When you think of European travel, chances are you’re envisioning parties in Paris, sojourns to Spain and languid weekends in London. We’re here to tell you that it is time to broaden this definition to include visits to Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, which is currently enjoying a vivid cultural awakening and deserves a spot on the hot list of any trailblazing traveller. Here’s why…
You’ll be way ahead of the global curve
As the survivor of over 115 wars since AD 442, Belgrade is not exactly the reigning prom queen of European destinations. In fact, this fascinating city has languished in relative obscurity for so long that it is now ripe for the plucking by pioneering travellers with a taste for the unknown. If it’s the road less travelled you want, Belgrade’s the place to be. Here you’ll find an unfettered approach to life that has been honed by centuries of conflict, and a robust Balkan culture rooted in sheer determination.
There’s so much history to unravel and plenty of illuminating museums on offer.
Belgrade has been around for a long time – more than 20 000 years in fact – and has seen countless conquerors and empires come and go. Each of these cultures left its mark on this cosmopolitan city. You can marvel at the stark beauty of Soviet-era architecture along one road, and then amble around the corner explore the creative hub that has taken up residence in the waterside neighbourhood of Savamala.
We highly recommend that you add the following to your list of things to see:
Serbians know how to have a good time
As is true of most nations who have been put through the mill, the Serbians know a good thing when they see it, which in basic terms means that they know how to get down. Belgrade is filled to the rafters with cafes and bars that bustle with merrymakers noon and night. Take a seat on an outdoor terrace and you’ll quickly be reminded that the Mediterranean countries of Italy and Greece are not that far beyond the horizon. We recommend that you take the time to try different neighbourhood establishments – each place has its own unique character and you’re likely to encounter friendly locals and staff members who’ll be happy to share their knowledge of the city’s hidden marvels.
Top tip: If you’re fond of waterside revelry, you simply must join a party on one of Belgrade’s popular splavovi – bars and clubs on permanently moored boats along the banks of the Sava and Danube.
There’s a vibrant culinary culture
We’ll let you in on a very well-kept secret – the food in Belgrade is good. The many cultures that have passed this way all left their mark and you’re likely to find Turkish-influenced kifle and cevapcici alongside tasty Greek specialities like lamb Kleftiko and dolmades. Granted, Belgrade natives have put their own spin on a few classics, such as the perennial Austrian schnitzel which is now stuffed with rich cream cheese, cloaked in tangy tartar sauce and shaped like a Karadjordjevic star (the medal of the Serbian Monarchy).
Traditional Serbian food is quite rustic (think hearty stews and slow-roasted meats), but because the country’s soil is so fertile the quality of basic ingredients is incredibly high, which makes it easy for the city’s new generation of chefs to create spellbinding dishes that holds its own against any European cuisine.
Top tip: Don’t leave Belgrade without trying a streetside pljeskavica (a hamburger-like creation that comes with all manner of trimmings) and rakija (pure distilled fruit brandy made from pear, apricot, quince or peaches). The latter is said to have exceptional health benefits and many Serbs enjoy with their coffee at breakfast.
Travel doesn’t get more authentic than this
Belgrade is one of the few remaining European destinations where you don’t have to dig deep to find the country’s true zeitgeist – it’s right there on the surface. The city doesn’t pander to tourists, which means no matter which cafe you visit or road you wander down, you’ll be discovering Serbia at face value. While there are travellers who prefer a sugar-coated experience with a comforting post-card gleam, true explorers will relish the fact that this gritty, hard-as-nails city carries its battle scars with pride.
Discover Belgrade with Expat Explore
Forays to Belgrade are included on our 16-day Balkan Explorer and 14-day Croatian & Eastern Delights tours. Sign up now to secure your spot and blaze the trail as a modern-day Serbian explorer!