Belgrade has a long and fraught history. Situated at the confluence of Sava and Danube rivers, it isn’t the prettiest of capital cities. Evidence of its troubled past can be found at every corner – Soviet blocks dilly dally with art nouveau architecture, historical buildings house nightclubs and galleries, street art is emblazoned with political slogans, and old-world bakeries sit next to artisanal cafés.
But its unique gritty character and urban disposition make it ideal for the new age independent traveller. Belgrade is ideal for a 4-5 day city break packed with sightseeing, dining, and shopping. But it is also deemed as the party capital of Europe, which also makes it ideal if you’re visiting with a bunch of friends. Here is a guide to Belgrade, including all the information you will need to plan your city break.
Getting into Belgrade
Chances are, you will land at Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade. It is easy to get to reach the city from the airport. Just book a taxi from the pre-paid taxi counter at the airport to avoid bargaining, negotiating, or getting conned. Once you get a slip from the pre-paid taxi counter, a taxi will take you from the airport to the city for a price of 1800 dinars (€16).
When to visit Belgrade
Winter months are cold and days can get quite grey and dreary. So if you’re planning a city break in Belgrade, then we’d suggest planning it during summer months (May-September).
Where to stay in Belgrade
Accommodation in Belgrade is much more affordable compared to the rest of Europe. Consequently it is possible to find a centrally-located hotel, which boasts of all creature comforts without paying through the nose. We found Maccani Luxury Suites on the recommendation of a friend and really loved our stay, so here we are recommending it to you. Rooms are well equipped with large beds, comfortable showers, and luxurious toiletries. Little luxuries like heated floors go a long way in ensuring a comfortable stay. Maccani Luxury Suites doesn’t have the most impressive entrance as its located in an apartment block. But what it lacks in approach, it makes up in location, views, and comfort. It is close to all the main historical sites and shopping streets of Belgrade. The Old Town is literally at your doorstep and you can walk to most prominent sites and some amazing restaurants. Highly recommended! More details can be found here.
What to pack for Belgrade
As a thumb rule, pack a good mix of warm clothes, casual clothes, and party clothes for your city break in Belgrade. Pack at least a couple of coats, gloves, warm hats, and boots for winter months. But we’d suggest carrying at least 1 coat and 1 jumper even during summer months as the weather is really unpredictable. Other than that, pack some chic outfits and comfortable shoes for sightseeing. Don’t forget to pack a couple of party-ready outfits for evenings out in Belgrade.
What To Do & See in Belgrade
Now that you’re all settled in, here are 10 things you must see and do in Belgrade during your time there
1) Start by taking a walk at Knez Mihailova
Belgrade’s main walking street Knez Mihailova offers the perfect introduction to the city. You will find everything from banks and high-street stores to pharmacies and historical buildings here. Spend a morning just walking along Knez Mihailova. Acquaint yourself with the rhythm of the city, check out sites like Republic Square, indulge in a spot of shopping, and eat at a restaurant along the way.
2) Sava Temple
Sava Temple or The Church of St. Sava is one of the most iconic landmarks of Belgrade and no visit is complete without a visit. It is the world’s second largest Orthodox temple and truly impressive on the outside. The inside is usually under renovation, so it can be a bit of a letdown.
3) Take a scenic walk across Branko’s Bridge
If you’re a keen photographer or you enjoy gorgeous sunsets, walk across Branko’s bridge to the new part of town for a great overview of of the Old Belgrade. You will see it stretched out in front of your eyes, a sight for sore eyes. But that’s not all, you can also hop into a floating nightclub at this point, which brings me to the next point.
4) Party the night away at a floating nightclub
The banks of River Sava are lined with what the locals call Splavs or Splavovi – bars, nightclubs, and restaurants tethered to the banks of Belgrade’s rivers. Everything from rustic eateries with folk music and hipster splavs with indie music to nightclubs with the most popular tunes in the world is on offer. Most of them are open only during summer months, so make sure you hit them when you are in town. Drop by to sip on a drink as you watch small boats sail past or party the night away – the choice is yours!
5) Visit a bar or nightclub
Splavs might close down during winter months but there is no dearth of partying options in Belgrade, come winter or summer. It is known as the party capital of Europe, so you just cannot leave the city without bar hopping or dancing the night away at a club. There is a club for you in Belgrade, irrespective of whether you enjoy mainstream, techno, or alternative music. Some of the coolest clubs include Drugstore (Dragstor), Elektropionir, and 20/44 boat (a splav that is open year round).
6) Picnic at Belgrade Fortress
Belgrade Fortress is as popular with locals as it is with tourists. Photograph the Old Citadel and follow that up with a picnic in Kalemegdan Park, which is located at the place where the Rivers Sava and Danube meet. It is the perfect place to watch the sun go down over the city of Belgrade.
7) Visit an iconic bakery (or two!)
Belgrade is home to a number of iconic bakeries. None of them is more popular than Pekara Trpkovic but it is hyped for a reason. The bakery is over 100 years old and dishes the best cheese burek in town. It’s just SO good. Drop by and try out their bureks and pastries – they’re cheap and delightful. There’s always a long queue at Pekara Trpkovic , so go prepared!
For something a bit more modern and equally decadent, try Mandarina Cake Shop. High-quality ingredients and great interiors make Mandarina a right delight. Some other bakeries worth trying are Pekara Aca and Moskva Pastry.
8) Book an experiential tour
It is one thing to see the sites of a city, another thing to experience them! Depending on your preferences, book an experiential tour that centres around the history of Belgrade, its culinary culture, or its street art. Whichever tour you choose, it’ll help you experience Belgrade is a whole new fashion.You could:
- Take a food tour of Belgrade
- A historical tour that will take you to sites like the Sajmiste Concentration Camp
- Or (our favourite) a hipster walking tour that will introduce you to street artists, independent cafes & art galleries, and cool neighbourhoods in Belgrade
9) Eat at a traditional kafana
You cannot leave Belgrade without eating a meal at a traditional kafana. Kafanas are the focal point of daily life in Serbia – it’s where old men huddle over a cup of coffee, girlfriends exchange notes, and couples banter and make up. Despite the proliferation of modern eateries, kafanas occupy an important part in Belgrade’s culinary landscape. Head over to Skadaraska Street to find some of the best kafanas in town. We met a Bruised Passports reader in Belgrade (hey Jovana if you’re reading!) and she introduced us to Skadarska Street. Whichever kafana you choose, start by trying classics such as the Rakia (Serbian brandy – highly potent), Cevapi (Kebabs) and the Mezze Platter. Serbs love big potions and lots of meat – so if you like either of those things, you’re in for a treat in Belgrade.
Side note: If you’re craving your greens after eating too much meat in Belgrade or you’re vegetarian, then a tiny eatery called Garden Food serves some great salads and healthy mains. They serve meat too but the menu boasts of a lot of vegetarian options. We found it on Tripadvisor but really enjoyed our meals there.
10) Take a day trip to Zemun
Zemun is just 8 kilometres away from Belgrade. Take a taxi or just hop onto a bus from Old Belgrade – a number of buses including numbers 15, 17, 501 go there. Once you are there, you are bound to feel like you’ve stepped back in time. The old town of Zemun can be distinguished by its characteristic orange rooftops. Go for a walk by Zemun Quay or go to the top of Gardos Tower for an incredible view over the area. The latter means an uphill climb but it’s every bit worth it. We’d highly recommend a day trip to Zemun to make the most of your city break in Belgrade.
Read about some of our favourite city breaks from around the world here 🙂