11 things you must do in Belgrade!
Belgrade : Introduction of the city
Belgrade is the capital of Serbia and formerly of Yugoslavia. Called the White City, its foundation dates back to the 4th century BC. In fact, Roman ruins were found near the fortress of Belgrade, in Kalemegdan Park, heart of the present city. Belgrade, located at the crossroads of East and West, has been conquered more than 40 times during the last centuries by several empires – Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Austrian, Serbian etc. Real border between East and West, the city is crossed by two major rivers, the Danube and the Sava.
Tourism in Belgrade has jumped in the last 10 years, indeed, after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the city has made good progress, now, it is known for its vibrant nightlife. The population of the capital has grown from 89,000 to 1.7 million in the last 100 years. In this page, we will see the monuments and the popular tourist places of the Serbian capital.
1. Belgrade’s fortress
The visit of Belgrade should begin where every myth about the city begins, it is the fortress where you must go! The name “Belgrade” (or Beograd in Serbian), meaning “white city” or “white fortress” and was found noted for the first time in the 8th century.
The Belgrade Fortress is at the top of a ridge 50 meters high. You will have an impressive view of the two rivers and the modern bridge called Ada bridge which we will talk about later. Very quiet, the place is enjoyed by locals especially during Sunday walks.
For centuries, the population of the city has concentrated only in the enclosure of the fortress. Thus, the history of this place is directly linked to the history of the Serbian capital. The fort has been invaded more than 100 times over the centuries, for example by the Celts, Romans, Goths, Huns, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Ottoman, Turkish, Austrian-Hungarian and Serb empires. The fortress was also damaged during the two world wars.
Today, the Belgrade Fortress is the biggest free attraction in the city with its doors open 24/7. As you walk through the ruins, you will hear the stories of the battles and the legend says that Attila’s grave, King of the Huns is under the fortress. A church is also behind the ramparts.
2. Kalemedgan Park
The park is all around the Belgrade fortress and overlooks the two rivers (The Save and Danube).
The name of this park: Kalemedgan is the mixture of two Turkish words “kale” “fortress” and “meydan” “battlefield” (literally, “fortress of the battlefield”).
You can walk around and enjoy the view in this park. Several museums are available in particular on Soviet weapons or on dinosaurs, there is also the statue of “The Victor”, a male standing bronze figure, looking forward, built in 1928 to commemorate the victory of the Serbia on the Ottoman Empire but also the victory during the First World War. Several sports fields (basketball, tennis …) are also present in the park. We advise you to stay there for a wonderful sunset on the heights of the city.
3. Ada bridge
It is the modern bridge that links the old town to the new one, several restaurants and cafes are located under the bridge. Ada overlooks the Sava river, during the night illuminations are shining according to the season (Christmas, Easter …). A bike / pedestrian path is on the bridge, with a splendid view of the old Belgrade.
There is also the Branko Bridge which replaced the Aleksandar I Bridge, destroyed in 1941 to prevent the Nazi German Army to enter into Belgrade. Today many discos or floating restaurants are on the edge of this river, you can get something to refresh you during the hot summer nights.
Some cruises on the Sava are available and are very interesting if you want to know everything about the history of the bridges and the monuments along the river.
4. The St Sava Temple
The temple is built on the spot where the Turks burned the body of Saint Sava, his Serbian name Rastko Nemanjić, in 1219, he founded the Serbian Orthodox Church by gaining his independence against the Byzantine empire. He is highly regarded in Serbia as an educator, saint and protector of schools or educational institutions.
This impressive temple has a serbo-Byzantine style. It is 82 meters high and has a splendid dome and a huge cross at the top.
The construction of the St Sava Temple started in 1895 and lasted more than 100 years because of wars, poverty and the Communist regime. The exterior of the church was completed in 2004 and the interior decoration is still in progress, including a mosaic of the central dome representing The Christ. The most delicate of the works was the lifting of the central dome of 4,000 tons with the copper plating and the setting up of the huge cross, which was built on the ground. The lifting, which took forty days, was completed in 1989.
The St Sava Temple is known for its polyphonic bells, so be sure to go there during a full hour to hear them.
5. Republic Square : Statue of Mihailo – The Serbian prince
The Republic Square is the nerve center of Belgrade, as well as the starting point for most visits. Many cafes and restaurants are nearby. The square houses a statue of the horseback Serbian Prince: Mihailo, as well as two important cultural buildings of the city, the National Theater and the National Museum.
Prince Mihailo Obrenović III (September 1823 – June 1868) was Prince of Serbia from 1839 to 1842 and from 1860 to 1868. His first reign ended when he was dismissed in 1842 and his second when he was assassinated. Serbian people know him for the complete expulsion of the Turks from Serbia and for the liberation of 7 cities still controlled by Turkish in 1867.
