A Break In Belgrade, Serbia

I was back on annual leave once more but it was slightly different as I had leave with my best friend Grace! We both wanted to tick off somewhere new and where we could go in regards to vaccine, testing and quarantine requirements and what wasn’t going to effect our rosters when we got back to Dubai. After HOURS of research and looking into our options from Dubai, we decided to spend a couple of nights in Belgrade before we spent the main portion of our holiday elsewhere.

Leaving Dubai at 09:05 we flew with our sister airline Fly Dubai over to Serbia’s capital city Belgrade. Landing around lunchtime, we went though immigration which meant ticking off country seventy five for me and we jumped in a taxi over to our AirBnb.

We found airbnb to be the best option for Belgrade as we wanted to eat out for all meals, it also gave us a later check out and was actually the cheapest option. It was such a cute little spot right in the centre, with a picturesque balcony looking out over the city. The only downside it was on the top floor with no lift, which meant lugging our heavy luggage up the stairs!

One thing we were NOT expecting about Serbia is they were actually experiencing a heatwave when we were there and the temperatures were only a couple degrees lower than Dubai. We were expecting to escape the heat for a week, when in fact we stepped right back into it. So first things first was to find an iced coffee to cool down before we started some exploring.

These cappuccino freddos were DELICIOUS, and we sat inside soaking up the refreshing blast of the AC before stepping back out into the sweltering heat. Next stop we were looking for somewhere to eat, we’d missed lunch and it was at that weird time of day in between lunch and dinner, so we headed off to Skadarlija. Skadarlija is a vintage street, an urban neighbourhood and former municipality of Belgrade, Serbia. It is located in the Belgrade municipality of Stari Grad (Old Town). Skadarlija partially preserved the ambience of the traditional urban architecture, including its archaic urban organisation, and is known as the main bohemian quarter of Belgrade, similar to Paris’ Montmartre. Since 1967, Skadarlija is protected by the law as the spatial cultural-historical unit and is the second most visited tourist attraction in Belgrade, contributing to one third of the city’s foreign currency income.

It was a very cute and quaint street but with the heat and the middle of the day, it kind of felt closed off and many restaurants didn’t have anyone in. So we continued on with our search and thought we would head back in the evening when it felt like this street would really come alive.

We walked down the main high street called Kneza Mihaila and headed in the direction of a place called Mama Restaurant which I had seen recommended online. I can see why, it had such a fun interior and aesthetic, had a great outdoor “rooftop” and boasted a great menu for both food and drinks. We immediately ordered two Aperol Spritz as they are the best to drink in the summer heat whilst we sat indoors to cool down again.

After a short while we moved out onto the terrace to sample some of the local wines, we tried a local Serbian rose called ‘Pink Punk’ which was SO good! Highly recommend this to anyone visiting Serbia.

As much as the food menu was tempting here, we wanted to try some balkan cuisine, so we went in the direction of the river to a restaurant called Ambar. We ate the most delicious food here washed down with another bottle of Pink Punk. The server told us it was served tapas style so we could just order an abundance of different dishes to try.

We opted for the crunchy zucchini, cheese pie, ambar salad, tzatziki with roasted beets, pulled pork with mashed potatoes, kajmak and cabbage slaw, marinated octopus and the ambar potatoes. The food was seriously good and we sat here for a good few hours sampling the food and finishing the bottle of Pink Punk.

As we walked back towards the air bnb, we decided to stop for a night cap at a place called Riddle Bar. Here there is no menu, you tell the server what it is you like in a cocktail and they come up with a recipe for you there and then. So I can’t even tell you what was in our drinks but I said I loved coconut, and Grace said she preferred fruity and this is what they came up with! A great concept and something different to try.

The next day we woke earlyish and WOW was it a hot day today. We wanted to visit the Church of St Sava, a must visit when you’re in Belgrade and it was around a thirty minute walk in the opposite direction of town. Knowing it was going to be a very warm and thirsty walk, we planned our journey around finding a coffee spot and we found a cuttle little chain called Coffee Dream.

We had worked up a serious thirst in the 39 degree heat!! So it was two large orange and ginger juices and two large iced coffees before we finally arrived at our next stop.

“The Church of St Sava is the largest Orthodox church in Serbia, one of the largest Eastern Orthodox churches and it ranks among the largest churches in the world. It is the most recognisable building in Belgrade and a landmark, as its dominating dome resembles that of the Hagia Sophia, after which it had been modelled.

It was so hard to get the church in one shot with it being such a huge building!

The church contains a rigorous symmetrical layout with a great sensitivity to light due to its large dome and four apses. Its interior cladding with 12,000 m2 of gold mosaics is almost complete. The initiative for the mosaic decoration inside the dome was secured by a donation of the Russian Federation, while the larger remainder of the mosaic cladding was successively financed by the Republic of Serbia.

