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Home » Belgrade Off the Beaten Path: Awesome Spots You Should Visit

Belgrade Off the Beaten Path: Awesome Spots You Should Visit

Kalemegdan, Zemun, Knez Mihailova, Skadarlija are the most famous attractions of Belgrade, described in every guidebook. However, Belgrade has surprises beyond the most trodden tourist paths. This article will discuss the unusual attractions of the Serbian capital.

Many have been to Belgrade more than once, plan to visit the city again, or have even moved here to live. If the main attractions and museums have already been explored, it’s time to look at Belgrade’s less obvious places, such as a stadium on the roof of a shopping center, socialist street art, and experimental districts.

For those visiting Belgrade not for the first time, we have gathered attractions that can surprise.

Socialist Architecture

Post-war socialist architecture is often considered dull, but Yugoslav architecture is a pleasant exception, as architects consistently experimented and rejected serial construction. The results of these experiments can be appreciated in the Novi Beograd district, where each block (microdistrict) has its architectural features. For example, block 28 features houses with windows resembling televisions, a huge house shaped like a horseshoe, a kindergarten resembling a concrete hobbit house, and the block’s landscape includes artificial hills.

In block 28, there is a house with windows that resemble televisions. Photo: Pim GMX / Flickr.com
In block 28, there is a house with windows that resemble televisions. Photo: Pim GMX / Flickr.com

In blocks 23 and 22, the residential buildings are brutalist—devoid of any decoration, just raw concrete. Even the playgrounds are concrete, but in contrast, the schools and kindergartens are built from brick in strange pyramidal shapes. In block 21, there is a house nearly a kilometer long, and in block 33, there’s the Genex concrete tower, consisting of two parts, as if they were the wings of a gate.

In blocks 23 and 22, the residential buildings are brutalist—without any decor, only raw concrete. Photo: reddit.com
In blocks 23 and 22, the residential buildings are brutalist—without any decor, only raw concrete. Photo: reddit.com
In block 33, there's the Genex concrete tower, made up of two parts, as if they were the wings of a gate. Photo: Lessormore / Wikimedia.org
In block 33, there’s the Genex concrete tower, made up of two parts, as if they were the wings of a gate. Photo: Lessormore / Wikimedia.org

Despite the abundance of greenery and wide streets in Novi Beograd, Yugoslav architects found this insufficient and designed the anti-New Belgrade—a utopian district called Čerak Vinogradi, where there’s even more greenery—the streets are named after the trees that line them. And there are even fewer cars—they can only drive around the perimeter of the district, leaving the area itself car-free. Instead of concrete buildings with flat roofs, Čerak Vinogradi features low-rise brick houses with sloping roofs.

The utopian district of Čerak Vinogradi, where there's an abundance of greenery, and cars can only drive around the perimeter of the area—the district itself is free from cars. Photo: Nimrod88 / Wikimedia.org
The utopian district of Čerak Vinogradi, where there’s an abundance of greenery, and cars can only drive around the perimeter of the area—the district itself is free from cars. Photo: Nimrod88 / Wikimedia.org

The experiments continued in the neighboring district of Vidikovac—there, the streets are curved, where multi-story buildings have concrete round balconies and frames, there are houses as if assembled from huge blocks, a police station in the shape of a glass pyramid, and a transformer substation resembling a futuristic temple.

The Old Cemetery and Tito’s Train

The districts of Senjak and Dedinje are predominantly built with mansions during the interwar period, among which there are modernist, classicist, and folk architecture-inspired ones. For example, in Senjak, it’s worth visiting the courtyard of the local Academy of Arts, where one can find not only copies of Michelangelo’s sculptures but also peculiar student works. In Dedinje, there’s a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Legat Čolaković, where various exhibitions are held. And in the former studio of Yugoslavia’s main abstractionist, Petar Lubarda, one can see not only his paintings but also the tools used to create them (there’s even a feeling that you’ve come to visit the artist).

