Although increasingly pushed out of work by mass-produced domestic and foreign goods, a number of Belgrade’s traditional artisans are persevering in keeping their family businesses – and the memory of the city as it was decades ago – alive. Behind their quaint shopfronts, which are defying encroaching blandness of malls and global brands, you can find unique handmade accessories, treats and souvenirs as well as the old-fashioned approach to service, where stories of times gone by are exchanged alongside goods and money.

Lollipops handmade to 1930s recipes at Bosiljčić candy store in Belgrade
Bombondžija Bosiljčić is the last-of-its-kind store selling handmade sweets in Belgrade © Srdjan Garcevic / Lonely Planet

Bosiljčić candy store

Famed for the wide variety of flavours of freshly made ratluk (Turkish delight), Bombondžija Bosiljčić is the last remaining traditional artisanal candy store in Belgrade. Opened in 1936 by the grandfather of current owners and candy makers, Bosiljčić occupies a tiny house flanked by faded grand buildings on Gavrila Principa street. Although the Turkish delight – a staple of Belgrade homes since the Ottoman times – is their most famous product, they also offer colourful lollipops and delectable chocolate-covered toffees that are sure to make your blood sugar spike.

Sava perfumery

A visit to Parfimerija Sava, Belgrade’s last traditional perfumer nestled in a crumbling art-nouveau building on Kralja Petra street, offers much more than just an opportunity to sniff and buy one of several dozen male and female perfume concoctions. Whenever you visit, you’re sure to be charmed and entertained by its gregarious owner, Nenad Jovanov, whose parents entered the perfumery business in the 1940s and opened the current shop in 1954. Jovanov will enthusiastically explain his reasonably priced olfactory creations while buzzing around the diminutive time capsule of a shop. If you decide to buy, you’ll get a bottle with a typewriter-written label and then will be sprayed with a cloud of your chosen scent. Sava’s bestseller for men is ‘Beogradska noć’ (Belgrade night), whose light citrusy notes conjure mid-century elegance.

Gorgeous vintage bottles at family-owned Sava perfumery in Belgrade
At Belgrade's Parfimerija Sava, scents are mixed by hand and labelled by typewriter © Srdjan Garcevic / Lonely Planet

Petrof bookbinders

Across the road from Bombondžija Bosiljčić, Knjigoveznica Petrof is one of the last remaining artisanal bookbinders in Belgrade. Started in 1905 and still run as a family business, the workshop is stacked with their creations across the decades, which are standing by antique machines. If you’re craving a handsome notebook, bookmark or even a photo album in these digital times, it’s here that you can either pick them up or even have them made to your liking within a few days.

Ercegovac millinery

Founded in 1927, Ercegovac hats and accessories store has been preserving old-world elegance in the heart of Belgrade through four generations of its owners. In the early days, they sold hats to ladies throughout the Kingdom of Yugoslavia from the workshop that has remained on Terazije since 1936.  Fully established as the destination of choice for many fashionable ladies, another Ercegovac claim to fame is that they made hats for the Russian Winter Olympics team in 1994.

A selection of ladies' headwear and accessories at Ercegovac millinery in Belgrade
The hats and accessories from Belgrade's Ercegovac millinery have old-world elegance © Srdjan Garcevic / Lonely Planet

Opačić shoe shop

Originally founded in Zagreb in 1961, Opačić family workshop moved to Belgrade in 1992 after the breakdown of the Yugoslav federation. Specialising in classic leather and suede shoes for men, they quickly established themselves as the go-to shop for gentlemen within Belgrade’s business, diplomatic and political circles. The flagship Opačić shop is on Belgrade’s ancient commercial street, Kralja Petra, but you can also find one inside the Sava Centre in New Belgrade.

Rade hats and caps

Rade has been helping Belgrade’s gentlemen to cover their heads with various hats and caps from its shop on Balkanska street for almost seven decades. The store is lined with all sorts of head gear, from the elegant felt fedoras to traditional Serbian šajkača (originally a military cap) and striking Montenegrin flat caps. All of them are handmade from natural materials by the third generation of the founder’s family.

Baklava, halva, orasnice and other Turkish-style sweets at Orijent store in Belgrade
Poslastičarnica Orijent is where you can try authentic Turkish-style desserts in Belgrade © Srdjan Garcevic / Lonely Planet

Orijent sweets

The pastel-coloured shop window of Poslastičarnica Orijent (Balkanska 36), filled with carefully arranged sweets, wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson movie. Founded in the 1930s further up on Balkanska street, the shop moved to the current premises in 1947 and is one of the few remaining places in Belgrade where you can enjoy authentic Turkish-style desserts. Inside the wood-panelled shop you can indulge your sweet tooth with anything from syrup-drenched baklava and sesame-infused halva to crescent-shaped, walnut-flavoured orasnice. For the full experience, wash them down with a Turkish coffee or boza, a traditional malt drink popular across the Balkans and the Middle East.

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