Belgrade – rumoured to be the new Berlin, the up-and-coming party capital of (Eastern) Europe, the still raw and unexplored place for the cool kids of the Balkans and beyond. Ok, you get it. Belgrade is happening, it’s hip and yes, you should visit it.
For those who want to get a bit of a different taste of the Serbian capital, here are my top 10 picks for things to do in Belgrade based on several visits and talks with locals:
#1. Breakfast time: burek & jogurt!
The day starts with burek & jogurt. There is no way around it if you are looking for the authentic Balkan experience. Burek is a savory pastry, typically filled with cheese or minced meat. I’m not going to lie, that stuff is heavy. But it’s also super tasty. To tone down the greasiness the best remedy is jogurt – a yoghurt drink that is to be consumed together with the burek. Don’t forget to shake before you drink and please do not ask for a glass. You drink it out of the bottle/ plastic cup!
Although you can find burek & jogurt virtually on every corner one of the best, if not The best, places for this experience is Pekara Trpković.
Dimitrija Tucovica 60, Belgrade
#2. Do a free Belgrade walking tour
This guide is not about the super touristy side of Belgrade but I’ll go ahead and recommend the Belgrade Walking Tours to you anyway. They are perfect if you are on a budget and want to see the key parts of Belgrade in about 2,5 hours.
You can choose from a few free tours they offer:
Downtown Belgrade Tour: explore Serbian culture, learn Serbian words, check out the historic sites that go way back and see the main city center attractions.
20th Century Tour: you’ll cover more recent Belgrade/ Serbian history and explore the more hidden and not-so-obvious sights in the city center. (my personal recommendation!)
Zemun Tour: get out of the city center and see what’s on the other side of the Sava river. You’ll experience quite a different part of the city famous for its kafanas (Serbian bars/restaurants usually with live music) & fish restaurants.
#3. Have really good coffee on Dobračina St.
Want to “play hipster” for a while and drink awesome coffee? Go down Dobračina Street. It’s a bit of a walk from a main city center but totally worth it. The Third Wave coffee shop Pržionica D59B is located in an old state-owned bus garage from Yugoslavian times. It offers amazing coffee roasted on location. The interior is simple and minimalist so don’t expect to sit there, spread out your stuff and spend time in front of your laptop. Rather go with a friend or alone and enjoy the perfectly prepared caffeinated drink.
Dobračina 59b, Belgrade
While you are in that area you might also want to peek into the buildings next-door. These are old buildings from the formerly industrial part of Belgrade, Dorćol, which have been repurposed as bars, cafes and event locations in a wonderfully creative way while still retaining their authentic look. Check out Dorćol Platz, Kliker or Zoom Art Café.
#4. Check out local designs at Belgrade Design District
The Belgrade Design District (known locally as Čumićevo Sokače) is a kind of hidden area in the city center that houses some really awesome local design shops – from hand-made soap (all nut), spices (Spice up) and art (Gallery 1250) to fashion (Ana Ljubinkovic, No brothers no sisters), jewelry and furniture (Artaka). Wonderful place if you want to get away from the noise of the busy city center for a bit and do your gift shopping while supporting Serbian designers & crafts(wo)men at the same time.
#5. Eat ćevapi at Cica
Ćevabdžinica Cica deserves a mention here since it’s a personal favorite and a place I visit *every* time I’m in Belgrade. This restaurant tucked away in one of the side streets off of Knez Mihailova Street is so hidden you can easily miss it. The name is not written on the door, you can spot it only by the name on the menu and on the T-Shirts of the restaurant staff.. and by the smell of grilled meat. But here is a small picture to help you:
Ulica Đure Jakšića 11, Belgrade
(let’s be honest, this isn’t really helping, is it?)
Is it a fancy place? No. Is it a cosy place? Hm, not really. Does it serve some of the best ćevapi in town? Yes, absolutely. You want to go for the Sarajevski ćevapi (you can choose between 5 and 10 pieces of meat), together with kajmak (a kind of clotted cream). Don’t be shy and have it with onions, come on. OK, it’s not technically Serbian but rather Bosnian food but it gives you a great taste of the Balkans so it’s worth a visit.
