We’ve spent close to 5 weeks in Belgrade, Serbia this month, and its come with its own challenges and changes to our lifestyles. While other Remote Year groups have come through and loved it, Magellan as a whole has been struggling, and I personally haven’t warmed much to the place (so much so I booked a last minute ticket to Croatia for some fresh air) except in the past week.
Why? Well, mostly because of the weather. Its around 45-55 degrees daily in October, and there is lots of rain. There’s also this pesky thing called the Košava, or, a typical chilling south-eastern Serbian wind. If it were September (apparently last month it was 75-80 degrees every day) or another summer month, Serbia would be much more accessible.
The second reason its a bit hard to handle is the smoking. Word of warning: If you don’t like smoking, Belgrade is NOT the city for you. Especially in the colder months, when stuck inside, people constantly smoke in all public areas. I found this particularly hard, and always opt to sit outside if I can, even in the cold or the rain.
Otherwise, Belgrade is a pretty easy city to walk around, and the taxis are cheap and plentiful! However, they will rip you off if you don’t ask for the set fare ahead of time, so we’re using the app Taxify. It just books and tracks your ride, and keeps your driver accountable for the price. We recommend it.
Enough about the stuff, lets get to know the city itself! Belgrade is a mishmash of architectural styles: from beautiful old ornate churches and buildings, to new and funky glass museums, to buildings that are crumbling around you from the NATO bombings in the 90’s. Every corner has a story, and the city has many layers. Bullet holes and all, I definitely recommend getting to know Serbia’s recent history, from WWII up until now. Talking to locals who have lived through the wars and the many changing names, languages, borders and relationships (especially Montenegro, Kosovo and Croatia) is fascinating.
Here’s some of our favorite things to do in Belgrade:
Nikola Tesla Museum – Have fun with electricity and LIGHTSABERS, friends! Also if you like Tesla, its worth it.
For 10 Euro (1000 Dinar) you can take a Communist Tour by the Belgrade Free Walking Tour guides. Its really interesting to get the Serbian viewpoint of what happened in and around Yugoslavia during Tito’s reign.
The Free Walking Tour of Belgrade, which leaves from the Republic Square, is also fun. Our guide gave us homemade Rakija (A brandy made of plum, or honey, or anything else really) that was really potent, and gave us a run-down of Belgrade’s history. You get to see the Kalemegdan, (the ‘Belgrade Fortress’) and really interesting architecture.
If you like night-life, come here in the summer, when the clubs on the barges are open on the Sava and Danube rivers. By October they’re all closed and moved to other locations, though apparently its still a pretty good party scene. (If you like hip hop and fun dance music, check out DOT on Wednesday nights).
Otherwise, the best thing you can do in Belgrade besides walking around [I’d recommend wandering to the Kalemegdan Fortress, the beautiful St. Sava Cathedral, visiting the Zoo, the cobblestone streets, and heading over to Zemun (a historic town across the river)] would be to EAT. Seriously good, fresh and healthy food to be found around Belgrade! Surprisingly, its really easy to be a vegetarian here. Even Foodporn, the local burger place, has a tofu burger with fresh veggies.
Some of my favorite lunches came from the Bio/Natural food stores around Belgrade: Don’t worry, they’re in every district! I passed at least 4 on my way home. A lot of them make pre-made dishes and put them in their display cases daily. I would pick up a full meal from between $.60 cents – $1.75 per day, and reheat it at the workspace. From delicious sweet potatoes and onion gratin, to healthy chocolate rice pudding, to veggie lasagnas, to couscous and zuccini steaks, they know how to do autumnal food well. Also, don’t miss the farmers markets! If you go to the cheese stand, they will give you shots of Rakija in between your cheese tasting.
Smokvica – From Lebanese breakfast spreads, to salmon thai curries, this place has a little bit of everything wrapped up in beautiful decor. Yes, there is outdoor seating away from the smoke, and they even give you blankets during wintertime. You’re welcome.
TRN – Hidden away behind the giant National Assembly building, down a back courtyard and into a basement, TRN looks like a hipster coffee shop, but their menu is really yummy! They have homemade pastas, including lavender ravioli. Also get the “triangles” with cheese – basically glorified (oh how glorious though) quesadilla, the dipping sauce is to die for.
Supermarket Deli – Contrary to the name, this is a beautiful, trendy little cafe with good wraps, salads and yummy smoothies and fresh juices! Warning: People smoke inside, but its usually not too bad, and the food is good.
Red Bread – One of the very few non-smoking places in Belgrade, its a respite from the onslaught of cancerous clouds of crap that will haunt you daily. As travelers with a limited amount of clothes, I’ve never washed my stuff as much as I have after spending time eating and drinking in Belgrade. Chain smoking is real here friends, and everyone smokes close to a pack a day. Nowhere is really safe, not even the local Costa coffee places, so go to Red Bread for some fresh air
Tezga – Around the corner from our co-working space, Tezga had amazing veggie soup of the day, and has a neat decor. Feels like a local pub that decided to refresh itself with plants, lights and cool fixtures.
Voulez-vous – A delicious french-themed brunch place. Get the french toast (For the non-vegetarians, you can get it with bacon baked in it), yummy oatmeal and great desserts. Its a bit south of Belgrade’s city center, so take a taxi. Probably will be about $5 to get there.
Radost Fina Kuhinjica – This entirely vegetarian restaurant was dark and brooding, with incredible interiors, and, I believe, non-smoking. Get the mezze plate to start, and order anything on the menu. If you get there early enough, try the daily special. Its all tasty!
Aviator Coffee Explorer – As someone who used to work in coffee sourcing, roasting and development, its nice to get away from the Nescafe every once in awhile. Aviator is a pretty classy space, with a good spread of coffees and juices on the menu. Don’t forget to bring your laptop and work if you need to!
Because of the crazy cool history and the incredible amount of good food, I’d say if you want to visit Belgrade, give yourself 2-4 days and schedule your visit in a summer month. We likely could have switched Morocco in August for Belgrade in October, and been much happier due to weather.
Do you have any questions or suggestions about Belgrade (Beograd)? Leave them in the comments below!
Here’s a local Serbian dog from our workspace!