Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, and with its 2 million inhabitants the country’s largest city, its economic and educational hub, and the third largest in Southeast Europe – after Istanbul and Athens.
Located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers, it has long been of strategic importance and is marked by a turbulent history. The city has been demolished and rebuilt 40 times and has shown an amazing ability to recuperate. Today it is on its way to a better future and is a largely undiscovered spot on the tourist map of south-eastern Europe.
The city possesses a unique unpretentious charm, its people are amazingly open and hospitable and there are many historic sights, cultural events and activities available to the tourist. The best place to start exploring the city is the Kalemegdan Citadel boasting numerous historic buildings and lovely parkland overlooking the meeting of the Sava and Danube Rivers.
The city cafés are also a must. Socializing and drinking coffee with friends is considered one of the most favorite pastimes in Belgrade and an essential ritual. Belgrade is also a very green city- it has many parks and forests both in the center and on the outskirts of the city.
Belgrade has a moderate continental climate with four distinct seasons. Springs are short and wet; most rainfall occurs in May and June. Summers are pleasantly warm. The hottest month is July when temperatures often reach and can surpass 30 °C. Autumns are warm with occasional windy spells. Winters are marked by low temperatures, which sometimes drop below zero, and snow can be expected.
January average temperature 1 deg Celsius 41 mm rainfall February average temperature 2 deg Celsius, 38 mm rainfall March average temperature 7 deg Celsius, 43 mm rainfall April average temperature 12 deg Celsius, 56 mm rainfall May average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 74 mm rainfall June average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 84 mm rainfall July average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 63 mm rainfall August average temperature 22 deg Celsius, 53 mm rainfall September average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 46 mm rainfall October average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 51 mm rainfall November average temperature 6 deg Celsius, 56 mm rainfall December average temperature 2 deg Celsius, 51 mm rainfall
The city can be reached by bus or taxi in approximately 20 minutes. Several bus services are available at the airport and connect to various parts in the city. Tickets can be bought onboard. Taxis are also widely available on site.
Belgrade has an extensive public transport network – buses, trolley buses and trams that connect to the city’s various districts. During rush hours they can be very crowded. Tickets for all forms of public transport can be bought at street kiosks or alternatively directly onboard, the latter being more expensive.
Belgrade has 120 bus lines. Tickets can be bought at kiosks and have to be validated once on board.
There are eight lines that connect the east and south part of the city with the center.
There are 12 tram lines in the city. They are old and tired, but numbers 2 and 3 are very scenic.
Small, quick and air-conditioned minibuses are a new alternative to the buses. They are more expensive than buses but also faster.
Taxis are cheap and available everywhere. They can be hailed on the street or ordered by phone. Use licensed taxi cabs, which are marked with a number and the city coat of arms.
Belgrade traffic is hectic and driving in the city poses more problems than it benefits.
Several tourist boats offer Sava and Danube River cruises.
Ada Ciganlija is a forested river peninsula on the Sava River where a hugely popular multifunctional recreational park is located. It features beaches and sport facilities, which are full of people during the summers. It is nicknamed Belgrade’s Seaside. The beach is actually located on the bank of an artificial lake, which has warmer and cleaner water than the Sava River. Other activities on the lake include rowing, kayaking, water polo, diving, sailing.
The peninsula also features a golf course and a water-skiing lift, soccer fields, tennis, volleyball, rugby and basketball courts. During the summer, Ada often hosts cultural entertainment. Here you can also find a plethora of restaurants and bars, as well as the popular floating restaurants on house boats.
WALKING IN KALEMEGDAN
Kalemegdan is a large green park situated right in the heart of the city, a small hill, which features numerous walking paths, the Zoo, and Banjica forest with over 70 bird species.
OTHER GREEN SPACES
Great War Island is a river island located in the center of the city. It is a unique natural habitat and a bird sanctuary as well as a popular spot to unwind during the summer.
Košutnjak Hill is a forest and park with many walking paths, a camping ground, restaurants, a hotel and sports center featuring soccer fields, athletics, volleyball, basketball and handball courts, five open air swimming pools, and one indoor pool.
Address: Access from the Knez Mihailova and Uzun Mirkova streets
Kalemegdan Citadel is situated on a hilltop overlooking the meeting of the Sava and Danube Rivers. It is set within the walls of the Belgrade Fortress, which dates as far back as the 1st century AD under the Romans and is the site of the original fortified city. The park features a zoo, art pavilion, observatory, planetarium, a Roman well, and the Military Museum. There are also several cafés and restaurants where you can sit down and relax.
