Belgrade, or “The White City” as it’s otherwise known, is the metropolis of the Balkans.
After spending 10 days in Belgrade, Team Podstel have been well and truly won over by its charm. Belgrade’s welcoming soul is so inviting to travellers, which perhaps comes from the fact that it’s still a relatively new stop off on the backpacker trail. Belgrade’s vibe is pretty special but you’ve really got to feel it for yourself, to believe it.
Here’s a few things we got up to during our stay which are worth a shout out.
What surprised us maybe the most about Belgrade was its thriving creative scene.
With amazing graffiti plastered all over the city, one place in particular which brims with artistic fervour is Inex Film, a squat in the suburb of Karaburma. Following the advice of a friendly local Serb, we went to check out this wonderfully creative open-house project. Here, you’ll be welcomed inside by one of the residents or regular visitors passing through to feast your eyes on the fantastic artwork and you’ll probably leave with an invite to return to one of the activities or parties held there.
Savamala is the home of the hipsters. This trendy neighbourhood just around the corner from Trip & Sleep Hostel is the epicentre of the alternative scene and is brimming with cooler than cool art, cafes and bars. A digital nomad haven by day, the night is where it’s really at here, as the live music venues kick off in earnest. Mikser House is probably the most well-known of the bars, but it’s definitely worth checking out a few places around here. Take a trip outside and get lost in the psychedelic murals and graffiti art covering the walls.
One of the main must-see streets of Belgrade is Knez Mihailova, which can be found right on the doorstep of Trip & Sleep Hostel. This main thoroughfare bustles both day and night with street performers ranging from break-dancers to violinists, and everything in between. But just remember to look up and take in the architectural beauty of the Viennese style buildings which proudly display the might of the Kingdom of Serbia.
Once you get to the end of this street you will see Kalemegdan Park, home to Belgrade’s mighty fortress. After taking a fascinating Underground City Tour with Serbia Tours, we learnt all about the history of this area. It was fascinating to learn that “Kalemegdan” translates to “Battlefield Fortress” and for years, the city’s population resided within these very walls which have withstood millennia of battles and sieges. The fortress and its surrounding area is the oldest in Belgrade and is the very place from which the name, “White City” derives.
Today, the park is worlds away from the battlegrounds of yesteryear and offers perfect sanctuary for people of all generations and cultures to come together. We made sure to take full advantage of the respite, by meditating, playing frisbee and soaking up the spring sunshine.
Charismatic Belgrade offers vibrant nightlife in its abundance of funky underground bars, kafanas and clubs. Our evenings often began with a cheeky pint in the Green Mill which is a really cool, cosy bar, kitted out in homely décor right underneath our hosel. Courtesy of Serbia Tours, we were taken on a crazy bar crawl, which is always a fun way to play out after dark. And the benefits of this cannot be overstated – by letting a local guide you to the best nightspots, you’ll not waste any time figuring out where’s best to go and you’ll be knocking back that rakija in no time at some of the uber-cool river boat parties.
At the recommendation of our Trip and Sleep Hostel’s lovely receptionist, we headed to Sioux, an underground club where we danced our socks off to psytrance well into the early hours. This is located near the bohemian street of Skadaska, where you can find tonnes of groovy bars, restaurants and cafes.
One thing worth mentioning, however, is that before reaching Belgrade, we’d heard about its reputation as one the party capitals of Europe. This claim is perhaps a bit misleading. Sure, there’s an awesome party scene, but due to recent legislation changes, most bars and clubs close at 2 or 3am (during the week anyway). This was perfectly fine for us of course, but just a warning for you disco maniacs – don’t expect 24 hour parties 7 days a week.
First things first, Serbs love their meat. So, if you’re a meat enthusiast, you’re in for a real treat.
Forget any ideas you have of burger joints – Belgrade’s fast food eateries on every street corner are really delicious. Our personal favourites were the grilled chicken fillet burgers which were cooked fresh to order, ready for you to spice up with all kinds of tasty sauces and salads. For just over €1, these beasts will really fill you up and taste so good!
You have many options to sample the delights of Serbian cuisine in one of Belgrade’s many restaurants. Kafana Question Mark is the oldest eateries in Belgrade and can be found just around the corner from Trip & Sleep Hostel, and the funky live music band creates a welcome atmosphere as you tuck into your dinner. With loads of delicious options on the menu, we recommend trying the famous Balkan dish sarma (grape vines/cabbage leaves stuffed with meat). For the vegetarian option, ask for yaprak sarma which replaces the meat with a tasty mix of rice, pine nuts, currants and spices. We hope you’re not too hungry now!
So there you a have it, a few travelling tips from our experience of Belgrade. It’s over to you now, so go discover the magic for yourself.