In Dedinje, there's a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Legat Čolaković, where various exhibitions are held. Photo: Legat Čolaković
In Dedinje, there’s a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Legat Čolaković, where various exhibitions are held. Photo: Legat Čolaković
In the former studio of Yugoslavia's main abstractionist, Petar Lubarda, not only can one see his paintings but also the tools used to create them. Photo: Sadko / Wikimedia.org
In the former studio of Yugoslavia’s main abstractionist, Petar Lubarda, not only can one see his paintings but also the tools used to create them. Photo: Sadko / Wikimedia.org

The walk can continue in nature—at the Topčider and Košutnjak parks. In Topčider, there is the 19th-century residence of Prince Miloš, an old cemetery, and a huge summer stage paved with tombstones from a German cemetery of the World War I era. Remnants of this cemetery can be found there as well. Besides restaurants with views of the city (Rubin, Aleksandar Club), there is an old railway station with abandoned trains, among which is the “Blue Train”. It was used by Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, and if you notify in advance of your arrival, you can also get inside.

The 'Blue Train' is a train that was exclusively used for transporting Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and high-ranking state officials. Photo: Orjen, Bdx / Wikimedia.org
The ‘Blue Train’ is a train that was exclusively used for transporting Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito and high-ranking state officials. Photo: Orjen, Bdx / Wikimedia.org

Places Associated with World War II

The Liberators of Belgrade Cemetery is the final resting place for Yugoslav partisans and Red Army soldiers. The cemetery is designed in the style of Socialist Realism, which is rarely seen in Belgrade. Unlike other cemeteries, it does not close at night—I don’t know why you would need this fact, but there it is.

The Liberators of Belgrade Cemetery is designed in the style of Socialist Realism, which is rarely seen in Belgrade. Photo: Andrija12345678 / Wikimedia.org
The Liberators of Belgrade Cemetery is designed in the style of Socialist Realism, which is rarely seen in Belgrade. Photo: Andrija12345678 / Wikimedia.org

Adjacent to this cemetery is the Sephardic Cemetery, open every day except Saturday. It is worth visiting for the Holocaust victims’ monument by Bogdan Bogdanović. This is one of the rare examples of Yugoslav monumental memorials dedicated to World War II that can be seen directly in Belgrade.

During the war, several concentration camps were located in Belgrade. From Topovske Šupe, several abandoned buildings and a memorial plaque remain. Another complex, Staro Sajmište, is currently under restoration—upon completion, a museum will open there. Both former concentration camps can be visited as part of a tour by the Center for Applied History.

Staro Sajmište, currently under restoration—upon completion, a museum will open there. The former concentration camp can be visited as part of a tour by the Center for Applied History. Photo: Imeao / Wikimedia.org
Staro Sajmište, currently under restoration—upon completion, a museum will open there. The former concentration camp can be visited as part of a tour by the Center for Applied History. Photo: Imeao / Wikimedia.org

In the former Banjica camp, a museum has now been established. In addition to personal belongings of the prisoners, documents, photographs, and a model of the camp, there is a rather eerie reconstruction of a camp room. Sometimes concerts and performances that send shivers down your spine are held there. Nearby the museum, there’s also an unusual monument—a section of the street paved with stones in such a way that cars cannot pass without touching them. The idea is to make it impossible to drive past the former concentration camp without experiencing discomfort.

In the former Banjica camp, a museum has now been established. In addition to personal belongings of the prisoners, documents, photographs, and a model of the camp, there is a quite eerie reconstruction of a camp room. Photo: The museum of Banjica concentration camp
In the former Banjica camp, a museum has now been established. In addition to personal belongings of the prisoners, documents, photographs, and a model of the camp, there is a quite eerie reconstruction of a camp room. Photo: The museum of Banjica concentration camp

Alternative Culture

In Belgrade, the most interesting activities happen outside official institutions, in numerous cultural centers and art spaces. You can attend an unusual concert, performance, movie screening, photo exhibition, or an entire festival. Here are a few such places. The Center for Cultural Decontamination hosts the boldest events—round tables, performances, plays that go against the official discourse and address critical issues.

