With its turbulent, war-torn past, Belgrade is like a phoenix rising from the ashes to become one of today’s hottest European capitals. Belgrade, home to two million people, is a pretty city sitting at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers.
You’ll want to walk along the river banks, perhaps stopping for a drink or meal at a riverboat that’s been converted to a restaurant before visiting the attractions in Belgrade. The Serbian capital is fast becoming known as a center for international festivals; hosting more than 100 a year, for sure there will be one going on whenever you visit.
Equal parts complex, turbulent, tragic, beautiful and magical, Belgrade epitomizes the Balkan region. It’s long been a part of the world that has seen great and seemingly unending turnover and it’s time like these, in relative peace, that you can explore the stories that are written across the city’s varied architecture and public squares.
22. White Palace
As the name suggests, the White Palace is a Serbian royal palace completely encased in white. The off-white cream colors provide the palace with a sense of warmth. Something only enhanced by the beautiful rose gardens and surrounding trees.
The White Palace is a part of a much larger royal compound in the Dedinje district. It was originally constructed as the childhood home for the children of King Alexander I, something that was put on hold after his assassination.
The best and only way to explore the White Palace is on a guided tour. This will allow you inside to explore the grandiose palace alongside some of the other royal buildings.
21. Museum of Aviation
Housed in one of Belgrade’s most unique buildings (an enormous reflective mushroom), the Museum of Aviation explores the aeronautical history of Serbia and Yugoslavia.
On the outskirts of Belgrade, the museum stands out alongside the airport and open fields. The fascinating facade is matched by the informative interior that covers the timeline of flight in the country from the start of the 20th century to the present day.
To aid in this trip into the past, the Museum of Aviation features some iconic aircraft. These include the Spitfire Mk V, Messerschmitt Bf 109 and the Ilyushin Il-2, some of WWII’s most important aircraft. The fact these planes are lathered with Yugoslavian livery while being German, Russian and British planes gives an interesting insight into the country’s past.
One of the most fun things to do in Belgrade, you can easily spend a day exploring the cozy suburb of Zemun. Part of what makes it so interesting is the neighborhood was once an entirely separate town.
Its long history includes a part in the Roman, Byzantium, Ottoman, and even Mongol empires. As Belgrade expanded, it essentially swallowed Zemun. However, it remains a completely unique part of the city.
There are dozens of eye-catching landmarks along the old streets and down the Kemunski Kej promenade. These include the beloved 17th century Madlenianum Opera and the Gardos Tower. The latter offering incredible views of the rolling Danube River.
So put your walking shoes on, as the chill neighborhood of Zemun is best explored on foot.
19. Museum of Yugoslavia
If the National Museum explores the contemporary life and times of Serbia, then the Museum of Yugoslavia goes further into the region’s wider history.
Yugoslavia, which included Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and other nations was officially founded in 1918 (renamed in 1929) and separated in 1991. Despite an often-complicated past, there are some who wish to return to the days of Yugoslavia. The phenomenon even has a name, Yugo-nostalgia.
The museum keeps this idea alive while immortalizing this period in the region’s chapter. Exhibitions explore 20th century life and important events, including WWII. While former presidents are even buried onsite, within the House of Flowers.
18. Topcider Park
In 1521, the Turks cast their cannons for their attack on Belgrade in what is now Topcider Park. It’s apt then, that Topcider translates to cannons in Turkish.
Topcider is one of Belgrade’s most popular parks. It’s been a go-to spot for picnics ever since the giant sycamore tree was planted in the 1800s.
South of the city center, the sprawling park has a grand mix of culture, architecture, and green space. You’ll find a quaint church and restaurant within the park grounds alongside the opulent Residence of Prince Miloš.
In the summer, you’ll hear life tunes float between the trees. While crowds slowly gather at sunset, to watch the sky turn into colorful candy.
17. National Assembly
Originally built as a representative building for the Kingdom of Serbia, the National Assembly is a different kind of Belgrade highlight. In Nikola Pašić Square, the Assembly boasts a striking presence.
