Of all the places in the world that I’ve explored, there’s something about the Balkans that keeps calling me back again and again. From Greece to North Macedonia to Albania, this area of southeastern Europe has my heart. One of my favorite cities in the Balkans in Belgrade, the capital and largest city in Serbia. It lies at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers and boasts seven millennia of rich, fascinating history. As a history buff, several of my top things you must do in Belgrade, Serbia revolve around history, but there’s more to do there than exploring the past.
As part of the Balkans, Belgrade boasts an incredible food culture that largely centers around rich, meaty fare; fresh vegetables and fruits; and yes, alcohol. Those things are good enough on their own, but when you add in the kindness and hospitality that make Balkans some of the warmest and most welcoming people on the planet, you’ve got a well-rounded location that’s sure to please any type of traveler. These are the 5 things you must do in Belgrade, Serbia.
Stop by Kalemegdan Fortress
Also known as Belgrade Fortress, Kalemagdan Fortress is located in the heart of Stari Grad, Belgrade’s old town. The fortress is the oldest area of the city itself, and for many centuries, the whole of Belgrade—then known as Singidunum—lay within its walls, making it a city-fortress. At the time, the fortress was fairly primitive, made of earthen bulwarks and wooden palisades. It was later fortified with stone, but was still damaged or destroyed many times throughout its history. It was famously rebuilt by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in 535 AD, as well as by Serbian prince Stefan Lazarević in 1403 and Nicolas Doxat de Démoret from 1723 to 1736.
Entry to the fortress is free, making it Belgrade’s most popular tourist attraction. According to estimates, over two million people visit the fortress annually. From the fortress, you can enjoy stunning views of the Old Town and the meeting place of the Danube and Sava Rivers. You honestly can’t beat that view!
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Try Bucko Pizza
When a city’s most famous place to grab food late at night is also its best pizza restaurant, you have to give it a try! The popular late-night hangout called Bucko is highly regarded by locals. In fact, when I visited the city, people wouldn’t stop recommending it to me! After heading down to their location at Beogradska 56, I understood why!
Bucko’s pizza is not the ordinary greasy pizza you grab after a night of drinking. It’s an experience, and it’s all because of their signature practice of topping slices with different sauces and salads. I recommend getting the beef on top, but the chicken and sesame are also fantastic. They’re absolutely worth braving the long lines of locals and tourists nursing hangovers. It’s open until 2 a.m., so if you’re out late in Belgrade, stop by and give your taste buds a treat you’ll never forget!
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Just south of Republic Square in Stari Grad is the neighborhood and vintage street known as Skadarlija. The street is quite short at less than 400 meters long, but it’s world-famous for its urban architecture and incredible restaurants. The larger neighborhood around it has been a bohemian hotspot since the 19th century and is a great location to get a true feel for Belgrade.
The street is actually Belgrade’s second-most popular tourist attraction after Kalemegdan Fortress. I suggest popping into several different restaurants along the street during your time in Belgrade. Not only are their menus filled with tasty Balkan favorites like burek and cevapcici, but they’re also excellent spots to try rakija, a traditional fruit brandy that is popular throughout the Balkans. Each restaurant makes their own specialty rakija out of everything from plums to quince fruit to apricots!
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Visit Ancient Sirmium
As always, when planning your itinerary, I suggest adding a couple of extra days to each city to give you time to take day trips to locations beyond the city limits. For Belgrade, one such location is Sirmium, a destroyed Roman Imperial palatial complex one hour east of the city that dates back to at least the 4th century BC. The complex, which was later destroyed in 582 AD, originally served as the home to Illyrians and Celts.
Sirmium, now located in the town of Sremska Mitrovica, was one of the Roman Empire’s most important cities, as ten Roman emperors were born there. But it’s also home to several impressive ruins including a 5th-century Christian Basilica, the Imperial complex ruins, a bath system, and palace walls. An on-site museum also houses several Roman artifacts that were unearthed at Sirmium, including beautifully preserved sarcophagi, sculptures, coins, statues, and tombstones.
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Take a Day Trip to Viminacium
If you drive an hour and a half east of Belgrade, you will find an expansive archaeological site that encompasses a number of impressive ruins. This is Viminacium, a ruined Roman city, fortress, and military camp that dates back to the 1st century AD. In its heyday, Viminacium served as both the capital of the ancient Moesia Superior region and the base for the Seventh Legion Claudia in the 4th century.
The thriving city was also home to soldiers who were considered the best in antiquity, but it was crippled by a devastating attack by the Huns in the fifth century. One century later, the city was completely destroyed by the Slavs. Today, the 1,100 acres of Viminacium include palaces, mausoleums, Roman thermal baths, amphitheaters, and more, as well as the ruins of streets and temples. Over 15,000 graves have been unearthed there so far, as well as a 14-inch jade sculpture and a one-million-year-old mammoth skeleton! It makes Viminacium one of the most fascinating things you must do near Belgrade, Serbia!
Belgrade is a wonderful mix of the best that the Balkans have to offer: signature charm, warm hospitality, dynamic food and drink, and fascinating historical sites. Whether you’re interested in digging into the past or exploring more modern attractions, you’ll find plenty of it and more in Belgrade. It’s one of my favorite cities in Europe and one I think you will enjoy visiting. To experience Belgrade for yourself, book a trip to Serbia today!
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