Having spent nearly six months living in Belgrade I’ve gained a unique perspective of what the White City has to offer. I thought I would share with you guys some of the best things to do in Belgrade so that you can make the most of your time during your trip to Serbia.
The Serbian capital is in a league of its own when compared to other larger cities/ tourist destinations here in Europe. Don’t expect to find anything like you would in Berlin, Vienna, or even Warsaw.
It’s important to to visit Belgrade with an open mind. Don’t forget that less than 20 years ago the city, in the entire country, was ravaged by war.
Once you get over the bleak cityscape and sprawling urban jungle you’ll start to fall in love with everything that Belgrade has to offer. It’s a unique place to visit – somewhere not too many Western tourists ever get a chance to explore.
It’s also a great city if you’re traveling on a budget and looking to keep costs down.
Despite all of its perceived shortcomings Belgrade is a beautiful place. From quiet cobblestone streets and quirky little cafes to bustling urban streets and large, well maintained parks – there really is something for everybody.
I could keep rambling on forever but instead I’d rather help you guys out with some awesome things to do in Belgrade!
Things to Do in Belgrade, Serbia
If you’re in a rush take a look at my post on how to spend one day in Belgrade. This helpful itinerary is perfect if you’re only in the city for a short period of time.
Otherwise, plan to spend two to three days checking out all of the different tourist sights, museums, parks, and main attractions.
Explore the Kalemegdan Fortress
At one end of the historic city center is where you’ll find the Kalemegdan Fortress. The Fortress, also known as the Belgrade Fortress, is home to a number of different ruins, museums, walking pathways, and an open-air museum with tanks and other military equipment.
Once it was no longer needed to defend the city Kalemegdan and the surrounding area was turned into a park and public green space. Tourists and locals alike flock to the parks here all year long regardless of the weather.
Keep your eyes peeled while you’re wondering around. There are some different vantage points and lookouts from the trail that runs along the edge of the Fortress. The views of New Belgrade are incredible and on a clear day you’ll be able to easily see the small suburb of Zemun off in the distance.
Some of the museum’s here include the Natural History Museum, the Belgrade Military Museum, and a Torture Museum. There is also a citadel and the Medieval Church of Saint Petka on the grounds of the Fortress.
During the summer months feel free to stop by one of the cafes found throughout the park. Alternatively, pick up a cold beer, find a bench, and enjoy the amazing view!
Stroll Down Knez Mihailova Street
Knez Mihailova is the main pedestrian street and shopping area in Belgrade. The street runs from Kalemegdan Fortress all the way to Republic Square as pedestrian-only.
Along the street you’ll find a variety of different small shops, cafes, restaurants, souvenir stores, and some premium shopping options.
As you’re walking along Knez Mihailova keep an eye out for the picturesque architecture on the street. There is a mixture of architectural styles and cultural influence easily seen with the buildings on Knez Mihailova.
Starting at the Fortress are some of the oldest buildings on the street and they continue to get newer the closer you get to the city center. The highest and arguably most picturesque building on the street is the Albanija Palace. Don’t hesitate to stop out front, snap some photos, and admire the architecture!
The entirety of Knez Mihailova, especially the historic buildings, are protected by the Serbian Cultural Heritage Act given their historical importance.
The street continues all the way to Terazije Square. It essentially splits the downtown into two different parts making it easy to navigate the city whether you’re on foot or using public transportation.
Stand in Awe of the Church of Saint Sava
Of all of the points of interest in Belgrade I doubt there was one more recognizable than the Church of Saint Sava. This is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world and one of the most impressive things to see in the city.
From downtown it should take you 20 to 25 minutes to walk. Along the way there are some neat side streets and neighborhoods that you can check out if you’re not in a rush.
From the outside the Church of Saint Sava is incredible. There’s a park surrounding the church so you can walk around for a bit before sitting down and enjoying the view.
Unfortunately, renovations are still underway inside the church.
The Church of Saint Sava was built in a Neo-Byzantine architectural style using white marble. The white marble color is said to represent divinity and also helps to make the church prominently visible on the Belgrade skyline.
Beside Saint Sava is a smaller church that’s also dedicated to Saint Sava. The National Library of Serbia is also in the immediate area.
Both of these churches are dedicated to the patron Serbian Saint Sava. Legend has it that his remains were burned here in this exact place in 1595 by the Ottomans. In the place of Saint Sava was an enormous mosque, one of the biggest in Europe at the time, it was destroyed at the end of the Ottoman conflict.
