Kalemegdan Park is Belgrade’s most well-known attraction by far, well for club-goers and many young city dwellers alike, than second most important thanks to the Splav river clubs lining the Sava River. However, Kalemegdan tops my list as my go to place in the city where you can sit, people watch, and experience the dynamic people inhabiting this city. It is the largest park in the city as well as the most important historical monument in Belgrade. It was built in 535 A.D by Byzantine Emperor, Justinian I. This was a very important geostrategic location as it is where the Danube and Sava rivers meet connecting the east to west. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times depending on empires in power and conquerors passing through the region. Today, it is a beautiful place to have a gorgeous view of the city and come relax with both tourists and locals alike.
Entering the Park
As you enter the park from Knez Mihailova Promenade, you pass a few souvenir stands selling some of the region’s traditional goods like leather slippers, rakija (fruit brandy) drinking glasses, wool sweaters and more, and you head to the left towards the river Sava. As you pass, on your left you will see the Fisherman Fountain, which was made by Serbian sculptor Simeun Roksandić and presented on a large Balkans Exhibition in London, in 1907. Just after, you will see elderly men huddled over two men sitting at multiple tables playing an intense game of chess while sipping their beers in the late afternoon sun and maybe even a stray dog enjoying their company and boisterous demeanors. Usually there are interesting photo exhibitions lining the path leading to the big staircase which boasts a stunning view. As you walk along the fortress walls it will eventually lead you to the Victor Monument.
Just past the monument in another section of the park is where you will see locals, tourists, young and old sitting enjoying the stunning view looking out into where the Danube and Sava rivers meet. Looking out, all you see is a lush green forest that is the Great War Island.Though officially uninhabited, almost a dozen people live in small shacks in the island’s interior.They are mostly retirees who move to the island during the warm season and maintain their vegetable gardens, while in the winter they return to Belgrade. The sunset from this point is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life. I love coming here to meditate and feel at peace as the sun sets over the island. As the sun sets you can continue down towards the Despot Gate and Castellan Tower, which is often referred as to Eastern Upper town’s Gate. During the Middle Ages this was the main entrance to the Belgrade’s Fortress. On the other side of the gate you will see Terasa bar and lounge which is an incredible place to grab a drink while enjoying the views. At night it becomes a lively nightclub packed with Belgrade’s partying elite. I frankly prefer it during the day enjoying a nice cold lemonade or cider. One unfortunate thing is that each time I’ve been there for a drink the lion locked in its tiny cage in the Belgrade zoo, which is located just on the other side of the fortress walls, is roaring painful cries of desperation and solitude. As an animal lover, it is something that breaks my heart and is a reason I boycott the zoo due to the horrible conditions the animals have to live in.
Passing to the lower town
From the Terasa lounge you can continue down a brick staircase which leads you to something out of Game of Thrones, which is the Ruzica (little rose) church, covered completely in vines that blow in the wind like wheat in the field. It is a Serbian Orthodox church which was converted into a military church between 1867 and 1869. It was heavily damaged during WWI but was renovated in 1925. Continuing down the cobblestone path you will see another small church tucked away called St. Petka’s Church which was built in 1938 over a spring with healing water. Although it is a tiny chapel, it is mighty and completely surrounded with astounding mosaic and the holy well. Someone should really point out to Game of Thrones producers at it really is something out of this world that could only be further accentuated cinematically.
As you descend to the bottom of the park, into the Lower Town, you will see an old Turkish Hamam Bath originating from the eighteenth century and was victim to powder magazine explosions after being reconstructed to its original form in 1961. In this part of the park, you will see mostly local dog walkers and their dogs running around the fields chasing each other and enjoying the vast play area. One of the most interesting ruins of the fortress is the Gate of Carlo VI located in this part of the park. It was built in 1736 in honour of the tsar Carlo VI, “the great conqueror of Belgrade”. From here you can continue your walk along the beautiful riverfront promenade that leads you to many great bars and restaurants built on the river’s edge.
Enjoying the sunset from the park is a favourite experience of mine in Belgrade. The colours are unlike anything I have ever seen and as long as the sky is clear of clouds, you are guaranteed to have a jaw-dropping sunset in the distance. Teens and young adults come to chat over some beers with friends enjoying the stunning backdrop while sitting along the wall. Most of the time, you can see couples strolling the park as it is THE most romantic spot in town by far. Others come alone to spend time in thought and enjoy the peacefulness being in the park and taking in the view brings to an individual. The enchantment of the park brings all types of people together in one spot to enjoy the city’s natural beauty. Belgrade is a city well-known for the people being outdoors in the parks. From old ladies sitting on a bench chatting about the weather, to young couples kissing on a bench, to families with their pets, parks like these bring people together every single day. It’s a great place to people watch and truly understand what being from Belgrade is like.