Over the past few years the capital of Serbia, Belgrade, has become increasingly popular with visitors who want to get a real taste of the Balkans.
Unfortunately there are not many guide books which cover this amazing city which makes it a bit difficult to plan a trip in advance.
Over the past five years I have spent quite a few months in Belgrade and if I had to come up with the five best things to check out for a first time visitor it would look something like this:
Belgraders love going for a coffee. You will find cafés on every corner and they are always packed with people. „Going for a coffee“ can easily mean sitting around for a few hours, chatting with friends, watching passers-by and being watched. Check out the various places on the central pedestrian Knez Mihailova street, the beautiful art-deco Hotel Moskva (Terazije 20), the distinctly 19th century „Ruski Car“ (Obilicev venac 29), or the alternative „Centrala“ (ul. Simina 6).
A Fast Food Place
Serbians love meat and they love their fast food places. Once you have tasted a typical Balkan burger you will never want to go back to the likes of McDonald's. Try a „gurmanska pljeskavica“ (beef patty with cubes of bacon and cheese worked in); there's nothing better after a night out. Recommended places: „Loki“ (corner of ul. Kralja Petra and ul. Gospodar Jovanova), „Sis“ (ul. Goce Delceva 27), „Stepin Vajat“ (ul. Vojvode Stepe 2I)
Belgrade is renowned for its nightlife and what better way to start your night out than with a cool beer or a nice cocktail. Streets like Obilicev venac or Strahinica bana offer plenty of bars and pubs. The latter is dubbed „Silicone Valley“ for the high number of silicone-enhanced goods on display at night. If you're looking for something a bit more hidden, try to find „Klub Svetskih Putnika“ (also known as „The Federal Association of Globe Trotters“; bul. Despota Stefana 7). For a traditional atmosphere with gypsy music you will have to go to a „kafana“, e.g. „Blek panters“ (Ada Ciganlija).
When you've had a few drinks and the night is still young, then you should head out to the clubs. Definitely check out the rafts („splavovi“) on the Sava and Danube rivers. They are a bit mainstream and a bit more expensive but typical for Belgrade (popular ones include „Blaywatch“ or „Freestyler“; fair warning: do not chat up random girls in these places, this could end badly). If you're looking for a more alternative crowd check out the clubs in the centre, e.g. „Francuska Sobarica“ (ul. Francuska 12), „Siprazje“ (ul. Golsvordijeva 13) or „Corba Kafe“ (ul. Bra?e Krsmanovi?a 3; good live music).
And now that I have talked in length about options for food and drinks I realize I should probably also recommend something that better fits the word „sight“. So, when in Belgrade these are the things to see: Kalemegdan Fortress, Temple of Saint Sava, Saint Marko's Church, Museum of Nikola Tesla, House of Flowers/Tito Memorial, Ada Ciganlija, Palace of Kneginja Lubica... phew, that's more than enough for a few days!
Written and contributed by Stefan Pfeuffer