Entrance to the interior of the church is free. The frescos haven’t been painted resulting in an unfinished interior. Nonetheless, this church is still used for important religious events and processions throughout the year.
Wander Along Skadarlija Street
Known as the Montmartre of Serbia, Skadarlija is Belgrades own little bohemian neighborhood.
This is another one of the pedestrian-only areas in the city. Walking around you’ll have plenty of restaurants, quaint little cafés, and a selection of bars to choose from. The entire street boasts a lively, vibrant atmosphere.
Originally, Skadarlija was one of the seediest parts of the city. During the 1800s it was a gypsy settlement. By the end of the 19th-century this had all been turned around. The street was lined with cafés and taverns that were frequented by local artists, poets, musicians and other open-minded individuals.
The small neighborhood of Skadarlija is centrally located. It connects the Republic Square in the city center with the Skadarlija Market, which is one of the biggest fresh markets in Belgrade.
Even the naming of the street has a unique history to it. The name, Skadarska, comes from the present-day Albania town of Skadar. During the Middle Ages this was one of the most important cities in Serbia.
Don’t hesitate to stop by one of the restaurants or cafes if you’re looking for something to eat or drink. This is definitely a touristy area, so you can expect higher prices.
Relax and People Watch in Republic Square
Another important Belgrade landmark is Republic Square. This is the main square in the city and a popular meeting point for locals and walking tours.
This Square is where the Stambol Gate originally stood during the 19th century. It was the furthest outer gate of the city. Unfortunately, during the Turkish occupation, many Serbians were executed here. When the Turks were finally kicked out the gate was ordered to be demolished.
It was the popular Prince Mihailo who ordered the demolition of the Stambol Gate. It’s him that you see seated on his horse in the center of the square.
Over time the square become a central meeting point and the city was built up around it.
The National Theater of Serbia, directly across the street from the Square, was the first building to be built after the gate was demolished. Since then many hotels, government offices, and a mix of residential and commercial buildings have gone up.
Today, visiting Republic Square is one of those fun activities in the Belgrade that you don’t want to miss. It’s a picturesque location and a great spot to use as a starting point before heading off to explore the city.
Walk Around the Dorćol Neighborhood
In the center of downtown is the Dorćol neighborhood. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and also one of the most luxurious.
Bordering the neighborhood is the Danube waterfront as well as the Kalemegdan Fortress. It’s the perfect area if you’re looking for somewhere to stay for exploring the city.
During my first trip to Belgrade my Airbnb apartment was located in the Dorćol neighborhood. This gave me a lot of time to walk around and discover the best of what Dorćol had to offer.
There are a lot of interesting and unique sights in this neighborhood. The architecture is also impressive with a blend of buildings from both of the Austrian and Turkish eras.
Running through the neighborhood is Cara Dusana street. Make your way to Cara Dusana 10 to see the oldest preserved house in Belgrade!
This old home dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. At one time it was part of a complex of four different houses that were connected to the Fortress by a series of underground tunnels. Today, there is a bakery and glass shop on the ground level with a residential apartment on top.
There’s no need to bring a map. Spend an hour or two wandering around to see what you can find!
Take a look at my post on the Dorcol neighborhood for more information.
Check Out the National Assembly of Serbia
The National Assembly of Serbia is one of the most impressive buildings in the city. It’s here where the Serbian people forced Slobodan Milosevic to step down as president of Yugoslavia.
This is where post Yugoslavia War Serbia begin its modern history.
Many of the important protests, parades, and other public gatherings happen out front of the National Assembly.
Important laws and regulations passed in Serbia are also discussed and written here.
Across the street and behind the building are a pair of beautiful parks. These parks offer some great views of the National Assembly so make sure to walk around if you’re hoping to get some photos.
From Republic Square you can reach the National Assembly in 5 to 10 minutes on foot.
Pay Your Respects at the NATO Bombing Ruins
Throughout downtown are a number of NATO bombing ruins in Belgrade.
These buildings were damaged during the NATO bombing raids that happened across Serbia in 1999. There isn’t anywhere else in Europe that you can see ruins like these from a conflict that happened in recent memory.
The most notable ruins are in the heart of downtown right down the street from the main train station. Take a look at my article on the NATO bombing ruins in Belgrade for a better perspective.
It’s not possible to tour the damaged buildings. There is a noticeable security presence out front of many of the buildings so keep that in mind when you’re taking photos or looking around.
Snap a Photo of St.Marks Church
Right behind and across the street from the National Assembly is St. Marks Church.