In the Center for Cultural Decontamination, the boldest events take place—round tables, performances, plays that go against the official discourse and raise sharp questions. Photo: Center for Cultural Decontamination
In the Center for Cultural Decontamination, the boldest events take place—round tables, performances, plays that go against the official discourse and raise sharp questions. Photo: Center for Cultural Decontamination

Kvaka-22 is an entire building squatted by a group of artists, who have established a museum and gallery there. The museum features items found in the building, and the gallery hosts exhibitions of young Serbian artists, concerts, and performances. The website offers a virtual tour and a collection of photographs showing the transformation of the space. Silosi is a new cultural center set up in a port elevator, KC Živa is a venue for concerts and exhibitions in a former bomb shelter, and Ciglana is a concert venue in a former brick factory, complete with street art and metal sculptures.

Kvaka-22 is an entire building squatted by a group of artists, who have established a museum and gallery there. Photo: Kvaka-22
Kvaka-22 is an entire building squatted by a group of artists, who have established a museum and gallery there. Photo: Kvaka-22
Silosi is a new cultural center set up in a port elevator. Photo: Kvaka-22, Silosi
Silosi is a new cultural center set up in a port elevator. Photo: Kvaka-22, Silosi

Various forms of art are presented at the events of UK Parobrod. The cultural center was opened in a former steamship company building, hence the name, which translates as ‘steamship’. Here, concerts of experimental and classical music, plays, photo exhibitions, film screenings, lectures are held. In the Dorcol Platz space, many amateur events are conducted, in which one can participate, not just be a spectator.

Yugoslav Murals

Aside from modern street art, in the vicinity of the pedestrian Knez Mihailova, there are murals from 1989 created by renowned artists. Along with a number of mosaics, fountains, and sculptures, these murals were also gifted to Belgrade by other cities of Yugoslavia, institutions, and the artists themselves for the Non-Aligned Movement congress in 1989. All items are marked on the Nesvrstani project map. You can plan a walking route to visit them all.

Besides modern street art, in the vicinity of the pedestrian Knez Mihailova, there are murals from 1989 created by renowned artists. Photo: BuhaM / Wikimedia.org
Besides modern street art, in the vicinity of the pedestrian Knez Mihailova, there are murals from 1989 created by renowned artists. Photo: BuhaM / Wikimedia.org

Designer Belgrade

In the very center of the city, in the alley of Čumićevo sokače, lies an entire designer district. In 1991, there were plans to build an elite shopping center here, but the place remained empty until 2010, when local designers began to occupy the trading spaces one after another.

Here you can find everything: from clothing and footwear stores by individual designers (often they themselves act as sellers) and multi-brand concept stores (for example, Pokret) to ceramic shops (Gallery 1250), cosmetics (All Nut), and spices (Spice Up). But shopping is not all there is, there are also exhibition spaces (‘Barcelona’), a hair salon, and a café.

In the very center of the city, in the alley of Čumićevo sokače, hides an entire designer district. In 1991, there were plans to build an elite shopping center here, but the place remained empty until 2010 when local designers began to occupy the trading spaces. Photo: Pokret concept store
In the very center of the city, in the alley of Čumićevo sokače, hides an entire designer district. In 1991, there were plans to build an elite shopping center here, but the place remained empty until 2010 when local designers began to occupy the trading spaces. Photo: Pokret concept store

An interesting concept store located on Kosančićev venac street is Makadam. The focus is on limited collections, predominantly made of natural materials. Many items are handmade. Besides clothing, footwear, and accessories, there are home goods available. As a souvenir, you can pick up candles with scents inspired by Belgrade streets. The store includes a café with desserts made from local ingredients.

A half-hour walk from Makadam is the Shamliza store, which unites local furniture designers. By the way, they also sell restored retro furniture. The store owner often works there himself and enthusiastically talks about each item. Furniture might be difficult to take with you, but there are also compact items—lamps or notebooks.

