Belgrade (Београд; Beograd) is a vigorous, high-energy city, where throughout spring and summer all ages throng the streets at all hours. With a seemingly endless supply of bars and clubs, its nightlife is one of the unexpected high points on any European itinerary.
The city sits at a strategic point on the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers – something that has proved a source of weakness as well as strength over the ages: Belgrade has been captured as many as sixty times by Celts, Romans, Huns, Avars and more. The onslaught continued right through the twentieth century, when the city suffered heavy shelling during World War II and in 1999 withstood 78 days of NATO airstrikes.
All that considered, contemporary Belgrade is pretty picturesque. The mingling and merging of styles can be off-putting, particularly when a row of beautiful older frontages is interrupted by a postwar interloper, but the grand nineteenth-century buildings and delicate Art Nouveau facades still stand alongside the Yugoslav experimentation, eloquent witnesses of the city’s time under the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.
The city’s most attention-grabbing attraction is the Kalemegdan Fortress. Just outside the park boundary is the Old City, whose dense lattice of streets conceals Belgrade’s most interesting sights. South of here is Belgrade’s central square, Trg Republike, and the old bohemian quarter of Skadarlija, beyond which lie several more sights worth seeing, including one of the world’s largest Orthodox churches. For a spot of rest and recuperation, head west across the Sava to the verdant suburb of Zemun, in New Belgrade, or further south towards the island of Ada Ciganlija, Belgrade’s own miniature beach resort.
Top image Zemun © DeStefano/Shutterstock