When it comes to major European cities, you've probably heard of all the big ones. You know London and Paris and Rome. You've heard of Amsterdam and Berlin and Barcelona.
But what do you know about Belgrade?
Belgrade (or Beograd as the locals call it) is the capital and largest city in Serbia. It sits at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers and is visited by an increasing number of people each year.
You may not have Belgrade up there on your list of cities to visit, but here are a few reasons why you should.
Belgrade isn't a tourist hot spot like Rome or Paris. But the city actually has a long and varied history that can compete with any of the most popular cities in Europe. Belgrade was first settled back in the 6th century and has changed hands countless times over the centuries. It's been conquered and settled (and sometimes re-conquered) by everyone from the Romans to the Slavs to the Byzantines to the Ottomans and has been contested and bombed five times in the last 100 years alone.
Following World War I, Belgrade became the capital of a newly formed Yugoslavia and eventually the seat of Josef Broz Tito, who led Yugoslavia in the years following WWII.
Belgrade has recent scars, too marks from the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s, and the Kosovo War in the late 1990s. In fact, a couple bombed-out government buildings still stand, hollow and abandoned, from when NATO bombed the city during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.
You won't find many better places to learn about Balkan (and especially Yugoslav) history than here in Belgrade.
Belgrade and Serbia as a whole have had some pretty rough recent history. But that doesn't mean that the city or country has stagnated. In fact, the vibe of Belgrade is quite hip.
In the center of the city you'll find a mix of historical buildings, wide shopping streets and plenty of cafes and restaurants. This is Central/Eastern Europe though, so the vibe is different to what you'll find in other European capitals.
Belgrade is also renowned throughout Europe for its nightlife. After dark, people pile into bars and clubs; even many of the barges along the Danube transform into nightclubs that pump out music until the wee hours of the morning.
Things to see in Belgrade
If you decide to check out Belgrade, here are a few things you'll want to see:
- Church of Saint Sava: A Serbian Orthodox church that is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. It's also unfinished on the inside, with grand plans for an intricate mosaic that will one day cover the entire ceiling.
- Belgrade Fortress: This fortress overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers has both historical significance in Serbia and offers up some pretty cool views as well.
- Tito's mausoleum: If you want to learn more about Yugoslavia's first leader, you can visit his mausoleum, also known as the House of Flowers.
- Sava Lake: This man-made lake not far from the center of the city is lined with beaches, bars, and cafes and is super popular in the summer months. You can rent a bike and ride around the whole thing, stopping for drinks along the way.
There are also plenty of museums, shopping, and annual festivals to experience in Belgrade. Add this to all the history and nightlife, and Belgrade may deserve a spot higher up on your must-visit list.
Who's ready to book a trip to Belgrade?
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