Belgrade is a rising star. Tourism in the city grows every year and with Serbia’s accession to the EU in negotiation, this is set to continue. This is only the beginning for the country’s beautiful capital.
On arriving in the city, I was surprised. The city is shockingly big considering the entire population of Serbia is smaller than that of London alone. Driving into the city across the Danube River, Belgrade feels every inch the equal of other European capitals. The food, the shopping, and the hotels – everything screams progress. Lonely Planet describes the city as ‘gritty’. The reality cannot be further from the truth. Belgrade is certainly not quite the polished cosmopolitan city it clearly is striving to become, but gritty? I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively and I can fairly say that after all of my travels, Belgrade would not make my list of gritty cities. Caracas is gritty. Johannesburg is gritty. Even Sarajevo could be described as gritty. But Belgrade? Belgrade is just beginning to flourish.
The individual tourist attractions are underwhelming. The House of the National Assembly, the churches – they are beautiful but nothing particularly spectacular in comparison to the great beauties of other European cities. It is Belgrade as a whole city that is appealing. Strolling around, peeking into shops, relaxing in fun, innovative cafes – these are the real reasons to visit Belgrade. The Stari Grad neighbourhood is one of the oldest parts of the city and thus easily one of the most beautiful. The National Assembly, the Stari Dvor or Old Palace, the National Theatre, are all located in the Stari Grad area along with numerous other beautiful landmarks and museums. Walk up Knez Mihailova Street which is pedestrian only and characterised by beautiful buildings and old street lamps. It is one of the main shopping areas of the cities where most of the beloved European favourites like Nike, Zara and Sephora can be found. Relax in one of the cafes or grab a bite to eat. If there is anything that screams modern cosmopolitan city in Belgrade, it is the range of cafes and restaurants available. Belgrade is way ahead of many other European capitals in jumping with both feet onto the international and ‘fashionable’ food trend train. There is even a budding demand for Mexican food with places like Burrito Madre. Though not as good as American chains such as Chipotle, it is a tasty alternative for Mexican food lovers.
After shopping, relaxing and eating, my three favourite pastimes, head up to Kalemegdan Park. This is quite possibly the highlight of the city. The park is beautiful and contains Belgrade’s old fortress. There are several photo worthy spots around the fortress but the one that will make it on to your Instagram feed is the one overlooking the city from the top of the park. The park and the fortress are located atop a cliff that stands just over 400 feet above the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. The views are spectacular. And the best part? The gentle inclination of the area surrounding the park means enjoying this beautiful view doesn’t even require a hike! So who else is ready to visit Belgrade?
Top: Stari Grad Area
Middle: Belgrade Fortress
Photography by Savannah and Alexandra Hayes