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Things to do in Belgrade, Serbia
Written by Travel Writer Maggie Turansky from The World Was Here First.
Every year, more and more travelers are looking to get off the beaten track in Europe; seeking different, up-and-coming destinations to add to their lists.
It is for this reason that traveling in the Balkans has become increasingly popular in the recent years. Croatia and Slovenia, in particular, have seen a massive increase in tourism, especially since joining the EU. Their fairytale castles, stunning coastlines, and pristine nature parks are appealing to many foreign tourists and are now becoming just as packed as their western European counterparts.
The influx of Balkan tourism, however, seems to be concentrated in those countries that boast untouched Adriatic coastlines, meaning that landlocked nations like Serbia fall short on the international tourism scale. And this is a shame, because Serbia, and notably its capital city of Belgrade, is one of the best destinations to visit in all of Europe.
For many, the thought Serbia still provokes images of devastating war, bombings, and destruction but today, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The war ended in Serbia nearly twenty years ago, and while it has seen some hardships since, both the country and its citizens are resilient, forward-thinking, and overwhelmingly hospitable. And no city exemplifies this nearly as well as Belgrade – this capital that took me by surprise and quickly stole my heart.
Fewer than 400 kilometers from Budapest and with accessible bus and train connections between the two cities, visiting Belgrade is both easy and affordable.
But there is, even more, to see in Serbia beyond its capital (and to eat). With an extensive bus network, it is straightforward to get from one city to another and give you a great taste of this undiscovered nation.
Things to do in Belgrade
Belgrade, the former capital of Yugoslavia and current capital of Serbia, easily ranks among my favorite cities in the world.
Though not nearly as beautiful as many other cities in the vicinity, there is a certain an edge that gives Belgrade an undeniable energy and charm. One can see the main “tourist sites” within the span of a few days, there is no shortage of things to do in Belgrade – a true amazing city. Here are some of my favorites:
Most Balkan cities have some sort of fortress that vary in their state of dilapidation. And while much of Belgrade is crumbling, the fortress is not among them.
Easily Belgrade’s crowning glory, the Kalemegdan Fortress rests over the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers and houses the city’s biggest and most lovely park.
It is the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon, drinking a beer and admiring the views over the city. The fortress is also home to a museum and the Belgrade Zoo.
The Tito Museum
While probably the most popular museum in Belgrade is the Nikola Tesla Museum, I found it to be slightly underwhelming and honestly don’t highly recommend a visit.
If you do, however, want to delve into both Serbia’s and former Yugoslavia’s history a bit more, head to the Tito museum. I knew very little about the controversial former leader of Yugoslavia, but I found this museum to be both incredibly interesting and informative and absolutely worth the visit.
Skardalija, or the Bohemian quarter, might well be the most touristy neighborhood in Belgrade. This isn’t, however, a reason to avoid it.
The picturesque cobbled streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and cafés and a stroll through this charming quarter comes highly recommended for any visit to Serbia’s capital.
There are several cities in the world where an alternative culture seems to thrive, and Belgrade is one of them.
Due to a high level of police ambivalence, the street art scene in Belgrade is comparable to that of cities like Berlin and London. This, unfortunately, may not last forever, however, as the government is attempting to clean up the city’s image with a new project known as the Belgrade Waterfront and many of the incredible works of street art are either being torn down or painted over each day.
The Night Life
Belgrade may be famous among young travelers for nothing if not it’s infamous nightlife. And it is astounding. Even if you’re not a party animal, as I’m not, you’ll will be hard pressed to find something in Belgrade’s bar and club scene that doesn’t appeal.
Perhaps what makes the city’s nightlife unique to that of other European cities is its famous splavlovi, or river barges turned into nightclubs. Though most of these are only open in the summer months, there is no shortage of late-night party opportunities elsewhere in the city.
If you like to go out at night, ask a local where to go and be prepared to party until dawn. Belgrade certainly won’t disappoint.
Only about an hour’s train ride north of Belgrade, Serbia’s second largest city of Novi Sad is an excellent option if you want to see a more mellow, laid-back side of Serbia.
Home to the country’s largest and internationally famous music festival, called EXIT, Novi Sad is already on the map for many younger travelers.
Easy to get to from Budapest or even as a day trip from Belgrade, Novi Sad is a can’t-miss city in Serbia. And don’t let the dingy, grey area around the bus/train station fool you, Novi Sad is a lovely and beautiful city once you venture into the Old Town!
Probably the highlight of Novi Sad is its massive fortress in the city centre. Every summer, the Petrovaradin Fortress hosts the famous EXIT Festival, but it is also a fantastic place to explore any other time of year. The fortress is home to the Novi Sad City Museum, also an observatory and planetarium, and several restaurants and cafés.
The Old Town
While there aren’t a lot of typical tourist sites in Novi Sad, a wander through the picturesque Old Town is an absolute must.
The city also has a thriving café culture and one could easily spend a few leisurely hours sipping an espresso or Turkish-style coffee while watching the locals go about their days.
Located a little more than 200 kilometers southeast of Belgrade, the Serbian city of Niš is a wonderful place to visit and a logical stop if you’re heading east toward Sofia.
The city particularly appeals to history buffs, as Niš was the birthplace of Emperor Constantine the Great. It also claims to have the best burek (a Balkan filo pastry filled with meat, cheese, or potatoes) in the country.
A small city, you can easily explore it in one day and it is a great way to see another side of Serbia.
The Skull Tower
Originally built by 19th-century Ottoman Turks, the skull tower is an incredibly interesting place to visit in Niš. Filled with the skulls of Serbs slain in the battle of Cegar in 1809, this small tomb is both creepy and fascinating and well worth a visit.
If you haven’t spotted a pattern, it seems that every large city boasts a fortress in the center of town. Niš is no exception, and its fortress is a lovely place to explore.
Dating back to Roman times, the fortress now surrounds a large, green park filled with a number of restaurants and cafes. It’s the perfect place to unwind after all of the partying you surely did in Belgrade!
Serbia is still relatively undiscovered when it comes to a European country, but it is an absolutely fabulous place to travel.
Not only are the cities dynamic and interesting, the people who live in them are some of the most friendly and hospitable that I’ve ever met in all of my travels. So, if you’re planning on exploring the Balkans, make sure to add Serbia to your list. You won’t be disappointed!
With so many things to do in Belgrade, what is getting added to your list first?