The charm of Belgrade in winter
Belgrade has a unique charm in winter, especially when you come from Australia and wake up to sight of snow. We’d been in Europe for six weeks, and although we’d experienced lots of cold weather had not seen any snow. Our train from Budapest arrived late in the afternoon leaving us less than 24 hours to see what we could of the Serbian capital.
Not knowing much about Belgrade, and despite reading it was gritty, lively and by no means a pretty city, we were keen to explore and experience the Serbian culture. With no list of places to see, no maps to direct us, we had only our curiosity as our guide.
On arrival at the hotel we were impressed with the hospitality, the warm greeting and the impressive location in the Stari Grad municipality. The Courtyard Marriott, the first Marriott in Serbia, is located next door to the National Theatre and across the road from Republic Square and had only recently opened. The staff recommended we head to Skadarlija/Skadarska street, the bohemian area nearby to try some great Serbian restaurants. This area was home to many writers, poets and actors due to the close proximity of the National Theatre and is today a sister city to our favourite Parisian quarter, Montmartre.
Filled with restaurants and cafes we found the cobbled pedestrian street very ambient. Many of the buildings are painted trompe l’oeil style which added to the atmosphere. In spite of the area having a touristy feel, it still offers a lot of charm. Returning in daylight the following morning, the deserted streets had even more charm. The statue of Dura Jaksic, the famous Serbian poet, painter, writer now had snow building on it.
Back to Republic Square, usually filled with people waiting to meet someone, we were almost in solitude as the snow fell around us. With landmarks like the majestic National Theatre, Serbian National Museum and statue of Prince Michael, the central town square is where many tours begin. From the square, the main boulevard, Knez Mihailova, usually a lively pedestrian thoroughfare, is lined with historical buildings, grandiose coffee houses and numerous boutiques. During the festive season the sparkling decorations and winter euphoria at night were a contrast to the unique charm it has during the day. Words can’t describe the winter atmosphere of the streets of Belgrade, it is something you must see, experience and feel.
The boulevard leads to a beautiful landscaped park offering the best views of the city. Kalemegdan Park is located on a hill overlooking the Sava and Danube confluence and the fog just added to the beauty. With the snow falling through the fog, the views across the Danube and Sava were spectacular. Snow covers the ground and ice is forming on the rivers, we keep walking until we reached the entrance of Belgrade Fortress. The city’s most famous landmark, with its massive 15th century gates and towers, the maze of trenches and walls that have been a safeguard for hundreds of years, is an imposing site. The grounds have a Military Museum and acts as a memorial to the Roman, Turkish and Serbian leaders buried there. High on the city’s hilly park the cold grips, but we are wrapped up warm and enchanted with the sights, almost oblivious to the -16c temperature.
So many people were shocked when we said we were visiting Belgrade. They seemed to be concerned that it would still be war-torn, and filled with oppressive buildings and a depressing vibe. This wasn’t the case at all and we were so pleased we didn’t allow their opinions to deter us from our first visit to Belgrade in winter. Even if Belgrade isn’t on your bucket list, you may just find like Ellis from Backpack Adventures you might be in for a pleasant surprise.
Belgrade really surprised us, from the taxi driver, to the hotel and restaurant staff, the people were friendly and genuinely interested in where we came from. Everyone was smiling and made us feel welcomed. ‘Belgrade’ literally translates as ‘White City’. We highly recommend you see Belgrade and feel the magic of winter in the white city. If you visit Belgrade in winter you can also allow the euphoric atmosphere to be your guide.
Have you been to Belgrade? Would you consider visiting to see the beauty of winter?
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