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Belgrade: My perfect weekend

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A true crossroads of influences with a renascent wine scene to boot, Serbia’s thriving capital is an ideal short-break destination offering the intrepid wine-loving explorer a bite-sized taste of Balkan life.

In partnership with Wine Vision by Open Balkan


Belgrade is said to be a city that never sleeps – a place where restaurants and traditional pubs, clubs and riverboats never seem to close their doors, whether to locals or foreigners. At the same time, the renaissance of Serbian winemaking and the Serbian market’s newfound openness to wines from across the globe have given rise to numerous wine shops and wine bars. The gastronomic scene, too, is more vibrant than ever before.

However, Belgrade offers much more. Alongside frequent music and art festivals – such as the four-day EXIT live music festival, held in Petrovaradin fortress, and the long-running October Salon, Serbia’s largest visual arts festival – a variety of attractive museums and theatres contributes to Belgrade’s wealth of culture. The Museum of Contemporary Art at Ušće 10, where the river Sava meets the Danube, displays the most important works of artists from all parts of the former Yugoslavia, while the National Museum on Republic Square in the city centre carries great significance for visitors keen to learn more about Serbian identity. As you would expect, the Nikola Tesla Museum close to Slavija Square at Krunska 51 is extremely popular with international tourists.

An almost equal distance from other regional capitals Budapest, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Skopje, Sofia, Vienna and Zagreb, Belgrade is a favourite tourist destination in the region. If this is your first visit and you only have two days, your perfect weekend in Belgrade could look like this…

Friday

The best place to begin is in one of Belgrade’s cocktail bars. Kultura Bar and Druid Bar are both comfortable city centre venues where you can enjoy great music and signature cocktails. With its impressive Art Deco interior, the Josephine cocktail bar and restaurant was named after a famous guest of the building, the trailblazing singer, dancer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker. In addition to cocktails and a wide range of wines, Josephine offers an excellent dinner menu. At weekends, the venue also hosts well-known DJs from all over the world.

For partygoers, Belgrade’s clubs are must-go destinations. Don’t miss the open-air Barutana, and the floating venues on the Sava river, Klub 20/44 and Leto.

A colourful bar interior

The colourful interior of cocktail bar Josephine

For an informal dinner, don’t forget that Belgrade is famous for its street food. Ćevap kod Dekija offers wildly popular juicy kebabs, patties, traditional salads and local cheeses. A more modern gourmet experience is offered by Thyme, a small place led by three chefs dedicated to fusion cuisine. Their pork bun is the best in Belgrade.

If you are able to work up more of an appetite, you must visit one of the two Belgrade pizzerias that have been ranked among the 50 best in the world by the 50TopPizza online guide. Majstor i Margarita offers signature Neapolitan-style pizzas, and a good selection of local wines and craft beers. Pietra offers gourmet pizzas and an impressive selection of cocktails and sparkling wines.

Saturday

The most pleasing way to while away a Saturday morning in Belgrade is in its downtown cafes, or those along the Sava riverside. Riverboats are also an option. Before that, a good breakfast is a must, and I suggest that you try burek, a pie of Turkish origin. In Serbia, the best burek is made with cheese, and a popular destination for it is the Ljupče bakery on Dalmatinska Street.

The morning is long enough for a short trip to the town of Smederevo, an hour’s drive to the south. Janko and Jeremić wineries are nearby, both almost on the bank of the Danube. In both of them, you will taste vibrant whites made from Smederevka, a local grape variety which is slowly regaining its former fame. However, these wineries are best known for their powerful reds. The flagship wine of Jeremić winery is its Bordeaux blend, Kanon, while the Bifora Shiraz stands out from Janko’s wide portfolio.

At the same distance from Belgrade, but northbound along the river, the slopes that overlook the historic village of Slankamen are home to Šapat winery, located near to a monument to the famed 1691 Battle of Slankamen. Its popular haute cuisine restaurant Fleur de Sel features a breathtaking view of the Pannonian plain and offers an exceptional menu based on the best seasonal ingredients.

In the afternoon back in Belgrade, head to Palilula Market, with its array of Champagne and craft beer bars, and burger and steak stands. Near Tasmajdan park, this is a vibrant, multicultural gathering spot for young hipsters, artists and business people enjoying their after-hours.

Haute cuisine from Square Nine

Square Nine’s haute cuisine

Saturday evening is an opportunity to visit one of Belgrade’s best fine dining restaurants. At the helm in the kitchen of Langouste is Guillaume Iskandar, a Frenchman who fell in love with Belgrade. Excellent food and service can also be found at the Square Nine restaurant. Homa restaurant and the recently opened GiG in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade, on the western bank of the Sava river), are also worth a visit. You might also try Cetinjska 15, a gentrified neighbourhood in the heart of downtown, with a range of clubs, galleries, record stores, fast food joints and pubs.

Sunday

On Sunday, calories need to be burnt, preferably in the natural oases within the city. Pebble beaches, clean water, cycling, running tracks, as well as picnic and barbecue spots can be yours to enjoy for a good part of the day at Ada Ciganlija lake. The Košutnjak forest – a real forest with marked hiking trails, literally in the middle of the city – is no less impressive.

Take lunch in one of the restaurants in Beton Hala, a former warehouse on the bank of the river in Savamala. Salaš Zvonko Bogdan offers the traditional food of Vojvodina in a rustic setting with music to match. Sakura is also here and will impress with its fusion of Asian flavours and excellent sushi. Ambar, meanwhile, offers a mix of the Balkans, the eastern Mediterranean and the flavours of the world. At each of these places, you will easily become acquainted with the current line-up of Serbian wines.

A bowl of traditional soup

Traditional specialities from Salaš Zvonko Bogdan


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