Forget Berlin, Paris or Rome; for a city break rich in culture, history, scenery and gastronomy, yet unspoiled by the tourist masses, try Belgrade instead.
There's an abundance of things to see and do in spring and summer - enough to fill a season without trying. Make the most of your visit with this definitive guide to one of Europe’s most magical yet underrated cities.
Where to start
Get the lay of the land at Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park, which sit above the point at which the Danube and Sava rivers collide and have a great view, not only of this impressive confluence but also of the city. Explore the fortress, which in its glory defended the city in 115 battles, and has been destroyed and rebuilt over 40 times.
If you visit in summer and find you want to escape the heat then go underground and explore the network of tunnels that criss-cross the city centre under the fortress. It's like a secret world - hundreds of caves, passageways and bunkers are waiting to be explored, and you can join an organised tour to do so.
Then head south
Kneza Mihaila, the main street leading up to the park, is pedestrianised, so it's easy to set off on foot and it’s particularly enjoyable to do so in spring, when the city is in full bloom. Many of Belgrade’s historic sites are within a kilometre radius of here, so there’s plenty to explore. Some of the best include the Main Orthodox Church, Kneginja Ljubica Residence, Ethnographic Museum, Nikola Tesla Museum, and a little further afield, St Sava Temple, which is one of the biggest orthodox churches in the world.
1.Trg Republike: Belgrade’s favourite meeting point, the main square is a great spot for people watching and enjoying the atmosphere of the city, particularly in the early evening.
2. Zeleni Venac (Zelenjak) market: Belgrade’s oldest fresh produce market is worth a visit, not necessarily to buy but rather to experience this hectic, vibrant and colourful spectacle.
3. The Royal Compound: See how the heir to the throne lives in this tour of the royal compound. Crown Prince Alexander II and his family took up residence in 2001, and open their home from April to October for a 10am or 1.30pm tour on Saturdays and Sundays, so you'll only get this glimpse into royal life if visiting in spring or summer.
4. Museum of Yugoslav History: Over 200,000 artefacts tell the captivating story of Yugoslavia’s turbulent past. Plus admission to Tito’s grave, which is in the grounds of the museum, is included in the entry price.
5. Explore the river banks: both the Danube and Sava rivers offer an abundance of attractions, from galleries to sport, but not least the floating nightclubs which help cement Belgrade’s reputation as one of the best places to party on the continent.
6. Leave the historic Old Town for the new and take a tram to Belgrade’s Waterfront, which is undergoing regeneration and transformation from an underused area to a hub of riverside cafes and restaurants, shopping mall, park, performance venues and promenade, as well as hotels, offices and a residential complex.
Where to eat
From traditional kafanas offering authentic Serbian food to a super trendy concept store/fusion restaurant, whatever your tastes, you’ll be in foodie heaven in Belgrade. For a round up of the best restaurants to try, see this selection.
One restaurant not to miss is the intriguing ? - yes, that really is its name, thanks to a long-ago dispute with the Serbian Orthodox Church. Somehow the unusual moniker has stuck and is now the unlikely name of Belgrade’s oldest traditional tavern or kafana. Soak up the traditional food, music, and atmosphere in this landmark tavern.
How to get there
Named after the physicist and inventor, Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport is 18km from the city centre. An international airport, it served almost 5 million passengers in 2016.
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