Belgrade tips from locals

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Belgrade is a hidden gem full of history. Stretched out along the banks of the Danube and the Sava river. Ottoman and Austrian influences make the city unique according to an enthusiastic local who shares her Belgrade tips with us.

My name is Allison Gems and I am an American who has been living abroad for the past 3 years. I felt very honored when I was asked to give my Belgrade tips. I met my husband while studying abroad in The Netherlands, and he’s moved with me to Austria and now Serbia. We are an international couple living in Belgrade.

Belgrade tips by…

Belgrade is a secret gem. Many people still associate Serbia with its difficult history and don’t think of it as a popular travel destination. However, Belgrade is quickly making its rise on travel lists. The city is always alive and is known for its nightlife, especially in summer when the clubs move outdoors to “splavs” along the Sava River.

It is difficult to share only five tips for Belgrade; there is so much to see! After 5 months of living here I have yet to eat at a bad restaurant or experience a bad encounter. However, here are my Belgrade tips not be missed.

1. Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan

At one time this mighty fortress was the first thing people saw upon arriving in Belgrade along the convergence of the Danube and Sava rivers. In fact, Belgrade (Beograd) means “white city” due to the white bricks the fortress is made from. There is so much history in this one location, I’ve done 3 different tours and I learn something new every time.

This fortress was on the border between the Ottoman and Austrian Empires and switched hands several times. This is evident throughout the whole city as you can see the Turkish and Austrian influence everywhere. On your visit to Kalemegdan, I suggest a guided tour such as the Belgrade Underground Tour, which shows you the Roman ruins under the city, Tito’s hidden bunker, and several other historically relevant spaces.

2. Nikola Tesla Museum

Arguably one of the most famous Serbs, Nikola Tesla is most known for his work on alternating current. I put off visiting this museum because I personally had no interest in engineering or electrical systems. However, this museum is much more than that. It is interactive and let’s you learn in a fun way.

Tesla was a contemporary of Edison, but in America we only learn about Edison. I had never heard of Nikola Tesla until I moved to Serbia. After visiting this museum, I was shocked to learn how much Tesla contributed to modern technology.

There is a reason Belgrade named their airport after him.

3. Zemun

This municipality of Belgrade is like a little village. Historically, Zemun was a border town that belonged to the Austrian empire. Today, it is connected to the old city by New Belgrade (Novi Beograd).Located on the banks of the Danube River, this is a great place to find some excellent fish restaurants. With a nice promenade that follows the river, you can walk or even bike from old town to Zemun.

In the center of the old fortress of Zemun is Gardoš Tower. The top of the tower offers the best view of Belgrade. From here you can see the entire city, including Kalemegdan and the rivers.

4. Ada Ciganlija

Lake Ada is a man-made lake along the banks of the Sava River. During the summer, this is where you will find most Belgradians on the weekends. I recommend renting a bike and riding around the lake, stopping at the cafes and beach to enjoy the sun.

Even in winter these cafés bring out the heaters and blankets and encourage people to enjoy the little bit of nature that can be found within a city. You can find outdoor yoga classes and sports clubs during the summer. They even have outdoor festivals and concerts throughout the year.

Party

As you can see, Belgrade is full of history and Serbians are full of life. Every night seems like a Friday night and there is always a party going on. So if you are coming to Belgrade, make sure you are ready for a good time!

5. Kafanas

While in Serbia, it is important to see where the locals go. Any day of the week, Kafanas are busy with locals and tourists alike. Traditionally, these cafes were a place where men could gather to talk and drink coffee or rakija. This is a remnant of the Ottoman rule and remains a large part of Serbian culture.

Many of the kafanas today offer a full menu as well as drinks. The oldest kafana in Belgrade is “?” located across from the Saborna Church in the center of the old city. Here, and at other kafanas, you can enjoy live music and traditional food any day of the week.

Image: Shutterstock

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