Visit the capital of Serbia, the famous Balkans city where the East meets the West. Stroll down the steep Turkish alleys, wide boulevards, and always busy Knez Mihailova Street.
Climb Kalemegdan Fortress; discover, rubbing shoulders with the Victor Monument, confluence of the Sava and the Danube.
Peek into the massive St. Sava Temple, or soak up the pious atmosphere of the church of St. Marko. Don't forget to take a look at the City Hall, the Old Palace, the Residence of Princess Ljubica and the National Museum.
Take a bite in one of the famous restaurants in the picturesque Skadarska Street while tuning into the vibes of tamburitza music. If you're a walking person with a keen eye for details, any part of Belgrade has a lot to offer.
Belgrade. The dark skyscraper on the right is "Beogradjanka" Building, while the white St. Sava Temple can be seen on the horizon.
History of Belgrade
In the 3rd century B.C. the Celts took over Belgrade (Singidunum – the city of Sings) from the Thracians, who settled here in the 4th century B.C. During the Roman rule it had great strategic value as the border town of the Roman Empire.
During the 5th and 6th century Belgrade was under constant attacks by the Slavs, Huns, Avars, Goths and Sarmatians. Its first Slavic name, "Byelgrad", appeared in the year of 878, meaning that it was probably inhabited by the Slavs. Btw, the word Belgrade in its original form (Beograd) means "White City".
In the second half of the 13th century, Serbian king Stefan Dragutin took the city from the Hungarians. During his reign (1276-1282) Belgrade became the capital of Serbia for the first time. After his death in 1316, it was re-captured by the Hungarians.
Serbian emperor Stefan Uros IV Dusan managed to regain it, but after he died, Hungarians took it over again. In 15th century Belgrade was given to the Despot Stefan Lazarevic, who renewed it and pronounced it the capital city once again. After his death, in 1427, Belgrade falls under the rule of Hungary.
In 1521 the Turks seized Belgrade from the Hungarians. By the end of 17th and during the 18th century Austrians conquered and governed it three times. After the Turks were finally ousted, in 1842 Belgrade became the capital of Knezhevina Serbia (knezhevina = principality).
Belgrade was much damaged by Austrian and German bombing during the WWI. In the WWII it was bombed on 6th April 1941 by the Germans, and few times during the 1944 by Americans (so called “allies bombing”).
In 1918 Belgrade became the capital of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed in 1929 into Kingdom of Yugoslavia). After the WWII it became the capital of FNRJ (The Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia), later SFRJ (The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) and subsequently the republic of Serbia.
In recent years Belgrade, as Serbia itself, faced the turbulent period of protests and riots. The climax was another bombing in 1999, this time by members of NATO alliance, and the revolution on the 5th of October 2000. Today Belgrade is the capital of the Republic of Serbia.
Belgrade officialy holds the title of the most-bombed city in Europe.
Getting to Belgrade
Belgrade Railway Station (2 Savski Sq; phone 24/7: 011 / 629-400 and 011 / 645-822; for detailed timetables check www.serbianrailways.com);
Belgrade Bus Station (4 Zeleznicka St; phone: 011/26-36-299, fax: 011/659-480; for detailed timetables check www.bas.rs);
Airport “Nikola Tesla”, Surcin (flights information: 011/601-424, 011/601-431, 011/601-439; www.beg.aero) is about 20 km from the city center, on the highway E-75 to Zagreb. There are direct bus lines to and fro the airport, departing hourly from the station in front of the JAT’s office on the Slavija square (it stops at the Railway Station, too), or from the terminal in front of the airport. There is also the regular bus line no.72 departing from Zeleni Venac to the airport every hour, from 5 am till midnight.
Belgrade Train Station
Belgrade is air-connected to almost all important European cities, with regular airlines to the USA and the Middle East. There are a few lines to Podgorica and Tivat in Montenegro. The timetables and other information can be found on the website of the National Airline Company, JAT Airways, at www.jat.com
Belgrade is connected to Montenegro and west Serbia by the Belgrade-Bar Railway, via Valjevo, Uzice, Prijepolje and Podgorica.
The second most important railway line follows the "Corridor 10" (Hungarian border - Subotica - Novi Sad - Beograd - Nis - Leskovac - Vranje - Macedonian border). All trains to Nis, Leskovac, Novi Sad and Subotica, as well as the international trains to Budapest, Vienna, Kiev, Moscow, Skopje, Sofia, Thessaloniki and Athens operate on this railroad. There are also direct train lines to Bucharest, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Split and Munich.
