Outspoken, adventurous, proud and audacious: Belgrade ('White City') is by no means a 'pretty' capital, but its gritty exuberance makes it one of Europe's most happening cities. This is where the Sava and Danube rivers kiss, and is the home to No Sleep Festival, taking place from the 8th-9th November. A place with pulsing energy and a beacon of Balkan culture, we decided to catch up with Jelena Kapor, PR Assistant at the festival, who gave us the lowdown on some of her favorite Belgrade spaces.
Words and photos by Jelena Kapor of No Sleep Festival
We all like a good drink, so where are the top spots to head to before a night out?
The best known Serbian drink is rakija, a sophisticated “hard drink”. It is exclusively made of the best quality fruits. It gives the feeling and sense of belonging to nature, preserving flavors that memories are made of.
Brunches are a weekend staple, which spots stand out to you?
Do as the locals do when it comes to breakfast and queue up at one of the capital's bakeries to try burek, the specialty of this 114-year-old bakery. Order a warm, flaky, melty, ham-and-cheese slice to go or the one with minced meat. You also need to sample the pljeskavica, a super-sized burger stuffed with pancetta and cheese or Serbian sausage (kobasica), as well as ćevapi, tasty grilled fingers of ground beef and pork.
At Crna Ovca, cheerful and always busy gelato shop you can try some of Belgrade's best and boasts some wacky flavours (gorgonzola, peanut butter and chocolate-covered pretzels) in addition to top sellers crème brûlée and caramelized walnuts, pistachio and Plazma (a Serbian biscuit).
Where can we shop for records and music memorabilia in Belgrade?
Hit up unique record stores Leila and Yugovinyl, where you can find a great collection of new and second-hand vinyl, numbering over 10 000 titles. Numerous shops, restaurants, and street bookstores are tucked in classy 19th-century buildings with delicate facades in Belgrade’s main pedestrian zone. Street painters, jewelry makers, and musicians are making sure this street stays one of the most vibrant and interesting in the city.
Your Sunday escape plan when you need to get away from it all?
A lovely breath of fresh air in sometimes smoggy Belgrade, Jevremovac Botanical Gardens are truly a delight. Located a bit outside Stari Grad in Palilula, with a gorgeous greenhouse containing tropical plants, ferns, and succulents alike, as well as a forested area with plenty of walkways, it is considered to be one of the more beautiful hidden gems of Belgrade.
Something everyone should do when visiting Belgrade, but probably hasn’t?
If you want to get to know the spirit of a city and its inhabitants, visit its markets - the biggest and most popular green market in the city, Kalenić is located in Vračar. The market is a maze of stalls in a blaze of colorful fruit and vegetables, a little world within a world within the city. It isn’t simply for food, of course, as everything from clothes hangers to tea to shoes can be found, provided you are patient enough to find it.
Marina Abramović, considered by many to be the greatest performance artist of the last century, has taken over the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade in Serbia. The Cleaner, which runs through January 20, is her largest and most significant retrospective to date, tracing her ascent over a 50-year career. The Cleaner features more than 120 works of art, including 2010’s headline-grabbing piece, The Artist is Present, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
If you’re keen to explore the street art of Belgrade, you can do so with a tour! A lot of Belgrade’s best street art is a bit hidden from the tourists, so exploring on a guided street art tour is the best way to discover the local art scene.
A gift you can’t leave Belgrade without taking home for friends?
One of the best spots to pick up original souvenirs is Belgrade Window, a well laid-out showroom conveniently located at the end of Knez Mihailova. Spend-worthy shops include Dechkotzar, a local streetwear store where you can pick up graphic tees; Parfimerija SAVA, the last old-world perfumer in Belgrade, for a hand-blended custom perfume or cologne and Bosiljčić candy store, the last remaining traditional artisanal candy store in Belgrade.
No Sleep Festival takes place from 8th - 9th November in Belgrade. For further information and tickets, see https://www.nosleepfestival.com/