If you love old European cities with fortresses, cobbled stone pedestrian streets, riverside cafes & restaurants, amazing nightlife, and a great vibe, you will love Belgrade! 2 days in Belgrade is nearly not enough time, some will tell you. However, as much as I like being in a lively city with a historical architecture, I prefer getting out into the countryside, being amidst nature, going for hikes & adventures so for me, 48 hours were just the right amount of time in the capital of Serbia.
In some ways, Belgrade reminds me a little of Budapest. An imposing fortress overlooking the entire city, a river that splits it into an ‘old’ and a ‘new’ part, bestowing it with almost a split personality, pedestrian streets that are lively because of musicians & entertainers that have over the years come to form an integral part of the vibrancy, historical communities that are reminiscent of a violent past, and an unmatched vibe for party lovers & nightcrawlers. If you want to experience all of this, follow my suggestions on what to do in Belgrade in 2 days.
Belgrade in 2 days
Belgrade is very much walkable and for those who might not like long walks, there is always the tram-and-bus network. I love how Google Maps always show you the best way to reach a destination by public transportation, showing even the bus numbers, the boarding points, the departure time, and the journey time. Grab yourself a local (tourist) sim card either from Belgrade Airport or in shop/ kiosk in the city. VIP Mobile, Telenor & MTS are three main telecom operators, and I found the sim card from Telenor quite useful as it gave me 10 GB data valid for 15 days, for just 550 dinars (€5). I needed the GPS for my road-trip in Serbia, so the 10 GB data plan was a blessing!
Secondly, buy yourself a ‘Bus Plus’ card at the kiosks in the city. This works as a unified ticket system, which means it can be used on buses, trams, and trolleybuses. You could either choose the ‘pay-as-you-go’ plan where you swipe your card and pay every time you board a transport (one 90-minute-ride costs 89 RSD and you can change unlimited number of transport modes in that time) or buy a daily card that is valid for 1, 3 or 5 days. A 3-day ticket costs 700 dinar ((€6) and is totally worth it.
You will be surprised to see no one swiping a card or buying a ticket in Belgrade when you board a bus or tram. However, do not be fooled, these trips are not for free and unless you want to get in trouble and attract a hefty fine, make sure you buy your tickets and swipe every time you board to validate it.
Taxis are not hard to find in Belgrade either, but the traffic can be a nightmare so if you are out during peak hours, avoid them at all costs! Taxi scams are not uncommon, so I suggest installing the Yandex taxi app (which is like Uber) if you plan on using cabs around the city.
Republic Square is the center of the city and is a massive square with a large statue of Prince Mihailo on a horse. This is also where you will find the Serbian National Museum (which I skipped due to my disinterest in museums in general) but the Austro-Hungarian style architecture of this area is truly a sight to see. It is a great place to begin your itinerary to explore Belgrade in 2 days. Buzzing with several restaurants, bars, and cafes, this is where the most vibrant part of the city, Knez Mihailova pedestrian street begins.
Knez Mihailova Street
Adjacent to Republic Square and spanning all the way to the Belgrade Fortress, this is the most happening area in Belgrade. You could visit here during the day to stroll amidst the numerous crammed chic boutiques and shops, revel in local thoroughfare, have some Rakija and/or local Serbian wine, and try the Serbian cuisine (you absolutely cannot miss Ćevapi but do learn to pronounce it correctly first!). This is also where the nightlife is amazing, which I was not very fortunate to experience during the pandemic, when there was a lockdown from 10 pm until 5 am. Having said that, the place was still buzzing, and the energy was palpable!
Undoubtedly, this is the number 1 place to visit in Belgrade. Keep about 2 hours to stroll around this peaceful place, that is perched on a cliff offering vistas of the river below, and the new city across. Right where the Knez Mihailova Street ends, the Kalemegdan Park that houses the fortress begins. There is no entry charge to visit it!
It is said that more than 115 battles have been fought over the fortress and the citadel has been destroyed 40 times through the centuries. First built in 279 BC, much of what remains today is from the 18th-century Austro-Hungarian and Turkish reconstructions.
