Have you ever been to a place that you weren’t overly excited to go in the first place, but then, it turned out to be so cool that you regret ever doubting it?
Well, say hello to my weekend in Belgrade. Thanks to Yvonne from Just Travelous, I was able to spend a long weekend in the city and man, did it ever surprise me.
I have to say that I really knew very little about Belgrade’s history. Yes, I knew of the horrible years of the war in this area and of course, I knew about the
infamous Partizan loyality to their city. But other than that, my Belgrade knowledge was embarrassingly limited.
That being said, I was really surprised at the amount of things Begrade has to offer. Loads of history, great people, tons of meat, coconut baklava that puts Istanbul to shame, etc. Yes, Belgrade is one great city for a weekend away.
The Cathedral of Saint Sava
This beautiful Cathedral really took my breath away. It’s a new structure. So new in fact, that they’ve only just finished the exterior and the interior still has quite a ways to go. Modeled after Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia, this church (more of a temple than a cathedral) is the largest Orthodox church in the world and is certainly one of Belgrade’s shining landmarks. Beautiful, isn’t it?
The Tesla Museum is a must see in Belgrade. Besides being a great little museum, the hourly tour was informative, interactive and very entertaining. Although I was trying to pay attention to the various displays, I was completely enthralled by the personable young tour guide, who was by far one of the cutest human beings I’ve ever encountered. You’ll have to take my word for it because I was too shy to take his photo!
Prince Mihailo Street and Republic Square
Much like Puerta del Sol, Republic Square is the epicenter of Belgrade. Used as the meeting point, protest point and general stroll starting point, the pedestrian area here is where all nights begin. There’s also a lot of good shopping and restaurants in the area and some incredible pastry shops.
On our first day in Belgrade, we took a walking tour around the city with a very informative guide. Our last stop of the day was the Belgrade Citdel located inside the beautiful Kalemegdan Park. With spectacular views of the intersection of the Danube and the river Sava, I can’t recommend this area enough. It’s a historically relevant area of course, but really, it was the old Serbian men playing chess that made my heart thump. Man, sometimes I wish I was an 80 year old man so I could wear snazzy hat/sweater vest combo and play chess with my buds in the park. Is that weird?
The Zemun area
Although our hotel was not right in downtown Belgrade, we were lucky to be in the historic Zemun area across the river. There’s not a lot of things to do or see on this side of town, but its worth a trip if you want to take a nice walk along the river. The area has been getting more and more popular over the last few years and is known for the many floating restaurants and bars bobbing along the riverbank. The Gardoš tower (also known as the Millennium Tower) is in this area and is quite a hike up a steep hill, but again, the views of the Danube are quite impressive.
“You just have to go to the Bohemian quarter!” was repeated to us over and over from the moment we stepped foot in the Serbian capital. I can’t say that Belgrade is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to. A lot of the city is still a bit run down due to years of confict and war, but it does have its hidden charms and the Skadarlija neighborhood is exceptionally alluring. Yes, it’s a bit touristy, but the small area with its kafana (tavern) vibe still manages to be authentic and romantically pleasant all the same. There are some decent places to eat and overall, it’s a very quaint and ambient area, perfect for an evening stroll and stop for a few very inexpensive glasses of wine.
Sports fan or not, seeing a Partizan game in person is an unforgettable experience. The fans are um … vivacious and passionate? If their non-stop thunderous chants don’t make your heart skip a beat, the stifling cigarette smoke in the stadium will certainly make your lungs burst. But, it’s all part of the Partizan ambience so just go with it. That’s just the Partizan way and the team’s historic connection to Madrid is something uniquely special.
So, yes, Belgrade was quite the pleasant surprise on many levels. Specifically, I was really taken aback by how nice the people were. Everywhere we went people struck up a conversation and gave us advice on what to do and see. The staff at the lovely Falkensteiner Hotel were essential in our daily planning and even got us tickets to the Partizan game. Even when the taxi driver tried to rip us off on the way back to the hotel, he apologized for trying when we didn’t fall for it. Never had that happen before!