The New Year is approaching and although there are hundreds of cities I have visited, waiting to be shared with you, somehow for this special occasion, Belgrade, my hometown, has imposed itself, as a special gift.
So many times destroyed and always raised even more beautiful, Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, is a city of rich history, but also of fantastic nightlife and of gorgeous women.
Although I could write about it for hours, I will stick to the original idea of my posts. I want to offer you a list of the most important sites to see in Belgrade in case you intend to visit it briefly. They are ordered in the way that allows you to move from point A to point B, saving your time and steps. However, if you have more time, you will easily spend it enjoying your favorite ones.
1. The Temple of Saint Sava
2. Slavija Square
3. The Museum of Nikola Tesla
4. The Old Palace
5. The House of the National Assembly of Serbia
6. Tašmajdan Park
7. St. Mark's Church
8. The House of Vuk's Foundation
9. Terazije Square
10. The Albania Palace
11. Knez Mihailova Street
12. Republic Square
13. National Museum
14. The National Theatre
15. The statue of Prince Michael
16. The Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel
17. The residence of Princess Ljubica
19. Belgrade Zoo
20. The Victor Statue
21. The Building of Geozavod
22. Ada Ciganlija Lake
I suggest we start our tour from the magnificent (Hram svetog Save), the most monumental building in the city. It is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world, and it is built in the Serbian-Byzantine style. At its highest point the dome is 70 m high, while the main gilded cross is an additional 12 m high. Saint Sava was the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church and a very important figure in medieval Serbia, whose remains were burned on the spot in 1595 by Sinan-Pasha, Ottoman Grand Vizier.
Do not miss a chance to see the crypt of about 2,000 square meters below the Temple, which is a cultural monument that goes far beyond the religious purpose of the building.
Taking Bulevar oslobodjenja Street we will come straight to Slavija Square. It is one of the largest and busiest squares in Belgrade, with a roundabout and probably the most chaotic traffic in the city. There is a musical fountain in its center with a diameter of 32 meters and the water jets 16 meters high.
For the lucky ones that can spend some more time in Belgrade I suggest also a visit to The Nikola Tesla Museum. It is easy to reach if you take the second exit from where you entered the roundabout and at the very beginning of Mekenzijeva St, turn left to Prote Mateje St, that will take you straight there. The museum of one of the greatest scientist of all time offers an interactive content that makes his original work very interesting, both for kids and adults.
Kralja Milana St. connects Slavija Square and Terazije, the city center. It is a fantastic place to find many famous international and local brand stores, cafes and restaurants, with many underground passageways.
In addition you will find some marvelous buildings and facades built in the late 19th century, like Dom Vukove Zadužbine (The House of Vuk's Foundation), firstly used as the seat of the Russian embassy, then as the home for War Orphans and from 1878 as the headquarters of the Ministry of Education.
Just before this building, on your right you will encounter Stari dvor (The Old Palace) once the royal residence of the Obrenović dynasty. Today it houses the City Assembly of Belgrade and is located opposite Novi dvor (The New Palace). Deeper behind the park you will see the enormous Dom Narodne skupštine Republike Srbije (The House of the National Assembly of Serbia) another landmark of Belgrade. This truly magnificent monument with all its artistic treasure inside is unfortunately not open to visitors. There are two impressive sculptures by Toma Rosandić in front of it, entitled Igrali se konji vrani (Play by Black Horses).
Right next to it, behind the Main Post Office Building there is a huge park Tašmajdan, with the impressive St. Mark's Church on the edge. This Serbian Orthodox church, built in 1940 in the Serbo-Byzantine style, preserves one of the most valuable collections of Serbian icons and sarcophagus containing the relics of Serbian Emperor Dušan 1308-1355. It is time to get back to Kralja Milana Street.
Coming to Terazije Square, you will not be able to miss the Terazije Fountain with 6.35m high pillar and four lion heads spouting water through their open mouths, erected in 1860 to mark the return of Prince Milos Obrenovic to the throne and located just in front of the Hotel Moscow, another fascinating building, belonging to this square.
A little bit further, you will see the Albania Palace, which dates back to the 1930s and got this name from the kafana Albanija that previously occupied the same spot. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest building on the Balkans.
It is also the starting point of Knez Mihailova Street, Belgrade's most popular promenade that both young and old, hosts and foreign guests simply adore. It is the main walking street and one of the best places to feel the pulse of the city.
It offers a mixture of fast food and high-class restaurants, coffee shops that are full at any time of the day, shops, antique shops, street singers, and beautiful architecture of numerous national and international cultural institutions (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Centre Culturel Français, Instituto Cervantes and Goethe), many galleries, hotels and hostels.
