Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Briefly, Belgrade

30

Belgrade

During my annual summer hop through the Balkans, I knew that I wanted to visit every Balkan country that I hadn’t yet visited. The final Balkan country to add to my tally? Serbia.

Serbia doesn’t get a lot of the tourism fame that other Balkan countries do — it has a lot to offer, but it’s not as famous as, say, Croatia. This is something that Serbia is working to rectify — in fact, while in Belgrade, I met a group of my iambassador buds traveling around the country to do just that! (Check out some of the very cool resulting posts: Kash’s 40 best photos from Serbia, Becki’s post on the best nature activities in Serbia, and Rob’s post on Subotica and Palic Lake.)

As for me, my time in Serbia was limited. I only had a few days before I had to meet my mom and sister in Latvia, and I was still recovering from post-festival sickness and a haunted apartment in Montenegro. (I know, I know — I’ll write about the ghost eventually.)

My original plan was to leave Kotor, Montenegro, and take the incredibly scenic train to Belgrade from nearby Bar, but after learning that I could fly to Belgrade for about $60 in just an hour from Tivat, the quicker journey won out.

Belgrade

Getting to Know Belgrade

After an evening of strolling the local pedestrian area, I decided to spend my first full day on the Belgrade Free Tour. Local free tours are a great way to get your bearings in a new city.

After the tour, my days were spent simply strolling and spending time with friends. No major agenda. No list of sights to check off. Just letting Belgrade soak into my skin.

Belgrade Bohemian Quarter

My favorite neighborhood in Belgrade was Skadarlija — the Bohemian Quarter. This is Belgrade’s answer to Montmartre — a community of adorable streets home to artists and people who dream of becoming artists.

Belgrade Tables and Flowers

I loved the fresh flowers that grew wildly throughout Belgrade, especially in Skadarlija.

Belgrade Fortress

The fortress, located right on the river, was a spectacular place to watch the sunset. It’s free to wander.

Flat Sausage Belgrade

Being a fan of cured meats but a bit wary of often-too-salty Balkan cured meats, I asked the waiter for a recommendation and he told me to try the flat sausage. Good stuff! Not too salty but with plenty of flavor.

Red Umbrellas Belgrade

Colorful surprises would randomly appear around corners and down alleys.

Belgrade Mosque

Having previously traveled in Kosovo and Albania, I was curious to explore the conflict from the Serbian point of view. Above is the one and only mosque in Belgrade. Relations are still quite tense between the primarily Christian Serbians and primarily Muslim Albanians, including the ethnic Albanians that populate Kosovo.

My guide told me that during Serbia-Albania football games, they station lots of police to the mosque because locals will try to riot or destroy it.

Belgrade Cafes

But most of all, in true Balkan style, the streets were filled with cafes, cafes, cafes. Cafes all day. And just like everywhere else in the region, everyone in Belgrade goes for a walk in the evening — it’s the time to see and be seen.

Every night I’d stroll the streets and pick up a single-scoop ice cream cone for 75 cents. God, I love the Balkans in the summer.

River Barges Belgrade

That Nightlife!

Belgrade is most notorious for having some of the wildest nightlife in Europe. Here, river barges like the ones above are home to clubs that go all night long. There’s something for every taste.

I didn’t make it to a river barge party, but I did have one crazy night out in Belgrade with locals. The kind of night that you look back on fondly but swear never to repeat again.

My main takeaways?

Serbians love rakija.

Serbians love making their own rakija.

If it’s homemade, you probably can’t handle it.

It will be fun. It will be a LOT of fun.

As long as you do not attempt to go drink for drink with Serbians.

That is probably all that should be said.

Kate, Kash, Leah, and Rob in Belgrade

I will say this — it always made me laugh whenever we went out to a cafe or a bar because no matter where we were, we would suddenly be surrounded by a live band! There were accordions and violins and singing and dancing!

Think mariachi — Eastern Europe style!

