You’ve probably heard about Belgrade but never came around to visit. Let us assure you that there are plenty of reasons to visit the Serbian capital. Belgrade is on the confluence of two great rivers: Danube and Sava. The city’s magnificent ancient fortress presides over both. Belgrade is a unique mix of crumbling architecture from different historical periods. The city has a plethora of traditional Balkan buildings, art nouveau palaces, brutalist jewels, and socialist superblocks. However, the one thing that sets Belgrade apart is the plethora of outstanding street art. Belgrade fell in love with street art a long time ago. Today, graffiti and street art of all kinds line the streets of Belgrade. Here are the best!
History of Belgrade Street Art
- 1 History of Belgrade Street Art
- 2 Where to Find Street Art in Belgrade
- 3 Street Art Tours in Belgrade
- 4 Where to Stay in Belgrade
- 5 Books on Street Art in Belgrade
Beginnings of Street Art in Belgrade
When Belgrade was the capital of Yugoslavia, back in the 1980s, it was not an isolated city. On the contrary, tapped into the international art scene, Belgrade was avant-garde, with a vibrant cultural and artistic scene. Street art first appeared in Berlin and Paris, and soon moved into Belgrade in the 1980s. The first graffiti artists that emerged in Belgrade (Beograd) were the so-called Fantastic Boys or the Rap City Crew. Belgrade’s most famous running street artist, Jens, conquered the streets. In its early stages, graffiti in Belgrade were colorful slogans and messages on walls. Fortunately, the authorities commissioned several artists to paint large scale murals on empty façades. From that moment on, street art became a fixture in Belgrade.
First Belgrade Mural
The first mural in Belgrade was a small scale painting on the wall of a craftsmen shop in Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra. Lazar Vujaklija painted it in 1970 to popular acclaim. Sadly, it fell into oblivion. However, the first large scale mural did survive. It’s the legendary Student Looking at the Wall that you can see on Rajiceva Street. Interestingly enough, the mural was a gift to the President of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito. Art Professor Cedomir Vasic wanted a mural on the wall across the Art Academy’s building. His student, Perica Donkov, won the competition. He used pictures of another student to complete the piece in 10 days.
The Collapse of Yugoslavia and Graffiti Revival
In the 1990s, with the collapse of Yugoslavia and the beginning of the civil war, Belgrade’s art scene collapsed too. In fact, the most famous artist at the time, Jens, left Belgrade to settle down briefly in Paris. He came back in 1994, and two years later established the Anonymous Graffiti Crew with the artist named Cobes. Both created graffiti with simple letters, colors, and shades. Their messages triumphed over their simple artistic style. Some of the famous ones were: Either Bomb Us, We Shall Repaint, Women Fart Too, and He is Done, meaning Milosevic. At the end of the century, other groups appeared, including the BGILLEGAL crew and the Anti Fascist Youth. The latter painted socialist and antifascist symbols into their pieces.
In 2003, graffiti jams were set as part of the Belgrade Summer Festival – BELEF. Truth be told, the first street art festival was held in the 80s. However, this time people were familiar with street art and wanted more. The festival’s jams of 2008 and 2009 were especially successful. Renowned world artists like Blek le Rat, Mark Jenkins, REMED, M-city, and BLU participated. BLU painted the Giant Man Eating a Tree with its building shaped teeth you can still see today on Pop Lukina Street. It immediately became one of Belgrade’s most beloved icons. You guessed it: we all hurt the environment.
Graffiti and Murals in Belgrade Today
Different types of graffiti and street art conquered Belgrade in the last decade. The new hotspots are three abandoned industrial areas turned into nightlife districts. Savamala, Cetinjska, and Dorcol Platz mostly attract creative people, including graffiti artists. Several art collectives or groups took over the graffiti scene. The Grupa JNA and the GTR creative groups are particularly active. Both groups produce black and white graffiti of famous Serbians. Though these tend to be realistic, their artistic techniques are simple. On the other hand, an anonymous group depicts cute animals with a clear message to promote veganism.
