and the variety on offer is impressive. Traditional Serbian cuisine tops the bill, but there are plenty of international options available too. The recommendations are endless, but keep an eye out for Marukoshi (Japanese) and Istok (Vietnamese). If you happen to be drunk, Loki will tick the grease box you so dearly require.
The National Museum of Serbia may be about to reopen (hopefully), but one of its most fascinating wings has survived the 15 year closure of its parent. The Gallery of Frescoes is just around the corner from the mosque, and houses some of the most impressive artwork in the entire country. The monasteries of Serbia are close to the nation’s heart, and the frescoes within are the best example of the spiritual awareness that is so tangible here.