The Belgrade Fortress is the most important historical site in Belgrade. Its position, overlooking the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, makes it a very unique place, because not many other cities have two big rivers. Views from the fortress are spectacular.
The city-fortress was first established in the 3rd century BC. For centuries, the city population lived within the walls of the fortress. Thus, its history was also the history of Belgrade.
Today, the fortress is a beautiful place, right in the heart of the city. You can go there to escape the crowds in the city, away from the noise and the traffic. You can also spend a peaceful morning or an afternoon, surrounded by history, while you enjoy the views.
The Belgrade Fortress is divided in the Upper and the Lower Town and Kalemegdan Park. Unfortunately, the lower section is neglected, despite the fact that it contains some historically very important structures. Anyway, the Upper Town and Kalemedgan Park are the most interesting for visitors.
The main entrance to the park starts at the end of Prince Mihailo street.
As soon as you enter, you will come across the “Unhappy Fisherman” fountain, by Simeon Roksandić. Famous for his bronzes and fountains, he was one of the most renowned sculptors in Serbia and Yugoslavia. He also made the same fountain for the Jesuit Square in Zagreb.
The Promenade and the Vista Point are one of several points within the fortress from where the views of the city are the best.
From there, you can see the Sava river and New Belgrade on the opposite side. You can also see the Belgrade Waterfront construction site and bridges over the river.
The Military Museum – founded in 1878, contains over 3000 ancient and modern artefacts. The collection includes Roman swards and helmets, Greek daggers, Serbian heavy knight’s armours, axes, shields, crossbows, armoured gloves and also western medieval weapons.
There are also more modern guns, firearms and elements of soldier’s uniforms and equipment. The first permanent display opened in 1904 and it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the First Serbian Uprising against the Ottoman rulers.
From there, the path takes you towards the central and the most prominent area of the fortress.
You can see below the Sava river and a glimpse of Danube. On the other side of the river is New Belgrade.
The Victor – is a symbol of Belgrade and its most famous landmark, erected in 1928. It commemorates Serbia’s victory over Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires during the First and the Second Balkan Wars and the First World War.
The monument is a standing bronze male figure with a falcon in the left and a sword in the right hand, as symbols of peace and war. It is on a pedestal in the form of a Doric column, on a tall cubic base. The statue looks forward, across the confluence of Sava and Danube and over the vast Pannonian plain, an area that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918.
A big scandal followed the creation of this statue. They originally wanted to erect this monument in the centre of Belgrade. However, the public challenged the erection of the monument in the city centre on moral and artistic grounds. The public made claims that the statue of a nude man insulted and damaged morality of chaste Belgrade ladies and girls. Thus, after a lot controversy, debate and criticism, they put the monument in its current position within the fortress.
To get to the section where the Victor is, you have to pass through the King’s Gate, which is one of several remaining original gates that led into the fortress.
It dates between 1690 and 1696.
The best view of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers is from the Victor.
The Damat Ali Pasha’s Turbeh – named after the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III. It was built in 1784, on the grave of Izzet Mehmed Pasha, another Grand Vizier and governor of Belgrade. The turbeh was badly damaged during the First Serbian Uprising. So, the Ottoman governor of Serbia, Marashli Ali Pasha, reconstructed it in 1819 and dedicated it to Damat Ali Pasha.
Another two governors that only administered the fortress, as Serbia gained autonomy, were also buried there: Selim Sirri Pasha in 1847 and Hasan Pasha in 1850. It is one of the very few remaining Ottoman architecture monuments in Belgrade.
The Despot Stefan Tower – is one of the oldest constructions within the fortress, built around 1405, several years after the city became the capital of the Serbian Despotate, under despot Stefan Lazarević.
The Zindan Gate – was built in the mid-15th century, between two round towers. From the 18th century, the Ottoman rulers used the towers’ basement as dungeons and the gate’s name originates from the Turkish word for dungeon – zindan.
The Ružica Church – is also within the Belgrade Fortress. The Ottomans demolished the original church with the same name in 1521. In the 18th century, the site was a gunpowder storage.
The church was further damaged during the First World War and rebuilt by the Russian architect in 1925.
The Clock Tower – is also one of the most important constructions within the Belgrade Fortress. The Venetian architect Andrea Cornaro built it in 1789. The gate under the tower carries the same name.
The Inner Stambol Gate – built around 1750 and named after Istanbul, was the main gate of the fortress, within the second city wall.
The Gallery of the Natural History Museum – in the Kalemegdan Park serves for exhibitions, educational workshops and conferences. It’s a small gallery, but it contains a lot of of interesting exhibits.
The Karadjodje Gate – the Serbian leader of the First Serbian Uprising passed through this gate, to conquer the fortress from the Ottoman Turks, in 1806. The gate is from the 18th century.
The Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion – built in 1928, in the Art Deco architectural style, was the first venue specifically built in Belgrade as an art gallery. Cvijeta Zuzorić was a famous 16th century poet and benefactor from Dubrovnik.
The Belgrade Zoo – is also within the Kalemedgan Park.
It’s a small zoo, but it contains a lot of animals and it’s definitely worth a visit. The most recent addition to the zoo were two hyenas.
It was neglected for a long time but, in recent times, the zoo made a lot of effort to improve conditions in which they keep animals. Thus, newly renovated enclosures look good and spacious. However, in the large part of the zoo, the works are ongoing. It will certainly be interesting to visit it when they finish everything. The entrance is RSD 500, which is approximately £ 4 or Euro 5.
Every visitor to Belgrade will inevitably visit the Belgrade Fortress. It is a magical place where you can easily spend several relaxing hours, if not the whole day. It’s also a place from where you can see the breathtaking confluence of the two Belgrade’s rivers.
If you go to Belgrade, don’t miss it!