what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of Europe’s most underrated capital city

I had no real inclination to go to Belgrade. It wasn’t part of my plan for my European summer to spend nearly a week in the Serbian capital. However, when it was suggested I hop on a train from Bar, Montenegro, to Belgrade, Serbia, I realized I had no reason not to. In fact, I was kind of filled with a sense of wonder about it all. But, I kind of wondered, what is there to do in Belgrade?

I couldn’t have picked a better city to end up in after a long train ride. Belgrade was filled with art, architecture, and grit. It seems like the entire city has somehow managed to remain off the radar of the masses despite it’s proximity to nation’s currently fighting over-tourism. Belgrade was also ridiculously inexpensive. I sat at a nice café with WiFi and had a proper cappuccino for less than USD $1.50— a real deal in Europe. On top of the perks of fewer crowds and affordability,

Serbia is the world’s leading exporter of raspberries, have a older tradition making clocks than the Swiss, and can proudly claim the second largest Orthodox Christian Church in the world. Basically, it’s seriously underrated and you should get yourself there.


here’s my ultimate guide to belgrade


what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city
what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city

facts to know before you go

In 2003, Belgrade became capital of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. In May 2006, it was made the capital of The Republic of Serbia. Like most of Eastern Europe, Serbia has a complex history riddled with recent war and communist rule.

CURRENCY: Serbian dinar | LANGUAGE: Serbian | POPULATION OF BELGRADE: 1.4 million

what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city

how to get to belgrade

Belgrade seems a little off-the-beaten-path, but it’s actually quite easy to get to! There are a variety of ways to get to the Serbian capital that suit all kinds of travelers and their pocketbooks.

AIRPLANE

For those with the cash to spend, you can fly to Belgrade from most capital cities in Europe. International Nikola Tesla Airport, the city’s airport, has incoming budget flights available. It also has some long-haul flights to and from places like New York City. Don’t forget to offset your carbon emissions people!

train

One of my top recommendations for slow travelers, like me, looking to take in the beautiful Serbian landscapes, is to take the train from Montenegro. National Geographic named it one of the world’s most beautiful train rides, and I think it definitely earns its spot.

The rail services aren’t high-speed by any means, but they offer stunning views at a leisurely pace and an affordable price. For the best deal, consider The Balkan Flexipass. It’s a cheap way of traveling to, from, and around Serbia. I only wish I had known about it before my impulse visit so that I could make use of it myself!

Bus

The bus service in Belgrade is actually faster than the train, though the rides are curvier and less scenic. There plenty of bus routes to Belgrade from European capital cities, but the buses all vary widely in how they’ve been kept. You should also note that buses in the Balkans tend not to utilize their air-conditioning like you might be used to. On my ride from Belgrade to Sarajevo, I about died from the heat inside the bus. Despite the weary state of certain coaches, bussing is definitely the cheapest way to get to Belgrade.

boat

If you’re coming from Budapest, Vienna, or Prague and have cash burning a hole in your wallet, you can always book a highly-overpriced ticket on a cruise down the Danube. Many of the cruises available drop in or conclude at Belgrade.

what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city

getting around

Belgrade’s top attractions are almost entirely within walking distance. There are also buses and trams throughout the city. During my week-long stay in Belgrade, I got everywhere on foot quite happily and never utilized the public transport. There simply was no need thanks to the close proximity of everything and the good weather I was graced with.


where to stay

There are plenty of hostels and fancy hotels in Belgrade, including Hotel Moscow, the most famous hotel in the city. However, making my base in Belgrade for a week meant I wanted somewhere with a kitchen, good WiFi, and all the home-type amenities that help me avoid travel burnout. So, as I usually do, I turned to AirBnB and found Chulucation, a centrally located 1-bedroom flat with all the amenities of a hotel, but more space for a lower price tag.

Psst…use my link to receive a fat chunk of money off your first AirBnB stay!

the big guide to Belgrade, Serbia: where to eat, what to do, + everything you need to know about Serbia’s underrated capital city
what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city
the big guide to Belgrade, Serbia: where to eat, what to do, + everything you need to know about Serbia’s underrated capital city

where to eat + grab coffee

While finding vegetarian food in Belgrade proved a but of a challenge, finding good coffee and baked goods was not. Here are some of the places I ate and drank during my visit.

Amelie

Footsteps from my AirBnB was Amelie, a tiny café with French inspired decor and some antique chairs that made for prime outdoor seating. The young co-owner, who had traveled to Montana, spoke with me extensively about our love of Glacier National Park and proper coffee. There isn’t a food menu here, but if you want a late night wine or an early morning coffee, this is the place to head. By my measure, the atmosphere under the twinkly lights of the outdoor seating cannot be beat in Belgrade.

OPENING HOURS: Saturday through Thursday from 10 AM-12 AM, Fridays from 10 AM- 1 AM {note: I had coffee here multiple times before 10 AM, so take the opening hours with a grain of salt}

Koffein

Trying the traditional Serbian coffee here was…an experience. I don’t think I’ve ever had such thick or strong coffee anywhere {apart from maybe Bosnia and Herzegovina}. Koffein is near the main shopping street in Belgrade, making it a convenient coffee stop.