Dragon's Nest Belgrade

The Dragon’s Nest — Belgrade

I’ve stayed at dozens of Airbnbs over the years, but a Belgrade loft called the Dragon’s Nest became one of my all-time favorites. It’s a unique property in a perfect location offered for a fabulous price, and I’m sure most of you would love it as much as I did!

To get to the Dragon’s Nest, you enter a building and walk into the inner courtyard of a cafe, where you’ll find a door to a loft-style apartment. There’s a kitchen, a bathroom, and an open living/dining area.

Dragon's Nest Belgrade

The two queen-sized beds are upstairs in the loft, making very good use of the extra space. Both the beds and the pillows are extremely comfortable — I had some of my most comfortable sleeps of the summer in this apartment!

The property is in an excellent location, a stone’s throw from the main pedestrian walkway and around the corner from Republic Square and “The Horse,” what locals call the statue of Prince Mihailo atop a horse.

Dragon's Nest Belgrade

Airbnb recognizes extraordinary hosts within the community as superhosts, and Katharina was the first Airbnb superhost I ever experienced. She has well earned the title — not only was she incredibly kind, helpful, and enthusiastic about showing off Belgrade, she met me at the airport with a driver (the pickup was an extra 15 EUR — 1800 Serbian dinars or $16), narrating the landmarks and asking me about myself the whole time, and came along to drop me off at the airport, even though she didn’t have to!

Katharina brought me a package of traditional cookies and the refrigerator was stocked with both bottled water and apple juice. There was also a selection of local magazines and literature with suggestions of what to do in town. These are little things, but so nice when you’re traveling to a new city!

If you’re coming to Belgrade, this is an awesome place to stay! It’s ideal for a solo traveler, a couple, two friends, or a family. I stayed on my own for a few days, then my bud Leah joined me for a few more. Though the property can technically fit four adults, I think that might be a bit cramped for a few days.

All Dragon’s Nest photos via Airbnb.

The Takeaway

Belgrade is a city that I’d love to return to and explore in greater depth, along with more of Serbia. Perhaps I’ll return next summer before EXIT Festival!

Essential Info: Belgrade is home to Serbia’s only commercial airport. You can travel easily overland from Montenegro, Bosnia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, or Kosovo. Some further countries have direct overland routes as well.

Note: Arriving in Serbia via Kosovo, then leaving via a non-Kosovo border, will result in Serbian authorities saying that you entered the country illegally. Leave Serbia and Kosovo the way you arrived. (For example, if you enter Kosovo from Macedonia or Albania, then go to Serbia, that’s okay, but make sure you then go back to Kosovo and leave Kosovo overland.) I had no issues having past evidence of visiting Kosovo in my passport.

The Belgrade Free Tour meets at the Horse (the Prince Mihailo statue in Republic Square) at 10:30 AM Monday through Thursday and 2:30 PM Friday through Sunday. This is a tour based on tips. 1000 dinars ($9) is a good minimum tip.

The Dragon’s Nest can fit up to four people for $35 per night plus Airbnb fees. A two-night minimum is required.

Get $20 off your first Airbnb stay costing $75 or more by signing up here.

Have you been to Belgrade? Is it your kind of city?

Comments

30 Responses to “Briefly, Belgrade”
  1. I’ve never been but it sounds like a lot of fun! I mean, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by a live band all the time? 🙂

  2. My first and the only visit to Belgrade was for the last New year’s eve, but unfortunately the temperature went down to -17C so our trip was consisting only of eating and drinking rakija all day and night long.
    But since I live so close to it, I decided to visit Belgrade at least once a year, so I can’t wait for my next trip in a month.
    I really, really love that city!

  3. Belgrade looks gorgeous! After my trip this autumn to Bulgaria I’m becoming swiftly enchanted by the Balkan region! I can’t wait to explore more of the area!

  4. Eric says:

    I love Belgrade! Actually, Serbia has become my favorite country in the Balkans and one is my favorite in the world. There’s not a lot known tourist sites but I love the energy of the city. Plus, it’s a fantastic deal.

