Belgrade is the Old Hollywood romance of European capitals. At first glance, the gray communist bloc architecture might seem like it’s nothing special. You might even expect to dislike the city. But get to know it and you could discover the love of your life – particularly if you have a love for arts and culture, or are working on the road! Uncover one of Europe’s hidden gems in this guide to Belgrade, designed for the traveling creative professional.
When to Go
Like most European capitals, summer brings hot temperatures and peak season prices to Belgrade. Serbia is still far enough off the beaten path that peak season crowds are rarely a problem. The EXIT Festival in early July does generate a huge spike in visitors to Novi Sad, about an hour north of Belgrade.
Winters are long and cold – bad news for overland travelers as some mountain areas become impassable. Belgrade is not well known for its Christmas Market, like many German towns or more touristy capitals. Still, the illuminated Republic Square has plenty of holiday spirit.
The spring and fall shoulder seasons afford the mildest temperatures. Recently, the city has started hosting a spring festival in April and May with a variety of events in music, environmentalism, and culture. Such a festival line-up makes spring and summer the ideal time for arts lovers to enjoy the city, but autumn can be a pleasant time to enjoy the National Theatre.
How Much to Spend
A peak season flight from the US will cost $400 at a bare minimum. Hostel dorms start at 2000 dinar, or 15 euro, per night. A 10 to 20 euro per day budget will cover most meals. Reserve a splurge day to enjoy dinner at one of Belgrade’s historic 19th century restaurants for 15 to 20 euro. Staying in the city center will help you save on transportation expenses. These aren’t exactly astronomical at a mere 60 dinar per ride, less than 1 euro.
Serbia’s currency is the dinar, with a rough conversion being 100 dinar to 1 euro. Just move the decimal point two spaces to the left while on the town for a quick estimate as to how much you’re spending.
The growing Nikola Tesla Airport is fast becoming a hub for the Balkan region, with routes all over Europe on Air Serbia and other airlines. Trains to various regional cities leave from the station near the central Slavija Square, while buses depart from a terminal about half an hour from the city center.
The historic city center isn’t difficult to navigate by foot, but if you prefer to avoid walking, public transportation is extensive. Hundreds of trams crisscross the Belgrade city center, with buses, trolleys, and taxis rounding out the public transit options. Tram tickets in zone 1, which you’re unlikely to have to leave as a visitor, are just 60 dinar a pop.
To travel to and from the airport, the A1 shuttle connects Nikola Tesla Airport to Slavija Square with daily service. Tickets are available on board for 150 dinar, less than 2 euro.
What to Pack
Serbia is a land of rather extreme temperatures. Sandwiched between some of Europe’s more famous regions, summers are Mediterranean hot, while winters are Alps cold. Be sure to pack seasonally appropriate clothing.
A comfortable pair of flat dress shoes will serve you well. Skadarska Street is paved with very rough cobblestones, sure to wreak havoc on high heels, and no visit to Belgrade is complete with a swing through one of its historic restaurants or upscale bars.
WiFi is easy to find at city cafes, so there’s probably no need to rely on a hotspot device in Belgrade. You may, however, find an external battery pack useful just in case you end up working somewhere without open power outlets. Said power outlets will take a standard European two-prong plug.
Where to Stay
Republic Square has long been a central meeting point for locals and visitors alike in Belgrade. It’s worth seeking out a hostel within walking distance. New Hostel on the main street Beogradska is about halfway between Republic Square and Sveti Sava. Belgrade’s top attractions are largely within a 20 to 30 minute walk, and the street is surrounded by conveniences like ATMs, currency exchanges, and grocery stores.
Love the nightlife? Find accommodations near the bar-heavy district of Skadarlija, or close to the river to make your journey home from the Danube riverboat clubs a short one.
Where to Eat
Skadarlija has been a haven for artists and intellectuals for hundreds of years. In fact, it was Serbian poet Dura Jaksic who popularized the term ‘boheme’ and the practice of whiling the day away in a cozy cafe. A statue of Jaksic anchors the cobblestoned Skadarska Street, chock full of historic eateries and trendy new bars.
Dva Jelena (or Two Deer) and Tri Sesira (or Three Hats) are among the most popular dining options in Skadarlija, both dating back to the 19th century. Carnivores will be happy at either establishment. Locals like to say the national dish of Serbia is meat. Plain and simple. Cevapcici are common here as they are throughout the Balkans.
For budget meals, it’s easy to find takeaway sandwiches, burek, and pizza by the slice for a few hundred dinar, or less than 5 euro.
Where to Work
Skadarlija extends beyond the historic Skadarska Street, and it’s in the surrounding area that Belgrade’s more modern restaurants, bars, and cafes come to life. Hip, design-centric atmospheres and WiFi are widespread. Chances are a wander around these streets will only last a minute before you find a spot you’d like to set up and get your work done.
For specific blogger recommended picks, check out this handy and comprehensive list of Belgrade’s best working cafes by From Cliche to Cliche, complete with WiFi passwords.
What to Do
Free walking tours of the city center leave from Republic Square every morning and cover many of Belgrade’s top sights. You’ll take a swing through Skadarlija and Silicon Valley while learning about different chapters of Serbian history from 19th century bohemians to the organized criminals and prostitutes of the war-torn 1990s. The city’s only remaining mosque from its time in the Ottoman Empire and the Roman Kalemegdan Fortress are also highlights.
Top attractions off the walking tour trail include Sveti Sava, Europe’s largest Orthodox church, and the Tesla Museum, devoted to the life and work of the legendary Serbian-American engineer. Nikola Tesla may have only spent a few days in Belgrade, but this is still a prime spot to watch a demonstration of his famous coils in action. South of the historic center, dictator Josip Broz Tito rests eternal by the Museum of Yugoslav History.
Want to see more of Europe’s best kept secrets? Use my Balkan itinerary planner to get from Belgrade to Dubrovnik and everywhere in between.
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