Having spoke to many people who have backpacked and inter-railed around Europe, many have told me a similar line ‘you got to go to Belgrade!’ ‘Belgrade has amazing nightlife’ ‘Belgrade this… Belgrade that…’
To see what the fuss was all about my and my mate Luke jumped on a flight (well actually a couple of flights) and touched down in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia to see for ourselves what this city with such a good things being said about it was really like. We were not disappointed!
A bit of background…
Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and formally the capital of Yugoslavia is the largest city in the country and located along the joining point of the Danube and Sava rivers. Its a relatively flat part of Europe with a great field of view from the high points in the city.
It has been inhabited for a long time, with some reports saying that people have lived in the Belgrade area for more than 7000 years! But in its past its seen its fair share of bombings and destruction, you can even see some still shelled out buildings in the city centre which have just not been demolished yet from recent conflict.
5 bits of useful information for visiting Belgrade and Serbia in general
- Serbia is not in the EU at the time of writing this post! As a British and European passport holder, you are entitled to 90 days visa free stay in every 180 days. This policy is very similar to what non EU nationals are entitled to visa free in the Schengen area! Upon arrival in the country in the country you passport is stamped with a date and then stamped again upon leaving the country!
- Serbia uses the cyrillic alphabet alongside the latin alphabet, however it is very random where both are used. Writing on road signs will appear in both alphabets, however things like shops and notices could appear with one or the other. There is really no consistency with it!
- Serbia uses its own currency which is the Serbian Dinar (prices will be displayed either in ‘din’ or the cyrillic equivalent that is ‘дин’) make sure you only get you need out as it is pretty much impossible to exchange it when out of the country. Many places in Belgrade do accept card as a payment method though.
- Like the rest of main continental Europe, Serbia uses the Type ‘F’ plug outlet (the one with 2 round prongs!)
- As previously mentioned, Serbia is not in the EU yet so you do not get any kind of overseas calls or data allowance that you might get in the EU and the rest of Europe. If you phone is unlocked you can very easily get a local SIM card from many shops. I paid 300din for a SIM card that would work for 7 days upon activation and had unlimited Serbian domestic calls (not that I knew anyone else from Serbia!) and 4GB of 3G data!
Getting here and getting around
For a European destination that is not actually that far away from the UK it is not as easy of a place to get to, the only way we could get to Belgrade from Manchester Airport was by taking indirect return flights with Lufthansa.
We took the first flight out to Frankfurt on Friday morning, connecting and then onwards to Belgrade and on Monday the afternoon flight from Belgrade to Munich, connecting there and onwards back to Manchester.
If I was to do the journey again I would make my transits both in Munich. For such a big airport and one of Lufthansa’s hub airports, Frankfurt is a horrendous airport to transfer through and one definitely to avoid. From an overly complicated layout of the terminal to dreadfully slow and overcrowded transit security (which was not the case for either in Munich!) Avoid Frankfurt airport for transiting if you can!
Once landed at Belgrade airport and having passed through the immigration counter, we proceeded to arrivals where our booked transfer was waiting for us (booked through HOPPA)
It is said to take about 30mins to get from Belgrade Nikola Tesla airport to most places in downtown Belgrade. We however happened to be in Friday rush hour traffic and this journey was closer to an hour!
Belgrade is a very walking friendly city and although there was a wide trolley-bus network around the city and plenty of taxis to jump into, we just chose to walk everywhere!
Where to stay
We stayed in Balkan Soul hostel during our stay in Belgrade, which is one of the highest rated hostels in the whole of Serbia (not just Belgrade) we paid a bit extra and book into a 2 bunk ensuite for 3 nights, which came to a cost of around £40 each.
The staff at the hostel were excellent, they gave us great recommendations and advice for what to do nearby and where we could get such things like cash out, a local SIM card and even directions to a nearby supermarket. They also came in great help when I picked up my SIM card and needed to register it.. which I didn’t know at the time as the texts that were coming through were all in Serbian!
The rooms had a great storage and even a small TV (not that we watched it) and surprisingly the only other Brits that we met the entire weekend were staying in our room as well! You can see some photos of the rooms as well as the rest of the hostel on HostelWorld.com which was what I booked our stay on.
Due to not travelling on my own (for a change!) we didn’t really stick around the hostel much during our stay, however from what was advertised in the reception area that appears to be many group things to do with the hostel.
What to see and do
Although not as touristic as some major cities in Europe, you will certainly find some interesting things to see and do. Below are some of the things that we got up to during our stay.
Right where the Danube and Sava rivers meets sits Belgrade fortress. The area consists of an old citadel with a park inside of it. Inside the grounds there is also a lot of World War 2 artefacts like tanks and heavy ammunition that have been collected for people to look at! From the highest point in the grounds you can get great 360 degree views of Belgrade and further out!
I would definitely recommend visiting this free attraction, however I would suggest going early as it did get a little bit busy around the area toward noon.
Nikola Tesla Museum
The museum of Nikola Tesla is one not to miss while visiting Belgrade. Learn about the life of the famous Serbian-American inventor who developed some of the worlds most revolutionary electrical technology like Alternating Current (AC).
The museum runs hour long tours of the the museum exhibits and also some interesting demonstrations of electrical current that were the brain child of the Nikola Tesla. You also have the ability to see Nikola Tesla himself in his urn that is in the museum on display.
Admission to the museum and the demonstrations is 500din per adult. Due to the small size of the building admission is done on a first come first served basis. To avoid the peak times go during the week day when it is quieter.
Church of Saint Sava
One peace of architecture worth seeing in Belgrade is the Church of Saint Sava, which is the largest eastern orthodox church in the world. At the time we visited it was undergoing a lot of extensive renovation mainly inside but also outside and so there was not a great deal to see inside.
However from the outside it is definitely worth a look. The outside of the building is covered in white marble tiles topped with gigantic teal coloured domes. The church is also in the same neighbourhood as the Nikola Tesla museum, so if you are going there be sure to head back via this amazing piece of architecture.
One of the main things to do in Belgrade is have a night out on the ‘Splavs’ which are bar-boats that are permanently moored alongside the Sava river. Due to the fact there was just 2 of us and that you had commit to making reservations to get in, we didn’t bother visiting on this trip. If I go back to Belgrade again, I would make sure to definitely check them out!
There are loads of great bars and clubs throughout the Belgrade with many either on or a short walk away from the main street called Ulica Kneza Mihaila.
One bar that we visited a few times whilst we were in the city was called City Garden and was actually at the top of the Rakiceva Shopping City. It had some incredible sunsets from its outdoor roof terrace and for the location was very cheap! One night we order a burger, a tuna steak and 4 beers and it came to less than 2000din (which was about £15) If you don’t believe me, you can read the reviews of the place here
Prices vary depending on the type of place you go to, however we never paid for that 250din for a local draft beer (One of the best Serbian beers is called Jelen!)
Through out the city, most of the bars are similar to what you would find in many other European cities, very small inside but plenty of outdoor seating. One other bar we can highly recommend is called Gradska Prica, the place was bouncing of a weekend with DJ’s and live music playing and you could get very cheap beers here too!
Although not part of the main European tourist trail, I would definitely recommend giving Belgrade a go! Its a city where your money goes a long way and that has a lot of history and culture all over.
Have you been to Belgrade and if so what were you thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!