From afar, you can admire the seven domes spread across the top of the building. The central dome towers above the rest, affixed with an additional bell tower.
The arched windows and opulent columns beckon you forth. Once you’re inside, you’ll be able to explore the main entrance hall, several grand halls, the library, and the Salon of Prince Pavle. Along the way, you’ll pass beloved artwork by the likes of Petar Lubarda and Sava Šumanović.
Guided tours are highly recommended.
16. Museum of Illusions
Belgrade’s museums and galleries are complex and fascinating as they guide you through Serbia’s tangled heritage. But, eventually you’ll want to switch things up and there’s no better spot to do just that than at the Museum of Illusions.
The museum is complete with over 70 exhibits, each as mind-blowing and head scratching as the last. As you awe in amazement, you’ll be tasked with figuring out how these intriguing illusions are able to confuse and trick your mind so successfully.
It’s a great place to have a bit of fun, which is handy for traveling families. But all who visit will leave with a better understanding of the “whys” behind optical illusions.
15. Ruzica Church
The oldest church in Belgrade, Ruzica Church, can be found along the edges of the Belgrade Fortress. In fact, part of the historic church can be found tucked into its walls, underneath the Zindan gate.
As you wander inside, you’ll uncover the church’s hauntingly beautiful, frescoed walls. They slowly drag your attention towards the ceiling’s chandeliers. As you look closer, you’ll notice that they’re made of old swords, bullet casings and parts of ancient cannons.
The chandeliers pay homage to what has been turbulent past for the church grounds. It’s been held by a handful of nations and was destroyed in WWI. It was during this period that soldiers made use of their time by crafting these incredible roof fixings.
14. National Museum Belgrade
For almost two decades, the National Museum Belgrade stumbled through closures, needing vital renovations. But 2018 it reopened to great reactions from Serbians. With its latest makeover, visitors can explore the lengthy history of Serbia and the region.
As the largest and oldest museum in the country, there’s no better way to understand the complexities of Serbia’s past than right here. With the help of immersive exhibits, Serbia’s best collection of art (some dating back to the 1300s) and archaeological finds, you’ll leave with a far greater appreciation.
Some of the highlights include ancient artifacts that explore Roman occupation, the evolution of the nation’s rulers and a dramatic 20th century.
13. Republic Square
The main plaza in Belgrade, the Republic Square, is the official hub for locals and a great place for travelers to sit back and watch. The square is always busy, but never overwhelming. It creates a great atmosphere to enjoy a coffee or a light lunch.
As you do so, you may begin to recognize some of Belgrade’s most celebrated buildings. It’s more than just the city’s social hub, it’s also home to the art nouveau facade of the National Museum. In addition, you’ll spot the 19th century National Theatre, which still operates today.
However, perhaps the most memorable is the Prince Mihailo Monument. This statue has become a symbol of Belgrade, and a reason why the square is also called By the Horse.
12. Residence of Princess Ljubica
Built in the late 1820s, the Residence of Princess Ljubica is one of just a few remaining from this period in Belgrade’s history. Under the rule of Prince Milosh Obrenovic, the Residence was initially slated to be a luxurious court. This all changed as Milosh only stayed there occasionally because the Ottoman Turks laid just around the corner.
The home bounced between royal members for several decades until it became a place for public institutions. This includes being a secondary base for the Belgrade City Museum.
It’s time as various museums and galleries have helped its modern iteration. Today visitors can see the lavish lives of 19th century bourgeois culture.
11. Belgrade Military Museum
Appropriately placed within the city’s behemoth fortress, the Belgrade Military Museum offers a thorough look into the events of the former Yugoslavian army. The many displays are quite moving and allow visitors to immerse themselves in the events of the past.
Before you even enter the museum, you’ll be confronted with German WWII tanks, cannons, and torpedoes. Once you venture inside, you’ll find it all laid out in chronological order, taking you right back to the very beginning and into ancient history.
