Belgrade

Where to Stay, When to Go, Why Pick Belgrade - Tips from a Digital Nomad

Belgrade, which translates to ‘White City’, has had a turbulent past and the scars still show. It has been fought over in more than 100 wars and razed to the ground more than 40 times. This gritty capital has seen 500 years of Turkish rule, 50 years of Communism, and more recently, the 1990’s conflict which only got resolved in 2006.

Despite its unsettled past, Belgrade is a vibrant and happening city that still retains its old world charm providing visitors with the best of both worlds thanks to its Old Town and New Town which are split in two by the Save River. On one side, Ottoman relics mingle with art nouveau architecture, then there’s the Hadsburg legacy plus the not-so-pretty socialist blocks. A medieval fortress sits in a lush green park, the turquoise neo-Byzantine dome of the Sveti Sava Orthodox church commands attention, whilst, from the Gardos Tower in Zemun you can admire the terracotta rooftops that reach out towards the Old Town aka Stari Grad…

Museums, churches, palaces, gardens/parks, cafes, shops, restaurants, and epic nightlife spots crowd the graffiti-filled city that at first glance looks rather bleak and ugly. But underneath that grime, there’s a special kind of resilient charm that shines through and the bomb-blasted government buildings that still remain are just a reminder of what this city has gone through in very recent times.

Immerse yourself in local life by visiting one of the markets where you can shop for fresh produce and bric-a-brac. There’s always something new to discover as you wander the streets and at times you can forget that you’re in a landlocked country and think yourself on the Mediterranean coastline due to the cafe terraces and outdoor dining culture plus the floating Summer nightclubs (known as splavs) in the hip and creative riverside quarter.

Where to Stay in Belgrade

A country of significant strategic importance in conflicts since the Roman Empire, Serbia is wild and fascinating, with its infamous capital ‘White City’ being no exception. At the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans, Belgrade’s rich natural and historical heritage pervades its every cobblestone.  

Each neighborhood throughout Belgrade is a delightful showcasing of this heritage, and yet each has its own unique charms. Some offer superb examples of preserved architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries, while others have undergone radical transformations that juxtapose the old with the new, the modern with the antiquated. Some are now renowned nightlife meccas, while others offer watersports and beachside relaxation. The city’s excellent public transport system makes it easy to get around, however, so there’s no reason to fear missing out.

[Top Pick] Savamala: Savamala has undergone significant regentrification in recent years, and has fast become the city’s epicentre of modern culture. Although it is one of the older neighborhoods in Belgrade, it is now home to several new art galleries and exhibition spaces, alongside some striking 19th-century palatial architecture. Savamala is also the place to go for night-owls, and has garnered itself a reputation as the city’s clubbing hotspot.  

[Second Pick] Dorćol: The geographical and historic centre of the city, Dorćol is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Belgrade, and the one with the most restaurants and cafes. The area spans the Danube waterfront and is a beautiful mix of Turkish and Austrian monuments, and modern-day architecture. You can also find the oldest house in Belgrade here, while the Upper Dorćol area is a haven of antique galleries and art boutiques.

Ada Ciganlija: This artificial island on the Sava river makes for a popular city beach during the summer months, with plenty of cafes and sports activities on offer. It becomes less crowded during the offseason, however, but there’s still plenty of natural beauty and rich greenery to take in and enjoy.

Dedinje: Upmarket and residential, Dedinje boasts some extraordinary mansions which have been home to politicians, diplomats, and very wealthy, international businessmen. There are some restaurants and bars in the area, as well as some incredibly trendy clubs, but be warned – this district is generally considered to be the wealthiest of Belgrade’s neighborhoods.

Kosančićev Venac: Kosančićev Venac is a historic neighborhood located in Downtown Belgrade with some stunning examples of well-preserved 19th and early 20th-century cobblestone streets, residential buildings, and staircases, some of which lead to the Sava riverfront. Some of the area’s most important historical highlights include the ruins of the old Serbian National Library and the oldest school in Belgrade, Kralj Petar Elementary School.

Novi Beograde: Also known as ‘NBG’, or ‘New Belgrade’, this is the neighborhood with the densest population, located on the Western bank of the Sava River, connecting old Belgrade and Zemun. It holds the largest business district in Belgrade, as well as numerous shopping centres, recreation areas, and half a million residents.