OPENING HOURS: Monday through Saturday from 8 AM- 10 PM, Sundays from 8:30 AM- 10 PM

Manufaktura

This was a top recommendation by my AirBnB host, and I had seen it mentioned on the internet in multiple places. The consensus seemed to be that if I wanted to try Serbian food, Manufaktura was the place to do it. Unfortunately, the menu boasted no vegetarian options outside of salads, and most of those had chicken or pork in them. Instead, I opted for a bevy of side dishes {grilled vegetables and baked potatoes with cheese} with an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Not only was the meal reasonably priced, especially considering its reputation, it was filling. So filling, in fact, I left my table under the little red umbrellas stuffed like it was Thanksgiving. At Manufaktura, for less than USD $10, you can have a heaping portion of Serbian classics in the atmosphere of a fine dining restaurant.

TIP: Make reservations if you’re heading here for dinner— the place books up!

OPENING HOURS: 9 AM- 2 AM daily

blaznavac

The one coffee shop I was most keen to try was Blaznavac. I had seen it mentioned on multiple websites as one of the quirkiest places to grab a cup or cocktail. My interest in the off-kilter bar and café was peaked and so I went at opening one morning, where I had a phone interview for a writing position in the courtyard {haha freelancing life is so strange}. The coffee was good and the decor lived up to its oddball reputation.

OPENING HOURS: 9 AM- 2 AM daily

café dardaneli

In desperate need of caffeine while walking around the city, I stumbled upon Dardaneli completely by accident. The café was, arguably, one of the prettiest I’d found, and the playlist was banging {The Killers, The Paper Kites, Angus + Julia Stone, etc}. There is a limited menu as well, so check that out if you’re in need of a snack.

OPENING HOURS: 8AM - 12AM daily

Mandarina Cake Shop

Cake so nice, I went there twice! Mandarina has the most delicious specialty cakes and pastries. Note: there is no English menu, so picking a cake is a bit of a gamble. Each of the cakes I indulged in were fully worth the risk. My waistline is probably upset at how close Mandarina was to my flat, but I left Belgrade a happy, full girl.

OPENING HOURS: 10 AM- 10 PM daily

the big guide to Belgrade, Serbia: where to eat, what to do, + everything you need to know about Serbia’s underrated capital city
what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city
why Belgrade, Serbia, is one of the most underrated cities in Europe: a guide to the Serbian capital
Burek + baked goods
what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of europe’s most underrated capital city

what to see + do

stroll around the fortress

The Belgrade Fortress is free and open to the public. The stone fortress is made up of the old citadel and an adjoining park. From the fortress walls, you can see the Danube River. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and makes for a romantic sort of wander in the evening as the sunsets and the bars along the river light themselves up.

check out savamala neighbourhood

Definitely a little rough around the edges, but don’t count the Savamala neighbourhood out during your stay. This area of the city is quickly becoming filled with hipster cafés and delicious bakeries. There is also quite the street art and graffiti scene in Savamala. If you’re walking around Belgrade, make sure to detour this way.

visit the Nikola Tesla Museum

I’ve never been one on the science/math side of life, but I learned so much at the Nikola Tesla Museum it had me Google-ing electricity for an entire afternoon after my visit. Tesla is proudly claimed by the Serbs, though he immigrated to America and never actually lived in Serbia {if you watched my Instagram story, you know}. The museum actually houses the golden orb urn where Tesla’s ashes are kept.

search for street art

One of the many surprises in Belgrade was the number of murals and graffiti scattered around the city. Political satire, murals, and vibrant walls painted as advertising for nearby businesses really made Belgrade come to life. My favourite was the bright “Welcome to Belgrade” mural painted on the side of a very dodgy street. It just sort of…filled what looked bleak with some colour and promise.

try the baked goods {like burek}

Burek is a famous Serbian breakfast pastry. It’s basically filo pastry with meat inside. However, you can find cheesy and vegetarian-friendly burek if you’re willing to search around. If you can’t endure the hunt for veggie burek, consider trying one of the many other pastries at the local bakeries scattered around town. You really can’t go wrong with carbs in Belgrade.

get cultural at the church of saint sava

The Church of Saint Sava was, until recently, the largest Eastern Orthodox churches in the world {Bucharest recently stole the cake from them}. The church is dedicated and named after Saint Sava, the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The crypt of the church is golden and shiny— a total contrast to the scaffolding around the outside I had to lay eyes on {the drawbacks of Europe in the summertime}.


apps + tips to help

  • You can pick up a SIM card at any newspaper stand in the city, but they’ll only accept cash. If you’d rather pay by card, you’ll need to go to a mobile phone company in the city center and pick one up. The cost is the same, don’t worry!

  • Smoking is still allowed in most cafés and restaurants throughout the city.

  • You can use credit card most places, but there are certain ticketed attractions that only accept cash.

  • All legitimate taxis should have meters. If a taxi driver is trying to negotiate a price with you before you get in the car, ask about a meter. This will insure you get a fair price and don’t get scammed.


map

NEED HELP NAVIGATING BELGRADE? I’ve made a map to help you out!


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the ultimate guide to Belgrade, Serbia: what to do, where to eat, + everything you need to know #serbia #belgrade #belgradethingstodo
what to do in Belgrade, Serbia: a complete guide to one of Europe’s most underrated capital city #belgrade #belgradethingstodo #belgradetravel