If you have to wait for a connection at the Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport for a couple of hours, you can invest your time well and pay a quick visit to Belgrade, the Serbian capital city. A brief visit will reveal to you an outstanding diversity of the once thriving capital of Yugoslavia and the former battlefield, with all cultural influences imported from mighty empires that once ruled Belgrade and Serbia. All of that, and more, you can see in the city core, which is located up to 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) from the Nikola Tesla Airport.
Terazije Square – the starting point (half an hour)
If you have of a few hours at most, the fastest transfer from the airport is provided by taxi, and you can order a ride to the Hotel Moskva (Moscow) in the photo, at the Terazije (Scales) Square. If you have more time at your disposal, you can take the shuttle bus from the airport to the Slavija Square for 300 RSD (2.1 USD), and take a 15-minute walk to Terazije. Either way, drop in the Hotel Moskva (1906) and treat yourself with perhaps the most delicious cakes to be had in Belgrade. The marvelous ambiance, worthy of Imperial Russia’s splendor and elegance, is a nice additional touch.
While you are at the Terazije Square, get acquainted with the hotel’s Russian Secessionist architectural style, boasting the relief composition named “Glorification of Russia”. The relief celebrates the longtime Serbian ally in various 19th and 20th century conflicts and crises. Next to the Hotel Moskva is the Terazije Fountain; dating from 1860, the fountain is the oldest structure at Terazije. As you approach the main commercial street, Knez Mihailova (Prince Michael’s), in downtown Belgrade, the Palata Albanija (Albania Palace, 1930) emerges slightly to the right, once the tallest structure in the Balkans.
Former Belgrade and Serbia
Once you reach the junction of the commercial streets, Knez Mihailova and Kralja Petra (King Peter’s), you are at the intersection of another kind as well. If you proceed forward, you’ll enter the Kalemegdan Fortress, the mighty fortification that had a crucial role in numerous battles. If you take either direction on the Kralja Petra Street, you are about to get acquainted with more peaceful, yet equally turbulent historical transformation of Belgrade and Serbia in the Princess Ljubica Residence (in the photo) and in the Ethnographic Museum. Either museum can be toured in less than two hours or double that, depending on your time.
The Princess Ljubica Residence (500 RSD/4.28 USD entrance fee) evokes the transformation of Belgrade into the modern 19th century capital of liberated Serbia from a Turkish hamlet. Within the museum’s premises, you can lay eyes on the wealth of drawing rooms in various styles (the Turkish Ottoman, French Second Empire, Alt Deutsch, Baroque…), period artifacts, portraits and personal belongings of historic personalities. Across the museum, Belgrade’s oldest inn, named ? (the question mark is the actual name of the inn, strange but true!), and the outstanding 19th century Cathedral Church are located. Opening hours vary depending on the day, please check the details on the official website.
The striking Cathedral is the monument to the Serbian independence from the Turks in the 19th century, which was built before independence occurred. The Cathedral Church was erected while the Turks were still present in Belgrade and is the resting place of several influential Serbian statesmen and reformers. The ? inn, boasting the Balkan style and an authentic 19th century ambiance, is a perfect spot for a cup of tea or an authentic Serbian meal (reservations in advance are recommended).
The Ethnographic Museum focuses on the way of life the Serbs lived throughout various regions of former Yugoslavia, who were under the rule of Turkey, Austria and Hungary back then. In this extraordinary museum, you can get acquainted with the past centuries’ fashion, religious practices, diverse residential architecture, art and much more. The museum’s operating hours are from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. (Tuesday – Saturday) and from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sunday, and the admission fee is 150 RSD (1.28 USD).
Enjoy Kalemegdan Fortress, the fierce battlefield of the last two millennia
Kalemegdan Fortress, the foremost attraction in Belgrade, boasts numerous vestiges of the distant past and recent acquisitions, underlining its strategic, cultural and historical value of the stronghold and the medieval town. Although the fortress was razed and rebuilt around 50 times in history, it’s final reconstruction, carried out by the Turks in the 18th century and based on the Austrian plans, conjures those turbulent times pretty well.
You’ll find a couple of surviving Turkish and Austrian structures throughout Kalemegdan, a few museums, numerous monuments to illustrious people, historic events and the best vistas in all of Belgrade. These encompass New Belgrade, the Great War Island and the confluence of the Danube and Sava Rivers.
Maybe you won’t have time to visit the Military Museum, but its free outdoor display of artillery, armored vehicles and naval weapons of the last few centuries will satisfy each fan of warfare. Kalemegdan Fortress can be toured in an hour or in a full day.
Spice up your experience on Skadarska street
Popular Skadarlija, also known as Belgrade’s Montmartre, is a popular gourmet destination in downtown Belgrade, located minutes away from Trg Republike (Republic Square). Whichever of Skadarlija’s restaurants you visit, you are sure to have outstanding traditional specialties, beverages and a great atmosphere, accompanied by bands playing live music.
Have more time?
In that case, pay a visit to the House of the National Assembly, the Old Palace and the New Palace, between the Slavija and Terazije Squares, and be spellbound by their monumental exteriors. Or you can stop by the Bajrakli Mosque, the 16th century place of worship, near the juncture of Gospodar Jevremova and Kralja Petra streets. That’s hardly everything, but for a quick visit, it’s quite enough.