Do visit the Boho Bar inside the fortress with a terrace that offers marvelous views.
I absolutely loved Skadarlija, the bohemian side of Belgrade. Although not a very big area, this 400-m long cobbled stone street has a vibe quite different from that of Knez Mihailova. This is where you will find antique shops, souvenir shops, and art galleries which bestow a very artistic vibe to the place. The colorful cafes and restaurants playing traditional music give a very fairytale feeling to the place.
Church of Saint Mark & Saint Sava Temple
As you walk from Skadarlija towards the more popular Saint Sava Church, you will come across a lesser known yet equally stunning building, Church of Saint Mark. Although not very large, the architecture of the church is impressive and stands apart from what you will see in the rest of Belgrade city. Surrounded by a park, you could enjoy a stroll or just sit on one of the benches to take in the atmosphere.
Only a bit further is the famous St Sava Church. One of the world’s largest Orthodox churches and is often compared to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul due to the similarity in its shape. The interiors of the church are still unfinished since its construction began in 1935 (reminds you of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona).
Nicola Tesla Museum
Nicola Tesla was Serbian, and he is the pride of Belgrade, even though he spent most of his life in Croatia. So much so that they have dedicated their airport in his name and have also commemorated his life’s achievements & inventions in the Nicola Tesla Museum. Although one of the popular places to visit in Belgrade in 2 days, I skipped it due to my obvious disinterest in museums.
If you are exploring Belgrade in 2 days, you are likely to have visited the most popular areas already on Day 1. The second day is when you can relax, take it easy and stroll around some lesser-known neighborhoods. Across the Sava River is where you will find New Belgrade, with not a lot to offer as its counterpart but nevertheless, has a vibe of its own.
One of the offbeat places to visit in Belgrade is Zemun. Although technically it is not a part of New Belgrade, it lies a little further ahead and on the same side of Sava River, close to the banks of Danube River. Known as a hidden gem, Zemun is unique and is one of the oldest areas of Belgrade. The crammed red rooftop houses reminded me of Zadar in Croatia. You will come across numerous restaurants with nice patios and terraces, cafes, and taverns. Just get to the main post office which is Zemun’s downtown and stroll around in the area, soaking in the bohemian atmosphere. For panoramic vistas of the city and its distinct red rooftops, walk to Gardoš hill & its famous symbol - the Millennium Tower.
Yet another unique place to visit in Belgrade in 2 days, is Ada Cingalija. On a warm summer day, the best way to cool down near Belgrade’s ‘seaside’, the popular swimming and picnic spot on the banks of River Sava, not too far from the city center. In the park surrounding the area, you will see numerous people biking, running or simple strolling under the green trees. The place is usually buzzing on weekends with most locals who are taking a little break and enjoying quiet time sunbathing. Several cafes line the beach and offer great food and drinks.
Nightlife at Sava Waterfront (New Belgrade)
Although you will find a lot of options when it comes to enjoying the nightlife in Belgrade, on the shores of River Sava, right across from Belgrade Fortress and with a view of the magnificent Kalemegdan Park, is a popular nightlife spot called Ušće. Several nightclubs line the riverside here and parties go late into the wee hours.
Recommended in Belgrade: For those who have a sweet tooth and love foodie adventures, try the local dessert called 'Knedle in Serbia, which are basically plum-filled dumplings. One of the best places to try these is Ferdinand Knedle. Don't forget to take home some with you!
No trip to the Balkans is complete without trying Ćevapi or ćevapčići, and Walter, right in the city center, is one of the best places recommended by the locals. Great portions, reasonable prices and finger-licking good Cevapi can be found here.
Optional: Day trip to Golubac Fortress
Situated about 2.5 hours from Belgrade is this medieval fortress, perched on a rock, above the Danube river, with an imposing presence. Surrounded by the rugged landscape of the Đerdap Gorge, the castle has a towering profile and is known to be one of the most beautiful castles along the river's length.
If you have some time to spare in Belgrade, rent a car and drive to this fairytale spot or simply take a local bus to get there.
Visiting Tara National Park in Serbia? Read here for What to do in 1 day in Tara National Park.