Things to see and do in Belgrade, Serbia ReadyClickAndGo

There are 12 tram lines in Belgrade and the most famous line is tram number 2 which goes in a circle around the core of Belgrade. It’s a fun and cheap way to get an orientation tour of the city. It’s not a touristy place either so you get to see real life in Belgrade.

The first stop is in Kradjordjeva Street which once upon a time had very good architecture and today looks like a graveyard of old buildings. The government doesn’t have the money to invest in refurbishment which is a shame especially as this street overlooks the Port of Belgrade where international cruise companies stop for a night when they visit Belgrade. There is a project called ‘Belgrade on the River Sava’ which plans to refurbish this district, Savamala, and bring it back to its original glory. When this will happen no one knows.

At 11 am when I took my ride, the tram was almost empty except for a few pensioners and skiving students. After duly validating my Buss Pass I took a seat at the back of the tram to watch people getting on and off and to watch old Belgrade pass by.

The first and the most interesting architectural monument is the Belgrade Cooperative Building situated on the right side of Karadjordjeva Street and built between 1905 and 1907. The shape of the building is triangular and it was made of ferro-concrete which was the most fashionable material at that time. The building also boasts the first hall with stairs in Belgrade.  Unfortunately the façade is desperate for a fresh coat of paint or a power wash.

Day Tours in Belgrade, Serbia, ReadyClickAndGoSoon after we come across one of the oldest hotels in Belgrade, the Hotel Bristol, conveniently located close to the Main Bus and Train Stations in Belgrade. The hotel doesn’t feature in tourist guides as it is a military hotel for ex-servicemen from the former Yugoslavia and today it’s a home for many of them who lost their homes after the last war and moved to Belgrade.

After passing a very busy crossroads and the main bus station the tram comes in front of the main Train Station built between 1881 and 1884, one of the major halts on the Istanbul – Vienna route. The building is painted in a yellow which once upon a time was very bright.

The tram from here turns left into Nemanjina Street which hosts the Serbian Government Building which dates from 1928 originally to accommodate the Financial Department of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as the country was known between the wars. Today all government decisions are made in the hall on the 1st floor. On the opposite side of the Serbian Government Building there is the HQ of JNA (the Yugoslav National Army). It was badly destroyed during the 78 days of bombing in 1999 and it stands as a monument to wrong-headed politics.

Further up you come to the biggest traffic square in Belgrade (and probably in Serbia) where everyone and no one has the right to cross…the situation becomes unbearable during rush hour or if a policeman tries to regulate the traffic. The square is known as Dimitrie Tucovic Square after the establisher of the Social Democratic Party whose remains are buried here. The square is locally known also as Slavia Square. It’s surrounded by small houses probably dating from the  Turkish Era, communist-era tower blocks, a few glass hotels, lots of people running in all possible directions, street sellers and run-down newsagents.

After lots of sudden braking the tram turns right into Belgrade Street. On the left at the beginning of Belgrade Street there is the famous ‘Mitic hole’. The very successful entrepreneur, Mr Mitic, decided to build another store just before WWII. He managed to dig the hole for the foundations only to be stopped by the war and afterwards when the communists came to power they expropriated all his wealth including the building plot.  The hole stayed there for almost 35 years only to be filled in and turned into a park without any trees!

Train ride in Belgrade, ReadyClickAndGoThe tram at the end of Belgrade Street just in front of the Law Faculty turns right into the longest inner street in Belgrade, Bulevar of Kralja Aleksandra, named after the last king from the Obrenovic dynasty. The longest street in Belgrade used to be known as Bulevar Oslobođenja (Boulevard of the Liberation) and then Bulevar Revolucije (Boulevard of the Revolution) but Belgraders got irritated by these constant changes and just call it the Boulevard.

The ride is filled with University Buildings – the library and different faculties. Here you can find a fine hotel called the Metropol Palace opened in 1957 and which has hosted a string of celebrities such as Kirk Douglas, Igor Stravinsky, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Jack Nicholson…The hotel is reopened recently after a long and expansive renovation.

From the Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra the tram turns left into Ruzveltova Street for a short stretch until it goes again left into Kraljica Marija (Queen Marija) Street, named after the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria  and wife of King Alexander of Yugoslavia I who was killed in Marseilles in 1934. The story of Queen Maria is one of courage and bravery: she was widowed at the age of 34 with three young boys. She moved back to the UK just before WWII and continued with intensive charity work in Serbia. She died in 1961 after a long illness and almost penniless after being forced to sell family gold in order to pay for medicine. The street of Queen Marija is a typical street in Belgrade, its architecture a combination of all possible epochs from all over the city – Turkish, neo classical, baroque.

Riding on tram number two is like riding through the turbulent history of Belgrade, and we swiftly move from the period between the two world wars into the beginning of WWII by entering 27th March Street. The date commemorates the Military Coup when people said “No” to the Yugoslavian Government who signed a pact with Germany’s Third Reich. The Government swiftly collapsed and Hitler, angry with outcome, decided to bomb Belgrade in an operation called “Punishment”.

From 27th March Street the tram moves slowly into the street named after the first president of the USA, George Washington Street, which is the unofficial border of the oldest part of Belgrade called Dorcol derived from the Turkish word for four roads.  George Washington Street crosses one of the most popular bohemian parts of the city called Skadarska and from there we move into the Tsar Dusan Street named after the first Tsar of Serbia and the beginning of the real old Belgrade.

The tram moves towards the house at number 10 which is the oldest building in Belgrade, it’s simple and recently was used as a bakery. The house was built in 1724 during a ‘short’ Austrian occupation when the Austrian Emperor Charles VI wanted to transfer Belgrade from an oriental to a baroque fortified city. According to some historic documents before they started building the Austrians ordered 37 minarets to be destroyed and most of the Mosques were turned into warehouses.  Today the house at number 10 has lost its spark but it attracts attention as according to some storytellers the house is connected to the Danube River by a tunnel.  House number 11 is also considered as an attraction as it was built in 1924 and today is host to the St Sava Society, and number 13 is St Sava Hall.

Tsar Dusan Street runs parallel to Strahinjica Bana Street in Belgrade, also known as Silicon Valley, nothing to do with IT but more with the amount of silicon used in the upper parts of the girls bodies here.

Dorcol was always a multi-cultural part of Belgrade and here the mix of Muslims and Jews is very well documented. On the right of Tsar Dusan Street there is a long Jewish street stretching all the way to the Danube River. On the left there is Belgrade’s only Mosque built in 1690 which was an endowment of Sultan Suleiman II.

From Tsar Dusan Street the tram turns left into the lower part of Kalemegdan Fortress. If you are lucky you may see a lazy lion from your safe tram seat as you pass Belgrade Zoo in Kalemegdan. The tram slowly climbs towards the pedestrian zone of Knez Mihailova Street and then carefully slides down the other side of the fortress, passing the French and Austrian embassies on the left and the most popular nightclub on the right.

The tram from here goes for a deserved rest or at least tram driver rest.  They park at a little track close to Belgrade Pier. Some people would consider this stop as the first stop but is there one on tram number two’s circular route? How do you know what is the first stop? You can jump on at any stop and have a fantastic history lesson.

Belgrade is not as big as Beijing, or as smart as London or as quirky as New York but Belgrade is a cool city with its history squeezed into such a small space. A Squeezed History of Time on the number two tram.

For more information about Belgrade and day tours in the  fascinating city of Belgrade please  email Tara@readyclickandgo.com or visit our website at www.ReadyClickAndGo.com

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About the author: Tara

 

The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.

Website: www.readyclickandgo.com