Story: Belgrade (“Beograd” to the locals) is the capital of Serbia. It’s also the largest city with a population of 2 million although you’ll never feel it unless you’re on a bus in the summer.
With a long history that has not always been good, Belgrade has seen something new take place in recent years. The city’s qualities are starting to shine and people are seeing Belgrade more for what it offers in tourism and business alike. International companies are moving in and travelers are picking up on the intricacies of a culture once overlooked because of politics. With its history, famous nightlife, growing food scene, graffiti, and commercial opportunities, Belgrade is starting to get the recognition it deserves.
Vibe: The Balkans in general are pretty laid back, but, for an urban center, Belgrade accentuates this. Step outside late in the morning, and you will see cafes packed, coffee being ingested, and conversations happening. Different languages fill the air which only feeds Belgrade’s growing metropolitan feel, and ideas are being exchanged. If you want to feel outside the city but never leave, venture to Ada “Island,” or take a walk along the Danube or Sava River in the evening. While in the city, engage the locals asking for recommendations of restaurants, cafes, and sites. People are usually willing to help, guide, and, possibly even accompany you to your destination.
Recommendations: When you’re in Belgrade, spend some time in the cafes. Move around the city and even head out to Zemun. (Side note: Zemun may feel like a part of Belgrade but don’t make this mistake especially when speaking to someone from Zemun. They do distinguish themselves.) Go into the museums and learn about the city and people. In the evening, partake in the Belgrade nightlife. Hang out on Knez Mihailova in the evening or take a chance venturing through an abandoned publishing building to find the jazz club.
Notes: Use public transportation when traveling downtown (“old town”). During the week, parking is difficult and can be expensive. Taxis can also be expensive, so use the trams and buses. And remember to be part of the local culture and relax.