NIKOLA TESLA MUSEUM
Address: Krunska 51 Phone: (011) 243 3886. Website: www.tesla-museum.org Open: Tue-Fri 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Sat-Sun 10:00 am – 1: 00 pm; closed on Mondays
A fascinating museum dedicated to the life and work of Serbia’s eccentric inventor and physicist, Nikola Tesla. It features instruments, technical objects, photographs, plans and drawings, as well as his personal belongings. The museum also features an interactive display and 3-D models of his inventions. Tesla was born in Croatia as the son of a Serbian Orthodox clergyman. He first worked in Budapest but later immigrated to the USA to work with Edison. He invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla induction motor, the Tesla coil, and developed the alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. He was also contributed to the invention of modern radio.
ST SAVA'S TEMPLE
Address: Svetosavski trg
The massive St. Sava’s Temple is the largest Orthodox Church in use in the world. Its construction took almost 70 years; construction began in 1935 and was completed in 2004 although some interior works are still ongoing. The funding has come entirely by donations from the public. It has a magnificent dome roof that is 70 meters tall and can be seen from almost any place in the city. The church is dedicated to Saint Sava, founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
HOUSE OF FLOWERS – MARSHAL TITO'S TOMB
Address: Bulevar Mira
House of Flowers is the mausoleum of Josip Broz Tito, who was the president of Yugoslavia from 1953 until his death in 1980. The tomb is located in Dedinje, Belgrade. There is little to see except the tomb, however, there is an exhibition of state gifts that Tito received from foreign dignitaries during his rule. The staff at the site are well informed and always happy to share stories and anecdotes.
SKADARLIJA - OLD BOHEMIAN QUARTER
Skadarlija is a popular area lined with cafes and restaurants and is sometimes compared with Paris’ Montmartre. The old Bohemian quarter dates from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century and was once a meeting place for and home to Belgrade’s prominent cultural figures. Today the cobbled pedestrianized area is very popular with tourists. There are numerous pleasant street cafés and restaurants, galleries, antique and souvenir shops and street musicians. It is a great place to have a cup of coffee, sample the local cuisine, or simply soak up the atmosphere.
The official residence of the Serbian Royal Family supplies an interesting insight into their lives. The site is accessible only through prior appointment via organized tours, from April 1 to October 30. Guided tours include a visit to the Royal Palace, the White Palace and the park of the Royal Compound. Located on the green Dedinje hill, it is at its nicest in springtime. Organized tours are available on weekends. Tickets must be bought a few days in advance at the Belgrade Tourist Organisation at 5 Makedonska Street. (http://www.tob.co.yu/eng/)
KNEZ MIHAILOVA STREET
Knez Mihailova is a street in Belgrade lined with stately mansions and represent fine 19th century architecture. It stretches from Kalemegdan hill to the Republic Square. This was the first officially named and regulated street in Belgrade. Today the street is for pedestrians only and acts as the main shopping street and promenade in the city.
Serbian cuisine is actually a mix of influences, ranging from the Mediterranean (especially Greek), Hungarian, Turkish and Austrian cuisines. It is rich in fat and almost all dishes include meat or at least its by-products. It consists mostly of grilled meats, sausages, bread and cheese. Salads are usually composed of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion and cabbage. Heavy dishes are often accompanied by alcoholic beverages, such as the traditional brandy called rakija.
There are innumerable restaurants offering local food and most have ‘’rostilj’’ – a large hot plate for grilling meat. This is the most popular way of preparing items such as Ćevapčići, beef burgers, sausages, pork chops and other meat. Kajmak is one of the oldest specialties from the region. It is a creamy spread made of milk fat usually served with bread as an appetizer or melted onto the grilled meat.
Serbian bean soup (pasulj) is very popular as well. Desserts range from Turkish-style baklava to Viennese-style cakes. Sljivovica, plum brandy, is considered a national drink. Other popular alcoholic drinks include lozovaca (grape brandy) and various wines ranging from Mediterranean to continental types. Belgrade’s restaurants can be found all over the city. The three most typical areas are along the riverfront, at the Belgrade Fortress overlooking the rivers, and in Dorćol, one of the oldest parts of the city, which lies alongside Skadarska Street (the old bohemian quarter).
