Brutal Beauty

Discover the new and old faces of Serbia's capital city at the ESCRS Winter Meeting

Maryalicia Post

Posted: Wednesday, January 3, 2018

A view from the Gardos Tower, Zemun

New Belgrade, once a marshy wasteland, was developed in the 1970s as a brand new capital city for the socialist Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The huge modernist building that housed the Central Committee of the Communist Party (now Palace of Serbia, known as SIV) is located here, as is the luxurious Hotel Jugoslavia, which has welcomed notables ranging from Queen Elizabeth II to Tina Turner. The balance of the area, developed in the rationalist style dubbed ‘brutalism’, consists of block after block of identical towers, currently housing more than 200,000 residents.
Cross to the other side of the Sava river to explore Old Belgrade and sample the country’s traditional food and drink. To get you started, drop in at the quaint Rakia Bar, which offers more than 50 flavours of this potent local brandy, including the traditional plum rakija. In winter, treat yourself to a warm rakija with cinnamon and clove. Rakia Bar, Dobračina 5,
Visit an old-fashioned ‘kafana’ to enjoy the local specialty ćevapčiči – a skinless sausage. The Kafana Čubura Mačvanska 1 is a good choice. (in Serbian)
For fine dining with river views try the Carda Sara Koliba, a floating restaurant where the accent is on seafood. Book at smoking is permitted in bars and restaurants.)
Belgrade’s two biggest museums, the National Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum, have been shuttered for more than 10 years, but there are others of interest. The museum dedicated to the great Serbian engineer and inventor, Nikola Tesla, is housed in a 1929 residential villa at Krunska 51. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00-20.00.
The Ethnographic Museum showcases folk costumes and crafts; its shop is a treasure trove of potential souvenirs – copies of medieval jewellery, glassware etc. (Credit cards are not accepted.) Open Tuesday to Saturday from 10.00-17.00 and Sunday from 09.00-14.00 at Studentski trg no.13.
The Military Museum is inside the historic Belgrade Fortress in Kalemegdan Park. Outside are tanks, howitzers and armoured cars, some of which were captured from Nazi and Axis forces. The exhibit includes parts of a US F-117 stealth aircraft downed by a Serbian S-125 Neva/Pechora
Back in New Belgrade, the aviation museum displays about 75 planes and a number of engines in a mushroom-like building near the airport. Winter hours 1 November to 1 April: Monday to Sunday: 08.00-16.00 (last entry at 15.30)

Zemun, a 15-minute taxi ride from the Sava Centar, is an attractive historical district, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Until WWI, Zemun was part of the Austria-Hungary empire; the old town of Zemun reflects the spirit of 18th- and 19th-Century urban life. Cobbled streets, cosy cafes, picturesque old churches and the 19th-Century Gardoš or Millennium Tower, named not after the recent millennium but the previous one. It was built to celebrate a thousand years of the Austrian empire. A good dinner choice in Zemun is Saran, a traditional fish restaurant on the riverside (with steak and chicken for non-fish eaters). Open Monday: 15.00-23.00 Tuesday to Saturday: 12.00-01.00 Sunday: 12.00-23.00 Telephone for reservation +381 (11) 2618235 or +381 (69) 2618235.
Take a walk down Belgrade’s Knez Mihailova, a central street lined with shops, where the facades are a textbook of architectural styles from the 19th and early 20th Century. At No 42 is the Secessionist building, originally a 1920s bank, which is now the Zepter Museum, Serbia’s first private museum, showcasing the nation’s 20th-Century and contemporary art. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays: 10.00-20.00; Thursdays and Saturdays: 12.00-20.00. Or explore Savamala for its art galleries, with a stop at the Supermarket concept store on Uzun Mirkova street. More than 100 local and international brands, from streetwear and high-fashion accessories to culinary gadgets and gifts. The in-store Bar 8 serves artisan coffee, craft beer and wine. Open Monday-Saturday: 10.00-22.00; Sunday: 12.00-20.00.
Good to know

Change some money at an airport ATM for Dinars. Credit cards are not accepted in taxis and not always accepted elsewhere.

Pleased with the service in a restaurant? Leave a 10-to-15% tip. At bars and in taxis round up the amount.

Three recommended taxi services: Pink Taxi (+381 11) 19803; SMS: 5353; Lux Taxi (+381 11) 30 33 123, SMS: 3033; Beo Taxi (+381 11) 970, SMS: 9700.