This is another one of the more picturesque religious structures in the city and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Built in 1940 and designed in a Serbo-Byzantine style, St. Marks Church take on a unique, unusual yet interesting appearance. It’s actually unlike any church I’ve ever seen and I would argue that it’s actually more picturesque than St. Savas.
The domed ceilings, the impressive archways and the intriguing brickwork makes St. Marks one of the coolest buildings in the city.
One of the most impressive things about the church is the interior which features a wonderfully designed altar table, incredible frescoes and a church treasury that holds a small collection of valuable historic artifacts and icons.
There is a large park that is right beside the church and it’s also another great place to relax if you want to beat the crowds and enjoy a nice view.
Enjoy a Drink at Kafana ? Cafe
Kafana Question Mark is one of the oldest and most popular cafes in Serbia. There’s no other cafe in Belgrade that you’ll find with a more unique and interesting history.
The building that the cafe is currently located in was built in 1823.It was designed in a traditional Balkan style and this is evident the moment you see the cafe.
The property was originally owned by Prince Obrenovic of the Serbian Royal Family. It was used for diplomatic purposes and also shared with a Macedonian diplomat.
The princes own doctor realize the location was ideal for starting a business. He decided to turn the building into a kafana, or Serbian cafe. Over the years Kafana Question Mark has been frequented by many famous Serbians.
During the Communist rule in Serbia the building was taken over by the government. Thankfully, it was declared as an important cultural and historical landmark.
Today, the building is still owned by the government and all attempts at privatization have been awarded. If you’re looking for one of the best cafes in Belgrade I would definitely recommend stopping by Kafana Question Mark for a warm drink and a taste of history.
Admire the Architecture Around You
There are some amazing examples of 18th, 19th, and 20th architecture in Belgrade. It seems that everywhere you go there is something worth taking a photo of.
The details of some of the buildings in the city center are incredible. I only wish I could speak Serbian so I could learn more about the different buildings that I was admiring.
Instead of following a traditional tourist route through the city make it a point to venture off on to various side streets. Take the time to explore new neighborhoods and look for hidden gems off-the-beaten-path areas that you can recommend to future travelers.
For architecture lovers it’s hard to go wrong with a trip to Belgrade.
Take a Day Trip to Novi Sad
Wondering about the day trips from Belgrade? Then you’re going to want to consider making the trip to Novi Sad, the second biggest city in Serbia.
It’s easy to get to Novi Sad using public transportation. Alternatively, you could take a private transfer if you’re looking for a private and relaxing experience.
Take a look at my post on how to get to Novi Sad from Belgrade if you need help planning the route.
Novi Sad is a beautiful city in Northern Serbia. It’s also located on the Danube River and the city also has its own Fortress dating back to the 17th century.
It’s possible to explore Novi Sad in just one day if you’re limited on time and don’t feel like spending the night. It’s an hour away from Belgrade so planning a day trip isn’t difficult or time-consuming.
Take a look at my post on the best things to do in Novi Sad if you’re planning to visit!
Go on a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to explore somewhere new is to go on a walking tour.
These tours are a great way to get introduced to the city and learn more about it before exploring on your own. This way you’ll have a better perspective on Belgrade and hopefully you’ll be able to orient yourself in the city before the tour is over.
Tour guides are typically locals passionate about their city and interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas with you. Some of the guides might even hook you up with a special tip for an even better experience while you’re visiting Belgrade.
The walking tours typically take between 2 to 3 hours. The starting point for most of the tours in the city is Republic Square in the heart of downtown.
Where to Stay in Belgrade for Sightseeing
There are a number of options for accommodation in Belgrade if you’re planning on spending the night.
Personally, I recommend booking an AirBnb somewhere in the city center close everywhere you want to go. This way it’s going to be easy for you to walk around and explore on foot.
Be sure to head over to AirBnb and sign up if you haven’t already. You’ll get a small discount if you sign up through my link!
If you’re interested in hotels I would recommend taking a look at the Square Nine Hotel Belgrade.
This is a modern and luxurious hotel in the attractive historic district of central Belgrade. the property posts an elegant design, world-class service, and comfortable rooms that are well-equipped for a short-term stay.
Those of you traveling on a budget will want to take a look at the White Owl Hostel.
This is a simple and basic hostel that comes with everything you’ll need for a quick visit. The location is great for exploring the city without having to spend too much for accommodation.
Be sure to check out the posts here if you’re looking for more information about your upcoming trip to Serbia!