The Top Things to See and Do in Belgrade, Serbia

The stunning St Sava Orthodox Cathedral is one place you cant miss on a trip to Belgrade
The stunning St Sava Orthodox Cathedral is one place you can't miss on a trip to Belgrade | © sanga park / Alamy
Mark Nayler

Serbia’s capital Belgrade is situated at the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers, a location that’s made it the coveted prize of 115 battles throughout its millennia-long lifetime. From partying on floating splavovi nightclubs to sampling the Balkans’ signature liquor rakija, there’s plenty of things to do in Belgrade.

1. Explore the Kalemegdan fortress and park

Park, Historical Landmark

Beograd, Belgrade: Fortress with the Kalemegdan Park, Castellan Tower, Serbia, ,
© volkerpreusser / Alamy

Belgrade’s ceaselessly vigilant guardian sits at the nexus of the Danube and Sava rivers, overlooking the plains to the north and west. Archaeological finds suggest that this site has been inhabited from the Neolithic era, but since then the fortifications have been destroyed and rebuilt dozens of times. Most of the present structure dates from the 18th and early 19th centuries, and comprises the old walled city – the Upper and Lower Towns – and the riverside Kalemegdan Park, the setting for August’s riotous Beer Fest.

2. Browse Belgrade’s Night Markets

Market

Belgrade, Serbia, March 2019 - Consumers and sellers at the green market named ZELENI VENAC (Green Wreath)
© Bratislav Stefanovic / Alamy

These hugely popular events occur every month at one of Belgrade’s open-air Green Markets. Typically held on a Friday evening between 6pm and midnight, they feature live music and stalls run by delicatessens, homeware designers, restaurants, winemakers and artists. The venue changes each time, but keep your eye open for those hosted by the Kalenic and Zeleni Venac markets, where some of the biggest and best events have been held in the past.

3. Eat at Pekara Spasa

Bakery, Hungarian

Be prepared for a delicious but messy snack at Spasa Bakery, where the house speciality is a Hungarian-style meat stew called goulash served in a sandwich. They simply cut a small bun in two, spoon the steaming, paprika-laced sauce onto the bottom half, add a dollop of melted cheese, and put the top half back on. Spasa is located on Skadarlija Street, a cobbled lane known for its bohemian nightlife and excellent restaurants. Nab a table outside when the weather is warm.

4. Grab a coffee at D59B | Belgrade

Cafe, Coffee

Recommended from as far afield as Dubrovnik, this hipster cafe sits in the shadow of the fortress walls and is often said to do the best coffee in Belgrade. The beans are home-roasted and weighed specifically for each coffee, whether for foam-decorated cappuccinos or punchy, smoky espressos. It’s also sought out for its grungy decor and ambience, its chilled beats – courtesy of a live DJ tucked away in the corner – and its craft beer.

5. Party on a floating river club

Nightclub, European

Floating nightclubs are so much a part of Belgrade’s social scene that they have their own word – splavovi. Bobbing off the banks of the Sava, Sindikat is the top choice for the city’s nocturnal partygoers. It has capacity for about 500 hedonists, and is known for hosting the best DJs, having the most friendly atmosphere and attracting the most beautiful clientele. Book a VIP table in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak summer.

6. Visit the Nikola Tesla Museum

Museum

BELGRADE, Serbia - 5 Sept: Large Tesla Coil at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade on 5 Sept 2017.
© ES RF Travel / Alamy
This museum is dedicated to the life and works of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), a Serbian-American engineer and inventor who was instrumental in developing today’s alternating current (AC) systems. Opened in 1955, it’s the only museum in the world devoted to Tesla, who lapsed into obscurity after his death in a New York hotel room. Inside, it features over a thousand technical exhibits demonstrating his ingenuity. The permanent collection also showcases the inventor’s drawings for new gadgets and his 2,400-volume library.

7. Gavez Klub

Nightclub, European

The Gavez Club occupies a forest clearing on Belgrade’s Ciganlija river island, an hour’s walk south of the city centre. Don’t feel guilty about knocking back its colourful rakijas (a potent Balkan liquor made from grapes, plums, apricots and pears), because here they’re said to have magical and medicinal effects. There’s also a small but home-cooked menu of hearty Serbian dishes and a bamboo-covered stage where music and plays are performed. Seating is in a chalet-like interior or outside on wooden benches.

8. Peek inside the Church of St Sava

Church

There is one structure that dominates Belgrade’s skyline, and luckily it isn’t any of the monstrosities on the waterfront. It’s the Church of St Sava, the enormous house of worship that stands proudly as one of the biggest Orthodox temples on the planet. It looks huge no matter where in the city you are – its vastness aptly demonstrates the real intimidating power of the peoples’s faith.

9. Sunbathe at Ada Ciganlija

Natural Feature

Ada Ciganlija (Belgrade Beach), Belgrade, Serbia, Balkans, September 2018
© Ada Ciganlija

Belgrade is truly landlocked, but you may hear people talking of heading to Belgrade’s so-called seaside in summer. The coast in question is every bit as landlocked as the city itself, but that doesn’t matter. Ada Ciganlija is an artificial lake that comes alive in summer, with sunbathers idly tanning alongside extreme sports and no small amount of partying. If the weather is hot – and it frequently is – get yourself to Ada.

10. Venture into the quirky Zemun neighbourhood

Architectural Landmark

Tell anyone from Zemun that it is one of your favourite parts of Belgrade, and they may well curl their lip and decide that discretion is indeed the better part of valour. Zemun is theoretically a part of the capital, but up until the 1950s, it was its own independent town. The fierce independent streak remains in place today and rightly so. The architecture is different, the accents are different, the way of life is different and, oh boy are the haircuts different. Some of the finest restaurants also happen to be here, and the views from Gardoš are among the best in the region.

11. Enjoy panoramic views at Avala

Natural Feature

Monument to the Unknown Hero (World War I & Balkan Wars memorial) at Mount Avala near Belgrade, Serbia
© DE ROCKER / Alamy

Calling Avala a part of Belgrade is a little bit of a stretch, but the two are inherently linked nonetheless. Avala is a mountain less than 10 miles south of the capital, and it is easily reached from Belgrade. If you’re looking for a panoramic view of the Serbian capital, Avala is the place to go. It is also a rather sombre place, housing the Monument to the Unknown Hero, a masterpiece by Ivan Mestrović paying homage to those who fell in World War I. There is also a monument to Vasa Čarapić, one of the heroes of the First Serbian Uprising.

This article was originally written by Peter Ilchev, with additional reporting from John William Bills, and has since been updated.

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