Based on visions of past wars and monolithic communist-style buildings, Serbia and Belgrade may bring up untoward memories of the area for the average traveler. These views are outdated. It’s time to think of Belgrade as a city worth a visit. or even your next vacation.
Belgrade has been around since 7,000 BC, making it one of the oldest inhabited places in Europe. Today, Belgrade is known for some of the best nightlife in Europe, delicious regional food, and don’t forget the rakija!
Whatever questions or misconceptions you may have about visiting Belgrade, Serbia, we are here to put them to rest in this city guide. We have spent a total of three months in Belgrade and will return again soon.
Getting To & Around Belgrade
Belgrade is a hub for many buses, trains, and airlines.
Arrive by Air
Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport hosts flights from most major carriers as well as low-cost carriers like Wizz Air.
There are several options to get into the city from the airport.
- Local Bus A1 costs 300 RSD ($3) and takes about 45 minutes to get into the center of the city.
- Use a ride-hailing app such as Yandex or Cargo. Pickup is in the departures area and costs 1200 RSD to 1500 RSD ($12-$15).
- There is a taxi kiosk in the arrivals area of the airport before you exit, and you can pre-book the ticket there. The taxi ride from the airport should cost 14,000 RSD to 20,000 RSD ($14-$20).
Tip: Beware of any taxi drivers in the waiting area asking if you want a ride. They are not registered and can charge double or triple the cost of the registered taxis. If you decide to go this route, negotiate the price before getting into the taxi.
Note: Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the only available options to get into the city from the airport are pre-booking a taxi on Yandex or Cargo at least 24 hours before your arrival (recommended). Or take a taxi from the taxi line, making sure to get the price before you enter the taxi. The police officers at the airport are extremely helpful and will assist you in negotiating prices with taxi drivers.
Arrive by Bus
The Belgrade bus station is fairly centrally located and has bus routes to many national and international locations. Buses are modern and clean but remember that they usually charge 100 RSD ($1) per bag stored under the bus. There is also a 190 RSD ($1.90) fee to get onto the bus platform, purchase a token at ticket window 12.
When you exit the bus in Belgrade you may be approached by people offering to carry your baggage or a taxi driver. These are scams, possibly illegal, and will overcharge you. Ignore them or give a firm “No’. Only take a taxi from the dedicated taxi stands outside the bus station.
Arrive by Train
If arriving in Belgrade by train you will either be at the Topcider Train Station or Belgrade Centre Railway Station, depending on where you come from. Both stations have public transportation to the city center nearby.
Topcider is mostly used for the longer or international lines and is where the Bar-Belgrade line begins. The Bar-Belgrade line is known as one of the most scenic train rides in Europe! Topcider also has routes to Sofia, Bulgaria, Thessaloniki, Greece, and Skopje, Macedonia. More information about train timetables can be found here.
Note: Due to current COVID-19 restrictions, the Bar-Belgrade train line has been temporarily suspended.
Getting Around Belgrade
Belgrade is a very walkable city. With that being said, it also has an extensive public transportation system of trams, trolleys, and buses to take advantage of.
Tickets can be purchased at newspaper kiosks (recommended) near all the stops, or onboard from the driver. If purchased from the kiosk you can either buy a 90-minute ticket for 89 RSD ($.89), or a card for 250 RSD ($2.50) that you can top up and scan at the entrance to validate your ride. The only option for tickets purchased from the driver is a one-way ticket for 150 RSD ($1.50).
Maps and route information can be found here. Also, Google Maps has accurate trolley and bus timetables when you use the app to get directions.
Tip: If you have a phone that works internationally, you can purchase a SIM card from one of the cell carriers in the city. A two-week tourist SIM card is around 500 RSD ($5) for 10GB of data.
Travel Planning Tip: Order a prepaid SIM card before you travel!
Things to Know About Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade is a very safe city with low levels of street crime. You will see men, women, and children outside at all hours of the day. Solo female travelers can walk around without any issue, and many shops are open late if not 24 hours. As always, common sense is advised if you are out late enjoying the nightlife at one of the many bars or restaurants in Belgrade.