When eating out, don’t forget to tip. There is no strict dress code. It is advisable to book in advance at most restaurants. Also, non-smoking sections are rare.
The festival features an innovative artistic program featuring music, theatre, dance and multimedia performances. Shows are held at various scenic spots, including Kalemegdan, Ada Ciganlija, on the city streets and squares, as well as in theatres and other venues in the city.
This international jazz festival, featuring a series of concerts by local and international musicians, is held in various venues around the city: Dom omladine, Dom sindikata, Kolarčeva zadužbina and others. It lasts for five days and is organized by the Belgrade Youth Center.
The Rakija Festival brings together various producers of Rakija, a traditional fruit brandy. The aim is to educate, for example: what type of Rakija to drink with which kind of food, and what is the best time to drink Rakija. There are also several activities for the adventurous: Rakija Chess and Hiccup Darts are popular. Also, a jury made up of Serbian celebrities gives out an award for the most cheerful Rakija.
NEW YEAR IN BELGRADE
Date: December 31 Location: Streets and square of central Belgrade
Celebrations usually start in bars and at private parties but finally everybody ends up on the streets. Revelers cruise from one stage to the next, to listen to concerts held at various locations in the city center.
Every year a huge and extremely popular festival is held in Novi Sad, Serbia’s second biggest city (located in the northern region), set in the Petrovaradin Fortress. It was founded in the year 2000 and keeps growing in terms of popularity and number of visitors. In was declared the biggest cultural event in South-Central/Eastern Europe Music ranges from Rock, Dance, Reggae, Hip-Hop, Folk, to Techno. The festival has attracted numerous music stars of world format such as Moby, Moloko, Iggy Pop, Slayer, Snoop Dogg, etc.
Belgrade has a vast selection of clubs and bars. Start at one of the trendy bars, restaurants or floating river clubs, then head to nightclubs around midnight. The city’s lively clubs and cheap booze keep people partying until the wee hours of the morning, making Belgrade the party hub of the region.
Belgrade’s specialty are the floating river bars – boat houses anchored along the Danube and Sava Rivers that stay open until the morning and offer a wide selection of entertainment. Ada Ciganlija is also a very popular party area, especially in the summertime. The majority of Belgrade’s clubs are located in the city center. Prices of dinks are low by western standards.
Live Jazz and Rock music can be found at the following clubs: Beggars' Banquet, Štamparija and Tramvaj. Cafés are very popular hang-outs. Some of the popular ones are Grinet, Libre!, Idiot, Three Carrots, Tvrđava, and Wonderbar.
House, progressive and dance music is played in the following clubs: Andergraund, Cvijeta, Havana, Mondo (plastic), Sargon, Xl, Bus, and Bona fides.
Serbian folk music is played in clubs along the Danube and Sava Rivers: Ccanu Klub, Free Styler, Sound, Prestiž to name a few.
Bars are usually open until 1:00 am daily, and clubs until 4:00 am, Tuesday to Sunday.
Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe. The area around the Sava and Danube Rivers had already been settled in the Paleolithic era. It is located in a prominent and strategic location, at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. During its tumultuous history it has been destroyed and rebuilt 40 times. Vinča was the name of the first significant settlement on the banks of Sava River in prehistoric times. In the 6th century the Slavs entered the territory of the Byzantium and settled in the area. The town, built of stone, emerged above the river. The first mention of the settlement dates back to 878. A few decades later it was attacked by the Hungarians and recaptured by the Byzantium Empire. In the next few centuries the settlement changed hands several times. The Goths and Huns were measuring forces in the area until the Serbs came and settled the area, making the fortified settlement their capital in 1403.