Vladimir Putin of Russia visited the church in January 2019 and announced that the Russian state would finance parts of the remaining works in the mosaic cladding. He symbolically laid a stone in a mosaic with the presentation of the Mandylion. Putin was formally invited to attend the consecration of the church, which was then scheduled for the end of 2020 but the ceremony has not yet occurred owing to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The church was incredibly impressive and featured one of the most beautiful mosaic ceilings I had ever seen. The church had two lower levels and what felt like so many different hidden rooms and corridors. Well worth the visit if you’re ever in Belgrade.

Time to walk back towards the city in the direction of food for lunch and we went to a place called Bloom. I cannot stress this enough, if you are EVER in Belgrade you MUST go to this cafe for food. It was that good, that we actually came back again the next day. It was quite the walk in the midday sun, and we arrived when the cafe was pretty full! Thankfully we got a seat upstairs and scoured the menu. I struggled so much to decide what to have, I actually went for two dishes. The prices were so good and the food sounded incredible it just felt rude not to.

The vibe and aesthetic of this cafe were so spot on, and it was so hard trying to capture this in a picture. It is so small and intimate yet didn’t feel like everyone was on top of each other. How they cater for everyone in such a small and open plan kitchen was fascinating to watch. The food was outstanding, the attention to detail was incredible and I seriously couldn’t fault this place at all. And the best thing was the price when the bill arrived. For my two dishes it cost £7.73 (38.71 AED) which just blew me away for the quality of the food. Definitely check out their website/menu as I cannot rate Bloom highly enough!

As we continued on with our day, we walked towards the Belgrade Fortress in Kalemegedan Park. What would have been such a beautiful way to spend the rest of the afternoon had it not been SO hot.

The Belgrade fortress, built on a white ridge above the confluence of two big rivers, destroyed and rebuilt over and over for 16 centuries, still stands as the symbol of Serbia’s capital. The Belgrade fortress was built during a long period of time from the 2nd to the 18th century.

Destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, the fortress has become the symbol of the city that keeps raising and growing. To know the history of the Belgrade fortress means to know the history of our people and to understand the way of life in today modern Belgrade. Armies, people and conquerors have left their mark, hence the historical layers that were left by Romans, Serbs, Turks, Austro-Hungarians lying one beneath another”.

Following on from here we were actually meant to be doing a kayaking tour on the Danube which we had already booked and paid for, but the thought of doing that in the 40 degree heat on a river with no shade when we were already SO hot and sticky and exhausted from a day of exploring in the intense heat and an additional hour walk from where we currently we were. We made a hard pass and cooled off in the shade in Kalemegedan under the trees.

It felt so lovely to be just sat in the greenery and at one with nature when we live in the sandpit of Dubai! I suggested we head for an ice cream stop so we searched out a place which had a great selection and I opted for kinder bueno flavoured after over 17,000 steps around the city.

For dinner that evening we were going to a place I’d found online called The Angry Monk it was pan asian cuisine and had great reviews. A little on the pricier side for Belgrade we found, but still an absolute steal in comparison to the prices of Dubai. We started with a bottle of local rose wine, our new found favourite it seemed and scoured the menu.

We shared starters and went for the blackened cauliflower florets and the vegetarian gyoza. If I’m honest, the cauliflower wasn’t to our taste, it was in a very strange tasting sauce but the gyoza were wonderful. The showstopper for me were my shrimps in a tom yum sauce with mushrooms, spring onion, cherry tomatoes and coriander served with a side of sticky rice. This dish was fantastic and there wasn’t a drop left in my bowl afterwards. SO delicious. I did struggle to decide what to eat as it was such a great menu that you can check out here. Another recommendation if you’re ever visiting Belgrade!

We walked back home with our full stomachs very content and absolutely exhausted after such a busy day of exploring. My Apple Watch said I had walked 17.2km, 21,401 steps and burnt a total of 1,289kcal that day!

The next morning it was up earlyish as it was our last morning in Belgrade before we were catching a flight to the second stop of our holiday. We wanted to grab a lovely breakfast and when I tell you I spent hours searching good breakfast/lunch spots in Belgrade my search fell flat. I found one potential in comparison to the Bloom we had been to the day before, and when we got to the “cafe” it felt kind of dilapidated and just wasn’t really what we were looking for which is why we headed back to Bloom to enjoy their gorgeous eats and drinks once more.

When we arrived they had pushed back the huge windows which lined the walls to make a seriously open plan cafe, it looked SO good and allowed for a gorgeous cool breeze to flow through and we managed to squeeze the last table by the windows which was great for people watching and so many little dogs walking by! I actually went for the same again as it was just that good and I washed it down with an iced matcha latte.

After lunch, it was time to head back to grab our belongings and head to the airport to catch our next flight. I had a great time in Belgrade, it was nice to have a little city break, albeit with the disappointingly hot heatwave we ended up enduring. I’m glad to have ticked off Serbia as a new country, but I’m not sure if I would ever go out of my way to venture back. I did expect a little bit more if I was totally honest and found that if we had of had anymore time in Belgrade we would have struggled with what to do. It would definitely have needed a day trip somewhere else or a visit out to the wineries which we just couldn’t fit in on our time frame! Nonetheless, a great way to tick off country 75!

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