Europe's Most Underrated Capital City: Belgrade
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
After being left captivated by Bosnia and Montenegro’s beauty and culture in 2017, I was eager to discover more of the Balkan region.
In October 2019, my journey began with a two hour bus ride from Budapest to Novi Sad (Serbia’s second largest city).
In Novi Sad, I stayed at Nomad Hostel which is a family run, super homey, and clean hostel, and it’s even conveniently located in the city center (~30 minute walk from the bus station). Also, a nice place to detox for a night or two if you took advantage of Budapest or Belgrade’s nightlife. Although I don’t have many recommendations for the city since I had an allergic reaction which sent me to the hospital (let me know if you have any questions about medical care there), it’s an easy city to stroll around in sans an agenda.
Once the swelling was bearable, I took a bus to Belgrade (buses run frequently). And boy, was that city phenomenal. Belgrade, Serbia’s capital has a population of 1.4 million and is one of the oldest cities in Europe, and is even the birthplace of Constantine the Great (who declared Christianity the official religion). From Belgrade’s fascinating history to its vibrant culture to the abundance of coffee and vintage shops, to the craft breweries, to the cobblestone streets to the hip and fun nightlife, and of course its lovely (and gorgeous!) people, the three weeks I spent there left me counting the days until my return.
Hedonist Hostel: Awesome location, nice courtyard, Serbian employees, free rakia (the spirit of the Balkans), great common areas & social.
Sun Hostel: Least expensive option. Great location (many awesome restaurants, bars & salons) but further from most main sites, two minute walk to Kalenić market which is the largest open air market in Belgrade, knowledgeable Serbian employees, beautiful outdoor space
Revellers Hostel: Located on Skadarlija (bohemian street), foreign volunteers & owners, fun events planned daily
Here’s what cannot be missed:
A show at the National Theatre of Belgrade. The theatre first opened its doors in 1868 and is truly an architectural masterpiece. Tickets for most shows range from 200 RSD (~2.00 USD)-1200 RSD (~$11 USD). If you’re on a budget, arrive around 7pm and ask the ticket office attendant if there are any available seats in the student section. Those tickets are only 200 RSD but note that you will be standing the entire show. Also keep in mind that most (if not all) of the shows are in Serbian. I went for the experience and frankly I would’ve paid $10+ just to tour the theatre. Do note that there isn’t a concession stand or any place to buy water or snacks but you can bring them in (they didn’t check my bag).
Grab rakia on Belgrade’s bohemian street Skadarlija (the most famous street in Belgrade)
Join the free (donation based) daily walking tour at 11am or 4pm at the Republic Square that will introduce you to Belgrade’s top sights and history. Look for the yellow IDs or shirts/sweaters, hats or umbrella
Bring beer and watch the sunset at the fortress
Buy veggies, raw or cooked fish at Kalenić market
If the weather permits, go swimming, bike riding, roller blading and/or wakeboarding at Ada (lake) Ciganlija **Everything can be rented at the lake
Get your hair blown out for $7-$15. If you want the best haircut and/or color of your life, see if you can make an appointment with Bane at Crafts Hairdressing (appointments should be made at least a week before).
Potato's. Fast food, great after a long night out… Grab a custom baked potato at Potato's and choose any and all the toppings you’ve ever desired to add to a baked potato. (Makedonska 5, TC Trg Republike)
Tri šešira (Three hats). Three hats is probably the most famous restaurant and oldest in Belgrade. It first opened its doors in 1864. Traditional live Serbian music and food.
Trattoria Campania. Lunch or dinner at the most authentic Italian restaurant east of Italy. Definitely make a reservation! You cannot go wrong with anything on their menu.
Manufaktura. Hip restaurant offering traditional Serbian food. Trendy vibe but an affordable price point. Highly recommend their house wines and “meat balls”!
Potkovica. Okay, before you judge me, hear me out… This restaurant came highly recommended to me by a Serbian friend. Potkovica means horseshoe in Serbian and the restaurant is famous for serving horse meat. Horse meat cannot be legally consumed in the U.S. and I was super iffy to try it (I was once a peskatarian for nine years). I went with two friends and we shared a steak. Frankly, it was tender, juicy and really delicious. While traveling, I think it’s fun to try new things and this just happened to be one of those. Also, I thought about when I was in India and how if you slaughtered a cow how you’d go to jail. In the U.S., we wouldn’t think twice. A steak of horse meat is ~$14 but a half portion can also be ordered.
Bloom – Super cute, outdoor seating, avocado toast, coffee, smoothie bowls, vintage stores in the area. From there grab a glass of wine across the street on the rooftop of Podrum Wineart.
Super Donkey – Delicious smoothie bowls, juices, & salads
From there, grab artisanal chocolate right around the corner at Boni Torte & Kolaci—you’ll be dreaming about their chocolate after just one bite. 10x better and more decadent than Godiva (four pieces for ~$1 USD).
Craft brewery parking lot: Zaokret is one of the bars in the lot but check a few out. An ABSOLUTE must. Although not buzzing during the day, GREAT for an afternoon beer or two. Check out Lift Bar in the evening, recommend getting there around 9:30/10pm. The entire area closes at midnight, which is the only downside.
Dim lounge. Possibly my favorite bar in the world. It’s not easy to find (it’s a minute walk from the beer lot mentioned above), as there are no signs and the front door is often locked but just walk past the main entrance and try the next door you see on your right. When you enter, you’ll think you just intruded on a private affair but in fact you’re at the right place. The lounge is owned by the same couple who owns the most famous nightclub Drugstore.
Samo Pivo. Awesome craft beer bar with outdoor seating. Check the board on the wall for current beers on draft. Must go underground to get to it!