Belgrade, a modern, energetic, creative and culturally stimulating city, with its young artists and designers, can rightly be regarded as one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.
By day it is one of the strategic crossroads and undisputed business centres of the new Europe, midway between Western and Eastern Europe.
By night it is an eclectic hub of fashionable bars and restaurants. Beli Grad, or the 'White City', the literal meaning of Belgrade, lies at the confluence of the Rivers Danube and Sava and at the foot of Avala Mountain.
A vibrant metropolis where different periods and architectural styles co-exist in harmonious but also contrasting fashion, where luxury and fashion blends and blurs with the Decadent and Shabby styles. The rhythm of life is slower in Belgrade yet it is a place that people live intensely, where they party, dream and suffer, often all at the same time.
The beating heart of Beograd is the district of Stari Grad (the 'old city'). Surrounding Kalemegdan Fortress and Park, it faces the rivers on one side and is connected with the city via Knez Mihailova Street, the city's main pedestrian and shopping thoroughfare, a bustling hive of shops, cafes and art galleries, and home to the Academy of Fine Arts and, opposite, the beautiful pink building that houses the Public Library.
Further down the road is the Zepter Museum which, opened in 2010, boasts over 350 works by 20th and 21st century Serbian artists. Just before you get to Republic Square (Trg Republike) there is the Delijska (Delijska Cesma), the reconstruction of a historic Belgrade fountain, destroyed on several occasions, and the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (Srpska Akademija Nauka i Umetnosti). At the centre of Trg Republike, a typical meeting point in the city, is the statue of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic, who freed the Serbian territories and the city from Turkish Ottoman domination. Also on the square is the National Museum (Narodni Muzej) and the National Theatre (Narodno Pozorište), well-known for its Italian opera productions.
A short way away is the Belgrade Design District, a gallery of stores belonging to independent young designers. Another interesting place for design lovers is the Museum of Applied Arts (18 Vuka Karadžića). From Republic Square you can walk along the large boulevards and immerse yourself in their sumptuous 19th century buildings and gardens, such as Parliament, the Old and the New Royal Palace, with their classical, neoclassical and academic styles, which contrast with the solid Socialist Realism architecture seen elsewhere in the city. One example of the latter is the Trade Union Hall, located opposite a square once dedicated to Marx and Engels and now home to a cultural centre and Dom Sindikata cinema.
Close by is Tasmajdan Park, which occupies the site of an old stone quarry that was active for over two thousand years. Here you can admire the large Orthodox church of St. Mark (Crkva svetog Marka), a faithful reproduction of the monastery of Gracanica in Kosovo and, alongside, the little church built in 1924 with the donations of Belgrade's Russian community. Also in the vicinity is the large glass building that is home to Serbian television and, next door, the remains of its former home, destroyed by a bomb blast.
Upper Dorcol (from the Turkish 'dort yol' - 'four streets') can be reached by crossing Studentski Trg, home to the Ethnographic Museum of Belgrade, and then walking through the park.
The most multiethnic area of the city since the Ottoman period, for centuries Upper Dorcol has been inhabited by Jews and Muslims, Germans, Armenians and Greeks. Today, however, it is also the vibrant, creative centre of Belgrade, a district that never sleeps. The main street in Dorcol is Strahinjica Bana, which goes from Belgrade Zoo in Kalemegdan Park to the junction with Skadarlija street, the Montmartre of Belgrade, known for its cobbled roads, restaurants, street artists and vintage market stalls. Dorcol is also known for its array of fashionable bars and clubs, such as Supermarket at 10 Visnjiceva street, Belgrade's first concept store, a multi-purpose hipster venue with fusion restaurant and wine bar that also hosts art exhibitions and showcases furniture accessories by emerging designers and fashion brands.
Pastis at 52b Strahinjica Bana and Centrala at 6 Simina are the places to go for relaxing Bohemian atmospheres, while Smokvica at 73 Kralja Petra is pure shabby chic. Spend an evening in this area and you'll soon understand why it's nicknamed silicon valley.