There are 10 daily trains between Belgrade and Nis; Belgrade and Novi Sad - 10 trains; Valjevo - 9; Kragujevac - 2; Vranje - 3; Uzice- 10; Bar- 4.
The international train to Budapest runs twice a day, to Bucharest once, Sofia twice, Skopje 3 times, Istanbul once a day, etc. For more info, check the timetable on the afore mentioned website of the Serbian Railways.
There are bus lines to and from almost every place in Serbia. A few examples:
- Buses to Novi Sad operate every 15 minutes to half an hour, between 04:50 and 23:30;
- Buses to Kragujevac operate between 06:45 and 21:00, 22 per day;
- Buses to Valjevo operate between 05:00 and 20:00, 20 per day;
- Buses to Subotica operate between 02:00 and 22:30, 26 per day;
- Buses to Novi Pazar operate between 05:00 and 22:30, 16 per day.
International bus lines:
Regular international bus lines connect Belgrade to the following countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, France, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Here are some examples:
- Buses to Athens and Thessalonica depart on Monday and Friday at 18:00, and on Saturday at 16:00;
- Buses to Amsterdam depart on Wednesday at 10:30 and 17:00, and at 10:30 on Saturday;
- Bus to Budapest operates daily, departing at 21:00;
- Buses to Paris run at 10:30 on Wednesday and Saturday, at 11:00 on Tuesday and Friday, at 13:00 on Monday and Thursday, at 14:00 on Wednesday and at 16:00 on Saturday;
- Buses to Sofia depart daily at 00:45 and 12:30, except Sunday;
- Bus to Bratislava runs at 12:00 on Wednesday and at 08:00 on Sunday;
- Bus to Florence operates on Tuesday and Friday, departing at 15:30.
- From the North: Hungary, Subotica, Novi Sad.
- From the South and South-East: Greece, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Nis.
- From the West: Croatia, Sid.
Additional info on the roads, traffic rules etc can be found at www.amss.org.rs
What to see in Belgrade?
Belgrade is a city of contrasts, a mixture of different cultures and architectural styles, which goes to show the significance of its precarious geographical position as well as its turbulent history.
Belgrade lies at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava, rivers that have always acted as boundaries, both geographical and cultural. First Celtic, then Roman colony that emerged in this spot later developed into a town under the alternating influence of the two powerful states - Byzantine and Austrian Empire, and later the Ottoman Empire. Belgrade acquired most of its contemporary look in the mid 19th century, after the ousting of the Turks and the revival of the Serbian Kingdom, during the rule of king Milos Obrenovic. However, certain parts of the city underwent significant changes after the catastrophic bombings in 1941 and 1944. After the WWII, new communist-style buildings appeared from the ashes, and the turbulent period of the 1990's added its signature in form of null-aesthetics structures built by corrupted politicians and mafia bosses. While wandering around Belgrade streets from Kalemegdan to Slavija, you will see traces of all these epochs, further enhanced by the sparkling and vivid flavors of a typical Balkans metropolis.
The very heart of Belgrade is Knez Mihailova Street, a pedestrian zone conjoined to Terazije Square and Kneza Milana Street which ends with hectic Slavija Square. At the very beginning of Knez Mihailova St., just above the confluence of the Sava and the Danube, you'll find Kalemegdan Fortress and park, a relaxing place that offers some of the best views of the city.
If you start your walk from Kalemegdan, down Knez Mihailova and then make a right turn into Kralja Petra Street, you will get to the Kosancicev Venac, a tangle of colorful balkan-style alleys. The church of Archangel Michael, also known as Saborna Crkva, is located there. It was built between 1836 and 1841 by king Milos Obrenovic, in the place of an older church. The church was constructed in classical style, while the bell-tower is baroque. Two eminent 19th century Serbian intellectuals - Vuk Karadzic and Dositej Obradovic - were buried inside. Saborna Crkva, together with the Patriarchy building just across the street, is the official seat of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Just next to Saborna Church is the Residence of Queen Ljubica (Konak Knjeginje Ljubice). It was built by king Milos Obrenovic as a home for his family - his wife Ljubica and sons Milan and Mihailo. This is a typical example of Balkans architecture with slight western influence and, at the same time, the first building in Belgrade made of firm material. Today it hosts a museum and a display area (8 Simo Markovic St; phone: 011/638-264; opene 10-17 on workdays, 10-16 on Saturdays and 10-16 on Sundays; closed on Mondays).
