Eastern Europe was for so long closed off from the world, hidden behind a wall of war and hardships, even today when the countries of the East like Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, and Bulgaria are sitting together peacefully people are still hesitant to venture into the relatively unknown treasures of these countries. But it is a shame for anyone to miss out on an opportunity to visit such extraordinary places, and the time is ripe to visit them, I have no doubt that people will be flocking to its borders, so hurry before it is overrun with crowds and tourist traps. One city that is a perfect starting point for your eastern European adventure is Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Belgrade is the perfect mix of old versus new, with a bustling metropolitan hub and an even more buzzing night life, this city thrives on its visitors and loves getting the chance to host newcomers. So if you are wondering where to begin in the real Eastern Europe consider starting with these must do’s in Belgrade.
- Get the lay of the land with a free walking tour
Walking tours are the best way to get to know a new place, and with so many free tours in all the cities of Europe this is the easiest way to get a taste of a new city with a local guide, who is able to point out secret gems of the city and little known facts that are usually known amongst the locals. In Belgrade you’ll be able to recognise the free walking tours by the yellow shirts that they wear. This company provide extensive tours orientated around a basic overall history, World War II, and of course Belgrade’s infamous clubs on their pub crawl.
2. Be blown away by the Church of St Save
This is seriously in my opinion one of the most beautiful churches in all of Europe! Now I know that is a massive statement to make because there are so many churches in Europe and most of them are absolutely stunning, but this is one religious structure that you really need to see in person with your own eyes because it is massive! A completely white building with rounded green domes, it is not an overly extravagant building, but it is unique in its simplicity. Make sure not to leave before taking a look inside as well.
3. Walk amongst the layers of history at Belgrade Fortress
Standing tall with a rare view of where two rivers meet, in this case the Sava and the Danube, the Belgrade Fortress is the most visited attraction in the city, and is coincidently the meaning behind the name Belgrade, or White Fortress. After a war filled history involving more than 100 invasions, the fortress has now evolved into the most favoured park and is opened 24/7. Although there are many remains left, the site is mostly used as an outdoor meeting place for friends, a playground for children, and an event space for festivals and exhibitions. But the structures that do remain are well worth a wander.
4. Wander down Skadarlja Street
Probably the most picturesque and lively streets in Belgrade, this area is buzzing with the chatter of restaurant goers and party seekers. Strolling down this street you’ll have plenty of options to try the local cuisine and of course rakija, the drink of Serbia. But if you are planning on more than two shots of this extremely strong alcohol I would advise against wearing high heels, this street is tricky enough to walk down on flats due to its cobbled stones, but add heels into the equation and you’ll be stumbling all over the place.
5. Experience history at the National Assembly
The National Assembly is where you can come to be a part of Serbia’s modern history. This is the site where all important decisions regarding the future and past of Serbia are decided, including the acceptance of defeat by the president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But it is also a symbol of culture representing the work of many architects, artists, and designers that helped erect this Parliament building.
6. Admire the Victor of Kalemegdan
Built during the Balkan and First World War to celebrate the victory over the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, this naked structure is one of the most recognisable attractions due to its proximity to the fortress and view over the two rivers previously mentioned. Standing at 14 metres high it was built to look over Belgrade and watch for future possible invasions.
7. Stand in the centre of Republic Square
The hub of the city, Republic Square is quite literally the centre of everything here, with roads leading off into the different neighbourhoods it is a good returning spot to base yourself in when visiting the areas bordering the centre. Just a short stroll away you’ll find the major shopping street and the Bohemian quarter which offer a completely conflicting atmosphere to one another.
8. Party the night away
If Belgrade is infamous for one thing it is its club. The nightlife in this city is hectic and is one of the reasons why so many young people have recently been flocking here. During the summer months the most incredible parties, known as ‘splavs’, can be found floating along the rivers. With new clubs popping up almost every weekend you’ll be in no shortage for options.
9. Find the remaining NATO Ruins
During the end of the Yugoslav federation NATO inflicted a series of bombings on Belgrade in 1999, hitting targets including the TV centre, government buildings, and the Chinese embassy. These were left in ruins as a remainder and memorial to those who were killed or injured in the airstrikes. However, most have now been completely demolished though there are still a few government buildings scattered around the city if you look hard enough.
10. Indulge in some unique ice cream
If you have ever read any of my other posts, you might have realised that I am food obsessed, or more accurately ice cream obsessed, and some of the best ice cream that I have ever had in the entire world was in Belgrade. Crna Ovca is a small little ice cream parlour that opened in and offers classic flavours with a twist, like coffee and sesame, cherry chocolate, and poppy seeds. But something that really sets it apart is its Parmesan flavoured ice cream, which is interesting… I won’t say that it is good, but it definitely is not as disgusting as you might think. But I’ll let you decide for yourself what you think of it.
Belgrade is a beautiful city that is continuing to transform into an even greater city day by day, and there has never been a better time to visit. So what are you waiting for? Eastern Europe is calling your name and what better place to begin your adventure than in the culture driven capital of Serbia?