Some of you might know that I am of Serbian descent so please excuse me for being a bit biased today. Two weeks ago I was invited alongside a bunch of journalists to attend a press trip to Belgrade. The beautiful Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel invited us (see blogpost HERE) and I used the opportunity to prolong my stay in the Serbian capital for another two days on my own. Finally I had the chance to walk around and check out some utterly cool places I have spotted on Instagram and Facebook over the past months and years. So let me take you to Belgrade today and share some of my favorite travel tips for a cool weekend in the White City (the literal translation of Belgrade). Ready? Buckle up, here we go!
Before I start with locations let me tell you one thing: I truly think that you should put Belgrade on your travel bucket list! The city is vibrant and buzzing and evolving on every corner. It is still a city in the making – you will encounter new and old, worn out and polished, chaotic and streamlined. Some people say it is like Berlin two decades ago. It is definitely off the beaten path and you will be rewarded with a cool urban lifestyle, excellent food, fantastic coffee, great shops and hotels and everything for a bargain! Truly, I think this is the most affordable city to travel to currently! But let me show you a few places and then judge for yourself!
1. Café Kozmeticar
This cute café in the leafy Vracar area in central Belgrade used to be a beauty salon in the 1960s and 1970s and is now a lovely café and restaurant with a little garden and a great retro vibe. While the record player is turning and you take a seat in one of the colourful velvet chairs, delicious food will be served on your request. It is a fab place for a good and hearty breakfast – I had yummy slices of dark bread with avocado, hummus and omelette and a good Americano coffee. Great to kick off the day!
2. Kalenic Farmers’ Market
Just a few blocks from the Café Kozmeticar is one of Belgrade’s big farmers’ markets. The ‘Kalenic Pijaca’ is a great place to discover the regular Serbian life. People here tend to buy their fruits and veggies on markets, they shop flowers and plants and there are even a few rows of flea market stalls selling vintage kilim rugs from Pirot (in southern Serbia, known for handmade kilims), vintage records, decor items and bric-à-brac. Just walk around and enjoy the market atmosphere. On the way from the café to the market you will pass by a fantastic bakery named ‘Sarlo’ (read Sharlo) – it is a small but beautifully designed place with delicious locally made bread. Stop over, even if it is for just a photo!
3. Saint Sava Temple
Also in the Vracar district is Belgrade’s biggest church: the Saint Sava Temple. It is in fact one of the largest orthodox churches in the world and its architecture is pretty breathtaking when you approach it by foot. Its entire architecture is Byzantine and inspired by the famous Hagia Sophia in nowadays Istanbul – the white marble facade and the huge dome are a great sight but don’t be surprised to find the church’s interior still in work – this huge church is something like Belgrade’s Sagrada Familia. A never-ending construction process!
3. Kalemegdan Fortress
Well, if you visit Belgrade for the first time, you should not miss the city’s landmark sight – its Kalemegdan fortress overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The fortress is pretty big and features and extensive park within its walls as well as some beautiful little churches, the Statue of Victor and great vistas across the rivers to a big island and beyond to the flat plains to the north.
4. Sava Riverside
From the fortress you can simply descend to the Sava riverside and check out the area where a lot is going on. The famous Savamala district is something like a creative hub of Belgrade but it is also being reconstructed right now for the controversial Belgrade Waterfront. A new pedestrian and bike lane with food trucks, nice cafés and free wifi is pretty inviting and if you continue towards the fortress you will pass by the city’s main port and face the so-called ‘Beton Hala’, former depots and stockrooms for the ships now transformed into stylish and fantastic restaurants and bars. I recommend the Ambar restaurant for a taste of real Balkan cuisine with a modern twist and a fabulous interior design as well as the Sofa restaurant for delicious international dishes and relaxed drinks on the riverside.
5. Nikola Tesla Museum
Few people know anything about Serbian history or Serbian famous people. However, some might know Nikola Tesla and at least after landing in Belgrade you will realize that even the airport is named after this famous Serbian engineer and inventor. Nikola Tesla has a little but very lovely museum in the city center that offers guided tours that are not only interesting but also totally entertaining. Kids love the museum as you get to do funky experiments like holding a neon tube that illuminates itself in your hands – without being plugged in anywhere! Take a look for yourself.
6. Mandarina Cake Shop
Any sweet tooth among you? Well then head to Mandarina Cake Shop in Belgrade’s Old Town for delicious chocolates, cakes and pastries! No more words. I was busy munching.
Another great place for coffee or breakfast. At Koffein I had a simple but good breakfast consisting of a croissant, one macaron, a fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee for around 3 Euros. What else can I add?
8. Supermarket Deli
Ready for a lunch break? The cool Supermarket Deli is a perfect spot for a light lunch and a strong ‘domaca kafa’ (local coffee which is basically a Turkish coffee). Plus it is great for people watching. Just saying!
Obviously I am not done yet with my travel tips for Belgrade. But as you might assume from the blog post’s title, there will be some following blog posts with more Belgrade travel tips for a cool weekend in the Serbian capital. Stay tuned!
Photography & iPhone photography by Igor Josifovic