Serbia’s popularity in global travel circuits often gets overshadowed by the other Balkan States and glitzy European destinations like Paris and Milan. Most people remember Serbia as the conflict-riddled nation behind the European escalation that led to World War I. But when you take off the historical lens, you see Serbia as the ultimate destination to enjoy the most unorthodox and budget-friendly European adventure.
Serbia is home to an abundance of intriguing landforms, attractions and unusual experiences. You can explore a monument dedicated to plumes, visit a church featuring chandeliers carved out of weapons, and walk through an entire tower built with skulls of vanquished enemies.
Read on to explore some must-have unusual experiences one can only enjoy in Serbia.
1. Visit the Skull Tower of Nis
Situated in the city of Nis in southeast Serbia, the Skull Tower was erected in 1809 on the orders of Turkish General Hurshi Pasha. Using the skulls of enemies to construct monuments and towers is an ancient practice observed in multiple European and Middle Eastern cultures. The Ćele Kula or Skull Tower was built from the skills of Serb fighters who had rebelled against Ottoman Rule.
Initially, the 15-feet tower featured 952 skulls, neatly arranged in 56 rows, with 17 skulls added to every row. When the Serbs claimed their independence from Ottoman Rule in 1830, the grieving families retrieved the skulls of their deceased to give them proper burials.
Today, the Skull Tower stands tall as a chilling reminder of an ancient warring practice, featuring 58 skulls that were left unclaimed. Travelers can explore the tower and the nearby chapel, constructed as a monument to symbolize the bravery and suffering of the Serbian nation.
2. Experience Bohemian Energy in Skadarska, Belgrade
Skadarska is Belgrade’s most vibrant neighborhood, dubbed as the city’s bohemian quarter to immerse oneself in art, culture and free-spiritedness. Skadarska is the home for artisans, actors, writers, poets and playbacks, given the proximity to the National Theatre and art galleries.
This quarter has an artistic vibe that one can experience everywhere, from the cobblestone trees and trendy bars to the historic Kafanas and homely inns. The Kafanas, the Serbian name for taverns, are the perfect spot to immerse oneself in old-world charm and antiquated ambience. You must explore the local art galleries and dine at the eateries serving delicious Serbian food.
The inns located in Skadarska are famous for serving guests with napkins and menus featuring handwritten poems.
3. Enjoy Serbia’s Unique ‘Kladionica’ Culture
Serbia is a nation of proud high-rollers and avid gamblers who believe that gambling is not merely a sport but a matter of masculine pride. The streets of Belgrade are lined with gambling dens, betting shops and taverns where people can play and drink.
If you watch through the streets of any city or town, you will pass by signs saying ‘Kladionica’. You will find these inviting betting shops everywhere you travel in Serbia, often featuring a club-like setting with a smoky atmosphere or a laidback café with multiple TV screens.
The Serbs love participating in lotteries and nationwide tournaments, and many of their statewide lotteries are donated to charitable organizations. Travelers who find gambling cultures intriguing can explore these gambling dens for an unusual experience.
However, if you’d prefer splurging your travel fund on sightseeing and lavish vacation rentals, you can explore online betting sites instead.
4. Explore a Church Featuring Chandeliers of Weapons
If you’re fascinated by ancient architecture and weaponry, you have to behold the wondrous architectural masterpiece that is Serbia’s Ružica Church. This quaint and adorable little chapel is nestled adjacent to the mighty Serbian Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade.
The chapel features extraordinary chandeliers, crafted entirely from parts dismantled from used canons, bullet casings and swords. This decoration gives the church an unusually macabre and gothic atmosphere and insight into a dark chapter of Serbian history.
Serbia is an endless treasure trove of unusual experiences, including bizarre statues, bridges that serve no purpose, and partisan monuments that share intriguing tales of Serbian history. We advise hiring a local guide to unravel these stories as it’s easy to dismiss the local attractions when you don’t understand their historic and cultural significance.