Belgrade is bigger than you think. In fact, so big that I didn't even manage to visit the 'new' side during my stay. Having said that, most of the top things to see and do can be found in a relatively small section of the city – focusing mostly in and around the old town 'Stari Grad'. Belgrade is a city with a lot to offer: history, a strong cultural scene, partying, shopping and good food. As such, it may be difficult to choose what to put at the top of your list to do during you stay. Let my top 5 things to do help guide you in the right direction:
1. Walking Tour
I'm a big fan of walking tours when done properly – they are a great way to orientate yourself in a new city before exploring on your own and, what's more, when you are travelling solo and not staying in a hostel they offer a wonderful way to meet new people. In Belgrade there are a few free tours (free in the sense that the guides rely on you to tip them at the end of the tour in order to make a living – so be kind). I opted to take a city centre tour on my first day with Belgrade Free Tour and had a fantastic time. The tours are guided by locals and as such, offer a unique perspective on the city – on my tour, for example, the guide told us about her personal experience during the NATO bombings. Such an insight is a rare and invaluable one, as in most other cities where political tumult has taken place it's either not yet safe to visit, or the war happened so long ago that there's sadly nobody left to give a personal account for visitors wishing to connect more deeply with the city's past. I enjoyed the free walking tour so much – and also I was keen to get a proper understanding of this city's wild and varied history across the centuries – that I opted to take the paid tour Once Upon A Time in Yugoslavia. It was a long one, lasting nearly two hours longer than the specified 3 hours, but I was completely captivated by the guide's detailed knowledge of his city's past. I came away feeling like I understood the city, its people, its past and its potential future, a lot better.
2. Down By The River
As well as admiring the river Danube and Sava from on high at the fortress, walk your way down the hill and wander along the riverbanks to see the city's watery landmarks from a different angle. At night the floating bars lining the banks are the place to be for night owls looking to party all night long, but during the day the area is tranquil and the colourful boat bars look more like higgledy, piggledy rainbow-coloured houses. Follow the curve of the water's edge: start at Savamala, heading past Beton Hala and its swish new restaurants, eventually ending up at the sports centre, before heading back into the main part of the city.
3. KC Grad
Looking for that cultural buzz? Look no further than cultural hub KC Grad in the up and coming Savamala district (read Belgrade:See for more). A converted brick warehouse, KC Grad is where Belgrade's hip and cool crowd come to hang out, buy, exhibit and create. Stepping through the door, anyone with an ounce of artsy within them will feel instantly at home – Gradstor art shop immediately greets you at the entrance, where you can browse its variety of handmade wares by local artists and designers. Head through the industrial cool interiors towards the back to the Steve Austen café, where you can grab a drink to sip on as you tap away on your laptop or turn the pages of your book – which you can do inside or outside in ultra-chill courtyard. If that wasn't enough, KC grad has a gallery space and art library on its upper floor and regularly holds events to satisfy even the hungriest of culture vultures – workshops, music, film nights, exhibitions...the list goes on! It's a place to mingle, mix and be – the perfect spot for someone discovering Belgrade solo.
4. Belgrade Fortress and Kalemegdan Park
Belgrade's fortress and surrounding Kalemegdan Park is a wonderful place to stroll around and better yet, it's free to do so. It offers some spectacular sweeping panoramas of the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers and New Belgrade. It's really worth taking the time to walk around the whole area, absorbing the picturesque scenes from every angle and having some rest in the lush green grass in the shade in summer. Make sure to stop and admire the ivy-covered, romantic Ružica Church – which looks so much like it belongs in a fairytale that you almost expect Rapunzel to lean out of the tower at any moment.
5. Belgrade Design District
Once the city's first shopping centre, eventually abandoned, then a hub of activity for Belgrade's criminal underground, Čumićevo sokače shopping centre has now been reborn as the Belgrade Design District and is the place to go to for original fashion boutiques. Shop local and unique pieces from Belgrade's best up and coming designers – be it jewellery, clothing, accessories or art. Personalised shopping at its best, here you can actually chat with the designers who have made the pieces you are perusing.