As you would do in most large cities, we advise watching your belongings when in the tourist areas and bus stations where pickpockets and other scams are more common. At the bus station, you may see migrants outside but they have never caused us any issue.
Tourists are most commonly approached and asked for money. A firm “No” will almost always do the trick, but if they continue or you feel unsafe, ask a local for help and they will immediately assist. People in Serbia are friendly and want you to enjoy the country.
People in Belgrade speak Serbian, which is very similar to Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. As a traveler, the most confusing part will be that they use the Cyrillic alphabet instead of the Latin alphabet.
Most signs are written in both Cyrillic and Latin, but you will still find maps, store signs, and restaurant menus in Cyrillic. This is especially true of restaurants outside the tourist areas. However, many people also speak English and you can get by with pointing and gesturing most other times. We recommend you download Google Translate and have Serbian downloaded for offline translation just in case.
Tip: If you happen to learn a few Serbian words before traveling (like hello, thank you, goodbye, cheers!) you will be amazed at how far it goes. People in Serbia appreciate the attempt to speak the language and the smile it brings to their faces is worth the effort.
Serbia uses the Serbian Dinar. The currency exchange is currently 100RSD = $1 at ATMs and currency exchanges are readily available in the city.
Related: 8 Tips for Traveling in the Balkans
Things to Do in Belgrade
1. Walking Tours
A great way to get accustomed to Belgrade and learn about the city is by taking a walking tour. Belgrade offers excellent free walking tours that provide information on restaurants, history, and common scams in the safety of a small group. We went with this free downtown walking tour and highly recommend it.
2. The Kalemegdan Fortress
You’ve probably seen images from the Kalemegdan Fortress before because it’s a popular place to take photos. It is just a short walk from the city center to the large fortress complex.
The Kalemegdan has a long history dating back to the ancient Romans. Today it houses many of the city’s monuments such as the Statue of the Victor and the 2,000-year-old Roman Well.
The fortress surrounds a large park with the best views overlooking the rivers, which makes it popular with tourists and locals alike. We recommend you bring some food, sit on the walls, and enjoy the view! Unlike most places in the US, there are no open container laws in Belgrade, so do as the locals do and bring your beer, wine, or rakija to enjoy in the park!
3. Knez Mihailova
Knez Mihailova is a long pedestrian street on the way to the Kalemegdan Fortress. This is a great place to shop, listen to buskers, or just sit and people watch. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or a bite to eat as well.
4. The Church of Saint Sava
This is one of the largest churches in the world, dominating the city skyline with large green domes and gold crosses similar to the Hagia Sofia that it was modeled after.
Although beautiful from the outside, to truly appreciate it you have to see the gold mosaics and the crypt located inside the building. The church was built on the spot where the Ottomans burned Saint Sava’s remains; as such it is culturally important to Orthodox Christians and the Serbian people.
Admission to the Church of Saint Sava, along with other churches in the city, is free but a donation is always appreciated!
Skardarlija is the bohemian cobblestone street originally inhabited by poets, academics, artists, and drunks. The area is now geared towards tourists with many cafes, shops, and bars playing traditional music but it is still worth a visit.
The prices tend to be higher in this area than if you go a few streets over, but you can always sit on one of the benches lining the street and just soak up the atmosphere!
Note: As of March 2021 this area is under construction and most of the restaurants and bars are temporarily closed.
Cross at the end of the street and you will find a farmers market, called the Skadarlija Greenmarket, to buy fresh produce. This is one of the areas known for pickpockets, so beware!
From Skadarlija you can also walk to the Dorćol neighborhood along the banks of the Danube. This neighborhood, known for its street art and many interesting bars, is featured on lists of “coolest neighborhoods” in many magazines.
If you are someone who likes to spend their days browsing museum collections, Belgrade will not disappoint!
There is the Yugoslav History Museum, The National Museum, Museum of Nikola Tesla (if you want to make friends in Serbia, just agree Tesla was a Serb!), Military Museum, and The Contemporary Art Museum, just to name a few.
Tickets for museums in Belgrade are often available at the price of 300-500 RSD ($3-5 USD) per person, which makes tickets more affordable than other museums in Europe. It is best to check out the museum’s website before visiting since most have free admission days!
