Belgrade is quietly becoming rather well known as a slightly quirky destination whose appeal is evident but tricky to pinpoint precisely. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, then, that much of the city’s charm remains squirreled away from the main sights and central locations. Here are 10 of the best hidden hangouts to explore during your stay.
Jevremovac Botanical Gardens
Starting with this feels like a bit of a cheat as it isn’t hidden so much as easy to walk past without noticing. However, Belgrade’s Jevremovac Botanical Gardens (jevremovac.bio.bg.ac.rs), jammed between busy roads, form such a unique oasis of pure calm in the middle of the city’s hurried traffic that it would be a shame to miss out. Wander to the Japanese garden found within to enjoy maximum tranquility by a babbling brook.
U10 art space
Hiding almost in plain sight, just off one of the city’s main thoroughfares, U10 (ur10.rs) is an independent art space promoting the work of Belgrade’s most avant-garde young artists. New exhibitions are launched all the time: these are the perfect occasions to catch the creative energy as it almost literally pours out onto the front steps and you can mingle with the future of Belgrade’s art scene.
New Zvezda Cinema
Once a popular Belgrade cinema, the Zvezda (facebook.com/novibioskopzvezda) fell foul of a botched privatisation and was nearly sold off as prime downtown real estate, but it was rescued in 2014 by a hastily formed cinema ‘occupation’ movement determined to put the dilapidated theatre back in business. The New Zvezda Cinema, still looking pretty run down, now shows an eclectic programme, ranging from Hollywood classics to the latest European arthouse and indie productions. Films are shown undubbed (with Serbian subtitles), and a weekly schedule is shared through social media.
Zanat concept store
Concept stores don’t get much more incognito than this. Zanat (facebook.com/zanat.radnja/home) is run by a group of young artists determined to give a new lease of life to old things, from lamps and armchairs to clothes, shoes and fashion accessories. It’s at its best when you take the time to experience it at a relaxed pace and chat to the owners about the idea behind the items that catch your fancy.
Ljutić garden cafe
Nestled in the courtyard of an ornately decorated old Belgrade townhouse, the trendy Ljutić (facebook.com/ljuticj) is a space devoted to extreme relaxation. Settle down in one of its swing seats and allow the urban fuss to be washed away in this colourful and carefully put-together environment. Live acoustic bands often play in the evenings.
Vox blues club
Even in a city with a tradition of inconspicuous bars, this one is truly hard to find but well worth the effort. Vox (voxbluesclub.com) is a through-and-through blues bar that puts on almost daily live gigs and draws in musicians and music fans who together form a cast of characters as colourful as the names of Louisiana blues legends. The entrance is enticingly discreet, a drawback to the days when it was really an underground bar.
Lokal coffee roasters
It’s not hard to find a good coffee in Belgrade and caffeine junkies are unlikely to be disappointed wherever they turn to for their fix. Even so, making your way to Lokal (facebook.com/kafeterijalokal), a small but smart streetside coffee joint in the well-to-do Vračar quarter, could lead you to arguably the best coffee in the city. Ask the barista to recommend their finest blend of freshly ground Latin American or African beans and while away the afternoon.
Jane Doe vintage shop
This is a rather unique concept store offering a blend of vintage items (advertised as dating from 1920 to 1990) that have lost their owners – hence the name – and vintage-style items created by young designers. In addition to displaying a rich assortment of vintage lamps, cameras, clothes and whatnots, Jane Doe (facebook.com/JaneDoeVintageShop) also organises a range of events including workshops, clothes swaps and more.
Ada Safari lake
Ada Safari is a lake hidden in the woods on Ada Ciganlija, itself an artificial island on a lake that doubles as Belgrade’s riverside beach resort and adventure park. On the banks of the lake there’s an excellent, unconventional restaurant – inventively named Ada Safari (adasafari.co.rs) – which serves traditional Serbian riverside fare. But don’t miss out on Gavez (gavez.net) just next door, a hippyish alternative club that gives the lakeside a more fun-loving slant.
While Belgrade’s official Museum of Contemporary Art continues to await its much delayed renovation, the imaginative private collection of Museum Macura (muzejmacura.com) remains the best space exhibiting modern art in the city. Well, it’s not quite in the city – being located on the banks of the Danube in a Belgrade suburb – but the half-hour drive from the centre is well worth it for art and design aficionados. Discover everything from zenitism and yugo-dada to Belgrade surrealism and Vojvodinian neoavant-garde.