Reading about Belgrade before our trip I kept reading about how despite the ‘grit and rough edges,’ Belgrade is ‘actually a pretty decent city.’ We were going to Belgrade based on the recommendations of friends so I suspected we’d like it more than the lukewarm praise online made it sound. It took about two minutes of walking outside our apartment and I knew my friends were right – Belgrade is awesome. There are a handful of cities around the world that Taylor and I loved it instantly and this is definitely one of them. Great people, awesome food, plenty to do, easy transit system, super cheap, the list goes on. Everywhere you go people are eating outside, you can drink anywhere you want in the city and enough people speak English there is rarely a challenge trying to order food or get a drink. Throw in the fascinating history of Yugoslavia and I already can’t wait to go back. We actually flew in and out of Belgrade, travelling a large loop in between, and had nearly a week there total. Here are our favorite parts (and lots of pictures.)
Rising above the rest of the old city and set in Kalemegdan Park is Belgrade Fortress. The Balkans are covered in castles and fortresses but this one is unlike the rest (or any other I’ve been to.) The entire fortress is a multi-use facility now and open 24 hours a day. There’s a museum, several restaurants, public basketball and tennis courts and pretty killer views the Danube & Sava River confluence. Some sections such as the Clock Tower are an extra cost to enter but most of it is open for exploring.
Only 12 euros and it gets you access to spots you can’t otherwise reach in the Belgrade Fortress, definitely worth it. Our tour guide spoke great English and knew tons.
Nikola Tesla is one of my favorite historical figures and when I heard about the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade it jumped to the top of my itinerary. Despite being born in present-day Croatia and never having actually lived in Belgrade, they claim him as their own – even the airport bears his name. After his death all his belongings were moved to Belgrade and shortly after the museum established. It’s about $5 to get in, check ahead to find out when the English (or whatever your language) tours are. The museum is small but packed with his original contraptions that still work. Fun fact about Tesla, he curled his toes 100 times per day believing it exercised his mind.
Located next to the Belgrade Fortress in Kalemegdan Park, the military museum is over 115 years old and is pretty fascinating even if history and war isn’t your thing. For Americans, they have a few exhibits of particular interest including a US HUMVEE captured in 1999, a fragment from a US bomb dropped during NATO operations and a piece of the only US stealth fighter ever shot down. They also have the only ‘squat toilets’ I saw in Serbia… so there’s that. It’s only a few bucks to get in and definitely worth it. You can do the Underground Tour, check out the fortress and do the museum in ½ a day.
The trams in Belgrade are also cheap (everything in this city is cheap!) and get you to most of the places you’d want to go. The tram system is over a 100 years old and you’d swear some of the trolley cars are original. They also have a few modern cars mixed in but I kind of prefer the old rickety ones. Tram line #2 goes in a circle around old town and is worth taking a ride just to orient yourself. You can buy tram or bus tickets at the news stand kiosks all over the city. We ran into challenges with language at these sometimes, I learned to just go to a busy one and hope someone around could help me translate if needed (everybody was still really friendly!)
Novi Sad is just about an hour and a half and a nice day trip from Belgrade. It wasn’t the best weather when we went but we had time to walk around the small downtown core and see the fort ‘Petrovaradin.’ Novi Sad has some of the best parts of Belgrade but it’s much smaller and quieter, the downtown walking street is filled with beautiful buildings and great restaurants. We also a trip to nearby Sremski Karlovci, the heart of Serbia’s wine country. It was beautiful bit a little disappointing. Maybe it was just that we were there on a weekday but they didn’t seem to be prepared for people to actually come to their wineries. Oh well, we had some interesting conversations and a glass of wine before heading home. If you want to visit Sremski Karlovci it may be better to take a tour or in August, take the ‘romance train’ from Belgrade that includes a tour. Notes on getting there below all the photos.
So much to see and do in Belgrade. We had a blast and I didn’t even get to the Hyatt we stayed in where we got a free upgrade. Can’t wait to get back to Belrade. It’ll be soon. Here’s more photos:
Getting to Novi Sad & Sremski Karlovci from Belgrade: From Belgrade, either Novi Sad or Sremski Karlovci can be reached by bus or train. Bus to either is more convenient, in summer just go to the bus station and take the next bus, they leave frequently. If you visit Novi Sad first, you can take public buses 60, 61 or 62 to Sremski Karlovci, get off at the main stop in town near the train station. To get back to Belgrade you can just just stand at the bus stop across from the train station, buses will come every 40 minutes or so (you may be able to get the schedule from the tourism office in Sremski Karlovci.)