A trip to Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. Instead of choosing Paris or Rome, head for one of the gorgeous capital cities of the former Eastern bloc for the same great architecture and cultural treasures at a fraction of the price.
Belgrade is a good example. It is one of Europe’s oldest cities, located on the Danube and Sana rivers. This lovely city was the former capital of Yugoslavia and is now the capital of Serbia. It was nicknamed “the Barcelona of Eastern Europe” because of its beautiful architecture and monuments. A stroll around this city will reveal all manner of eclectic building styles from the Renaissance-style National Theatre, modeled on Milan’s La Scala, to modern glass high-rises.
Located right on the River Danube, a river cruise is a must. You can take a day trip along the river, or add a river cruise to the end of your stay in a vacation villa or apartment. Either way it is a restful way to see the Serbian countryside without too much exertion.
Things to Do in Belgrade
The Belgrade Fortress is situated within the grassy park known as Kalemegdan. This was the former citadel within the city walls. A stroll through this lovely area will reveal Orthodox churches, Turkish baths, Muslim tombs, statues and even an observatory complete with telescopes for enjoying the view.
Nearby is the magnificent Belgrade Cathedral, dedicated to St Sava. It has a breathtaking interior and is one of the 10 largest Orthodox Church buildings in the world. Looking rather like the Taj Mahal, this gleaming white marble building is reflected in the calm water feature in front of it. The main basilica is in the shape of a Greek cross and it has a 70 metre-high dome over the apse, topped with a 12 metre gold plated cross. The church was begun in 1905 and is still unfinished inside but nonetheless is richly decorated. In the crypt is the treasury of Saint Sava whose remains were burnt on this spot in 1595.
The main street in Belgrade is Knez Mihailova Street. Many of the central shopping streets in the city are pedestrianized and lined with tall elegant buildings. The Old Royal Palace on Nikola Pasic Square was once the home of Serbian royalty and is now used as the Town Hall. Serbia’s President lives in the New Palace, right next door. Old Belgrade is particularly lovely with many street cafés and buildings decorated with trompe l’oeil paintings. Sit and listen to the bands playing in the evening and absorb the historic atmosphere.
So what’s the downside of a holiday in Belgrade? The main consideration is that English is not widely spoken, but this is not an insurmountable problem. A smile and a Serbian-English dictionary will solve most problems, from directions to menus. For touring this sprawling metropolis of 1.7 million inhabitants, take an English-speaking guided tour to get your bearings and learn more about this historic European city.