Skadarlija: An true bohemian quarter, thanks to its old folk and beatnik roots. In the 1970s Skadarlija was sistered with the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre, and wandering the cobblestone streets it is easy to see why. This nook of Belgrade is infused with the artistic and the artisanal, the authentic and the original, and a colourful history which makes for a truly entertaining visit.  

Stari Grad (Old Town): Home to Knez Mihailova, Belgrade’s infamous pedestrian zone, Stari Grad is packed full of fun little cafes, quirky galleries and traditional Serbian eateries, giving it quite the eclectic vibe. This is a great area for both exploring and relaxing, with Republic Square at one end and the Kalemegdan Citadel at one end affording splendid views over the Sava and Danube at the other.

Topčider: Easily accessible by public transport, Topčider is a favourite spot to escape the city’s constant buzz and thrum. Both a forest park and an urban neighborhood, the area is close to downtown Belgrade and offers many opportunities for recreational activities, as well as wedding photo shoots.

Vračar: As well as being an affluent residential district for the city’s middle class, Vračar is also home to a wealth of important cultural and historical sites. The Nikola Tesla Museum, for example, is something not to be missed, with the trendy Villa Maska nearby for a sumptuous cake-and-coffee break.  

Zemun: As the last frontier of the Austria-Hungary empire, originally on the Austrian side of the border, Zemun is bursting with historical and cultural significance. It has a distinctive atmosphere that sets it apart from the other Belgrade districts, and in many areas has been better preserved. Next to the Zemun Old Town is the Zemun Quay, a great place for walking and taking in the views.

How to Get a Visa to Belgrade

You’ll be pleased to know that the Serbian visa system is fairly straight-forward. There aren’t tons of different visas like there are with some other countries but, as usual, your visa requirements will depend on your nationality, purpose for visit, and your duration of stay.

In some instances, you will not need to obtain a visa for short visits to Serbia. Let’s take a look at those visa exemption circumstances first before we dive deeper into the different types of Serbian visa.

Serbian Visa Exemption

If you are a passport holder from a list of 85 countries including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and all of the countries within the European Union, you do not require a visa to visit Serbia for 90 days or less in any 180-day period. This rule also applies to anyone who holds a valid visa for any European Union or Schengen area member state, or the United States, providing the visa remains valid for the full length of stay in Serbia.

If you are a passport holder from one of the aforementioned countries and you’d like to remain in Serbia for longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a residence permit through the Ministry of Interior.

Additionally, if you are a national from the European Union you are permitted to enter the country using your national ID card.

To enter Serbia visa-free, you will need to meet the following requirements;

  • Be in possession of a valid passport or travel document.
  • Proof of financial sustenance in the form of cash, bank statement, traveller’s cheques, credit cards or a letter of guarantee.
  • Vaccination certificate or a document stating that you have not contracted a contagious disease despite having travelled to an area affected by a pandemic.
  • If you are travelling with underage children, a relevant certified authorisation by the other parent (or both parents if you are a third party).

If your situation is different from that of the above, you are required to obtain a visa before travelling to Serbia.

Types of Serbian Visa

Tourist/Business Visa (VISA C)

The Tourist/Business Visa or VISA C, is valid for short stays in Serbia of up to 90 days and can be granted for tourism, business, and some other travel purposes such as visiting friends or family. The VISA C can be issued as a single, double, or multiple-entry visa and the duration of continuous stay or the sum of multiple visits must not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period. It should also be noted that a multiple-entry VISA C is generally issued with a total validity of one year.

To be eligible to apply for the VISA C, you must meet the following requirements;

  • Valid passport with at least 90 days validity
  • Passport photo (3.5 x 4.5cm)
  • Completed application form
  • Letter of invitation
    • Private visit – Certified letter from the relevant Serbian authority.
    • Business visit – Letter of invitation from a Serbian company stating the reasons for your visit and length of stay. You will also need a letter from the company you are representing.
  • Tourist visit – Trip payment receipt from a travel agency
  • Return ticket or itinerary
  • Proof of financial sustenance
  • Health insurance
  • Visa fee

The VISA C must be applied for at your local Serbian embassy or consulate at least one month before you plan on travelling.

Transit Visa (VISA B)

The Transit Visa, or VISA B can be obtained if you are transiting through Serbia and you are in possession of a visa for your country of destination. When transiting, you will only be permitted to stay in the country for a maximum of 5 days per one transit.

