Belgrade or Beograd, the capital of Serbia, is a city that breathes history. A story that sticks to her skin, with which she builds her present and her future. Belgrade is also a city that mixes styles, it is not that surprising when you learn that the city has been destroyed and rebuilt 44
times in its life! The last time was not so long ago….
Despite its very painful past, for the Belgrade people and for the Serbs in general, today Belgrade is a city that lives. It remains the richest city in a relatively poor country, living mainly from the agricultural sector.
Visiting Belgrade in two or three days, over a weekend, allows you to see the main monuments, soak up the atmosphere, taste some traditional dishes (including Rakija – a strong alcohol) and feel like returning again to see more!
In this article, I am sharing my favorites, my impressions and what I learned from Belgrade and Serbia after spending a few days with my Serbian friend Milica and her family in September 2016.
When you arrive in Belgrade, you can see at a glance that it is a city that has lived a lot, that has a past, sometimes very painful. You can feel it.
You can feel it in people, in the way you are welcomed, it is felt in the city, in the way it lives and by seeing its different architectural styles. This is the aspect that struck me the most: this mixture.
What surprised me most is to see the mix of architecture and buildings in the Serbian capital. In the same street are buildings built before the Second World War, buildings built under the communist regime and modern, much more recent buildings. That is how I would describe Belgrade. It is the mix between the old and the new, between the past and the present, the ugly and the beautiful, the dirty and the clean. It is not possible to illustrate the Serbian capital with a single image. On the contrary, it is necessary to imagine a superposition of different styles and periods that follow one after the other. Through these different styles, we realize that Belgrade has a very heavy history and past with which it must live on a daily basis.
But today, Belgrade is a living city. The numerous graffiti on the facades are a proof of this. They are not the very expression of the inhabitants that they are alive.
What I like about Beograd
I didn’t know it before I arrived, but Belgrade is very well known for its nightlife. “It is one of the best in all of Europe,” a Turkish traveller told me after a tour of Europe. I don’t like to say that there is a “better”, it’s basically a matter of taste, but it’s true that going out in Belgrade is exceptional.
Why? Why? Probably the price of restaurants and bars. I went to the cheapest bar in the city, where cocktails cost between 150 and 190 dinar (between 1.20€ and 1.80€). With its cocktails for less than 2€, it’s easier to be seduced (by the city)!
Very nice too, are the nightclubs located in the boats along the shore. Great atmosphere, great place!
What is surprising
There are a lot of things that surprised me during my stay in Belgrade.
First of all, since Serbia is not in the European Union, many things that seem “normal” to us in Europe are not in Serbia. For example, there is no ban on aircraft flying at night – so it is normal to hear aircraft noise in the early hours.
Secondly, there is no smoking ban in public places. Smoking is allowed in offices, bars, restaurants, nightclubs. When you’re not used to it, it’s something that stands out.
We know so little about Serbia, probably because it is not in the European Union or because its history is told to us only from the point of view of others.
The cost of living in Belgrade, and Serbia. Wages in Belgrade are very low compared to Western Europe. The cost of living is not very high. The only thing that is “expensive” are the European brands, such as Zara and H&M, where the prices are the same as here (in Belgium).
How to visit Belgrade ?
I strongly recommend taking part in one of these Free Walking Tours which are organized (in English or Spanish) by local people. To visit Belgrade you have to immerse yourself in its history, in its past, to discover it in order to better understand it. I participated in the Belgrade Walking Tour and learned a lot.
In addition to the Walking Tour, I am very lucky to be able to visit Belgrade with a local guide for myself: my Serbian friend Milica.
Milica and I met at our Erasmus in Rome in 2014. Since then, we haven’t let go. She introduced me to her country and her hometown, which I never knew at all. Thank you again for this wonderful stay, for making me discover your story, for making me taste the Plazma biscuits (Serbian brand that I recommend!) and for welcoming me so well with your family:)
10 Things To Know About Serbia
- The Serbian civic alphabet is very simple: you read as it is written and write as it is pronounced. No silent letter, no double consumption. Easy! Easy!
- Vampire is a Serbian name. According to the Serbs, Dracula is Serbian.
- In villages people put garlic at the entrance of their houses to keep vampires away.
- The largest Serbian banknote (dinar) was 500 billion (during the war with Kosovo)
- Novak Djokovic, Serbian tennis player is the most famous personality in Serbia. “If you don’t like Djokovic, you’re not Serbian.”
- Football is the national sport (unfortunately the Serbian national team rarely participates in international competitions).
- Serbs eat a lot (a LOT) of meat.
- Gastarbajter: Serbs who live and work in Germany – Return home during the summer, are full of money.
- Serbia has no access to the sea. Summer holidays are spent at the lake or abroad.
- In Serbia, you can smoke in bars, restaurants, discos (no European legislation)