Belgrade, which translates as “White City,” is the capital of the Republic of Serbia and the country’s biggest city, with a population of over 1.7 million people. The city is dominated by many architectural types, and its recent rebirth as the main center in south-eastern Europe makes it a must-see visit.
It is located at the meeting point of the Sava and Danube rivers. The city has a lengthy history, going back to the 4th century BC, when Celtic tribes established in the region. Later, it became the Roman city of Singidunum, and remnants from that period may still be seen in the city, most notably at Kalemegdan Fortress. Until the Ottoman conquest, the town was a Serbian stronghold throughout the Middle Ages. The city changed hands multiple times between the Ottomans and the Austrians until 1878, when Serbia gained independence and Belgrade became the new country’s capital.
After the First World War, Belgrade served as the capital of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia) until its demise in 1999, when NATO bombed the city. This frequently violent past, as well as foreign influences, have shaped much of Belgrade’s progress, which is seen in its culture and architecture. The city has taken on a distinct character, evocative of both Austrian and Turkish influences, with a unique mix of Communist characteristics tossed in since Yugoslavia was ejected from the Eastern Bloc in 1948 but pursued its own form of Communism until the years after Marshal Tito’s death in 1980. Nonetheless, the city has its own soul, with not just distinctive features, but also a healthy joie de vivre in its café culture, nightlife, and typically Mediterranean tinge in its outlook on life.