Belgrade is a city that I’d wanted to visit for so long and since I finally did, I’ve not stopped telling everybody how amazing it is. This city just has something special that’s had me completely hooked since the minute I got off the train. I’ve made many wanderlust-fuelled Google searches to find out how much it costs to rent an apartment here, and several hours of my travel day-dreams have been filled thinking about roaming its fascinating streets. But what’s so flipping fantastic about the Serbian capital that’s left me unable to stop going on about it? Well, you’re about to find out!
1. How totally different it is to anywhere I’ve been
This is what started my Belgrade obsession. It’s a European capital like no other and I’ve never felt so far away from home while still being in Europe. The culture, the architecture, the people and the vibe made me feel like I could have been on the other side of the world, a feeling I absolutely adore when travelling. Seriously, Belgrade is just so cool. It’s unpretentious, a little rough around the edges and has not even 5% of the tourists of Berlin or Budapest, so you totally feel like you’re sliding under the radar.
2. The nightlife is insane
Belgrade’s reputation totally proceeds it in this aspect, so you’ve probably heard a thing or two about partying here. Come rain or shine, the city’s bars and clubs are packed every night of the week. I loved that the scene felt underground – the best places are found by recommendation or by taking a wrong turn and accidentally stumbling upon something amazing. One evening we just followed a crowd of people through a plain looking doorway and ended up in a packed out bar with the rowdiest karaoke sesh going on on a Wednesday night. People were ripping their tops off and spinning them round their heads! I woke up with no voice and blisters from dancing too hard #noregrets. Which brings me to my next point…
3. You can party on the river
Nothing defines Belgrade more than its iconic floating clubs, AKA splavs. Along the river there’s a stretch of barges that house quirky bars and clubs, each totally different to the next. They range from the swanky ones with strict dress codes to casual rock-themed dive bars. In the summer months, these are the places to head at night for insane parties that go on till sunrise. Some are open during the day too for lunch and chilled drinks with a view.
4. It’s unbelievably cheap
I mean, who doesn’t love a bargain? Believe me when I say, Belgrade is so unbelievably cheap. It’s hard to believe about a European capital, but it’s honestly on a par with cities in Southeast Asia. We had a beautiful AirBNB apartment in the city centre with a dreamy balcony for £18 a night, while the average pint or glass of wine costs £1 or less. When we arrived in the city, it was dark, late, and we’d been travelling all day, so we went for food in the first restaurant we found, despite it looking way too fancy for our budget. We were starving so decided to treat ourselves – we ordered a plate of local sausages and lamb, Serbian dumplings and mashed potatoes (not realising our meat already came with two portions of fries). Imagine our faces when we got our heads around the currency and realised that our feast came to £8!
5. The beautiful neighbourhood of Skadarlija
Even as a Belgrade superfan, I can admit it’s not the most beautiful of cities. It’s still recovering from decades of conflict, with many buildings half destroyed and an overwhelmingly grey, concrete landscape. This rawness is part of its charm though, and it means that when you find Belgrade’s beauty spots, they stand out as even more special. One of these spots is the unmissable bohemian neighbourhood of Skadarlija, with its cobbled streets, cutesy restaurants and street musicians. It feels like you’ve stumbled into 19th century Paris! You need to take a stroll here and have a least one al fresco dinner in its beautiful settings if you visit Belgrade.
6. The stunning Church of St. Sava
This magnificent Serbian Orthodox temple is simply one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever seen and I could have sat and stared at it for hours. The views inside are just as breathtaking, with striking gold archways and intricate mosaic artworks on every ceiling and wall. Its huge structure dominates Belgrade’s skyline, and it’s said that Saint Sava protects the city. You can truly feel the love and pride that the city’s residents have for this incredible structure. Try and visit at noon to hear its grand bell towers chime.
7. There’s a beach in the middle of the city
Yep, you did read that right. Ada Ciganlija, an island in the middle of the river Sava, has been transformed into Belgrade’s best summer hideaway, complete with beach bars, ice cream parlours, water sports and actual sand. Seriously, it’s easy to forget you’re in the middle of the city here. It has the fun-loving vibe of a real seaside town and come summer it’s packed with locals sunbathing to the chilled soundtrack that pumps from the speakers all along the promenade. Just when I thought Belgrade couldn’t surprise me any more, I discovered this!
8. There’s interesting street art everywhere you look
I said before that Belgrade isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing city, but local creatives are trying to change this with the eccentric street art that’s popping up in every neighbourhood. Some of it’s political, some romantic and some is just meant to inject a bit of colour into this grey, urban sprawl. The contrast of an incredible painting against a collapsing concrete tower block is jarringly beautiful, and you’ll be surprised where you might stumble across a masterpiece in Belgrade.
9. The food is delicious (and underrated!)
I didn’t know a thing about Serbian food before coming here, and my experiences with Balkan food so far had been nothing to write home about, so I wasn’t expecting much from the cuisine here. To my surprise I loved it, and I’ve been searching for a good Serbian restaurant in London since I got home (any tips, hit me up). It’s pretty meat heavy and is like a cross between Turkish and Greek with lots of bread, cheese and salads too. You need to try ustipci, the juiciest ever meatballs stuffed with cheese that were sooo good at Restoran Crvena Ruža in Skadarlija that we went back twice. Etno Restoran Zavicaj was another of our local faves (it’s the one I mentioned above). In Belgrade, portions are always huge and the prices are always low. What’s not to love?
10. You can catch a football match with unbeatable atmosphere
Serbian’s are football mad and the home stadium of the nation’s biggest team, Red Star Belgrade, is here in the city. The atmosphere on match day is out of this world and truly something special to be a part of. You’ve never seen such passion! Even if you’re not a football fan this will be something you’ll never forget, and with tickets costing under £5 and usually available on the door, there’s absolutely no reason not to try something new. The only time you’ll struggle for tickets is if there’s a derby game against Partizan, but if you’re in the city for this legendary clash you should do everything in your power to try and get hold of one!
Okay, now I’m feeling lovesick over Belgrade. I think it’s time to start planning the next trip…