  5. Erin says:

    Kate,

    I’ve never been to Belgrade (or the Balkans at all), but the more of your posts I read the more I feel like I need to go NOW.

    I love an Airbnb superhost as well. We stayed with one in Sevilla and it was amazing. He picked us up and dropped us off at the airport for the same price as a taxi, he gave his own map that he made of his favorite places to eat in the city, stocked the apartment with all kinds of drinks, and was available for any questions we had. Bookmarking this Belgrade superhost for my future trip!

    Erin

  6. Anna says:

    I’ll tell you my cute Belgrade story, which took place a year ago and which I am still to blog about. I was traveling to eastern Croatia from London, and Belgrade was the most convenient airport. I decided to make an evening of it with a friend, and get to know the city a bit. I researched the best local restaurants (as I do wherever I go) and settled on one that seemed to be super highly recommended by every publication. Drove straight there from the airport. Turned out they were hosting a wedding that day and were closed to the public! The manager saw the disappointment in my eyes and told me to hang on a moment. In a few minutes he came back with THREE BOXES of assorted Serbian cakes and desserts, FREE OF CHARGE!!! I am talking BOXES! Like, 12 x 12 inches each. My friend and I couldnt finish them in a week. AND they recommended another restaurant, which turned out to be great as well :))))

    • Hi Anna…glad you enjoyed Belgrade, and I think that what you experienced, was authentic Serbian hospitality, right there! 🙂 I went to a restaurant in Studenica, down South Serbia, where the Studenica Monastery is (you should visit this beautiful area). I ordered trout and it was cooked to perfection! I went back the next night to order the same. They served me a plate with TWO trout fish. I asked whether there had been a mistake? The waiter said “No..you enjoyed it last night (I made the comment to the waiter the night before), so we gave you a second one. Being your second night here at the restaurant, please enjoy!.”

      • Anna says:

        That’s crazy, right? I mean… I felt kind of awkward because I havent experienced this sort of thing anywhere ever! And I really really really want to go back!
        Also, I can live on the Shopsky (sp?) salad bc it’s the best thing ever!

  7. Amanda says:

    I was in Belgrade briefly earlier this year and found it to be a pretty cool city. I did a bike tour out to a lake lined with cafes and bars, which was definitely a highlight for me. I’ve only been to Belgrade and Novi Sad in Serbia, so it’s definitely a country I feel like I need to eventually explore more.

  8. I’m hoping to check the rest of the Balkan countries off my list like you did! Belgrade seems like a great city to spend a few days.

  9. John says:

    Was also there for a few days this past summer and also enjoyed it. This post and your pics brought me right back! Oh man, that rakija! I feel your pain on that one, but good times I’m sure! We drank some homeaid honey rakija that was so deceptively smooth.
    If you go back, try the train from Montenegro! It was as beautiful and scenic as everyone says it is.
    Ahhh, I wanna be back in the Balkans! Cheers!

  10. Britt says:

    $35 a night! That is so cheap!

    There is just so much of the Balkans I won’t have time to visit on this trip. But all of these posts are wanting me to factor in lots more time in the Balkans in the future. It seems like such a unique destination.

    My friend absolutely loved Serbia; said it was one of those countries he would put at the top of his list. I think a lot of that was because of crazy Serbian bars and Serbian boys 😉 hahaha.

  11. kathy says:

    Never been but would love to go! The pictures remind me a little of South Beach with all the cafes!

  12. Samantha says:

    Great post Kate. Glad you had a nice time. I always pack too much into our trips and feel like I am running from one thing to the next. My goal for next year is to try to slow down and really enjoy where we are and not worry about seeing it all. We can always go back 🙂 We will see how it goes…Thanks for sharing.

  13. Travelsito says:

    I have lived in Belgrade for 10 months. Amazing city, full of energy, young people. Wish to live there in the future.

