The Balkans are the place to be for travelers these days. The intersection of architecture, art, music, history and gastronomy give this Southeastern corner of Europe an Old World feel that the rest of the continent lost two decades ago. And, if you had to choose one place to start your adventure here, where empires once collided, Belgrade would be a natural choice. The Serbian capital’s growing schedule of festvals—book, film, theatre and music—and expanding population of artists, designers, and visionaries make this a perfect place to combine the traditional with the alternative.
Photo: Zapprittsky, CC-BY
1. Street Art in Savamala
From the Sava River under Brankov Bridge, look to the left for one of Belgrade’s most famous murals, La Santa de Beograd by Giom Olbi Remed. It depicts the cycle of the city’s death and rebirth. To the right of Brankov bridge is another mural of a character reminiscent of David Bowie imposed on a full moon. Head south on Karadordeva Street, under the bridge and toward this mural and onto Brace Krsmanovic to see the Spanish House, a maritime trading post. This twisting narrow corridor is covered with street art from sidewalks to rooftops. Take a short walk down the railroad tracks to see a new addition to the Belgrade art scene: a Dutch girl with sun in her eyes and a delftware background. No matter the route back to Republic Square, traveling by foot allows for the best view of the many visual displays along the way.
Photo: Fif’, CC-BY
2. Savamala Concept Store
KC Grad, a concept store, can be found at the center of the U-shaped Brace Krsmanovic street. Seated in a warehouse built in 1884, the industrial exposed brick meets bright artwork and minimalist movables. The store front serves as a shop for local artists to sell handmade jewelry, clothing and home decor while the second room holds a kitchen, indoor seating and the entryway to a patio for warm-weather dining. Climb the staircase to the right of the shop’s entrance to find a space that hosts everything from concerts and debates to art galleries and workshops.
3. The Design District
Photo: Molly Harris
From Republic Square walk toward Hotel Moskva. Using the underground walkway, cross below Terazije street and resurface near McDonald’s. Down the narrow alley on the right of McDonald’s and past Belgrade’s first gay bar is the design district. The white-tiled square filled with trees and seats to enjoy the urban oasis is lined with clothing and home stores, art galleries and shops filled with artisan foods. Directly opposite the entry way to the design district are two sets of glass double doors. Early street art from kraljica vila, the queen of the fairies, can be found to the left of the doors as well as down the stairs through “street art alley.”
4. Belgrade’s Oldest Movie Theatre
Back across Terazije street, Novi Bioskop Zvezda, Belgrade’s oldest movie theatre, can be found on the right. Before walking inside and down the hallway of movie posters, look up above the marquee to find the original theatre architecture signifying the building’s use. After falling into disrepair, the theatre was saved by a group of Belgrade citizens, who wished to preserve a historical landmark and wanted a place to screen International and independent films. During mild summer and fall months, grab a drink and settle in for a lecture, event or subtitled-movie screening on the rooftop. Attend the parties that bookend the rooftop season for a unique experience to visitors and city natives alike.
5. Samo Pivo Bar
Photo: Samo Pivo
Just down from the Novi Bioskop Zvezda movie theatre, turn right into what would appear to be a deserted courtyard below an apartment complex. From the courtyard, face Terazije street to see three types of architecture: baroque, brutalist, and modern. At the base of the baroque building, the facade is covered in street art ranging from new artists to veterans’ work protected and kept up by the Serbian government. To the right and below the street art is a less-than-visible staircase. Samo Pivo, a pub (the name means “only beer”) and bar, is situated on left at the bottom of the steps. The bar’s selection includes more than fifty domestic and imported brews. The industrial-chic bar includes floor to ceiling windows and metal furnishings before opening to an outdoor terrace overlooking Balkanska street.
Top Image: tim.z, CC-BY
Molly Harris is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.