In 1521 the Turks conquered Belgrade and peace reigned for about 150 years until a Serbian revolt in 1594, which was suppressed by the Turks who destroyed their churches in retribution. Belgrade flourished greatly under the Turks in the 17th century when the town population rose to 100,000, becoming the second largest city in the empire after Istanbul. After the Turkish defeat at the hands of Austrians in 1688, Belgrade came under Austrian rule but it was recaptured by the Ottomans several times and each time significantly damaged. After two Serbian uprisings, the Serbs finally reached some independence in 1815. Full independence followed in 1878, when it was transformed to the Kingdom of Serbia in 1882, regaining its status as the major city in the Balkans, and prospered significantly. The railway connection Niš-Belgrade opened in 1900, at this time the country was still largely agrarian. Belgrade’s population was steadily growing and reached 80,000 by the early 20th century.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
On June 28, 1914 World War I was triggered when Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo. During the war Belgrade was under Austrian occupation and when it was finally liberated on November 1, 1918, the city was in a bad state – it had lost 30% of its population and was one of the cities worst affected by the war. Soon afterwards the city became the capital of the newly established Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians and Slovenians, during which time it grew and modernized rapidly. Its population had risen to 320,000 by 1940. On March 25, 1941 the country signed the Tripartite Pact. This led to massive demonstrations followed by a coup-d’état two days later, which brought down the government. A few days later Belgrade was extensively bombed by German forces, resulting in a huge number of dead and wounded and massive damage to the city itself. Yet, this was just the beginning of the four-year occupation by Germany. At the same time the city was being bombed by the Allied forces, especially during the spring and autumn of 1944. Belgrade was finally liberated by the Yugoslav Liberation Army and the Russian Red Army on October 20, 1944. As the new communist government took over, political opponents were arrested and overcome. Belgrade slowly began recuperating from the war, infrastructure was rebuilt, education facilities reintroduced and new factories emerged, focusing on the metal, chemical and power industries. On November 29, 1945, the monarchy was abolished and the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia was proclaimed. It was a socialist union of South Slavic peoples under a communist government led by Josip Broz Tito. It was organized as a federal state with a republican political system and the property of pre-war industrialists was nationalized. Under Tito, Belgrade - as the capital of Yugoslavia - became a prominent political, cultural, economic and sporting centre. In 1961 it was host to the first Conference of the Non-Aligned Countries. Conflicts began surfacing in 1968 as students protested against unjust social differences and harsh bureaucracy. In 1974, the Constitution was changed to grant greater rights to Yugoslavia’s constituting republics, and the state started moving towards confederation. When Tito died on May 4, 1980 Yugoslavia began breaking down. An economical collapse was followed by the political one. In 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, followed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia in 1992, leaving Belgrade as the capital of Yugoslavia, which consisted only of the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Montenegro.
Unresolved ethnic frictions broke out in a civil war, first starting with a short conflict in 1991 in Slovenia, later spreading to other parts of the once common country. The conflict in Croatia lasted from 1991-95, while the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina lasted from 1992 – 95; the latter was primarily a religo/idealogical war between Muslims, Croatians and Serbians, ending with the Dayton Agreement. In March 1991 massive demonstrations were held against the president Slobodan Milošević The period from 1996 to ‘99 saw conflict in Kosovo between the Kosovo liberation Army and Serbian forces, during which time Belgrade was bombed by NATO.
In 2003 Montenegro and Serbia formed a short-lived state union, but Montenegro declared independence three years later. Belgrade then became the capital of the newly independent Serbian state.
The general form of greeting is a handshake while maintaining steady eye contact. Personal space is not really observed. People often hug and tap each other on the shoulder or touch during conversation.
When visiting a Serbian home you will be offered coffee, juice and rakija – strong liquor. Bring a gift, such as a bottle of alcohol, chocolates or flowers.
Dinking: In Serbian a toast is ‘Živeli’. Drinking coffee, meeting with friends and family to chat is the most popular pastime and an important ritual.
Smoking is present everywhere. Do not expect non-smoking bars or restaurants. Although there may be non-smoking sections, they are usually located right next to the smoking sections.
Tipping: around 10% is common in restaurants, bars, hotels and with taxi drivers.
Religion: When visiting a church or a monastery refrain from speaking or laughing loudly, wearing a hat, showing too much flesh and generally being disrespectful in any way.
Belgrade is a relatively safe destination. It has a lower crime rate than most European cities of a similar size. However, beware of pickpockets in crowded areas and on public transportation. Keep your money, travel documents and valuables in a secure place. One of the biggest problems is car theft and occasional armed robberies aimed at foreign vehicles. It is advisable to seek local advice if planning to travel the countryside extensively by car.
Many people, especially the younger generation, speak English.
Avoid public demonstrations and political protests as they have been known to turn violent.
Note that nightclubs tend to be overcrowded and often do not comply with the Western standards of occupancy control and fire safety.
It is wise to travel with a medical insurance policy and those planning to use any automobile should also have insurance for this as well.
Emergency Phone Numbers
Police: 92 Fire Department: 93 Ambulance: 94
Other useful numbers:
Long distance international calls: 901 US Embassy in Belgrade - immediate assistance: +381 11 361 9344.