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Is it safe to travel in Belgrade, Serbia? Yes & you must! Frida Kahlo theme restaurant, Selection Apartments.

belgrade architecture, old buildings

Do you remember the 1998-9 Kosovo War? The breakup of Yugoslavia? Most of you probably have only vague notions of this Eastern European region, which was a conflict zone not long ago.

I confess I didn’t know much about Belgrade, Serbia until I went with my filmmakers, as part of our Eurail.com train journey. Boy, were my eyes opened. The locals are lovely, and there is an emerging food, nightlife and fashion scene that will make “Beograd” a hip destination in the years to come.

Read on for ice cream and unibrows…

graffiti art belgrade, tokyo tiquis

First, don’t let the graffiti and crumbling walls fool you. Belgrade is currently as safe as any Western European city like Berlin or Milan. There aren’t any special precautions for tourists, other than the common-sense ones: beware of pickpockets, don’t do stupid things alone at night, you get the idea.

(Ironic side-note: my film team and I talked about where we’ve felt most unsafe. The unanimous consensus was USA. Personally, I’ve been most endangered in parts of Chicago, St Louis, and outside LA.)

selection apartments, belgrade hotel

We were hosted by the sweetest family-run hotel I’ve ever stayed in: Selection Apartments. They have three rooms, each with private bathrooms, and the family puts their hearts into taking care of you.

Ivan stayed up past midnight in order to pick us up from the train station. The next morning, he and his wife Desa brought us strong coffee, yogurt, burek (a flaky filo pastry filled with cheese) and apricot cookies. Ivan takes all his guests on a little walking tour where he points out his favorite Belgrade cafes and sights. We were grateful to have their help in making reservations and changing money to Serbian dinars.

best belgrade hotel, bed and breakfast

I’ve stayed in luxury hotels around the world. But there’s nothing I appreciate more than genuinely kind hosts, a comfortable and clean room (we had our own patio), air conditioning, and speedy WiFi. Selection Apartments has all that, plus the warm attention of this local family. I can’t recommend my new friends enough, and hope you’ll get a chance to experience their hospitality.

belgrade eastern orthodox church

In every city, we like to visit historical attractions in addition to “cool-hunting” for up-and-coming trends. Most Serbians are Orthodox Christians, and Belgrade is home to the world’s largest Eastern Orthodox church.

We saw children playing around the fountain that leads to the Cathedral of Saint Sava. I wore a white Liz Lisa dress, and Puzzle shoes from Izzue Hong Kong.

Cathedral of Saint Sava, serbian church

Inside, there were two shops selling rosaries and other religious items. Eastern iconography is markedly different; we saw paintings of Mary with a cut on her chin, and what appears to be a disembodied hand in front of her.

Another side-note: in Belgrade, many of the locals speak English and very helpful. However, Serbian words can be in Cyrillic, so you may have trouble deciphering street signs.

st sava statue, largest Orthodox church in the world

I loved wandering the small city and seeing the architecture. Main attractions include the “Green Market” and Belgrade Fortress. There were a surprising number of upscale fashion and jewelry shops in the downtown shopping district.

art nouveau door, architecture

You know you aren’t in a tourist area when there are no other Asians around. I encourage you to travel to places that you know little about, as you won’t have expectations and can simply learn and discover.

cantina de frida, beograd

A prime example: theme cafes (like the ones I wrote about in my book) aren’t limited to Asia. There’s a Frida Kahlo theme restaurant in Belgrade! It’s called Cantina de Frida (Karađorđeva 2-4, Beograd).

frida kahlo theme restaurant belgrade

In a meat-and-potatoes region, it was nice to have seafood ceviche and other Mexican tapas.

serbian dessert, moat house eyewear sunglasses

I’m wearing wood sunglasses, sent to me by the Britain-based Moat House Eyewear.

frida kahlo mexican restaurant

The restaurant is a tribute to the famous Mexican painter, known for her bold artistic style and self-portraits.

frida y diego, mexican art

One wall recreates the home of Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. Her face is omnipresent, even in the restrooms.

frida kahlo Tequila Reposado

Behind the bar, there was a wall of Frida Kahlo tequila bottles. (Photography in this post by Melissa Rundle, Eric Bergemann and me.)