In Kralja Petra Street you'll see the National Bank building, built in 1889 and enhanced in 1922, resembling a renaissance palace. If you walk further down Knez Mihailova you'll get to the SANU Gallery (SANU- Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts; 35 Knez Mihailo’s St; phone: 011/ 334-24-00; opene 10-20, admission free) which hosts various exhibitions.
If you turn left from the big white marble fountain, you will find yourself in the passage leading to Studentski Trg (Students’ Square), with many cafés and street book-vendors. Across the street and couple hundred meters to the right is Students’ Park and the pompous building of the Ethnographic Museum (13 Studentski trg, phone: 011/3281-888; www.etnografskimuzej.rs; opene 10-17 on workdays, 10-13 on Sundays, closed on Mondays; admission fee: adults/students- 60/30 CSD; exhibitions: folk costumes, clothes, rugs, craftworks).
Several interesting old buildings, gifted to the city by its wealthy and influential citizens, are also located in this area. Such is Kapetan Mišino Zdanje (Captain Misa's Edifice), built in 1863 by wealthy merchant Misa Anastasijevic. It was built in the romantic architectural style, with gothic, romanesque and renaissance elements. During its long history, the building hosted the Great School (Velika Škola), the National Library, the National Museum, Grammar School and the Ministry of Education. Today it is the Rectorate of the Belgrade University (Chancellor’s office).
On the left, towards the Ethnographic Museum, is the building of Ilija M. Kolarac (Kolarčeva Zadužbina), built in 1932, known for its concert hall and display area (5 Studentski trg, phone: 011/ 185-794).
If you continue down Knez Mihailova Street you’ll reach another square with a large rectangular fountain, where Cultural Center of Belgrade is, and on your left you will see Trg Republike (Republic Square), considered the very center of Belgrade. On the square there's a monument of king Mihailo Obrenovic on a horse, crafted by Florentine sculptor Enrico Pazzi in 1882. Narodno Pozorište (National Theater) and the National Museum (1a Trg republike; phone: 011/ 624-322; www.narodnimuzej.rs; opene: 10-17 on Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays. 12-20 on Tuesday and Thursday. 10-14 on Sundays, closed on Mondays; exhibitions: prehistory, Middle Age, paintings), located just across the street from each other, dominate the square. The National Museum was built in 1903 in neo-renaissance style for Fund Administration needs. After suffering substantial damage in the 1944 bombing, it has been transformed into a museum.
If you start from the Trg Republike Square, cross the street at National Theatre and then walk down Francuska Street, cross to the 29th November Street, pass “The Officer’s Club” (Dom Vojske), you will see the beginning of steep, cobbled Skadarska Street on your left. This street forms the central part of the bohemian quarter - Skadarlija. In this typical Balkans street you will see plenty of galleries, house of the famous poet Djura Jaksic (34 Skadarska; phone: 011/ 323-0302, open 10-15 and 18-21 Monday to Friday) and a number of old, famous restaurants, which used to be frequented by famous artists and intellectuals. The most popular are: "Dva jelena" (Two Deers), "Tri sesira" (Three Hats), "Zlatni bokal" (Golden Jug), "Ima dana" (There are days), "Dva bela goluba" (Two White Pigeons) and "Skadarlija".
If you walk back to Trg Republike Square and keep going till the end of Knez Mihailova Street, you will walk past Palata Albanija (Albania Palace), the first skyscraper in Belgrade, built in 1940. The building was named after the pub "Albanija" that used to be in the same spot. It is the beginning of Terazije, a wide boulevard where you can see the interesting hotel building of Hotel Moskva (Moscow Hotel) with green-tiled roof built in art noveau style in 1906.
Right in front of the hotel is Terazijska Cesma, a large water-fountain built in 1860 during the rule of Milos Obrenovic. In 1911, the fountain was moved to the yard of a church on the Topcider Hill, but was brought back to Terazije in 1975. If you turn right behind the “Moskva” hotel you will enter the steep Balkanska Street, which will take you to Nemanjina Street and Savski Trg Square. It is where the main bus / railway stations are located, just next to each other.
From the Moscow Hotel you can also descend the park and arrive to the marketplace Zeleni Venac, with characteristic checquered roofs.
Terazije joins Kralja Milana Street at the building of the National Parliament of the Republic of Serbia. The Old Palace (Stari Dvor) is just across the street, built in neoclassical style in 1882 for the King Milan Obrenovic. Today it is the City Hall. On its right is the old Ministry of Justice built in renaissance style in 1893. If you turn right from the Kralja Milana Street and walkt past the Old Palace, you will get to the Kralja Aleksandra Street and the former Parliament of Serbia & Montenegro, the impressive neo-baroque building from 1889.