#6. Dive into the local start up scene
If you’re a digital nomad looking for a place to get some work done or if you are just excited about what the Belgrade start ups are up to, here are some tips. Check out these start up spaces where you are likely to meet exciting Serbian (and international) entrepreneurs and maybe even attend an event or other gathering and connect with locals:
Impact Hub Belgrade: the community/co-working space for social entrepreneurs
ICT Hub: the co-working space for tech entrepreneurs
Nova Iskra: „the design incubator“ or the space for designers & other creatives
Startit Centar: the space for IT innovations
#7. Join the locals at Ada Ciganlija
When visiting Belgrade in the summer and talking to locals the conversation will at some point lead to one of them mentioning that they spent the evening/afternoon/ whole day with friends at Ada Ciganlija (or just Ada, in short) – the river island on the Sava river. So if you’re visiting in the summer time and want to feel like a local this is the place to go. You can chill outside, do sports and grab some food.
#8. Support a social cause while eating at Bagel Беjгл
The lovely café Bagel Беjгл is a perfect place for a conscious snack. The café/ restaurant is the for-profit arm of the non-governmental organisation Atinas that assists victims of human trafficking in Serbia. Sales from Bagel Беjгл help support the operations of the organisation. Now that’s a smart way to do it. The place offers vegetarian and vegan options as well so it’s perfect for any taste. It’s not really close to the city center so consider this a bit of an “off-the-beaten-track” recommendation.
Knez Danilova 39, Belgrade
#9. Have a drink on a splav
Splav is the Serbian word for raft. Along the river banks you will see a lot of buildings extended into the water on a…well, raft. Some of them are restaurants, some are event venues but a big majority are actually river-side clubs that contribute to the “party capital” reputation of Belgrade.
If you want to keep it chill you might want to check out places like Lemon Chili (on the Danube side) or Kota 70 (on the Sava side), if you want to go all out with the partying this might be the guide for you. If you just want to see what the hell a splav is you might want to take a stroll (or bike) along the Sava river and relax in the adjoining park.
#10. Have some rakija
If you know anything about the Balkans the word rakija will not be foreign to you. It’s an alcoholic drink that can be made of different fruits (e.g. plum, apricot, grapes, pear, etc.) that serves as a aperitif, digestif, or everything in between. Not to mention its widespread use as a natural medicine for just about anything but that’s probably a topic for a whole other post.
The point is, it’s worth tasting it and an easy place to do this is in the famous bohemian quarter of Belgrade, or Skadarlija (Skadarska Street), where you will find many places that offer a variety of rakija. Just don’t forget that rakija is not served as a shot, you drink it slowly and savour it.
If you know some locals you might want to ask them for some home-made rakija. Virtually every Serbian I ever met had some access to home-made rakija, so just ask.
This is THE GOOD STUFF, peeps. This is homemade сливовитз, šljivovica, slivovitz, rakija. By any other name it is still the potent, double-distilled plum brandy ubiquitous to the Balkans. My friend's mother distilled this rakija on the stovetop in her kitchen. It's the good stuff. So much better tasting than whiskey and stronger. It'll cure whatever ails ya 😉 #сливовица #slivovica #slivovtz #rakija
Extra tip: Spend the night in a Yugo apartment
If you are still looking for a nice place to stay I recently heard of a really cool & impactful project and a lovely place to spend the night in Belgrade – Yugodom, or literally translated “Yugoslav home”, is the “world’s first and only stay-over museum”. Essentially it is a museum where you can spend the night which through its interior design captures the style and atmosphere of former Yugoslavia. It’s basically your Airbnb dream combined with a historical backdrop. This unique accommodation is definitely worth a visit. You can book it to stay overnight or just book a private visit (upon availability).
Strahinjića bana 80, Belgrade
Written by: Steliana Kokonova