Belgrade is a city that captivates me more and more each time I visit.
And on most of these visits, I end up here unexpectedly. The first time I was here I found myself renting an apartment and living in Belgrade for a couple of months. I couchsurfed with a friend of a friend who was studying for her exams so for the first week we hardly crossed paths being that I was out all night and she was in class all day. One of my fondest memories from my first visit was coming home one night around 3am to have her apt door lock break as I was turning the key. It broke in a peculiar way in which she wasn’t able to get out and I wasn’t able to get inside. She called a locksmith who couldn’t come until 6am so I decided to sleep sitting against her door until he came. A few hours later this “locksmith” shows up who crowbars her door open. We both looked at her broken door, back at each other, back at her broken door, and then she told me she found an apartment for me to rent. I’d mentioned renting an apartment there sort of tongue in cheek. Given that she actually found me an apartment I figured, why not?
The aesthetic of Belgrade reminds me of posh clashing with industrial. I’d have coffee on a vintage street in an urban neighborhood during the day, snap photos of brutalist style Genex Tower in the evening, and find myself in a basement club full of smoke until sunrise. Experiencing this varied architecture and making friends with the locals I wanted to know more about the history of Serbia. As you may expect, the history here is vast and varied, spanning from the early middle ages to present. In fact, Serbia had the first coffee house Europe an entire century before London. Nowadays you can also enjoy some of my favorite craft beers in Eastern Europe here.
One of my favorite non-fiction novels that I’d recommend reading on the region is ‘Black Lamb & Grey Falcon: A Journey Through Yugoslavia’ (amazon affiliate link) by Rebecca West. It’s a classic, written just before WWII, an absorbing travelogue/history that reads like a novel (a really big novel). If you’re more of a visual person I’d recommend you to watch the BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia that’s available to watch on Youtube. It’s split up into 6 parts that all together end up being about 5 hours long. It covers the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. It is notable in its combination of never-before-seen archive footage interspersed with interviews of most of the main players in the conflict. I personally feel that I get more from travels if I take the time to learn a bit of history about the cities and countries I’ll be visiting. Okay, hopefully I didn’t bore you with my history recommendations. Onward to the best beer, coffee, and some of my favorite things in Belgrade!
Let’s talk craft beer.
Last time I was in Belgrade, probably 4 years ago or so, I don’t remember much in the way of craft beer. Perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough or my tastes weren’t as refined but these days you’d have to be avoiding it to not find it. You’ll definitely end up in some bar with a tasty beverage from Kabinet on the menu if nothing else.
Maybe I’m a sad old man, anti-social, or just too cheap to do all my drinking in bars – I’m going with the latter, personally – but I relish in the fact that The Drunk Chiwawa now exists in Belgrade. The staff is super friendly and knows their stuff so they can guide you towards whatever type of beer you’re craving. I chose to mostly sample the local IPA’s and in the above gallery you’ll see a photo of what were some of my favorites. Though, I must say, everything that I tried was quite delicious.
My Favorite Beer Bars
First up, and the only one I really have photos of, is Samo Pivo. I can be a bit lazy with taking photos but I came here so many times I’d have no excuse for not having any of Samo Pivo. The inside is right up my alley – or rather non-functioning escalator – and it’s got a really homey vibe. In the summer I’d imagine the outside balcony to be a real treat. Smoking is allowed inside but that’s the case for probably 99% of things in Belgrade. Fortunately it’s pretty airy so it’s not as bad as other places. Obviously I’m speaking as non-smoker here but if you smoke I guess being able to smoke inside is a good thing?
Their beer menu is expansive – dare I say 100’s to choose from with 20 quality drafts? The staff is also friendly and will help you find something you’re sure to enjoy. Prices are also quite reasonable.
Krafter – Address: Strahinjića Bana 44, Beograd, Serbia: Right around the corner from Miner’s Pub is Krafter. Good craft beer selection and you’ll even have some free peanuts to much on. True story: I know a guy who “must” have peanuts if he’s drinking beer. I put this above Miner solely because I like the atmosphere a bit more.
Miners Pub – Address: Rige od Fere 16, Beograd 11158, Serbia: You could say Samo Pivo is for beer lovers and this place is for beer geeks. Less to choose from but carefully curated selection. As the name suggests, it’s a bit like being in a cave so it can get smoky and has minimal seating.
Gunners Pub – Address: Braće Jugovića 2a, Beograd 11000, Serbia: People may say go to Black Turtle but unless you like fruit beer I’d suggest going here. More of a local pub with a good craft selection.