Across the street from the National Parliament, and then a hundred meters to the right, is Nikola Pasic Square and the Historical Museum of Yugoslavia (11 Nikola Pasic square; phone: 011/ 339-8532, www.mij.rs, working hours: 12-20h; admission free) Exhibition displays the history of the peoples of Yugoslavia from 1918 on, and occasionally items from Josip Broz Tito’s private collections).
On the other side of the National Parliament is the beginning of Takovska Street, with the monumental building of the Post Office. Further down the boulevard you'll find Tasmajdan Park as well as St. Marko's Church (Crkva Svetog Marka), built between 1931 and 1940, whose mix of Serbian and Byzantine architectural styles reminds of Gracanica Monastery near Pristina, in Kosovo. In St. Marko’s church there is a sarcophagus containing relics of Serbian Emperor Dusan, moved there from his foundation - St. Archangels’ Monastery near Prizren, again in Kosovo.
From King Milan Street (Kralja Milana) turn right at the next crossing and walk down the wide Knez Milos Boulevard to see the embassies, ministries and Main Military Hedquarters, seriously damaged in the 1999 bombing.
If you proceed down King Milan Street and walk past the renovated Yugoslav Drama Theater (grey building with transparent glass walls) and Students’ Cultural Center (yellow building at the corner, with a small dome), you will reach the Slavija Square - a very busy traffic circle. From Slavija you can take St. Sava Street (Svetig Save), walk past the Slavija Hotel and arrive to the top of the Vracar Hill, dominated by the huge white building of St. Sava Temple. It was built at the place where the Ottoman Turks burned the remains of St. Sava, the most important Serbian saint. Construction of the church began in 1894, but was interrupted on several occasions. The exterior has been completed, but the interior is still under construction.
Kalemegdan consists of two parts: the park and the fortress. The name Kalemegdan (Turkish: kale= field; megdan = battle) refers to the plateau around the fortress which was, in mid-19th century, transformed into the biggest and most beautiful park in Belgrade. A lot of different monuments are scattered around the park, the most famous one being the Victor, sculpted by Ivan Mestrovic and erected in 1931. In the eastern part of the park, next to the fortress wall, there is the Belgrade Zoo (8 Mali Kalemegdan, working hours: 08.00-17.00 in winter, 08.00-20.30 in summer; admission fee: adults/ students: 200/150 Dinars).
Belgrade fortress is at the very end of the park, perched on the reef above the confluence of the rivers Danube and Sava.
Belgrade Fortress was built gradualy, from the 1st till the 18th century, by the ancient Romans, Byzantines, Serbs, Ottoman Turks and finally Austrians. The first fortress was built in the 1st century as a Roman castra, surrounded by antique settlement known as Singidunum. In the following centuries the fortress suffered attacks by Goths, Huns, Avars and Slavs. Byzantines built a new castle in the 12th century, later extended all the way down to the river bank. Under the rule of Despot Stefan Lazarevic, the fortress developed into a full-scale medieval town. In 1521 it was conquered by the Turks, just to be reconquered by the Austrians in 1717 and transformed into the one of the strongest military fortifications on the border between the Austrian and the Ottoman empires. Many fortifications were built according to the projects made by general Nikola Doksat Demorez, who was, ironically, shot by a firing squad below the ramparts of Kalemegdan fortress, because of his defeat in the Battle of Nis.
By the end of the 18th century, Belgrade Fortress acquired its today's look. In the subsequent wars it suffered significant devastation, but was restored after the WWII and declared a cultural monument.
Belgrade Fortress consists of two parts: Upper and Lower Town. You can reach the fortress walking through Kalemegdan Park. If you are coming from the Knez Mihailova or Uzun Mirkova Street, you will pass through the Stambol, Kralj (King’s) and Sahat (Clock) gates. Zindan and Despot’s gate are in the east and you will go through them if you enter the Upper Zown from the Zoo. The entrance to the Lower Town is guarded by Vidin Gate (from the direction of the Vojvoda Bojovic Boulevard) and the Mracna (Dark) gate (from Karađorđeva St.)
The most famous gates of Belgrade Fortress are Inner Stambol Gate from 1750, Sahat Kula (Clock Tower) from the 18th century (used as a watchtower) as well as massive Zindan Gate (from the 15th century, originally a dungeon). Despot’s Gate from the 15th century is the best preserved part of the old town, dating from the period of Despot Stefan Lazarevic. Today, it is the astronomical observatory.
