Why you should book a trip to Belgrade

By | Category: Travel destinations

In search of a destination that is a little off-the-beaten-track and where the pound goes pretty far? Serbia’s spirited capital, Belgrade, fits the bill says Kaye Holland

Belgrade might have a dark recent history but it’s a brilliant (and cheap) city break for those tired of the same old tourist-packed European destinations. Just don’t wait too long to get there – the city is certain to take off big time in the near future.

What to see and do
The top tourist attraction is, by far and away, Belgrade Fortress which was built to defend the city from the Ottomans and had survived successive invasions throughout the centuries. Today it is surrounded by the lovely Kalemegdan Park, Belgrade’s most popular park.

From the fortress it’s an easy stroll to Knez Mihailova, Belgrade’s lively pedestrianised thoroughfare, where you’ll want to admire the 19th-century buildings containing cafes and shops selling bronze bust of Josip Broz ‘Tito’ – the man who managed to somehow hold Yugoslavia together for 35 years – and soak up the buskers’ colourful performances.

Reayt for a dose of culture? Make your way to the Nikola Tesla Museum (nikolateslamuseum.org) that honours the late inventor who features on the 100RSD note. Close by lies the Sveti Sava Temple, the Balkans’ biggest Orthodox church that’s rumoured to be built on the site where the Turks burnt relics of St Sava.

Be sure to try rakija, Serbia’s (strong) national drink

Best bites
Labyrinth-like lanes are lined with unnamed restaurants and half the fun is taking a chance on any place you like the look of. Wherever you end up, get stuck into good tasting local dishes: we’re talking  cevapi (small skinless sausages) and kajmak (a salty clotted cream that you’re guaranteed to be lapping up like a kitten) and gomboce (potato dumplings stuffed with plums).
Just off pedestrianised Knez Mihailova, Manufaktura (restoran-manufaktura.rs) is an atmospheric spot to sample an array of mezze dishes washed down with rakija (fermented fruit brandy liqueur that serves as Serbia’s national drink).

There’s never a dull moment at Manufaktura
The district of Savamala

After dark
Belgrade home to conjoining rivers that cut across the city, the Sava and the Danube and these rivers are lined with splavovi (splavs for short)-  aka floating river clubs which rage until dawn- during the summer months.

The party doesn’t stop outside of summer: Belgrade has rightly garnered a reputation for being a party city. Local favourites include the restaurant Restoran Tabor and neighbourhood haunt Centrala (Simina 6) .
And you’ll find an abundance of cute cafes and cocktail bars in Belgrade’s historic hoods such as Savamala and Skadarska (Belgrade’s answer to Paris’ Montmartre).

A dramatic ruin, the legacy of NATO’s 1999 bombing of Belgrade

Getting around
Local buses and trams are ridiculously cheap but really, walking is the best way to see Serbia’s capital – especially Starigrad, the atmospheric Old Town. Everywhere has something of interest – you’re sure to see dramatic ruins from NATO’s 1999 bombing of Belgrade on various street corners – so why not wander around and feel Belgrade’s pulse for free.

Getting there
Wizz Air and Air Serbia both fly direct from London to Nikola Tesla Airport but, with flights hovering around the £350 mark, they’re not cheap. If you’re looking to keep costs down, consider booking an indirect flight with an airline like Lufthansa. It will invariably involve a short stop in say Munich on the outward journey and one in Vienna on the return leg but the price is a much more purse pleasing £199.04. 

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