It is highly unlikely that you will find yourself elevated to the position of King (or Queen) of Serbia during your trip, but it always pays to be prepared. Kraljevo is known as the City of Kings for good reason, and it was in this delightful central Serbian city that the leaders of yesteryear officially made it to the throne. The city is full of nods towards this most regal history, and if you close your eyes tight enough you might just hear the people cheering your name.
Sticking with the historical theme, it was in the teeny tiny village of Takovo that the Second Serbian Uprising began in 1815. Miloš Obrenović marshalled his men from this hamlet of less than 500 people, and a monument to those who fought for Serbia’s liberty is found in town. We don’t recommend trying to subvert the Serbian government with a violent rebellion, but this is the place to start if you have no other choice.
Love locks are a common sight all over the world in the 21st century, but it is a little known fact that the fad traces its beginnings back to a little village called Vrnjačka Banja in the western corner of the region. Two star-crossed lovers cemented their union with a padlock on the aptly named Ljubav Most (Bridge of Love) when the chap went off to fight in World War I, although the story has a sad end as he was never to return. If you’re looking to pen your name on a padlock anywhere in Europe, do it at the original spot.
The entire Karadjordjević family is buried at the magnificent Church of St. George near Topola, but it is the walls of the church known as Oplenac that stand tall as one of the most impressive pieces of art in Serbia. A mosaic of millions of pieces of different colours cover the walls, creating impressive frescoes and a whole lot more. It is impossible to imagine the painstaking work that went into the mosaic, so best to just stand back and enjoy it.
The liquid in question could just as well be tears of laughter from visiting Jagodina’s Wax Museum, but when the summer is at its height you’ll find more people enjoying the cool waters of the Aqua Park directly behind. Jagodina is an unusual city at the best of times, but this waterworld is one of the best of its kind in the region. Head up to the hills for a traditional meal and some gorgeous views once the swimming is over.
Mountains don’t come much smaller than Avala (literally, as it is just 11 metres above the distinction level), but Belgrade’s protective natural border is full of fascinating attractions and marvellous vistas. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier takes center stage, with the recently renovated TV tower not far behind. This is a fantastic place to picnic however, an oasis of nature and tranquility tailor-made for an afternoon’s lounging. Be sure to clean up after yourself of course.
Šumadija is a region full of fun and adventure, but there is no shortage of trauma in its past as well. World War II was a particularly brutal time, and the regional capital of Kragujevac suffered more than most. The Nazis came through on their promise of massacre for every dead German soldier, murdering nearly 3,000 innocent civilians there on October 21, 1941.
A sombre memorial park now stands where the killing took place, with a number of respectful monuments, churches and graveyards. The 21 October Memorial Museum is also worth nipping into, although don’t expect to come out with a smile on your face.
An imposing mountain close to Gornji Milanovac, Rudnik is another spot from which to get some magnificent views of the heart of Serbia. Its highest peak is named after Jovan Cvijić, a Serbian biologist regarded as the founder of geography in Serbia and one with no shortage of political skeletons in his closet. Ostrvica might be its most fascinating landmark, a peak that is as knobbly as it is pointy and has entertained kings and despots throughout the years.
Serbia is full of wildly impressive monasteries, and Žiča is one such spiritual complex that well and truly finds itself sat at the top table. It was built in the early 13th century by the first Serbian King (Stefan the First Crowned) and the most important figure in medieval Serbia, Saint Sava, and it was wildly important from the get go. The vibrant red bricks hint at something special, and visitors will not leave disappointed. Serbia is a truly chaotic country, but it doesn’t get any more peaceful than this.
The length and breadth of Serbia is full to breaking point with lively taverns and classy restaurants, and Šumadija is no different in this regard. The best are found in Kragujevac, but pretty much every town, city and village will be home to a number of eateries that are guaranteed to satisfy even the most demanding of appetites. Vegetarians might be in for a bit of struggle, but carnivores will think they have died and gone to meaty heaven.