Overlooking the confluence of two rivers, and a green uninhabited island, Belgrade Fortress is the biggest attraction in Serbia’s capital.
The fortress and the area around it have been transformed into the city’s biggest and most beloved park. Both are commonly known as Kalemegdan.
The location of the city and Belgrade Fortress itself has made the area vital for all its former inhabitants. The settlement was initially formed in the first century, and the Romans, Byzantines, Serbs, Ottoman Turks and Austrians all built it up throughout two millennia.
Now, Belgrade Fortress is the city most recognizable attraction, is its symbol, and is a safe-heaven from the chaotic adjacent downtown.
People of Belgrade never stop visiting Kalemegdan fortress, regardless of their age. Kalemegdan park provides something for everybody, and there are always undiscovered spots, corners, benches, and views.
Belgrade Fortress has numerous monuments, all telling the story of the place it commands over. The ever-changing activities, rides, and tours here offer something new to do, even for the locals.
But the main reason Kalemegdan is so loved is that it’s a place where the citizens of Belgrade and their guests can congregate and coexist in a harmony that rarely exists beyond its walls.
Here’s our nine reasons for why Kalemegdan park and fortress is so great:
1: The location
Belgrade is home to roughly 2,000,000 people, and the tempo lived by the people is as fast-paced as in any European capital.
However the constant hurrying, traffic, and the big-city noise are all left behind as you step into the park.
The main entrance to Kalemegdan Fortress comes from Belgrade’s main pedestrian street – Knez Mihajlova. Which is one of the best indicators that this medieval stronghold is located in the very center of the city.
Kališ, which is a common term of endearment used by all generations, is Belgraders’ green oasis of tranquillity in the middle of the often grey White City.
2: The View
Billionaires often say that eventually they get bored of their luxurious goods, and that only views are the experiences that hold up over time.
You can test that theory by visiting and coming back to Belgrade Fortress’ main terrace. Dominating over the junction of Sava River and the Danube, Kalemegden grants its visitors with a memorable view.
The fortress is located at the tip of the hilly, old part of Belgrade, across the river from flat New Belgrade – a neighborhood built after World War II.
The third side of the confluence is covered by thick greenery. The contrast seen when looking over neighborhoods with modernist or socialist architecture from a medieval fortress can evoke a distinct sense of the tide of history.
The view is made even ethereal by the city and the park’s symbol – the monument Pobednik (Victor). Constantly enjoying the sights ahead of him.
3: Military Museum
Although Belgrade Fortress is mostly a location reserved for relaxation, that doesn’t mean it can’t keep a history buff interested.
Kalemegdan park is home to arguably the city’s best museum. Whilst ‘Military Museum’ might sound too aggressive for some, in reality it is a history exhibition. During the Yugoslavia era, all visiting foreign dignitaries were taken through the museum.
A linear, easy to follow display spans ages and centuries explaining the volatile history of the city and the country. And the entrance fee is symbolic, just 200 dinars for adults (less than €2), while kids pay 100 dinars.
4: The tank and cannons
If walking outside and enjoying nature is more your cup of tea, but history and military items are too, then you’re in luck. As Belgrade Fortress is also home to a constant outdoor display of heavy ordnance.
From the medieval to the post-WWII era, cannons, tanks, rocket launchers, torpedoes, and other such items are all found across several trenches around the fortress.
Although these are features that are not common in parks across Europe, they do remind visitors of the original purpose of this now-beautiful estate.
5: Outdoor art exhibits
Even though the name Kalemegdan comes from the Turkish words for “hill” and “battleground” the park isn’t all about war.
The city organizes quality art, photography and painting exhibits across the pathways around Belgrade Fortress.
Just like the entrance to the fortress itself, no admission is charged for these displays.
6: Powder keg
In the spring and summer, hugging the cliff and facing the river, a new sort of entertainment can be found at Belgrade Fortress.
There is an open-air electronic music club tucked inside the medieval walls of the fortress called Barutana – or the Powder Keg.
The original purpose of the area was to store gunpowder which the defenders of Kalemegdan Fortress would use to fend off invaders. Nowadays, techno, psy, trance, and other types of electronic music echo from the stone walls as the venue hosts renowned names from the scene on a weekly basis.
The club was opened in 1995 but closed down in 2003. Luckily, in 2014 the powder keg was reignited and it’s sound is exploding louder than ever.
Other areas of Kalemegdan Park are the setting to great parties and music festivals – some in the trenches and some keeping Pobednik company.
7: Kalemegdan Zoo
While the squirrels are the most common dwellers in the park, far more exciting animals guard the fortress nowadays too.
On the northern side of Belgrade Fortress, is where the country’s oldest and biggest zoo can be found.
The zoo has a surprising diversity of animals on show. Elephants, leopards, lions, tigers, crocodiles and many, many other animals. This is one of the favorite places for Belgrade’s children.
8: Belgrade Fortress restaurant and coffee places
Tucked into the walls of Belgrade Fortress, as well as the park’s green spaces, are several coffee places and restaurants.
The eateries are spread out amongst Kalemegdan Park, but are designed to not disrupt the vibe of the stronghold and make it another tourist spot.
After walking the city’s biggest park then grab a drink or a bite to eat under the medieval towers, all whilst enjoying the view. This might just be the best way to recharge before exploring the rest of Belgrade Fortress.
One coffee spot, Beogradski pobednik, is located so customers can enjoy a view of Sava River. The other two are near the zoo.
Restaurant Kalemegdanska terasa (Kalemegdan terrace), is a popular wedding location also – as who doesn’t want to start their fairytale in a castle?
9: The Church
Weddings in the Serbian Orthodox religion need to be conducted in a church, and Belgrade Fortress has two.
There may be no other place of worship in the world that has the history of Ruzica Church (church of a small rose) as its building was also used as a warehouse for gun powder originally.
Covered with greenery and guarded by two statues of soldiers from different eras, the church is like something out of a fable.
Ruzica and the nearby’s St. Petka’s Church are both on the stone road leading down to the plain in front of the Fortress and the rivers.