Belgrade (Beo-grad, meaning white city) is the capital and the largest city of Serbia. It is situated in South-Eastern Europe, at the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. The city has a population of about 1.8 million people and its territory is divided into 17 municipalities. Today it is the capital of Serbian culture, education, science and economy. As a result of its tumultuous history, Belgrade has for centuries been home to many nationalities.
With its history of 7000 years, Belgrade is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has since ancient times been an important focal point for traffic, an intersection of the roads of Eastern and Western Europe, an important strategic location. The area around the two great rivers, the Sava and the Danube, has been inhabited as early as the palaeolithic period. Ancient sources provide the oldest known name for Belgrade – Singidunum – and the first written documents date back to the 3rd century B.C. The name of the settlement was preserved throughout the Roman rule. With the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Singidunum passed over to the Eastern Empire, i.e. Byzantium, and the name of the city gained a Greek sound: Singidon. Favoured by the weaknesses in the defense of the Byzantine border, the Slavs started frequently crossing the Danube in the 6th century and gradually settled the area. The stone-built fortress rising above the rivers was dubbed Beli Grad (white city). The first record of the Slavic name Beograd dates back to 878, during the rule of the First Bulgarian Empire. Between 16th and 19th century Belgrade is referred to with various names in different languages: Alba Graeca, Alba Bulgarica, Bello grado, Nandor Alba, Griechisch Weissenburg, Castelbianco… All these names, however, are translations of the Slavic word Beograd.
There are over 5,500 streets, 32 squares and 16 plazas in the inner area of the City of Belgrade. The development of the street network started in 1867, after the Turks had departed, when the regulatory plan of Belgrade, drawn up by engineer Emilijan Josimović, was adopted. The oldest streets that have retained their original routes in the city are Vase Čarapića, Kralja Petra, Cara Dušana, Jevrejska, Narodnog fronta, Gavrila Principa and Karađorđeva Streets. The oldest one is the Students Square, while the most famous one is the Republic Square. Knez Mihailova Street (the street of Prince Mihailo) is a pedestrian zone and a shopping area – protected by law as one of the oldest and most valuable monument complexes of the city, with a large number of representative buildings and urban houses built at the end of 1870s. The first electric light was switched on in Belgrade in 1882, while the first train took off towards Niš (a Serbian city in the southern part of the country) from the Belgrade railway station in 1884. The first telephone rang in 1890, while the first cinema projection was held in 1896, just six months after the first projection by the Lumière brothers in Paris.
High above the Sava and the Danube confluence, on the rocky ridge which gives view of Novi Beograd (New Belgrade), Zemun and the wide plains of Pannonia, there lies Kalemegdan Fortress, the former historical and urban center of Belgrade. This spatial complex consists of the Fortress (divided into Upper Town and Lower Town), and the Kalemegdan Park, the most beloved promenade by the people of Belgrade. Kalemegdan, the biggest and most beautiful park in Belgrade, is also the most important cultural and historical complex. The name ”Kalemegdan“ applies only to the spacious plateau surrounding the Fortress, which was turned into a park in 1880s. When the Fortress served as Belgrade’s chief military stronghold, the plateau was a place from which the enemy was kept under observation and where preparations were made for combat. Its name derives from the Turkish words ”kale“ (fort) and ”megdan“ (battlefield).
To its visitors, Belgrade offers a rich programme of cultural, arts and sports events, many museums and parks and cultural and historic monuments. With its height of 79 meters in total, the Church of Saint Sava in Vračar represents one of the largest churches in the world and the largest one in the Balkans. Other historic areas and buildings include the National Museum and the National Theatre, Terazije area, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the House of the National Assembly, the White Palace, the house of the Royal Family Karađorđević and the nearby Josip Broz Tito’s mausoleum, “The House of Flowers”, which documents the life of the former Yugoslav president. Also worth visiting are the Residence of Prince Miloš, the Residence of Princess Ljubica, Captain Miša’s Mansion, and “?” Café. Ada Ciganlija is a former island in the Sava River, today an artificial lake and Belgrade’s biggest sports and recreational complex with about 8 kilometres of long beaches, cafés and sports facilities.
The city also has a good reputation for offering a rich nightlife. Many clubs that are open until early morning hours can be found all over the city. One of the most recognizable nightlife features of Belgrade are the barges spread along the banks of the Sava and the Danube Rivers. A more traditional Serbian nightlife experience, accompanied by traditional music known as starogradska (roughly translated as old town music), can most commonly be gained in Skadarlija, the city’s old bohemian neighborhood, where the poets and artists of Belgrade gathered in the 19th and the early 20th century. Skadarlija Street and the surrounding neighborhood are lined with some of Belgrade’s best and oldest traditional restaurants (called kafana after the Serbian word kafa, meaning coffee) which date back to that period.
Last year Belgrade was visited by over three million tourists from all around the world. We hope you will enjoy your stay and come back to see us again!