To be eligible to apply for the VISA B, you must meet the following requirements;

  • Valid passport with at least 90 days validity
  • Passport photo (3.5 x 4.5cm)
  • Completed application form
  • Valid visa for the country you are entering after Serbia; if no visa is required then you may be asked to present other documents justify your purpose for travelling
  • Return ticket or itinerary
  • Proof of financial sustenance
  • Visa fee

This visa is valid for up to 6 months and may be issued for single, double or multiple entries.

Temporary Residence Visa

If you would like to live or work in Serbia, you will need to obtain a Temporary Residence Permit. If you are entering Serbia for employment purposes, you need to evidence a job offer from a Serbian company or government department. As well as providing proof of your financial sustenance, your application will be based on a number of criteria such as qualifications or work experience, criminal record check, and a medical examination.

To be eligible to apply for the Temporary Residence Permit, you must meet the following requirements;

  • Possess a valid travel document (valid for 6 months beyond visa issue date
  • Two passport photos
  • Completed application form x3
  • Proof of accommodation in Serbia
  • Proof of financial sustenance
  • Health insurance

A Temporary Residence Permit may be issued for a period of no longer than one year and may be extended for an additional year. If you require a visa to enter Serbia then you must apply for the Temporary Residence Permit before you enter the country.

For more information on these visas or on any other visa we have covered here, please visit your local Serbian consulate or embassy. Serbian immigration rules and regulations change frequently and without notice so always get confirmation on the latest updates BEFORE booking your flight.

How to Extend Your Serbian Visa in Belgrade

If you present to the Ministry of Interior with an exceptional case, you may be permitted to extend your stay in Serbia by an additional 90 days. Be prepared to provide supporting evidence to substantiate your claim such as a letter of motivation and any other relevant information or documents.

Overstaying Your Serbian Visa

Overstaying your Serbian visa may lead to fines and a ban on entry the next time you attempt to enter the country. Fines are calculated by the day and bans can be issued from anywhere between 3 months and 5 years.

Best Time of Year to Visit

Belgrade experiences mild to hot summers and freezing cold winters with rain possible throughout the year. Spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-October) are the shoulder seasons and great times to visit the city to be able to enjoy the least amount of crowds with pleasant weather.

Spring: March-May

After the harshness of Winter, the arrival of Spring brings spring showers and a blossoming city. From mid April the temperatures rise and the weather becomes pleasantly warm despite some rain. The Belgrade International Film Festival takes place at the start of March followed by the Festival of Documentary and Short Film at the end of March. If planning an Easter break, do bear in mind that Serbians celebrate Orthodox Easter at a different time from most Western Christian churches, Easter in the Julian calendar usually taking place in April. In May, you can enjoy Ring Ring; an international festival of new music and you shouldn’t miss The Museum Night also in May when museums and galleries across the country open their doors to the public in ways never seen before.

Summer: June-August

Belgrade generally doesn’t get the unbearably hot and humid Summers like those in Greece and Italy but heat waves are of course a possibility at this time of year, July being the hottest month and June the wettest. With visitors from around the world enjoying Summer vacations during these months the city is full of people but also a variety of fun filled festivals and events, most notably the month long Belgrade Summer Festival that takes place through July-August. Also in August, there’s the 5 day Beer Fest and the 5 day international classical guitar festival just to name a few.

Autumn: September-October:

Pleasantly warm weather can be enjoyed throughout Autumn, not too hot, not too cold – Perfect for a city break although October brings more chance of rainy days and the wind factor can make it feel chilly so it’s best to pack layers. There’s plenty going on in the city at this time of year with the 15 day Belgrade International Theatre Festival (BITEF for short) followed by the Belgrade Jazz Festival in the last week of October.

Winter: November-February:

November’s weather is variable, it can still be very pleasant or it can be cold, wet, and quite miserable. From December onwards the wet and cold winter weather arrives in full force along with the possibility of snow. Tourism is at its lowest now due to the cold weather though the Christmas/New Year period sees a slight boom. You should note that Serbians celebrate Julian Orthodox Christmas on January 7th and a second new year – Serbian New Year on 14th January.

Best Festivals in Belgrade

The many events and festivals that take place in Belgrade will show any visitor how proud they are of their locals and culture. Although it has a rocky past, it has quickly become a hot-spot tourist destination boasting festivals that rise in popularity across Europe each year.

Open Heart Street (December) – Svetogorska street in transformed into the ‘Street of Open Heart’ which is a humanitarian effort that aims to cherish life and help others. There will be a carnival atmosphere where, practically, the whole of Belgrade turns up on the streets to continue New Year’s celebrations. Visitors can enjoy mulled wine and rakija, while their kids will be able to attend specially-designed programs.