Sava pier, belgrade waterfront harbor

At the moment, there are only a few modern restaurants like this one on the waterfront. But many are under construction, and we can sense that in a few years, young travelers will be flocking here to hang out by the harbor.

moritz eis, belgrade ice cream shop

Whenever I’m in Europe, I fill up on baked goods and dairy. Ivan recommended his favorite ice cream shop, Moritz Eis (Vuka Karadžića 9). I ordered a scoop of dark chocolate Tabasco, and a scoop of orange ginger.

belgrade cyrillic writing, bitter lemon soda

I encourage people to be flexible about what they eat when they’re traveling, in order to experience more of the culture. Try new foods while you have the opportunity! I was a fan of this bitter lemon drink, and the many filo pastries including one filled with poppy seed paste.

beograd graffiti, street art eastern europe

Belgrade’s a fascinating place. The ruins remain, but there’s a feeling of young creativity and urban development.

stray cats, east europe ruins

Can you count all five stray cats?

Nikola Tesla serbian inventor, Dinar money

I leave you with this “come hither” picture of Nikola Tesla on the Dinar currency. He’s a Serbian-born inventor, known for his breakthroughs in electricity and forward-thinking ideas about futurism.

graffiti walls, buildings belgrade

Did you know much about Belgrade, Serbia before reading this post? Isn’t the street art phenomenal?

In the next post, I’ll take you on a tour of the local nightlife and fashion — and you’ll see what I mean when I say this place is waiting to explode!

PS – THANK YOU to everyone for your huge response to this post — I hope it encourages more travelers to discover the beauty of Serbia. Please keep in touch by adding my social networks below, as there is much more to come. хвала!

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  • Black Rose

    Enjoying your writing. Keep it up.

  • Val

    I did not know about Belgrade at all until reading this! Arigato carmina :)

  • Katie

    :-O what a place! cool!

  • Paulo G

    Never knew about all this

  • MelissaR

    LOVE this!!! More people must visit beautiful, beautiful Belgrade!

    • Top comment! I think everyone agrees!

  • Laurie

    Beautiful photos. The Europe series is brilliant.

  • Shirley

    Love the dress! (:

  • Nicoleta

    Awwww *_*

  • Ooh! Beautiful architecture! :D

  • Ann

    I stayed in Selection Apt also and they are surely the best.

  • Yup, it’s safe there nowadays and I should really go there too since I live not that far! Those pictures are wonderful, I have a thing for old buildings and statues. And graffitis too.. ;)

    • You should! I had a great time. Look out for the next post about a Goth bar and concept store.

  • Lisa K. Smith

    I love Belgrade. Lovely article but it seems you experienced privileged Serbia. You should return again with a limited budget to gain a new perspective of life and the struggle.

    • I would love to come back. There’s another post coming up, about subcultures and the nightlife!

  • 8888

    I found all the cats :-)

  • Maxine

    Thanks so much. Will have to check this out next time.

  • Weirdrestos

    That looks extraordinary. Thanks so much for sharing your photos!

  • Vladimir

    Odavno nisam video da je neko ovako dopadljivo i upečatljivo video i predstavio Beograd! La Carmina – Svaka čast!
    I didn’t see someone made such a charming and impressive presentation of Belgrade… for a loooong time – La Carmina -Congrats! — feeling wonderful.

    • xoxoxoxo!!

    • Slavica

      Vladimire apsolutno se slazem sa tobom !La Carmina, this is great
      description of our lovely capital city, thank you girl, I’m glad that
      you enjoyed, come again and visit also Novi Sad ;-) !

  • ST

    Lovely article

  • Pitsart

    Brava! interesting post! We’d love see you in our beautiful country Umbria.com the Italy’s green heart with San Francisco’s city Assisi.

  • Nikola

    I’m very glad that someone is finally sending a real, nice picture of Belgrade and Serbia to the world.. thanks

  • Mika

    This is wonderful
    Thank you.

