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Top 10 Things to See (and Do) in Belgrade

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Top 10 Things to See (and Do) in Belgrade

In Belgrade - as was once in Samuel Johnson’s London - there is all life can afford. The only thing is that you need to find it and that might not be as easy as it seems. The city is known for its bustling day- and nightlife as well as for its easy going and unpretentious atmosphere but there are also some striking sights around. Here’s our selection of things you shouldn’t miss during your stay.

 

1. Belgrade Fortress & Kalemegdan Park

The fortress above the confluence of River Sava and the Danube is the very heart of Belgrade and its indispensable sight even on a shortest of visits. Not just for the splendid views spreading over outlying flatlands though: the site is packed with history – Roman tombstones, medieval towers, baroque gates, militaria old and new, varied monuments and two very special churches. Take a short stroll here and you will be immediately struck by the long and intricate history of the location. The spacious Kalemegdan Park engulfs the citadel and serves as its perfect extension for relaxation and enjoyment.

 

 

 

2. Kneza Mihaila Street

Another site that’s hard to miss (just the way it should be!) is downtown Belgrade’s pedestrian promenade, probably the most famous street in town. Teeming with grand old edifices of banks and rich merchants it is also the site of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zepter Museum of Modern Art and the House of Legates, three important cultural institutions of the Serbian capital. The street is also full of people day and night, some shopping, some strolling or sitting in cafés, some listening to street buskers. The place to see and to be seen, but also a place that is essentially Belgradian and without which this city would be hard to imagine.

 

 

3. The Rivers

When you say “Belgrade” a picture of a city on two rivers comes to your mind. Yet, as the city center stands atop of a ridge, many tourists fail to have more fun down on rivers Sava and the Danube. On a walk along the banks in some places you will find fancy restaurants or famous nightclubs and in others private floating homes and down to earth fish restaurants. That’s good for a start but a visit to the former island Ada Ciganlija or the Lido Beach on Great War Island will do even better. The real treat, though, should be a boat ride during which you will enjoy those special and ever-changing vistas of the city, its hills and bridges.

 

4. Gardoš Hill

What’s Kalemegdan for Belgrade, Gardoš is for Zemun, Belgrade’s smaller sibling. This hill above the Danube is where the streets of Zemun become even smaller and its houses even cuter. That is perhaps why this quarter holds a very special place in the hearts of all Belgraders. Atop of the hill stand the ruins of the medieval Zemun castle and the 1896 Sibinjanin Janko Prospect Tower. From this position there opens a superb panorama of Zemun, the confluence of Sava and the Danube and of a good part of Belgrade – without doubt one of the most iconic views of Belgrade. Adjoining the tower is the old cemetery where Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Jewish part stand together. Needless to say, there are enough cafés and restaurants on Gardoš or directly beneath it to please all tastes.

 

5. Tito’s Mausoleum

Josip Broz Tito was the lifelong president of socialist Yugoslavia and a much revered figure throughout the world during the Cold War. His final resting place is nowadays a part of the Museum of Yugoslav History and one of the most visited tourist sites in Belgrade. Not only can you see here Tito’s simple grave and learn about the 20th century history from various interesting artifacts, you can also enjoy this modernist ensemble with a nicely laid out park surrounding it. Museum’s souvenir shop is arguably the best place far and wide for socialist memorabilia.

 

6. Bombed Buildings

Not your usual tourist sight but definitely a potent and unique reminder of Serbia’s troubled recent past. The centrally located ruins of the Army HQ or the ruins of State TV building look gruesomely effective on photos but certainly also deserve a more in depth explanation of how and why did it come to the wars that tore Yugoslavia apart.

 

7. Saint Sava Church

The most important Serbian Saint, Sava (not related to the name of the river!), deserves the largest church in Serbia. Yet you will be amazed by its size – it ranks among three largest Orthodox Christian temples in the world – as well as that it is brand new - actually still under construction. Both of these facts reveal a lot about present day Serbia, but the site and its dedication tell intriguing stories also about the Middle Ages and the Ottoman rule over Belgrade.

 

8. Tesla Museum

Once in Serbia you cannot fail to realize that Nikola Tesla, a Serb by birth and devotion, is a figure of huge importance. His museum, however, seems to be disproportionately small. Don’t jump to conclusions yet: despite its size this place doesn’t fail to impress since visitors get to see how some of Tesla’s numerous inventions that changed the face of the world function (be prepared for electricity and lightning!). The museum also functions as a sort of temple for an ever growing number of Tesla’s devotees given that it treasures most of his sketches and papers as well as an urn with his ashes! 

 

9. Palace of Serbia (aka SIV)  

Hidden behind these two names stands a huge structure that once housed the government of socialist Yugoslavia. This largest single building in Belgrade, a genuine representative of its time and purpose, stands in an even vaster park in New Belgrade. Being still used by the state, the building is not open for visits, but its long white walls, green lawns and the fountain in front seem to be extremely photogenic. Itself a child of socialist planning, New Belgrade is interesting to explore for its bold modernist and brutalist architecture (though not on foot).

 

10. Mount Avala

The mountain closest to Belgrade is with its 511 meters a rather tame place - but no less beautiful! Its forests are well preserved, it has nice walking paths, drinking wells, even a few good eateries. However, it’s most visited for its two iconic sights: the sober black-marble Monument to the Unknown Soldier, and the slim needle of the TV Tower. It’s hard to imagine that the latter fell victim to NATO bombing in 1999 and was then rebuilt, especially when you inspect the panorama of Belgrade and vicinity from its observation deck or sip a drink at its top floor café.

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