The only reason I ended up going to Belgrade was because it worked out cheaper, and easier, to fly from there to Montenegro. From what I’d seen by way of pictures (unattractive and grey), and the little I knew about it, my expectations were low. I never expected that Belgrade would be such a city full of hidden gems. It is. Which is why I thought I’d share some of Belgrade’s hidden gems.
First off is where to stay in Belgrade. As we literally had 24 hours in Belgrade we wanted to be somewhere relatively central. Hotel options seemed a bit limited (and expensive for what they were) so I decided to give Airbnb a go for the first time. Luckily fellow travel bloggers Lazy Travellers recommended an apartment they had stayed at in central Belgrade which sounded ideal. Our host arranged for a taxi to pick us up from the airport (€15) meaning we avoided getting ripped off as is often the case) and similarly arranged for a taxi to pick us up super early for our morning flight on the day we had to leave.
We were also treated to a generous Serbian welcome, greeted by typical Serbian snacks of börek (pastries filled with cheese and spinach, cold meats and cheese) and a warming glass of rakia. This was followed by a guided tour of the city. This was incredibly useful as our host pointed out places I was keen to visit and that we never would have found otherwise. But it did go on for over an hour, despite our attempts to try and cut it short as we were quite tired. So it’s worth bearing in mind that if you do take up the option of a tour you may not want to do it the moment you arrive.
Before embarking on our own whistle-stop tour of Belgrade the next day we decided to stop off for coffee. This was when I discovered the first of Belgrade’s hidden gems, Koffein, a cool coffee shop just round the corner from our apartment.
I loved everything about it – from the hessian sacks they used as cushions to the French music playing in the background. Decor aside, what makes Koffein one of Belgrade’s hidden gems is the selection of coffee. This is a cafe for coffee connoisseurs, they roast their own beans, which come from the likes of Brazil, Guetamala, to serve up the best coffee in Belgrade.
Rather than try and pack our day full of museums (even though the Nikola Tessla Museum, dedicated to the scientist, is supposed to be well worth a visit) we preferred to wander round Belgrade to get a feel for the city. What struck me most was the friendliness of the Serbian people. At every turn they were welcoming, people stopping unprompted to to ask if we needed help or directions. Belgrade city centre is relatively compact so it’s pretty easy to get round it on foot.
We managed to find our way to the Belgrade Fortress in Kalemegdan Park in Belgrade’s Stari Grad (old town). Belgrade’s fortress is another of Belgrade’s hidden gems as from the top of the hill you can out across the Danube and the Sava river – you can see where the two meet. It’s also here that you’ll find the Victor monument, one of Belgrade’s most famous landmarks, erected in 1928 to commemorate the liberation of Belgrade from Austria-Hungary.
Skadarska (Skadarlija), referred to as the bohemian part of Belgrade, is another spot popular with tourists. It pretty much consists of a cobbled street lined with restaurants with people dressed in traditional Serbian costume serenading diners but is still worth a look as you might be able to pick up some souvenirs from one of the market stalls. Or if you prefer a more local feel there’s a great fruit and veg market when you get to the end of Skadrlija which opens from 6am.
One thing Belgrade is known for is it’s nightlife. It’s full of hidden bars, the trick is finding them. We wandered round the neighbourhood of Savamala, close to the river (and home to various Eurotrashy nightclubs on boats which were sadly closed as it was the daytime). If you’re after something more edgy and cool the neighbourhood is where lots of arty types hang out and is home to Mikser House, a cool concept store and KC Grad, a club in a former warehouse which hosts cultural events and exhibitions. But the Federal Association of Globetrotters was my favourite of Belgrade’s hidden bars.
Given that I don’t eat meat I also wasn’t expecting much by way of food from Belgrade. Again I was wrong. Belgrade’s hidden gems include some great restaurants, Homa, which serves inventive dishes and I even managed to track down Radost – you can check out my review in full, Belgrade’s vegetarian restaurant. And on practically every street in the city centre you’ll find kiosks selling popcorn of various flavours with a selection of salts (chilli, garlic etc) that you can sprinkle over it.
Best of all everything in Belgrade is super cheap, making Belgrade’s hidden gems easily accessible, and a brilliant place to come for a budget weekend city break. The local currency Serbian dinars is only available once in the country (most taxi drivers will accept Euros so you can avoid changing money at the airport) and there are currency exchange bureaus dotted on most street corners. Considering my reticence to visit, I have to admit I was a bit gutted we’d only given ourselves a day to explore Belgrade’s hidden gems, but at least it’s given me the perfect excuse to go back.