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  • Writer's pictureMatthias

The older they get...

The history of Belgrade's district of Dorćol (pronounced Dor-choll) is long and quite complex. Close to the fortress walls this part of town is where the first residential buildings outside of them were built, today among the oldest in the whole city. Several decades later these houses were vibrant with people of all backgrounds and origins – an image the Nazis (like many other good things) obviously put a cruel end to. And in more recent years the liveliness has returned and Dorćol has transformed into a home of trendy and hip, with cool bars and hidden beer gardens behind the old facades and young folk selling homemade fashion and vintage stuff. Only a few of the reasons why it made it on Time Out's list of the world's 50 coolest neighbourhoods 2019 and The Guardian's Top 10 of coolest European neighbourhoods 2020. Oh, the times they are a-changin'...

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Starting at the beginning it's worth mentioning, that Belgrade's oldest residential building still in use is located here, and has been for already 300 years now. The little grey house in Cara Dušana 10 was built 1724-1727 as the second of seven identical ones in what was the German part of Belgrade back then. Actually in the time before World War II pretty much the entire area was the multicultural heart of Serbia's capital, uniting, among others, Serbs, Turks, Germans, Roma and most of all Jews in its streets. But the Nazi bombing didn't leave much of the quarter and its 20,000 residents, not to mention the cruelties during the German occupation. One particularly gruesome crime is told in the non-fiction novel "Gotz and Meyer" (2003) by David Albahari. In March 1942 two SS officers murdered the entire workforce of the Jewish hospital in Visokog Stevana 2 as well as 800 patients in a mobile gas truck – within four days.


Once the war was over about 2,000 survivors left Belgrade for Western Europe and today only the Jewish street (Jevrejska) is reminiscent of the former community. Thankfully the Jewish Historical Museum (Jevrejski istorijski muzej) – located in a house solely built for the Jewish associations of Belgrade and Serbia in 1928 – is presenting the history of Judaism in Yugoslavia as well as the life and work of the local Jewish community in one permanent and additional changing exhibitions. Another religiously significant structure in the vicinity is the Bajrakli Mosque (Bajrakli džamija), the only surviving Islamic sacred structure in all of Belgrade – of which there were 273 at the time of the Ottoman Empire. Built in the second half of the 16th century and even used as a Catholic church during the first part of the 18th, the mosque was named after the Turkish word for flag (bayrak) because it used to hoist one to signal all the surrounding churches the beginning of prayers.

Photo by Sanja Kostić

Nowadays Dorćol is easily one of the best parts of Serbia’s capital to lose oneself in and set out on an expedition to find one or two hidden gems, mainly in the Upper Dorćol part south of the main artery Cara Dušana. Iconic coffee shops, vintage treasure troves and concept stores are just a few key words that should awaken your spirit of research. A trademark of Dorćol certainly are the wooden terraces on sidewalks and parking spaces that the various venues use to improvise an outdoor area, despite the heavily sloping streets.


Photo by Sanja Kostić

Some personal recommendations to get you started (or let you take a break from searching) are the picturesque backyard of 4 Dunje, Šmizla Vintage & Design Store – a true wonderland for old-timey stuff, especially sunglasses – as well as street café eklektika 40, one of Dorćol's latest little treasures. Here Turkish-born Halil sells great coffee and other drinks through nothing more than an opening in the house wall. Come by, enjoy the electronic beats and have a chat with the very warm-hearted Halil about Belgrade.


Undoubtedly one of the most magical curiosities in town is the Sava perfumery (Parfimerija Sava) at Kralja Petra 75. Since 1954 the tiny family business has been creating its own fragrances from natural essences in large bottles for little money, personally tailored to each customer by scent magician Nenad. Come by and show him your favorite perfume to sniff and he will spontaneously mix you an even better and certainly unique one. For all we know it might have been this "Serbian Grenouille" that gave Patrick Süskind the inspiration for his 1985 novel "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer".


Photo by Sanja Kostić

To finish off your day try either kitschy and colorful Blaznavac with its excellent 1 l cocktails, bohemian alternative club Strogi Centar in an old mansion or Strahinjića Bana street, also known as Belgrade's “Silicon Valley”, a nickname that came up due to the considerable density of women in the countless cafés, restaurants and bars who have clearly given their natural appearance a hand or two. Most of the clientele, however, tend to be more casual and so are the very diverse bars. From the late afternoon onwards, you can stroll and enjoy here very well, presenting your new old sunglasses and smelling of magic. And possibly plums.





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