The Shamliza store has united local furniture designers. The store owner often works there himself and enthusiastically talks about each item. Photo: Shamliza
The Shamliza store has united local furniture designers. The store owner often works there himself and enthusiastically talks about each item. Photo: Shamliza

Small Museums

The City Museum consists of several museums combined into one organization. Among them, there are many unusual tiny museums and exhibition halls. For example, the Jovan Cvijić Museum, where the original wallpapers, decorative stoves, moldings, and wooden furniture are preserved, and one can spend hours examining the patterns on them. Another option is the private collection of Sekulić icons. Serbian religious art is particularly remarkable, and while the Fresco Gallery is still closed for repairs, this private collection offers an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the ancient tradition.

Serbian religious art excels particularly well, and while the Fresco Gallery is still closed for repairs, the private Sekulić collection offers an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the ancient tradition. Photo: Sekulić Icon Collection
Serbian religious art excels particularly well, and while the Fresco Gallery is still closed for repairs, the private Sekulić collection offers an excellent opportunity to get acquainted with the ancient tradition. Photo: Sekulić Icon Collection

Roma Culture

Serbia is home to a significant number of Roma (or Romani) people, with about 110,000 of them according to the official census. In the city center, you can encounter Roma musicians and those collecting scrap paper. However, they mainly live in several districts—Deponija and some others. You could, of course, gather the courage to walk through these areas, but strangers are treated with suspicion there and may be driven away. It’s better to limit yourself to a brief observation from the window of a bus (for example, in the area of the Pančevo Bridge or Čukarička Padina). An alternative option is to visit the little-known museum of Roma culture (open by appointment), visit the exhibition hall of ERIAC (European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture), or go in search of a hidden chapel in honor of the uncanonized Roma saint Bibi.

Serbia is home to a significant number of Roma (or Romani people), with the official census counting about 110,000 individuals. Photo: Kuća Romske House of Roma Kulture
Serbia is home to a significant number of Roma (or Romani people), with the official census counting about 110,000 individuals. Photo: Kuća Romske House of Roma Kulture

Suburban Train Station

Moving between districts in Belgrade is most convenient by bus. For sightseeing, tram number 2 with its circular route is perfect. However, Belgrade also has suburban trains, part of whose route runs underground. The “Vukov Spomenik” station is decorated with sculptures: letters of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet and silhouettes of Belgrade buildings. At the end of the platform, behind glass, you can see a piece of a well from the 18th-century Austrian aqueduct, which was accidentally discovered during the station’s construction and has been preserved as a museum piece. From this same station, you can board a suburban train in a specially designed carriage and ride to one of the city’s outskirts.

Belgrade has suburban trains, part of whose route runs underground. Photo: Orjen / Wikimedia.org
Belgrade has suburban trains, part of whose route runs underground. Photo: Orjen / Wikimedia.org

Second-hand Bookstore

In terms of the number of books per square meter, Dveri surpasses any other second-hand bookstore. In a small area, books occupy all the space from floor to ceiling, forming narrow, winding corridors. There is a wide selection of books in various languages, posters of Yugoslav films, albums on Belgrade’s architecture and socialist art, and retro postcards. Searching for something specific is almost futile: what you need will find you—perhaps literally falling on your head.

In terms of the number of books per square meter, Dveri surpasses any other second-hand bookstore. In a small area, books occupy all the space from floor to ceiling, forming narrow, winding corridors
In terms of the number of books per square meter, Dveri surpasses any other second-hand bookstore. In a small area, books occupy all the space from floor to ceiling, forming narrow, winding corridors

Stadium on the Roof of a Shopping Center

Belgrade is known for the rivalry between the clubs ‘Partizan’ and ‘Red Star’, but the city’s football life is not limited to them. There are about twenty football clubs in Belgrade, not counting teams from the suburbs. Many of them can also boast a glorious history or a cool stadium. The most unusual stadium belongs to the club ‘Voždovac’. It is located on the roof of the ‘Stadion’ shopping center, so a match visit can be combined with shopping. However, access to the arena itself is only allowed during matches.

The most unusual stadium in Belgrade is located on the roof of the 'Stadion' shopping center, so a match visit can be combined with shopping. Still from a video by the Voždovac Football Club channel
The most unusual stadium in Belgrade is located on the roof of the ‘Stadion’ shopping center, so a match visit can be combined with shopping. Still from a video by the Voždovac Football Club channel
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