  14. The only Balkan country I’ve ever been to is Croatia, and if the other countries are anything like that I’m in! Your pictures of Belgrade definitely do it justice. Would love to visit someday soon 🙂

  15. I haven’t been to Belgrade yet but I certainly hope so. Is it my type of city? How long is a piece of string LOL!

  16. I’ve been to Belgrade celebrating New Year’s eve. It was fascinating experience. There was more than 100k people on the streets, all the bars and pubs (and kafanas) was crowded and all of them was drinking rakija and smiling.

    Belgrade is hidden gem and I hope that I’ll visit it on summer again 🙂

  17. Tikva says:

    Oh I really love Belgrade, have been twice it the last few year and now want to go back soon after reading your post.

  18. Never been to Belgrade before but I think it just made my bucket list. It looks and sounds amazing!

  19. Zascha says:

    It looks lovely, but I’m really intrigued to know is the story about the ghost 😀

  20. Our Wanders says:

    Writing about Belgrade just now is such a good timing for us! We’ve been thinking about it lately that we haven’t ever been there though it’s in our own backyard (we live in Budapest now).
    Now your post is another good reason why we should visit it soon. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  21. Get Jaunty says:

    Had my first trip to Belgrade in August this year and thought it was a highlight of the Balkans. I also did the free tour and went around the fortress. Beautiful place to simply wander and experience. For me learning the history was the most rewarding thing as I didn’t know a great deal at all before visiting. Enjoyed reading and being taken back!

  22. Neno says:

    Belgrade has some of that post apocalyptic charm:).

    I agree about nightlife.

    They could renew some facades at least in the city center.

  23. Hi all,
    Glad to see so many positive comments about Belgrade. Since I was born in Belgrade, and have been living here all my life, I would like to give you all some tips:
    1. Skadarlija, the area mentioned here is undoubtedly beautiful and it is a must-visit if you are in Belgrade a day or two. Besides Skadarlija, there are so many other areas with great national and international restaurants like: Beton hall (by the Sava river), then the restaurants in Zemun area (on the Danube), then restaurants in Novi Beograd (The “New Belgrade”, across the bridge)
    2. Zemun is a must-visit part of Belgrade, especially in summer time, since all the cafes and restaurants have stunning summer gardens overlooking the Danube river. It has a completely different vibe than the center. (10 min from downtown)
    3. Ada Ciganlija -a river-lake, the most popular sports/weekend/relax place, 15 min from the centre, great for having a walk, riding a bicycle, or just sipping a cup of coffee and looking at the lake. Could be overcrowded in summer.
    4. If you really want to taste local food, try to meet locals and get an invitation for a family lunch. Some things you just cannot taste at restaurants! If you are lucky enough to get an invitation to attend a special celebration, the day when families celebrate their patron saint (called “slava” here), you will feel the true vibe and hospitality of the people.
    Hope I helped a bit and that more people will come to Belgrade. Feel free to ask if you need more info. Best wishes from Serbia!

  24. Mark says:

    Wow looks beautiful! Gorgeous photos, thanks for showing places like Belgrade off so that people like me can branch out from the usual tourist hotspots.

  25. One of my best friends and ex-roommate is from Belgrade. Always wanted to visit but never got round to actually doing it. Like you said, because it’s not necessarily known among tourists. But this blog convinced me that I got to save up money and get going 😊

  26. Been to Belgrade like 3-4 times and always willing to return, the city has a flair, something special about is, maybe the cafes… the style of the bars… and of course the people. Great location

  27. Hello we are from Serbia and this post is great! Just get back from Belgrade, and It was absolutely lovely hedonistic experience! The food was excellent, actually I think that people, when come to Serbia, need to taste some home made food! If you are coming to Serbia we are here to help you to manage around! I hope you will next time see more than Belgrade, because Serbia is a beautiful green country that you have to explore, asap 🙂 Best Regards

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  1. […] heard more than a few people extoll the virtues of Belgrade, and it just so happened that a fellow blogger was already there, generously offering me a few nights’ stay in her Airbnb.  Yes, it seemed that all signs […]



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