7. Take A River Walk
One of the best free things to do in Belgrade is to stroll along the Danube and Sava River banks. The paved pathways along the river are lined with benches and seating. These pathways are always filled with people walking dogs, jogging, or just watching the swans that frequent the river banks. This is also where you can stop for a drink at one of the many floating cafes and restaurants!
8. Nightlife and Bars
Belgrade nightlife is centered around its floating river clubs or splavs, literally nightclubs and live music venues on floating barges. They are what attract thousands of visitors to Belgrade every year and what has put Belgrade nightlife on the map!
If you are looking for something more low-key but still on the water, Belgrade also has floating restaurants and cafes. Some splavs are even quiet bars in the daytime!
We can’t write a city guide on Belgrade without mentioning one of our favorite things…craft beer! Belgrade has loads of craft beer bars and breweries in the city, and some of the lowest prices we have found for craft beer anywhere!
Here are some of our favorite places to grab a pint:
- Samo Pivo
- The Black Turtle
- Dogma Brewery – home to our favorite Serbian craft beer, Hoptopod. If you like IPA’s this one is a must-try!
Note: With current coronavirus restrictions, nightclubs and music venues remain closed in Belgrade, and restaurants, cafes, and bars can only use outdoor seating.
Neighborhoods & Where to Stay
As a major city, Belgrade has an abundance of options for places to stay during your trip.
Prices range from budget hostels for 100-300 RSD ($10-$30) a night to hotels for 5,000-10,000 RSD ($50-$100) and luxury accommodations for 10,000 RSD ($100 and up).
Apartments for rent in Belgrade (either Airbnb or Booking.com) run from 2,000 RSD ($20) a night for a budget stay to 10,000 RSD ( $100) or more for luxury apartments. Prices vary depending on the season with summer prices being higher.
For something a little different, you could always choose to stay in a boat hotel, Boatel Charlie, and be close to one of the things Belgrade is famous for – its splavs!
The most important choice will be what Belgrade neighborhood to stay in, so here are some options.
Stari Grad (Serbian for “old city”) is the Old Town of Belgrade. This area is close to all the major tourist sites, with many restaurants and accommodations to choose from. It’s traditionally an area first-time travelers stay in as it’s central to everything. Keep reading if you like being a bit outside the noise and crowds.
This is also the neighborhood that hosts Hotel Moskva, a beautiful hotel built in 1906, that was host to celebrities like Robert Di Nero, Albert Einstein, and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. Even if you don’t stay here it’s worth a visit to the hotel’s cafe for a slice of the famous Moskva Shnit (Moscow Cake) and wander through the halls lined with photos of its famous visitors!
Dorćol is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Belgrade. Recently revitalized by the city, it is now popular for both locals and visitors. The area is decorated with murals, street art, and has some of the best restaurants in Belgrade.
It is a great area to stay for those who want to be close to the sites but not too close. Also, the proximity to the riverwalk area is a bonus of staying here.
Vračar is the smallest neighborhood in Belgrade but is centrally located right outside the old town. This is our neighborhood of choice when we are visiting Belgrade. It’s a safe and affluent neighborhood with a large park frequented by local families as well as home to Saint Sava. The area also has many restaurants and accommodations in all price ranges. The luxury Metropol Hotel is located here as well.
This guide just scratches the surface of the amazing Belgrade, Serbia.
We recommend just getting here and seeing for yourself! The locals are extremely helpful and some of the nicest people we have met while traveling. They want nothing more than for you to enjoy their city!
With lower prices than other major European capital cities, rich history & culture, vast green spaces, delicious food, and epic nightlife (let’s not get started on what it’s like to watch a football [soccer] match here), we truly believe Belgrade is a city that has something for everyone!
We will leave you with this last tip…just remember refusing rakija is considered rude, and it’s best to sip not shoot!
We are Steve & Jenn from The Good, The Bad, & The Booze, a full-time traveling couple who like to explore off-the-beaten-path locations, and love to learn about a region’s local drinks from the people that drink them! Follow along on Instagram at @sjtravelagain.