  • Taranatina

    <3 <3

  • Jennifer Kellow

    This is so great! My boyfriend is a Nikola Tesla fanatic! Maybe we will get to visit there someday. Thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward to your next post.. as always!!

  • americanwoman54

    Love your article and photos and comments esp about the themed restaurant, Cantina de Frida, which I had not heard about at all, and wondered how long it has been around, for I thought I knew a lot of Beograd’s gems. And you are so right that it is an extremely safe city, and I never have any qualms about going out alone at any time. But with that said, I have been going there since 2005 and believe me, it has changed a lot since then, and in a way, I kinda miss the way it was, for every year I go, something of its history/character is gone….and with more people coming, it will happen faster.

  • Lobor Stefan

    I really enjoyed your Belgrade story!
    If you want to see and feel more of Belgrade, I suggest this Youtube videos about Belgrade>
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLCC7AC5CB2FA5DAC1&feature=edit_ok

  • Stephan

    AMAZING!!!

  • rk

    marry me:))

  • Sanja

    Thank you, for the beautiful story about my city …

  • Milos Vucekovic

    Thank you for this great post!

  • BGD girl

    Great story, but there is sooooo much more Belgrade can offer :)
    An angle of Belgrade which most of the people can’t see :) :
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Zu_tkk9be0
    and in winter
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4y-lJiKEJHA

  • Shljapko

    Next time you come (and you will come because no one comes to Serbia only once ;) ), you should check out village food and scenery. When you go outside of the city, you learn about true beauty of Serbia and hospitality of her people. Go from north, and work your way south. I promise you will be mind blown! Cheers! :)

  • Baby Jane

    Wonderul article…and YES Belgrade is one of the safest cities around (but always be careful anywhere you go). I, as a woman have walked home at 3-4am and always felt safe.
    And, whoever comes to Belgrade I suggest also go to Novi Sad, and explore the countryside which is really beautiful. Best time for Serbia is spring and fall….you just feel great to be alive !

  • Slavica

    One big <3 for you from us Serbians ;-) !

  • White City

    La Carmina, thank you for visiting our city. Just to remind you that Belgrade is the most destroyed and rebuild city in human history. There was over 150 battles for this city.

  • Princip

    Very good job!

  • Serbia

    Come again sexy babe!

  • Christine C.

    Great article and good job Carmina!!! regards from http://stillinbelgrade.com/ crew.

  • Gilbert

    much safer than in Paris, London or Brussels, for sure !!!
    I lived 2 1/2 years there, so I know what I’m speaking about

  • Luis

    I’ve been twice in Belgrade. It’s super safe.

  • Vladan

    Really nice story and description of Belgrade. Thank you and I’m glad that you enjoyed it here :)
    BTW, I think I might have seen you guys filming around town couple a weeks ago. Were you in a trolly (way of public transport – trolejbus), girl in white and two guys with “hanging” camera? :D

  • Iza Tjoshka

    Mary with a cut on her chin, and what appears to be a disembodied hand in front of her

    That would be this —> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojeru%C4%8Dica

  • Zorica

    I wasted few minutes of my life reading this. very shallow post about my city. And stereotypes……boring

  • Djordje

    My hometown!!
    Damn, everybody talks about that Moritz Eis ice cream. Can’t wait to finally taste it next week!!

  • Anja

    DON’T GO TO CANTINA DE FRIDA. They’re assholes and hate foreigners. After having to ask 3 different employees (a waitress/host, a waiter, and the MANAGER) to be seated around 5pm, which took roughly 20 minutes (even though the place was half-empty) we were finally seated and told we could only stay until 8pm (even though there were 10 of us and we were both drinking and eating). Also, I’ve been there on another occasion around 10pm and even though there were many tables, they refused to seat our party of 8-10 because we said we would only be drinking and not eating. Save your money and go to one of the neighbor-restaurants, like Tori, which has way better service.

  • Ken

    What a great blog, you have really collected all the best parts of a wonderful city. An open-minded traveller will always find the heart and soul of a place.
    Thank you.

