Happy Monday my dear fellow readers! If you live in the northern hemisphere like me, you have probably switched back your clocks one hour and acknowledge that winter is officially coming soon! Nevertheless, snuggle up and enjoy today’s postcard from Zemun, one of the most historical and beautiful neighborhoods in Belgrade.
A short but rich history lesson first: Zemun’s history dates back over 7,000 years, having endured numerous empires including the Romans, Turks and finally Austro-Hungarians. This charming neighborhood overlooks Belgrade directly across the Danube river and its historical location played a significant role in the past; having served as a very important commercial harbor on the “Vienna-Istanbul” river route in the 19th century.
While Belgrade was occupied by the Turks and resembles a plethora of Ottoman inspired designs, Zemun was influenced by various parties of the Austro-Hungarian empire and its architecture and spirit reflect European charm. Once the greatest of rivals, the two settlements finally came together with the collapse of the Turkish empire and formed an inseparable bond – although Zemun residents will never admit they are from Belgrade (myself included, I am registered in Zemun after all). 😉
Passing through the main streets you will notice several pedestrian zones which are connected to trgs (meaning squares). The most popular one is called Veliki trg (Large square) and is a common meeting point for locals and tourists. The square hosts various markets all year round and is well known for its charming Christmas markets where you can enjoy yummy treats, souvenirs and goodies during the winter months. Zemun is itself also a centre for the Arts offering a variety of authentic family galleries, antique shops and theatres such as Pinokio – the only authentic puppet theatre in Belgrade, where children can enjoy performances based on themes of classical fairy tales.
Rising above the beautiful river, narrow cobblestone streets will guide you to Gardos Hill, the heart of Zemun where you catch glimpses of Millennium Tower. Left behind as the only remnant of Zemun fortress, this impressive monument was built in 1896 to celebrate 1,000 years of Hungarian rule. Towering an impressive 36 metres above the city, Millennium Tower offers the most picturesque panoramic views of the charming neighborhood. The first floor of the tower is an art gallery dedicated to Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovic – who was the first to explain how climate change affects Earth. The tower walls are embellished with thousands of names and signatures dating back to 1901 – can you imagine how many people have been to this exact same spot over a hundred years, admiring the same view? Simply breathtaking!
Zemun’s picturesque riverside promenade is dotted with taverns, pubs and upscale restaurants offering the freshest seafood, delicious wines, and priceless views of the river – my personal favourite is the restaurant “Saran” which serves the best shrimp stuffed calamari, served on a bed of risotto I have ever tasted! Yum!
While wandering through Zemun’s 2.5km long promenade, take a moment to reflect on the rich history and culture which this neighborhood has endured over time. Hop on board any of the numerous restaurants for a quick bite…and eventually once you reach Brankov bridge, take a snapshot of the gateway between Old and New Belgrade – it will leave you speechless, I promise.