The going gets more interesting once you reach the World War I section that explores the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. All before reaching a dramatic crescendo with the culmination of WWII.
10. Avala Tower
The Avala Tower, built in 1965 and destroyed by NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999, was rebuilt in 2010, becoming the tallest telecommunications tower in the Balkans. The original tower, with an observation deck, was a source of pride for the region.
Public donations paid for the tower’s rebuilding. It can be found on Avala Mountain on the outskirts of Belgrade. At 206 meters (675 feet) high, it is the fifth tallest structure in Serbia; you can literally see for miles and miles from the observation deck.
9. House of Flowers
Josip Broz Tito led the Yugoslav Partisans in World War II, later going on to become president of Yugoslavia. A respected leader in the international stage, he died in 1980; he and his wife are burred at the House of Flowers, also known as Tito’s Mausoleum.
For a while, flowers surrounded his tomb, giving rise to the name House of Flowers; the flowers are gone now, replaced by white rocks. It was built in 1975 as a winter garden for Tito, who chose to be buried here. The mausoleum today is part of the Museum of Yugoslav History.
8. Gardos Tower
The Gardos Tower is but a youngster when compared to ancient or medieval monuments; it was constructed in 1896. But it’s just as impressive as anything built centuries earlier. It’s also known as the Millennium Tower or the Tower of Janos Hunyadin, a Hungarian hero who died more than 400 years ago on the site of an earlier fortress.
Some ruins from the earlier fortress remain today. Originally one of five towers built by the Hungarians to celebrate 1,000 years of rule in the region, the landmark is located in Zemun, 20 km (13 miles) from Belgrade.
7. Nikola Tesla Museum
Well over a century ago, Nikola Tesla energized electricity, inventing the AC system, the electric coil and related items. Generations later, these inventions would lead to a car named after him, the Tesla electric car. They also led to a museum dedicated to his work in central Belgrade.
The Nikola Tesla Museum contains thousands of documents, books, photographs and drawings related to his work of electrifying the world. The museum also houses interactive exhibitions including computerized models of his inventions.
6. Crkva Svetog Marka
One of the city’s most significant landmarks, Crkva Svetog Marka, belongs on your Belgrade itinerary. The modern version of the Church of Saint Mark was complete in 1940, but the story of the church goes back several centuries.
This architectural gem features beautiful Serbo-Byzantine influences and, until recently, was the largest in Belgrade. The striking facade and multiple towering domes shimmer at night. But what lies within is just as captivating.
As you walk in, you’ll be met with vibrant iconography and frescoes. These were created alongside works by some of Serbia’s most celebrated artists. In addition, the tomb of Emperor Dušan ‘The Mighty’, who passed in 1355, lies within the church.
5. Knez Mihailova Street
Every city has one: a street that oozes charm, is lined with historic buildings and is where shoppers snap up bargains. In Belgrade, this street is Knez Mihailova Street, named after a Serbian prince. Less than a mile long, the street dates back to the Ottoman days, though it never really came into its own until the 19th century when the wealthy started building homes here.
Historic buildings along its path include Srpska Kruna Hotel, built in 1869; private homes at 46, 48 and 50 Knez Mihailova, that date from the 1870s, and Greca Kraljica, a coffee shop in an 1835 building.
4. Temple of Saint Sava
With a 134-meter (440-foot) high dome, the Temple of Saint Sava dominates Belgrade’s skyline. To make it even taller, the dome is topped with a gold cross almost 12 meter (40 feet) high.
The largest Orthodox church in use today, it is dedicated to Saint Sava, an important medieval personage who founded the Serbian Orthodox church. It is located on the Viacar Plateau, where Saint Sava is thought to be buried.
Construction on the white marble and granite church started in 1935, halted during World War II and resumed in 1985. Though it is still under construction today it is already one of the most popular attractions in Belgrade.
3. Ada Ciganlija
Ada Ciganlija is an island cum artificial peninsula in the Sava River/Lake that runs through central Belgrade. With its pretty beaches and sports facilities, Ada draws upwards of 100,000 visitors a day during the summer.
