To experience winter, it’s a great idea to visit Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.
Even though Serbia, located in southeastern Europe, has a long history, it is a country which separated from Montenegro and was established in 2006. While Belgrade, the capital, continues to be economically strategic in this new era, the touristic, historical, and cultural characteristics of the city continue to draw tourists from around the world.
The large number of universities and the predominance of a younger generation has made Belgrade especially attractive for visitors between the ages of 20 and 40. It was for this reason that I made a quick decision to set out on this trip. The short flight from Istanbul -less than 2 hours- brought me to the city as the sun was beginning to rise. As this was an impromptu trip, I had not carried out any research on the city before I arrived. This was exciting -I felt that great surprises awaited me. I got a map from the hotel reception which seemed more than sufficient to determine my route.
It is possible to see all of Belgrade in two days for those who travel quickly. But I like to live the city, learn the culture, taste the food, and breathe the air of cities I visit. For this reason, I wanted to devote at least three days to Belgrade. I love spending my time in the historical locations of cities I visit, and Belgrade, a city that has managed to preserve most of the architecture of its past, was just right for me. The houses, business areas, and the texture of the city are all in harmony, and the way the streets are organized is striking. The sites to see are generally in walking distance, so don’t forget to pack your walking shoes.
My first stop for getting a panoramic view of the cityscape was Belgrade Fortress. This fortress, built before the Common Era, was placed on a hill that overlooks the city. The clock tower and the historical artifacts inside the fortress draw tourists even early in the day. After walking along the walls of the fortress for a while, you will encounter a magnificent view where the Sava and Danube Rivers meet. The river separates the Old City from the new.
I head toward the other parts of the fortress. The names of places like Sahat Kula and Kalemegdan remind us of Belgrade’s history as a border city during the Ottoman era. Kalemegdan, that is to say “castle square,” has been arranged as a sports and recreation area for the locals. The training area for the Red Star Basketball Club is at the entrance to Kalemegdan. There are basketball courts everywhere in Belgrade, which hosted the 2018 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Final Four tournament, participated by Fenerbahçe. A little distance away from the square is the tomb of the Ottoman grand vizier Silahdar Damat Ali Pasha and Sokullu Mehmed Pasha’s fountain.
Beginning to feel hungry I decide to taste the local čevap (kebab) and ćufte (meatballs). After this, I try a piece of local pizza, which is of an impressive dimension and unique to this city. I return to my journey after this delicious and satisfying meal.
My second stop is Knez Mihailova Street, which reminds one of İstiklal Street in Istanbul. This is a great place to do some shopping and take a coffee break. Due to the universities located nearby the street is always buzzing, and here you can really feel Belgrade. After walking among the cozy cafés and looking at the shops with attractive wares displayed in their windows, I set aside some time for the shop that sells originally designed basketball goods. When I finished my walk along the street, I get a taxi to take me back to my hotel on Skadalija Street. Tired from my journey, I finish my first day early. To get around the city, you can use trolleybuses, buses, or taxis. The “Pink” taxis are relatively cheaper than the “Lux” taxis.
My second day in the city starts with a clear sky. I leave the hotel to start exploring again. Belgrade is not a large city, but it as vibrant as any metropolis.
At times it can be difficult to see the traces of the past through this hustle and bustle, but the historical tour starts right outside the hotel, on Skadarlija Street. This area, which was the center of the city in the past, and where the council buildings are today, has a retrospective air, hosting a number of concept cafés. The waiters and waitresses in the cafés offer passersby a sample of their beverages and invite them inside. Being able to taste the drink and savor the quality before entering means that you can choose to sit where your favorite coffee is served.
A four-minute walk from where I am standing are the Serbian National Museum on Republican Square and the Serbian National Theater.
After exploring the square, I set out for the Nikola Tesla Museum. Nikola Tesla is a famous name who has left his stamp on Belgrade. You can use public transport to get to the museum; however, I enjoy walking and looking around, so I arrived at the museum after a 25-minute walk. St. Mark’s Church, located in Tašmajdan, which is on my way, is reminiscent of Byzantine architecture, although built in the 1940s. I go inside and find myself in the middle of a young couple’s wedding ceremony.
I leave St. Mark’s behind and reach the museum dedicated to Nikola Tesla, the man who discovered alternative current, a great discovery in the history of electricity. You can tour the museum in groups of about 50 people. After listening to details about Tesla’s life and inventions, don’t forget to experience what you have learned by holding a florescent light. The most interesting part of the museum tour is that your body conducts electricity and lights a fluorescent tube. It is really surprising to have light flow through the florescent lamp you are holding even though there are no cables attached. After leaving the museum, I completed my day by sampling the local börek, an indispensable taste of Belgrade.
On my third day, I continue to tour through the city’s monumental structures. Although there are many structures in Belgrade that were built in the Ottoman era, few are still standing. One of these is Bajrakli Mosque. Although the exact date of construction is not known, it was built after the Ottomans conquered Belgrade and is thought to be the first mosque built in the city. The mosque is close to the Old City center, and you can still pray there and enjoy the historical atmosphere. Although most of the buildings around the mosque are not touristic, but residential, there are attractive restaurants where you can enjoy breakfast.
Avala Tower, about a one-hour journey from Belgrade, is a place worth seeing. Even though the tower is an example of modern architecture, getting away from the city and abandoning the hustle and bustle while enjoying nature, is a great idea.
Belgrade is nestled in the mountains and is close to a number of ski resorts. The city is a favorite not only with tourists interested in history, but also for winter tourism. I preferred to stay in the Old City, but if you go to Belgrade in the winter, besides your walking shoes, don’t forget your skis. After you have toured Stari Grad, if you still have time, you should see Novi Beograd, the New City.