Belgrade is worth a stop for a few days. As the former capital of Yugoslavia and now Serbia’s capital, it shows its multilayered past with Turkish, Imperial and Communist influences. The old city overlooks the intersection between the Danube and Sava rivers, showing it’s original role as a fortress dominating the river, and leads down into the more classic 19th/20th century capital.
A good walking itinerary is to start at the Kalemagdan Fort at the northwest tip of the city and work southeast into the old city, which runs down to Skadarska Street in the Skadarlija neighborhood. Skadarlija is a bit touristy although the old town in between is worth a walk round.
Further south, Belgrade has plenty of grand boulevards and buildings evocative of its past as the capital of Serbia from 1882 and then an independent Yugoslavia from 1918, until it’s breakup in the early 1990s. Much of the signage is in Cyrillic text, although a lot of the official signs show Roman text as well.
The palaces of the Serbian aristocracy dot the downtown.
There are also plenty of concrete leftovers from the communist era.
Serbia follows the orthodox faith and St Mark’s Church is worth a stop.
History buffs should make their way by bus or taxi out to the Museum of Yugoslavia (https://www.muzej-jugoslavije.org), almost 4km south of Republic Square, where there is a lot of memorabilia from the Marshal Tito pre-breakup era. Also, Marshal Tito, who was interred there. Take in the propaganda movie devoted to Tito, who held things together and ran a more liberal version of a single-party communist dictatorship.
As head of the non-aligned movement during the Cold War, Yugoslavia had close relations with much of the developing world, so here is the place to get your history fix with Generals Nasser, Sadat and others.
I’d love to have been in the room for the chats with the Shah of Iran and post-war Marshal Klimenti Voroshilov (looking relieved that Stalin hadn’t had him shot).
Ceremonial political weavings featuring President Nasser of Egypt and a youthful Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic.
Belgrade is a great food town, although it’s helpful if your tastes lean Balkan. The old town, located in and northwest of the Skadarlija area, has a lot of restaurants and nightlife to choose from. Serbia has a growing craft beer culture and good beer pubs include the Miners Pub (Rige od Fere 16), Krafter Beograd (Strahinjića Bana 44) and Same Pivo (Balkanska 13). Serbian wine is also worth a try.
Zavichaj, on Gavrila Principa 77, is a good spot for Serbian specialties.
Gradska, located northeast of the old town on Visokog Stevana 43, is another good traditional place.
Belgrade is centrally located on an itinerary between Central Europe and the Mediterranean. I got there with a 4 1/2-hour minivan drive from Budapest and then flew on to Thessaloniki. There are also intercity train and bus, sometimes with a change at Novi Sad on the Hungarian border.
I stayed at the Beograd Inn (Francuska 11), a modern place located at the southeast edge of the old town.