The Upper Town represents the main part of the Belgrade Fortress. Right at the entrance to the King's Gate is a Roman well, about 60 m deep, restored by the Austrians in 1721. This is the place where the palace of Stefan Lazarevic used to be, and here somewhere is the entrance leading into the still unexplored underground spreading beneath the fortress.
Nearby is Belgrade Fortress Museum (Kalemegdan , phone: 011 / 631-766; opening hours: summer: 10-19 Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays; winter: 11-14 Sundays; display: models of Belgrade Fortress from the 15th and the 16th century, chronological display trough the text and plans, including builders' tools and misc weapons) and the Military Museum Kalemegdan Fortress; phone: 011 / 3343-441, opening hours: 10-17 every day except Sundays, closed on Mondays).
In the very center of the Upper Town there is Shrine of Damad-ali Pasha (a small Ottoman mausoleum) erected in 1783, and on the hill just next to the ramparts, above the confluence of the rivers, is the symbol of Belgrade, the Victor - monument devoted to the 10 th anniversary of the Thessaloniki frontline breach. This monument, made by Ivan Mestrovic in 1928, is in form of a warrior with a sword in his right hand and a dove in his left.
In the eastern part of the fortress, close to Zindan Gate, there is a suburb connecting upper and lower town. This is the place where you can see Ružica Church (18th century) and the chapel of St. Petka (erected in 1867 around the "miraculous spring"), Jaksic’s Tower (middle of 15th century) with the Serbian warriors’ charnel, where the Belgrade defenders from 1915 were buried, as well as the drinking fountain, built by the grand vizier Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic, who was an ethnic Serb with a high rank in Ottoman Empire.
The Lower Town lies on the river banks and used to be the main part of the medieval town. These parts of the fortress were pretty destroyed. Among the preserved structures are Kula Nebojša Tower (medieval tower built in 1460 to control the entrance to the Lower Town, and later transformed into a dungeon); the Gate of Carlo VI (built in 1736 as a ceremonial entrance in honor of Carlo VI, conqueror of Belgrade; near the gate is the cannon foundry where the cannons were made during the First Serbian Uprising) and "Amam" (Turkish bathroom from the end of the 18th century. Today it is the building of the Planetarium).
Avala is a mountain located about 18 km from the center of Belgrade. It represents one of the most popular Belgrade picnic areas. It’s only 511 m high, covered by deciduous and coniferous forests. In the medieval times, the town of Zrnov was perched at the top of Avala Mountain. It was used to control the entrance to Belgrade. Today on Avala Mountain, beside the beautiful nature, you can also see the famous mausoleum and the Monument to the Unknown Hero by Ivan Mestrovic, built in 1938. There is also a big TV receiver, destroyed in 1999 bombing and recently rebuilt, that offers some spectacular views.
You can reach the foot of the Avala Mountain by the buses no.401 and 402 to Pinosava and Beli Potok (departing from Trosarina - Vozdovac every half hour from 5am to 9pm). You can reach Vozdovac by tram no.10 from Kalemegdan Fortress. Suburban train for Beli Potok departs from Prokop station, at 8.20, 16.03 and 20.19, and from Beli Potok at 10.44, 18.37 and 22.34. It takes around 30 minutes to reach Avala from the center of Belgrade.
Apart from the already mentioned museums and galleries, you can visit the Jevremovac Botanical Garden built 1892 (43 Takovska St.; admission fee: 80 CSD; working hours: Green house- 11-18 on weekends; open area- 9-19 from April till October, 9-17 from November till March); the House of Flowers (Tito's tomb and a peculiar museum); the White Court (organized visits only; ask in Tourist Organization of Belgrade; phone: 011 / 3248-404) on Dedinje; the Museum of Contemporary Art (Novi Beograd, Usce; phone: 011/ 3115-713; www.msub.org.rs; open 10-18 on workdays, closed on Tuesdays; exhibits: paintings and sculptures by Yugoslav artists from 1900 till today) and the Museum of African Art (14 Andre Nikolica; phone: 011/651-654; open every day 10-18)
There is also the very interesting Nikola Tesla Museum (51 Krunska; phone: 011/ 244-33-886; www.tesla-museum.org; open 10-18 on workdays, 10-13 on Saturdays and Sundays, closed on Mondays) hosting the collection of the famous scientist’s inventions, and the Airforce Museum (Belgrade airport; phone: 011/670-992; open in summer 9-19 on workdays; winter 9-15 workdays, closed on Mondays), located inside the huge impressive dome near the Belgrade Airport building.