Belgrade has been inhabited by Celts, Romans, and Slavs and been under Byzantine, Frankish, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Ottoman, and Serbian rule, each leaving little touches here and there. Leisurely strolls take you past a wide array of architectural styles including Communist blocks in New Belgrade, Austro-Hungarian homes in Zemun, Roman ruins, and Ottoman relics.
Today the royal family resides in an opulent palace complex adorned with beautifully, bright painted arched ceilings. Faith must have got the city through some tough times, and the resiliency and determination of its residents is apparent at the world’s largest eastern orthodox church, the Church of Saint Sava. Its colossal dome is visible across Belgrade, its interior a work-in-progress with glittering mosaics and frescoes.
Life takes on a relaxed pace in Belgrade. Lunches linger and nothing is hurried. The city is a creative hub where art and music are celebrated. Wander through the small galleries and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The energy of the city bursts in the cozy restaurants in Skadarska where locals cram in to dance and drink. One restaurant has been dishing out hearty meals for over 180 years to the soothing sound of violin. During the day, sit in a cafe sipping on a coffee with a pastry in hand. Sweet tooth cravings are satisfied in Moritz Eis, an ice cream shop where the flavors and colors are so rich that they are Instagram-worthy. Its mixing of various people and cultures over time means that Belgrade serves up a delicious array of cuisine. Don’t miss the kebabs paired with chopped onions and sour cream.
Hop on a boat for a dinner cruise with a local folklore presentation. Feet meet cobblestone streets in the Old Town. Stroll along one of the oldest streets in the city, Knez Mihailova, and stop in the boutiques and feel the buzz of the transforming city.
At times Belgrade is not the best-looking city, but if you look past its grittier exterior, it has a whole lot of heart. It has endured and survived a long history of struggle. Bomb-blasted buildings still stand; Belgrade has been destroyed and has always rebuilt. At the Ruzica Church, find chandeliers made by soldiers out of remnants of the First World War; bullet casings, swords, rifles, cannon bits. Learn more about the past and see Tito’s grave at the Museum of Yugoslav History.
Jumping back further in time reveals another layer of Belgrade. The 1460 Nebojsa Tower is a museum that covers everything from the Medieval times to the Ottoman era. On a nice day, enjoy the pretty view of the Sava and Danube rivers from the ruins of the Kalemegdan fortress, built to defend against invasions. Duck under the 18th-century Karadjordje Gate or see the tomb of the Grand Vizier Damat Ali pasha.