I wanted to spend more time in Serbia but, the reality was, I couldn’t. I had booked a flight to the UK, earlier than originally expected, which left me with a mere 21 hours in Belgrade. This short time would at least give me a taster of Belgrade, but would it give me the desire to return?, I wondered.
Well, it wasn’t the best start because I arrived at Belgrade bus station at 5am from Sarajevo, yes, that’s correct, 5am and then the following day I had to catch the airport shuttle bus at about 2am. In the middle of all of that, I had to unexpectedly change accommodation during the day because they had no water and that was the only luxury I wanted – not even hot water – just water.
The guy at the first hostel I stayed at was really helpful and he pointed out all the places to visit. The thing is, I was really, really tired after getting very little sleep on the night bus. So, I decided to just take my time and see whatever I could manage in the time that I had.
Ušće Shopping Centre
First things first, it was Sunday and I needed some Serbian dinar. Having just arrived, I only had euros and the odd Bosnian mark left. The guy at the hostel searched the Internet for a Bureau de Change. He wasn’t very hopeful but managed to find one in the Ušće Shopping Centre. With map in hand, I set off on foot across the bridge. It was a bit of a walk, but the fact that it was a beautiful, sunny day made all the difference.
I only wanted to change some money, so I made a conscious effort to find the Bureau de Change and not get sidetracked by all the shops. It was far bigger than I realised. In fact, it’s the largest shopping centre in Serbia.
With some Serbian dinar in my purse, I headed down to the riverside. Belgrade is where the Sava and Danube rivers meet. I love being near water so I decided to take a relaxing walk along the riverbank. I was in the Novi Beograd area of the city, on the left side of the Sava river. As I walked along, I passed lots of splavovi, which are floating buildings – accommodation, restaurants, cafes, and nightclubs. I don’t recall seeing any nightclubs along that stretch, although I wasn’t looking for any. At least two of these were hostels and I was so curious that I went into one and a very helpful member of staff showed me around. The number of restaurants and cafes I walked past were so tempting that I could no longer hold back. I sat down at one of them to enjoy the view while having lunch. When I started to get too comfortable, I knew it was time to make a move.
I continued on down and must have got to Zemun, which has been a settlement since the Neolithic period, would you believe! Time was getting on and I had to walk back so I didn’t get to see its centre or Gardoš Tower. Unusually for me, rather than walking uphill, searching for it, I turned around and headed back. Well, I had quite a long walk back.
The Belgrade Fortress
After changing hostels, I bought a bus ticket and got a bus into the city centre. One thing I was told on more than one occasion was to visit the fortress. It’s not surprising though, when you find out that there was originally a Roman Castrum (fortress) built on that location in 2nd Century. Over the years, the fortress has apparently been demolished and rebuilt numerous times and what you see now was built in the 18th Century. There’s a military museum, a tower, and a couple of churches, as well as the Statue of Victory which commemorates the Kingdom of Serbia’s victories in the First Balkan War and World War I.
Surrounding the fortress is Kalemegdan, Belgrade’s largest park. It is divided in two: Mali (Little) and Veliki (Large). It was dark by the time I got there. As the fortress is in the park, you have to walk through the park to get to it. To my amazement, it was really busy. There were lots of people milling around. I didn’t realise at the time that it is a popular place with the locals. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see it in daylight to fully appreciate the park. Having said that, the view at night of the fortress and across the river is delightful.
Would I return?
Although I didn’t have long, I had a great time in Belgrade. So, did it give me the desire to return? Yes, definitely. It is a very beautiful and interesting city and there is so much more to see and do there. Top of my list for my next visit is Ada Ciganlija, an island that was artificially transformed into a peninsular. It has a forest, a beach, and two lakes!
Here are the locations I mentioned above…
Have your say
Have you been to Belgrade? If so, what was your favourite bit and what else should I see on my next visit?