Top 10 Reasons for a Long Weekend in Belgrade
Let me introduce you to the city I was born and live in – Belgrade, Serbia. It is not the prettiest city in the world, but is has many charms. And a lot of cool places. Do you like cities located on river banks? You are in the right place. There are many reasons why you should visit, from historical to gastronomical, and I shall name the most important:
1. Vibrant outdoor lifestyle – We like to be outside on a sunny day, to walk by the river banks, to have a cup of coffee with friends, or a delicious dinner, go shopping or just window-shopping, take a stroll in our neighborhood. Foreigners often wonder how and why are the streets, bars and restaurants packed with people even during working hours, or every night during the working week? It is because we always find time to have a cup of coffee, sit down, read a local newspaper and have a moment to relax.
2. Emerging coffee and restaurant culture – There are endless cafes and restaurants in Serbia, new ones opening every month or even week! I have been living here for 33 years and still somehow can’t manage to see every new place. From places centrally located to more hidden gems only the locals know about, you will be spoilt for choice. Restaurants are developing in various directions and this gives you an opportunity to choose: from traditional to modern ones, fast-food to slow dining, international fast-food chains to soul food cosy places, national to international – you will find everything you need.
Photo: Coffee shops on the river
3. Delicious local food – the national food is excellent – this means that it is made of fresh, seasonal local ingredients. We eat a lot of meat, so be prepared! If you are a vegetarian, no need to worry – you won’t be hungry in Serbia. Our fruits are vegetables, usually bought on green markets are tasty, juicy and healthy! A stroll through the local green market will give you a precise picture of what kind of food Serbia has to offer! Local drinks are also not to be missed – try local rakia, made of various fruits – plums, quince, grapes or with honey (personal favourite). Also, local vines are of high quality, since there are parts of Serbia which completely resemble Tuscany. Sitting at a local bar is the best place to try all we have to offer.
Photo: Delicious Local Foods
Photo: Local Food – Sarma
4. Excellent nightlife – party the night away! If you like the explore nightlife, you won’t be bored in Belgrade. The city is alive all night, through the year. The main spots slightly change during the year, depending on the weather i.e. winter or summer time. If you happen to visit Belgrade in winter, choose one of many clubs downtown, depending on the type of music you prefer. There are clubs with live music, national music, pop-rock and metal/alternative. Also, a few cool jazz bars have recently appeared on the night scene. During winter time (and also spring and autumn), Belgrade hosts numerous concerts, both in open and closed spaces, with world-famous musicians and bands. If you are not into clubs, but prefer bars and pubs, there are also many to choose from, especially in “Sava Mala” district. And not just there. Ask locals for their favorite places, they will know – from wine bars, beer gardens, local spots “on the corner”, there is something to choose from. If you happen to be here when the weather get warmer and days a bit longer (May-September), the nightlife shifts outdoors and by the rivers. River boats, both on the Sava and Danube river are popular, crowded and fun! Again, they differ depending on the music and the general vibe – some boats (we call them “splav” – which means a raft), are better for a dinner, dessert or just a coffee with friends, while others don’t get full before midnight! Find a local to help you choose the perfect spot, or just choose depending on the feeling!
Photo: BitefArt Cafe
5. Warm people – most of the visitors and foreigners who now live here say that people are our biggest asset. You may step into an overcrowded bus and ask for some directions, and the entire bus will do their best trying to help you and explain where to go, even at some point start arguing among themselves about which stop is better and who is right. People are generally warm, welcoming and if you are lucky enough to be invited into someone’s house, the hosts will share all their food with you. The hospitality is our genes, a part of our culture and something we are proud of. My advice is to try and attend a local “slava” – it is a special day when many families celebrate and honour their patron saint. Also, try to get an invitation for a local wedding, or be someone’s “+1” since this is where many of our local customs can be seen.
6. Historical Kalemegdan fortress – we are proud of the Kalemegdan fortress and park. The entrance is free, the view of the city is stunning, both day or night. Enjoy a long stroll alone or with friends, meet friendly locals who are relaxing on the benches, chat with some of the elderly people playing chess in the park. After a long walk, find one of many cafes located in the fortress and enjoy a drink with a view.
Photo: View from the Fortress
Photo: The Kalemegdan Fortress
7. Culture, museums, exhibitions, film festivals – Depending on the time of the year, Belgrade hosts numerous cultural events, suitable for any taste. If you are a fan of movies, come in February when the renowned film festival FEST is taking place. Maybe you like beer and rock music? Come in the middle of August when the popular Beer Fest is the main city event and enjoy 4 days of good beer, free entrance and live local/regional rock bands. Futhermore, if you happen to be in Belgrade during the summer, enjoy the new open air cinema concept – free movies on different locations all around the city, the whole summer! Grab a drink and watch with the locals. Art exhibitions are taking place all year round – photo exhibitions, emerging artists, underground scene, local bands and gigs in small pubs, stand-up comedians, theatre plays. There is a lot to choose from!
8. Swimming in Ada lake – We are proud to have two great rivers, Sava and Danube at our doorstep. Besides many outdoor sports activities that are usually organized by the river banks, there is a river-lake called Ada, where visitors can enjoy a bath in the summer. It does get a bit crowded during the day, but if you come early in the morning, you could have the lake to yourself! Also, there are many good and cosy restaurants and cafes at the lake, so even if you decide not to swim, take a good book, order a drink and enjoy sun tanning. If you are an active type, enjoy walking around the lake or check out the adventure park. During long summer nights, Ada is very popular as bars and restaurants offer live music, good live bands and a vibrant atmosphere.
9. Watching a sports game – some of our teams are world champions. And Novak Djokovic is from Serbia (so are Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and so many other professionals), so imagine the thrill and joy of watching them winning. Find a bar and enjoy watching a game with the locals. Share their passion, watch them cheer! Or go to a basketball game, if you happen to be in Belgrade during the season. Feel the passion we have for sports, soak the atmosphere.
10. Visiting the Exit festival – One of the world-famous music festivals in happening every July in a city one hour away from Belgrade, called Novi Sad. Don’t miss it if you are here in this period. Usually tickets need to be bought in advance, but there are always some last-minute solutions. Enjoy four days of pop, rock, techno, rap, soul and many more kinds of music at the stunning surroundings of the Petrovaradin fortress. Dance the night away!
Hope you will enjoy Belgrade and Serbia! Welcome!
text and photo: Ana Asanovic, Belgrade, Serbia, travel blog www.utiscisaputovanja.com
Nightlife photo: Bitef Art Café, Belgrade, Serbia