Lower Dorcol, the area of the district beyond Cara Dušana and bulevar Despota Stefana, towards the river, has also changed and become more attractive in recent years. Its biggest attraction is Bitef Teatar which, housed in a deconsecrated church, also organises the city's annual theatre festival. The area is also home to a number of hip coffee and design bars, such as Pržionica at 59b Dobračina, Rub in Knićaninova Ulica and Kafeterija at 10 Žorža Klemansoa, and several restaurants renowned for their top quality food and service, such as Homa, Thai Time and Holesterol.
Night owls will want to check out Radionica bar at 59 Dobračina, a design and industrial-style haunt that stays open till 4 a.m.
Lower Dorcol is also home to the Science and Technology Museum which, including the Children's Museum, was founded in order to preserve Serbian scientific discoveries. It currently displays over 5000 objects in various collections.
This district, congested and largely undesirable until the 1990s, has become a colourful design neighbourhood packed with artistic centres, cultural associations and workshops that have filled the empty buildings once used for mercantile activities, and the favourite haunt of Belgrade's street artists. Mikser House (46 Karađorđeva) and KG Grad (4 Braće Krsmanović) are among the city's most glamorous social venues with their contemporary art exhibitions, cultural activities and live music and DJ sets in the evenings.
There are also numerous restaurants that serve excellent local, international and vegan food such as Gnezdo Organic, which is next door to live music venue Jazz Basta, Mladost, Ludost and Tranzit.
The hypnotic and recently renovated Cooperative Building, adorned with statues including Venus with her cupids, is used to showcase future projects for the area. One of these, the Belgrade Waterfront project, relating to a plot on the east bank of the Sava, aims to turn Belgrade into the Dubai of the Balkans with new infrastructure, services, hotels, homes and offices, and the 180-metre Kula tower at its centre.
Under Brankov bridge, which connects the old city with the new city (Novi Beograd), is Beton Hala whose old sand processing warehouses now host an array of classy riverside bars and restaurants of all genres such as Cantina de Frida, Druga Pizza, Comunale, Toro Latin Gastrobar, Sakura and Iguana.
The imposing Church of Saint Sava is the heart of the Vracar district, together with the colourful Kalenic market. This pleasant residential zone is also home to the Nikola Tesla museum (51 Krunska) - where visitors can participate in electromagnetism experiments - as well as numerous cafes, kafanas and restaurants such as Restoran Dijagonala (6 Skerlićeva).
Another point of reference in this area is Trg Slavija, from which you can return to the city centre along Kralia Milana. Along the way, close to Majnez Park, is the Yugoslav Drama Theatre, rebuilt following a fire in 1997 and, opposite, Cvetni Trg, a little square filled with bars. Kralia Milana is also home to student cultural association Studentski Kulturni Centar and the Delphi bookshop with its international and Serbian books. Looming over the district is Beogradanka tower, from where you can carry on towards Terazije or head to Kneza Milosa, a road filled with institutions and embassies.
Novi Beograd, the New City, can be reached by crossing the River Sava on Brankov Bridge, which affords some of the most stunning views of the city and the river. This part of the city, constructed following World War Two, is a typical example of Communist architecture, the residential area designed in identical blocks. The 35-floor Genex Tower, meanwhile, is an example of the Brutalist stylistic variant. Other buildings belonging to major multinationals have been constructed in recent years to give Novi Beograd the appearance of a Balkan city. The city's biggest shopping centres, Usce and Delta City, are located here.
Novi Beograd also flanks the Danube - a haven of boat clubs, pontoons and barges (splavovi) that have been turned into bars, fashionable restaurants and clubs - up as far as the picturesque village of Zemun.
Belgrade boasts plenty of parks but the area just outside the city is even greener. Senjak, for example, is home to the Mausoleum of Tito and numerous plush villas and residences. From here it is easy to get to Topcider Park where the locals go to escape the city heat. Nearby is Ada Ciganlija, an island on the River Sava with an artificial lake and beaches from which you can enjoy the “Belgrade sea”, all of which in the shadow of Ada Bridge, the longest single-pylon bridge in the world.