Where to Find Street Art in Belgrade
Savamala is the first former industrial area converted into a nightlife district. Bars, cafes, and cultural centers occupy crumbling old industrial warehouses east of Branko Bridge. Soon enough, colorful graffiti sprung up all over the area. The first one you notice looking from the bridge is the so-called Waiting for the Sun mural. Across the street, a giant whale floats above the city: The Imitation of Life. On the other side of Karadjordjeva Street, towards the Fortress, there is another famous mural: The Santa of Belgrade. Renowned French artist Remed drew Santa to protect Belgrade from further destruction.
Cetinjska, Skadarlija and Dorcol Platz
The clubbing area of Cetinjska is inside the former Belgrade Brewing Factory. Most of the bars and clubs hired graffiti artists to paint their façades. Thus, each space has a distinct character. On its west side, Belgrade’s historical taverns line bohemian Skadarlija. One of the city’s first large scale murals decorates the western wall of the factory, the one close to the street’s northern end. Dorcol Platz is an emerging neighborhood that follows the steps of Savamala. Next to its bars and restaurants, large graffiti and murals cover walls. Dorcol Platz is slowly, but surely becoming new graffiti central.
Zemun and New Belgrade
You might think that most of Belgrade’s street art is in the city center. Guess again. In recent years, several schools commissioned street artists to decorate their façades. The biggest mural in the city is the one that covers the wall of primary school Lazar Savatic in Zemun. In 2015, 12 artists from Serbia, Bulgaria, and Spain painted the so-called Magical Forest, a 500m2 mural. It’s an extraordinary fairy tale made of 12 stories. World-famous tennis player Novak Djokovic is on another wall of the same school. On the other hand, graffiti covers many of the post-war buildings that populate New Belgrade. Two of the best are large murals on a residential building in block 49 in Bezanijska Kosa. Art duo TKV + Pijanista painted the Charming Woman With Doves, while Endo + Sles did the Geometrical Puzzle With a Hook.
Street Art Tours in Belgrade
Since we love maps, we published the following one for you. It takes you to the best street art and graffiti Belgrade has to offer. It’s a lovely walk through most of the city. No worries: if you are hungry or thirsty, you can stop at any of the delicious eateries that dot Belgrade. On the other hand, if you like organized street art tours around Belgrade, you have several options. A group of local artists called Street Up organizes art tours around different areas of Belgrade. These include fun street art workshops. You’ll get an insight into graffiti art and discover secret jewels. If you don’t have much time, we suggest hiring comprehensive tours around the city that include street art. The Feel Like a Local tour takes you to places where we locals hang out. In addition to graffiti, you’ll discover hidden bars, cafes, and graffiti. Another option is the Alternative Walking Tour. They take you to unusual museums, shopping areas, and abandoned industrial districts.
Where to Stay in Belgrade
Belgrade is a large city with a fantastic tourist infrastructure. Naturally, there are plenty of great hotels in all price ranges, shapes, and sizes. We’ve selected the best hotels in the best locations so you can make the most of your stay. Hotel Moskva is an iconic Art Nouveau hotel in downtown Belgrade favored by famous actors, musicians, and politicians. We usually stay in the luxurious Metropol Palace, the best hotel in the city. Originally, the building was to be a congress center and the headquarters of the Communist Youth organization. However, Tito thought that the Capital of Yugoslavia needed a top-class grand hotel. Built in the 1950s, Hotel Metropol soon became the best in Yugoslavia. Even if you don’t stay here, pop in to check the outstanding mural in the lobby. The coffee at the bar and the views of the park are splendid.
Books on Street Art in Belgrade
As street art is becoming an integral part of Belgrade’s urban landscape, there is an ever-growing interest in it. At the moment, there is only one book dedicated exclusively to Belgrade’s street art scene: the Street Art Belgrade. Photographer Aleksandar Djordjevic showcases Belgrade’s best graffiti and with more than 500 color photographs. The book gives a historical and stylistic perspective on the topic. It also includes quotes from some famous local street artists like Artez, TKV, and Junk. Without a doubt, it is the book to have if you are into street art.