Serbia surprised me. It’s incredibly beautiful with lush green hilly landscapes that rival Tuscany, it has a rich history to explore through visits to landmarks and museums, and it is home to a distinct and delicious culinary style. Plus, the nightlife is one of the best in Europe.
Three more selling points: the people could not be any kinder or more welcoming, it’s more affordable than other European destinations, and perhaps most importantly, Serbia isn’t crawling with other tourists. You have the freedom to explore Serbia without encountering crowds.
I spent a week in Serbia on a press trip with Serbia Tourism, and I got to spend time in both Belgrade and Eastern Serbia. Perhaps I should begin by answering the questions my friends asked when I told them I was going to Serbia. Serbia is in a region of South Eastern Europe called the Balkans. The country has a bit of a complicated history. The country used to be part of the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, and, most recently, Yugoslavia. Serbia is filled with historical landmarks from past empires, along with an architectural style that reflects past cultural influences. It is a bit of an off the radar travel destination for Americans, but it is really affordable and there is so much to do and see.
Serbia has ancient ruins, monuments, and historical sites to explore. Eastern Serbia is the place to go to hiking and biking or you could opt to go boating in the Danube River. And the food throughout Serbia is outstanding! Serbians are enthusiastic about food to the point where there was hardly room left on the table when we ate. I loved the balance between history, adventure, and food that Serbia had to offer.
Our trip began in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital. The city is split in half and divided into an old section and a new section. There are two landmarks in Belgrade that can’t be missed. The first is the Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress.
Due to Belgrade’s position at the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers, it was a desirable location that experienced several invasions. The fortress was built at one of the highest points of the city and was used as a lookout point. The fortress was built in the 3rd century, and today a park surrounds the fortress.
When you enter the fortress you will see that the moat is now home to tennis courts. I loved the modern and creative repurposing of this space. The park also has a super cool playground for kids with big dinosaur statues.
The fortress was also a fun place to take some photos.
Belgrade’s second major landmark is much more modern – it’s actually still being constructed. The Church of Saint Sava is dedicated to the founder of the Serbian Orthodox Church. After forty years of planning, construction of the church began in 1935, and today the exterior is complete and while the interior is being finished. The church is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. It’s so big and centrally located that I think it would be hard to visit Belgrade without seeing Saint Sava.
One of Belgrade’s most popular museums is the Tesla Museum. Americans tend to associate the name Tesla with the car company, but in fact, the car company is named after Nikola Tesla, a Serbian inventor who created the alternating current electric supply system (it is the system what we use for electricity today) and the radio remote control. He also held over 300 patents. The Tesla Museum gives visitors a hands-on learning experience, and it is small enough to see in under 2 hours.
Now that I have covered some of the important historical sites in Belgrade, we need to talk about the food. The restaurants in Belgrade have immense patios – it puts Chicago to shame! The streets feel alive since they are filled with people sitting with friends cheerfully sipping coffee or wine. Many of these patios are colorfully decorated.
The most famous might be Manufaktura which has bright red umbrellas hanging above the tables. This was the first big meal we had in Serbia and it was such a fantastic welcome to the city. We feasted on traditional Serbian food – meats, cheeses, spinach pies, and more. (I will be telling you all about Serbian food in another blog post soon).
Another highlight of our trip was a stop at the food market in Belgrade. There is a large portion of the market filled with flower vendors, a big section of fruits and vegetables, and an inside area where meats and cheeses are sold. I bought some bee resin that was promised to cure the cold I was fighting at the time (results were inconclusive). I love getting to visit places where locals spend their time, it gives you a glimpse into the daily life, and the vendors were excited to encounter tourists, giving us tastes of different things as we walked around.
My time in Belgrade was split into three parts, and I stayed in three different hotels. First, we stayed at the Metropol Palace Hotel.
We liked this hotel because it was modern and comfortable. It is a Starwood property so you can count on having all of the essentials like speedy WiFi and a hearty breakfast.
After spending a few days in Eastern Serbia our group stayed at the historic Hotel Moskva. Hotel Moskva has the atmosphere of a grand old hotel, it’s where celebrities stay when they visit Belgrade. Hotel Moskva had the best location – it puts you within a short walking distance to Republic Square. And lastly, when I returned to Belgrade on my own after visiting Bosnia, Croatia, and Montenegro, I stayed at the Radisson Blu Old Mill. My room was wonderful, as was the breakfast, but the location isn’t ideal – you need to take a cab to get anywhere.
I am excited to share more about my time in Serbia in the coming weeks. Until then, I will leave you with a recommendation for a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide who speaks perfect English – I recommend contacting Nenad Blagojevic at firstname.lastname@example.org. And to learn more about Serbia visit Serbia Tourism’s website.
I partnered with Serbia Tourism on this series of blog posts.