Belgrade is the perfect combination of old and new from every point of view. A great mix of Balkan spirit and European lifestyle. Many reasons why you should put this destination on your bucket list: historic sites, green areas, design neighbourhoods, great nightlife etc. But there is a specific one, which beats them all: the people. Serbians have open hearts; they welcome you warmly and make you feel special.
I arrived in Belgrade after a mixed experience in Prague (Czech Republic). Don’t get me wrong: Prague is a lovely city, but there I felt treated as a “mass tourist“. So, few days into my trip there…. I took the plane and one hour later I was in Belgrade.
After one week In Belgrade, I honestly believe I lived way too much in Western Europe. I have more and more the feeling the Westerners are too often worrying, complaining and unsatisfied. They rush to work, rush to meetings, rush to yoga, rush back home, they are in rush all the time; they got personal engagement calendars booked 30 days in advance. Trust my word, I was one of them.
But life in Serbia seems to have another pace. Yes, I know, living in a place is different than visiting, but if you want a different experience and take a break from cold-hearted Western Europe, that’s the place to go. Plus, the Balkan spirit has always something special, which reminds me of home.
Here are few reasons why you should visit Belgrade:
Meet warm hearts
My number one reason is because people here are simply lovely.
It is just heart-warming how everyone will help you whether you need to buy a bag and you don’t know how to ask for one or if you need directions for a destination in town. Older generations don’t speak much English, but I loved interacting with them, because seems like everyone here has a story to share.
My favourite spot in town! This is an area in Belgrade full of cafes and restaurant where you can go out and chill during the day (or night, for that matter).
It is the old part of the town, once known as the area of bohemians, writers and artists. It is really hip, but it keeps something from the true spirit of the city. In the week I was there, I spent a lot of time in this area, it is easy-going, you find work-friendly places and, as everywhere else, friendly people.
These people also know how to party! In style, big style, baby!
You can find on Belgrade at night info about the clubs. For some Westerners can be a bit overwhelming (because people do dress up and the style may look lavishing), but I totally loved it. I also like that you don’t have to pay to get into a club and the service is usually very good. I felt is slightly overpriced for the living standards in the country.
The wine and food of Serbia
You might know I love wine. With about 70,000 hectares of vineyards, Serbia is producing about 425,000 tons of grapes annually.
The majority of Serbian wines are produced in local wineries, so you might not find Serbia on the map of amazing wines. But they do have very good wineries. In Belgrade you can find many shops and wine bars, where you can taste and buy the local production.
As for the food, being originally from neighbouring Romania, I love the taste of the Balkans. Cevapcici and pljescavica are very popular around. You can also find different varieties of pastry (sweet, salted) at any corner. Good for the soul, bad for the diet! Here is a great guide on Serbian eating and drinking culture.
Kalemegdan is the old citadel of Belgrade, situated at the intersection of Sava river with the Danube.
It is the most visited touristic attraction from Belgrade (entrance is free), but don’t imagine you will be caught in a funnel of tourists; surrounded by a big park, you can stroll at your easy and enjoy the view, the green area, eat candy floss and drink a glass of wine on the terraces nearby.
Affordable and good service
It is definitely one of places that offers added value on the index price-quality. Rents and hotels are relatively cheap for European standards, same for eating in town or having a coffee. Public transport, telephone/Internet connection and all kind of other services, are also very affordable for someone visiting.
For example, for less than 3 euros, I got a pre-paid card with 8 GB of data for 2 weeks plus other perks. The price of the bus ticket from the airport to the center is about 2 euros and the examples can continue.
However, alcohol in clubs and generally the nightlife goes to European standards price-wise, but it is very good, no question about that.
All in all, Belgrade has been one of the best experiences from recent past. It is a city that inspires life and I honestly feel that it has a great, great potential, still hidden from the eyes of the world.