The names of the cities are engraved on the monument and the prince is supposed to point with his finger Constantinople (Istanbul), so he is trying to persuade the Turks to leave.
6. Skadarlija district
Skadarska Street is located in the bohemian district of Belgrade, it is paved and winding lined with cafes, restaurants often animated by musicians, hotels and shops.
This 400-meter street was developed for the first time in 1830, initially populated by gypsies. Then, in the early 1900s, Serbian musicians and poets start to frequent the district and turn it into a bohemian district like Montmartre in Paris.
Nicknamed Skadarlija, it is today a hearth of music, art, food and rakija (typical Serbian alcohol).
7. Terazije Square and his fountain
Terazije Square is the designated center of the old city of Belgrade and all street numbers were created from this point. Its name comes from the fountain in the center of the square, many fountains brought water into the city more than 200 years ago. Today, this fountain is always present.
The square has several impressive buildings, including the Moskva Hotel, founded by the Russian Empire, the exterior facade is made of ceramic tiles in the Russian-Greek style.
When the hotel opened in 1908, it was called the most expensive and beautiful Russian house in the Balkans. Over the last 100 years, the Moskva Hotel has welcomed 36 million visitors, including: Albert Einstein, Robert De Niro, Kirk Douglas, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Yasser Arafat, Indira Gandhi, Muammar Gaddafi , Richard Nixon, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles and Orson Welles.
8. Serbian Parliament
Between 1938 and 2006, the Parliament Building was the seat of the Parliament of Yugoslavia, then the Parliament of Serbia and Montenegro. The building is designed in neo-baroque style. It had bad adventures during the revolutions and wars, especially in 2000 with the government of Milošević leading to demonstrations. Milošević became famous in 1987 when the Yugoslav multiethnic federation of Tito began to collapse. He took over the Serbian Communist Party and stired up the nationalist passions to consolidate his power. The fall of Milošević began with his failure to rally during the presidential election. The election commission said Kostunica beat Milošević. But Milošević claimed that Kostunica had not reached the absolute majority and called for a second round, causing an international outcry and a series of mass protests.
In 2001 Milošević was arrested by the Serbian police and then transferred to The Hague for prosecution by the Criminal Tribunal of the International Council. Milošević died in his cell on March 11, 2006, a few months before the end of his four-year trial.
The Parliament is today not only a chamber of assembly, but also a monument of Serbian culture, indeed, the most famous architects, designers and artists participated in the design of the Parliament, including the sculptures of “Play of Black Horses “in front of the Parliament entrance.
9. Old & New Courts – Palaces
The old royal courts (called Old & New Palaces) are in front of the Parliament. The old court was built in an academic style between 1882 and 1884 and used by the Obrenović dynasty. When they decided to built this Palace, it was supposed to be bigger than any other residence of Serbian power. Even today, “Old Court” is considered as one of the finest examples of academicism in Serbia. Unfortunately, this Palace was the scene of a horrible assassination in the history of Serbia. In May 1903, some conspirators savagely killed King Aleksandar and his wife Draga and threw them from the second-floor balcony. Today, the Old Court houses the Assembly of the city of Belgrade and the mayor’s office.
The new Royal Palace was built between 1911 and 1912 on the orders of the ruling Karadjordjević family, and this building was the official residence of King Aleksandar Karadjordjević.
In 1948, it became the official place of the Assembly of Serbia. Currently, the President of Serbia uses “New Court” as official office.
10. NATO’s ruins
In 1999, NATO bombed for 78 days strategic points of the Yugoslavian government in Serbia in response to the wars caused by the breakup of this Eastern entity.
Infrastructure, industrial objects, schools, medical facilities, press centers, cultural monuments, churches and monasteries have been severely damaged. Although Belgrade has not suffered as much as Novi Sad, Niš and Aleksinac, the Serbian capital still has open ruins and they are quite astonishing.
The most famous ruins are the Ministry of the Interior and the Yugoslav Ministry of Defense, both located on KnezaMiloša Street.
Built in 1963, the Ministry of Defense looked like a canyon with Nemanjina Street running through the building. This refers to the Sutjeska River Canyon which is one of the most important battles of the Second World War in Yugoslavia. This building is therefore the most famous ruin of Belgrade. It’s pretty odd to see him more than 15 years later in the same condition. Today, the site is being cleaned for the construction of a luxury hotel.
11. Nicola Tesla Museum
The museum is quite small and retraces the life of Nicola Tesla, a genius and inventor of the nineteenth and twentieth century. Very interesting even for children.
Beware of available languages: English / Serbian, so no need to go there if you do not practice one of these two languages. Except if you are curious!