Prohibicija Pre Club – Address: Karađorđeva 36, Beograd 11000, Serbia: I put this place last mostly because it’s a little far from where I’m usually wandering around. It does serve as a good pre-game spot (which the name seems to suggest) if you’re going out to clubs in the area.
Onto My Second Favorite Liquid Libation: Coffee
Coffee in Serbia will pleasantly surprise you, I’m sure, especially if you don’t know what to expect. Well let me tell you that you can expect some pretty amazing coffee. Serbia was in fact home to Europe’s first coffee shop, as I mentioned earlier, and the tradition has certainly been kept alive. Although these days the interior of these coffee shops are surely a little on the trendier side.
Tied for my top spot is Przionica D59B and 19 grams. D59B is a little pricier and is located in what may be a bit of a walk for you – it’s in an industrial district – but it’s non-smoking! A true rarity in Belgrade. If smoke in a coffee shop bothers you then this will surely end up being your go to spot. The coffee is also top notch.
19 Grams ended up being where I went more often but I usually found myself getting coffee to go. I also remember the prices being cheap compared to most other cafes I visited at $1.30 or 130 RSD for an Americano. If you’re here when the weather is nice they have an amazing outdoor seating area.
Laboratorija – Address: lok. 4, Omladinskih Brigada 86j, Beograd 11070, Serbia – This coffee shop is in last place mostly because of it’s location in Novi Beograd. If you find yourself in Novi Beograd this place is worth checking out as the decor is absolutely gorgeous and the coffee fantastic. It’s withing walking distance of the Genex Tower so I’d recommend you checkout out enjoying some of their coffee before or after reveling in awe of brutalist architecuture.
The Best Markets
Bajlonijevica Pijaca is by far my favorite place for buying produce in Belgrade. When you first arrive in Belgrade in search of food you’ll probably find yourself inside an Idea or a Maxi which are great for everything but produce. There also seem to be a lot of “themed” Idea’s and Maxi’s so the quality of which one you end up at really depends. The combination of produce prices and location of Bajlonijevica Pijaca are a match made in heaven. Can you imagine a kilogram of apples for 30 cents? They exist here. There are also stands selling various things like batteries, toilet paper, tools, etc… for really good prices.
Pijaca “Kalenić” Green Market takes my number two spot. I don’t think it’s any “greener” than Bajlonijevica Pijaca and the prices are seemingly a tiny bit higher perhaps because it’s a bit more popular. It didn’t really feel any bigger than Bajlonijevica to me but there was a little more variety. I think Bajlonijevica is a bit more conveniently located since it’s closer to the main walking street of Knez Mihailova.
Bio Market is right next to the Black Turtle Pub V. Right after you have a fruity beer at the pub you can cross the street to buy the best tofu I had in Belgrade for the cheapest price. There are also lots of bulk bins full of tasty grains.
Bio Spajz is right inside the Kalenic Market and is similar to the Bio Market. However, I found that they had a few more specialty products to my liking such as all natural deodorant. To my surprise this all natural deodorant was also quite affordable at around $3.
A Few Other Interesting Things to Do in Belgrade
Genex Tower / Western City Gate – This, to me, is really a must see in Belgrade but I realize that probably depends on how much you care for architecture and history. Genex Tower is a 35 story skyscraper – the second tallest in Belgrade – which was designed in 1977 by Mihajlo Mitrovic in the brutalist style. It’s one part office building and one part residential with a revolving restaurant in the top.
Temple of Saint Sava – This is one of the largest Orthodox churches in the world. The basement contains a crypt, the treasury of Saint Sava, and the grave church of Saint Lazar the Hieromartyr. It’s indeed a must see.
Saint Petkas Chapel – In The Middle Ages it was here where the holy remains of St. Petka’s were placed until 1521. It’s inside the Belgrade fortress so stop by on your walk up or down.
Belgrade Fortress – It’s really a must that you take a stroll through the Kalemegdan park and venture through the Belgrade Fortress. For centuries, Belgrade existed only within these walls. Now it’s an easy walk away from the center of modern Belgrade. Or is this actually the center of modern Belgrade? The charm is that everything blends together so seamlessly.
Concept Location – This is a nice spot to go clubbing or grab a craft beer. If I could recommend one place, I’d say check out Punk Off. It’s run by a gypsy brewer who’s a pretty interesting fellow by the name of Nikola should you get to meet him: http://nikolacarbrewery.com/.