Nicknamed “Belgrade’s Sea,” Ada’s peninsula is filled with thick forests that resemble a wilderness area, so you might see deer, rabbits and fox. Houseboats, a weekend retreat for Belgrade residents, can be found at the northern end.
Ada Ciganlija is an athlete’s dream with dozens of sports facilities ranging from tennis to rugby to rowing, with artificial facilities for alpine skiing and snowboarding.
2. Skadarlija Street
Skadarlija Street may not be very long, just 400 meters (1,340 feet), but it’s the most famous street in Belgrade. Located in the Old Town, it connects Despot Stefan Boulevard with Dusanova Street. The street is lined with vintage buildings.
With a bohemian atmosphere, Skadarlija Street is considered Belgrade’s version of Montmartre in Paris. In fact, it was known as the Gypsy quarter in the 19th century. It’s a place where poets gather for Skadarlija Evenings at the house of the late poet Dura Jaksic, and where the Children’s Street Theater performs circus acts. The restaurants and outdoor cafes welcome diners, including celebrities, from all over.
1. Belgrade Fortress
It’s hard to believe the Belgrade Fortress has been destroyed 40 times thanks to 115 onsite battles over the centuries. But, with each stone and turreted tower falling, the fortress imposing aura remains.
Also known as the Kalemegdan Fortress, it all began under Celtic rule, with its fortifications enhance once the Romans arrived. But it was the work of Turkish and Austro-Hungarians through the 18th century that led the fortress to its current design.
Hanging out in the surrounding Citadel, you’ll find a mix of contrast. The fortress’ bloody past can be seen throughout. It’s, however, interrupted by cute cafes, museums, and monuments. Under the summer sun, live music rings through the old streets. While the Kalemegdan Park is the place for picnics and people watching.
Best Time to Visit Belgrade
Located at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers, Serbia’s capital Belgrade sees the most visitors from May through October. This is the sunniest and warmest time of the year with average temperatures ranging from 18 to 27°C (64-80°F).
While July and August are by far the busiest and most expensive, they are also when loads of exciting events are held. Aside from attending concerts and exploring the centre, this is a great time to experience the city’s nightlife. If you need to cool off, then the Ada Ciganlija River Island has lots of cafes, beaches and spots to swim.
June also sees the popular Belgrade Beer Fest take place while the Belgrade Music Festival is October’s biggest attraction along with the Jazz Festival.
Although the city never really sleeps or stops, November to March is the low season as most visitors are put off by the worsening weather. Winter sees temperatures drop to around 4 to 6°C (39-43°F) with it sometimes snowing.
Things pick up around April when all the beautiful spring flowers and sunshine lighten up the capital again.
Where to Stay in Belgrade
As always, the best areas to stay in Belgrade will place you within walking distance of the city’s highlights. Here, the place to stay is within the Old Town, aka Stari Grad, around the Republic Square.
A short walk from this cultural epicenter is the Amsterdam Hotel. This space has all the modern amenities alongside a la carte breakfast, a rooftop dining area, along with a pool and sauna.
The area around Tasmajdan Park is another happening area to stay. You’ll find yourself close to the Tesla Museum and St Mark’s Church. Hotel Argo is an inexpensive hotel just across from the park. Its modern rooms overlook the Belgrade Palace and come with private bathrooms and flatscreen TVs. There is also an on-site bar, while you’ll have great access to bus and train stations within walking distance.
How to get there
With a central location in the Balkan region, there are many ways to get to Belgrade. The city’s airport is the main hub in Serbia, so you can find direct flights from many European destinations. From the airport, you can take either Bus #72 or Minibus A1 to downtown Belgrade.
Taking a bus to Belgrade is a common option, although it will be a bit of a journey. From such departure points as Zagreb and Budapest, it can take around five hours.
Lastly, you can take arrive in Belgrade by train from Budapest, Novi Sad and Bar for example. The latter being one of the most scenic train journeys in Europe.