International Tourism Fair (February) – Organised by a member of the European Association of Tourism and Trade, around 250 foreign exhibitors from around 40 different countries are invited to participate each year. It is one of the largest festivals of its type in South East Europe.

Belgrade International Film Festival (February–March) – A festival that has been held annually for over 40 years and continues to bring the same lively energy. Belgrade International Film Festival (also known as FEST) aims to educate visitors in a wider range of film art.

Belgrade Festival of Documentary and Short Film (March) –  Also known as Martovski, this is one of the oldest film festivals in Europe. Creators of short documentaries, fiction, animation and experimental films are invited to both national and international competitions.

Festival of Choreographic Miniatures (May) – A competitive international dance festival held annually to support the development of the local dance scene, especially is the field of choreography. Visitors will be able to enjoy workshops as well as being able to actually view the competition.

International Festival of New Music (May) – This international festival is also known as Ring Ring and aims to celebrate new music. Visitors can expect a wide range of performances from bands that come from all over the world. The music genre tends to be popular music… with a slight twist!

Museum Night (May) – Museums, galleries and other exhibition spaces gather on this night and are presented to visitors. Expect unusual and never-before-seen content from these establishments, concerts, performances, fashion shows and thematic exhibitions which cannot be seen anywhere else.

International Harp Festival (May–June) – Every year this festival aims to promote the wonderful art of harp playing. Visitors can expect to enjoy many different music genres including folk, classical, contemporary, world and jazz music. This event will provide concerts, lectures, workshops and masterclasses.

International Theatrical Belgrade Adventure (June) – A 10-day festival and competition for professional theatres that are specifically for children. This event will take place in Belgrade Drama Theatre, Atelje 212, Bosko Buha Theatre, Dusko Radovic Little Theatre, Puz Theatre and the National Theatre.

Belgrade Jazz Festival (June–July) – The main goal of this jazz festival is to create high quality material without having to make commercial compromises with the hopes of influencing a younger audience. Visitors will be joined by thousands to appreciate the 20-band program, workshops, exhibitions and more.

Belgrade Summer Festival (July–August) – This festival is a true celebration of culture and summer time! There will be various artistic events taking place on the streets and squares of the city with the hope of enhancing the beauty and individuality of the city. Visitors can expect dance shows, plays, concerts and more.

Belgrade Beer Festival (August) – As the largest festival in South East Europe, this 5-day event won’t disappoint. It’s free to enter and visitors will be given the chance to try 45 different international and Serbian beer brands. On top of that, visitors can expect a versatile music program offering rock, punk, hip hop and electronic music.

Guitar Art Festival (August) – Belgrade’s Guitar Art Festival is in the top 5 list for largest international classical guitar festivals in the world. Visitors can enjoy an exchange of knowledge, practice and experience amongst all kinds of guitarists from around the world.

Belgrade International Theatre Festival (September) – A significant cultural festival in Serbia that supports the latest theatre trends and goes above political and cultural borders. There will be a chance to enjoy unique theatre productions, workshops and discussions following each performance.

Belgrade Music Festival (October) – Founded in 1969, this international classical music festival always pays special attention to the promotion of local artists and their creations. Both world renowned and the young who are just at the beginning of their career are invited to play.

The Joy of Europe (October) – This is Belgrade’s international festival to celebrate children’s creativity. Children from many different countries in Europe come to Belgrade to play, sing, act, hang out and just have a good time. There will also be many concerts held in different Centre’s around the city.

Belgrade Book Fair (October) – Probably one of the oldest literary events in Serbia, this event aims to give publishers, authors, book distributors, and more, a chance to establish contacts and exchange their own experiences in order to create a strong community that encourages development.

Festival of Student’s Film (October) – The main purpose of this festival is to bring together the best student achievements by domestic and foreign filmmakers.Visitors will be able to see some of the best student films from around the world and give young people a platform to present their achievements and start their promising careers.

October Salon (October) – An international event that celebrates the regional art scene with the aim to present the most significant new achievements of domestic and foreign authors of visual arts. Visitors will be able to enjoy exhibitions, round tables, workshops, lectures, professional guides, performances and more.

Author

Tal Gur is a world traveler and personal development enthusiast. An adventurer at heart, after trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, Tal spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey continues as a location-independent blogger, lifestyle entrepreneur, and coach. Tal’s published two books: One Year to Freedom, a 1-Year Roadmap to Living Life on Your Own Terms; and, his most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living – 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World.

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