It is not clear whether it is more beautiful in summer bathed in the sun, or in winter, festively decorated, but it is always full of smiling faces and a lot of positive energy.
At its beginning, behind the Albania Palace, there is Republic Square, one of the central town squares with some of the most recognizable public buildings, including the National Museum and the National Theatre. The statue of Prince Michael is located in the heart of this square. This bronze monument, erected in honor of Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia who liberated Serbia from Turkish domination is a very popular meeting place in Belgrade.
Walking along Knez Mihailova Street just before it reaches Kalemegdan, turn left to Kralja Petra Street, that will take you to Saborna crkva (The Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel), another magnificent orthodox church. It is one of the few preserved monuments of Belgrade from the first half of the 19th Century. Some of the most powerful Serbs like Vuk Karadzic, Dositelj Obradovic, Prince Mihajlo Obrenovic and Milos Obrenovic were buried here.
Opposite the Cathedral, a bit to the left, you will see Konak kneginje Ljubice (The residence of Princess Ljubica), built between 1829 and 1831 by order of Prince Miloš Obrenović for his wife Ljubica and their children.
It is full of interesting furniture, personal belongings and artwork. Your trip through the past of Belgrade will be guided by an actress in a monodrama called "Kafa kod kneginje Ljubice." As a part of the show, you will be served coffee with rahatlokum, and then taken around the museum, in her, very charming way.
It is finally time to immerse in beauty of Kalemegdan.
The Belgrade fortress, built on a hill above the Sava and Danube confluence, destroyed and rebuilt so many times for 16 centuries, still stands proudly as the symbol of Serbia’s capital.
Since the first fortification, built by The Romans in the 2nd century, destroyed many times by the Goths, the Huns, the Avars and the Slavs, Singidunum managed to survive. After the medieval and Turkish era, Belgrade was converted into a park in the middle of the19th century. It has kilometers of paths, a few playgrounds for the kids, hundreds of benches and a great wall with spectacular and romantic views of sunsets. Nowadays it hosts several museums and galleries, restaurants, sports courts, and the Belgrade Zoo. If you are too tired, you can get the mini train that runs around the park.
The statue Pobednik (The Victor) is the work of famous sculptor Ivan Mestrović, created in 1928 to commemorate Serbia’s triumph over both Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire. Initially made to be placed at Terazije Square, but since representing a nude man, it could have had a bad influence on a young girls and women of that time, so it had to be placed where it stands now, overlooking New Belgrade.
Going down towards the river you will find many restaurants and clubs but also a beautiful building of Beogradska zadruga, (Belgrade Cooperative) or (The building of Geozavod), one of the most beautiful and monumental buildings that adorn the Karadjordjeva Street in the Savamala district. The building was recently restored, and got back its original glow.
Now you can decide to keep walking along the river of Sava and recently made Sava promenade and to follow the realization of a huge project called Belgrade Waterfront. At a neglected piece of land, on the right bank of the Sava river, between the Belgrade Fair and Branko's bridge, Belgrade will get a world-class, super-modern downtown district, unlike anywhere in the region. It will have a million square meters of luxury apartments, 750,000 square meters of office and commercial space, five-star hotels, an opera house, and the largest shopping mall on the continent.
You might prefer using public transport to our last destination, Ada Ciganlija Lake, commonly called "Belgrade's Sea". This artificial lake with its incredible beach hosts over 100,000 visitors a day and up to 300,000 visitors over the weekend. Due to its central location, it is an immensely popular recreational zone. You can play football, tennis, golf, mini golf, beach volleyball, basketball, baseball, rugby or field hockey… You can choose rowing, kayak, windsurfing, water skiing, walking balls or pedal boats.
You can try bungee jumping, artificial wall climbing or paintball, or you can simply sunbathe and swim in this well maintained beach and enjoy its numerous cafes and restaurants, which when night falls, transform into nightclubs for partying all night long.
As I have already said, Belgrade is an ideal city for nightlife. From Ada Lake, you can pass to New Belgrade's and Zemun's side, where you will find a huge number of floating restaurants called "splavovi" all along the banks of Sava and Danube.
Finally, you should not miss Skadarlija!
What Plaka is for Athens, Montmartre for Paris, Trastevere for Rome, Skadarlia is for Belgrade. This, first class bohemian quarter combines the spirit of old times with live music and great authentic cuisine. Many "kafanas" gathered in a rather small street, with their unique atmosphere, is something that no one would expect to find in the very center of the capital city.