  • Oh my god, a Frida Kahlo theme restaurant? How great is that! I love her, she’s one of my favorite artists! If I ever get a chance to travel to Belgrade I will definitely check this place out!
    Also, big love for Nikola Tesla on their currency. I still remember this from a few years ago when I was working in a bank an changing currencies for customers :) He was such a genius!

  • Kyle

    I love Belgrade and Novi Sad. I am looking forward to my third trip later this year. Had a great time at Frida.

  • Jeki

    Thank you for such a nice description of my home town. It’s greatly appreciated.

  • T.

    When will the post about local nightlife and fashion in Belgrade be ?:)

  • Andy

    Belgrade is a nice city that few people visit. I found the whole Balkan history to be interesting even though there are still conflicts, but still well-worth is also. I found it to be rather safe as well.

    Andy
    BackpackingDiplomacy.com

  • I’m really impressed with the basic architecture of this building. The food here is pretty good and is very eye-catching presentation. I also expect to be here once to try them

  • Ana

    You made me to love Belgrade even more, if it is possible…thanks for lovely text about our city :)

  • Young Belgrade Boy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE-2EfiArd4 This is some footage of the Belgrade nightlife.. I’m really glad that you’ve seen this much.. If Serbia is good in something, then that’s the hospitality of the people, best food, and best parties ! Yes, we are pretty much safe because we don’t have the mentality of the west.. Sure, you can see a lot of fights when you go out in some club, but that is none of your bussines, walk by and no one would bother you.. I love the article, hope you come again and explore more of Serbia :)

  • Marko

    Hi everyone. If anybody needs transfer to and from airport,
    or to go anywhere in Serbia(or Balkans), or to move stuff in Belgrade(or to
    other city in Serbia), or to go to sightseeing tour, please send me an E-mail
    at: cerabgd29@gmail.com or call me on: 069 724372 and I would be happy to drive
    you in my spacious station wagon car for a fair price.

    Looking forward to hear from you!

  • Hobbitomania

    What a wonderful presentation! I love Belgrade, too. I’ve visited Belgrade a few times and its beauties still mesmerize me. Kalemegdan, Ada, Zemun and Skadarlija left me literally speechless. Ada is especially beautiful in preseason as it’s not that crowded. I’ll check the rental agency you’ve mentioned. I’ve booked through http://srbija-nekretnine.org/short-term-rentals. They have excellent selection of apartments in Belgrade. Thanks again for this amazing blog.

  • Katica Jurko

    Beograd je jako lijep i prepun mjesta koja se jednostvno moraju posjetiti. Također sam bila u Subotici i voljela bih preporučiti svima da je posjete. hotel
    u Srbiji
    .

  • Belgrade Modern Hostel

    Oh, what a great blog about Belgrade… Tnx from Belgrade La Carmina! Whould you like to visit Belgrade again? We would be more than happy to be your host, here at Belgrade Modern Hostel (http://www.belgrademodernhostel.com).

  • Zoran

    Veoma zivopisan i lep clanak, sa sve slikama da upotpuni utisak. Planiram da dodjem u beograd na nekoliko dana uskoro, ali na zalost primoran sam da iznajmim stan na kratko. Da li neko ima neke preporuke za iznajmljivanje? Pronasao sam par sajtova kao npr. http://www.apartmani-u-beogradu.com/ ali bi bilo lepo cuti jos neko misljenje. Hvala i pozdrav!

  • ON

    god you’re hot! How come I didn’t meet you while you were here…

  • inspectorINS

    I am from Belgrade and I am very glad that someone write like this about my own city. Here is also one of my personal texts about Belgrade : http://personal-travel-photos.blogspot.com/2016/03/foggy-victor-statue-belgrade-serbia.html

  • I highly recommend Selection Apartments! Say hi to Ivan and Desanka for me! http://www.selection.rs/

  • claudiu simina

    Spend the night in a brand new and trendy place, from 1eur/night: https://onlinebookingshotels.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/1eur-design-property-in-belgrade-yes/