Zemun 101: Things to Do in Belgrade’s Hidden Gem

Zemun is one of Belgrade’s coziest hidden gems! It used to be a separate city until 1934 when it was merged with Belgrade and became its neighborhood. To this day, Zemun has kept a completely different vibe compared to other parts of Belgrade. Once you visit, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a town within the city.

Girl with a hat on her head looking at Gardoš Tower in Zemun
Image by volim_cipele0 from Pixabay

In Zemun, you’ll get a chance to explore many new places, eat amazing food, party like there’s no tomorrow, and learn about its staggering history. Zemun used to be the bordering town of the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, and both of these currents can be felt in Zemun’s architecture and way of life.

This article will cover some of the best things to do in Zemun, coming from a local who’s lived here for the past 3 years. Let’s find out more about it!

Take in the View from the Gardoš Tower

Sitting on top of a hill that overlooks the entire Zemun and the river Danube, Gardoš Tower has one of the best views in the city. You can even see Kalemegdan and the rest of Belgrade from here. Gardoš is also known as the Millenium Tower, and it was built in the late 19th century to celebrate a millennium of Hungarian settlement in the region.

A view of Zemun and Danube River from the top of the Gardoš Tower
Photo by Nikola Cirkovic on Unsplash

The view is beautiful even from the ground right next to the tower, but if you’re not afraid of heights, you can enter the tower and climb to the viewpoint. If that’s not your cup of tea, there’s something else you can do. Right next to the tower, you’ll find a cozy bar where you can enjoy coffee or a beer while overlooking the river and the town.

A Gardoš Tower
Last Saturday in Zemun” by CharlesFred is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Coming down from the hill to the center of Zemun and the riverfront is an experience in itself. You’ll stroll along the cobblestone streets, passing by cozy shops and restaurants, taking in the beauty of the neighborhood.

Stroll Along the Zemun Riverfront – Zemunski kej

As you get down from the Gardoš Tower, you’ll slowly reach the riverfront of the Danube river. The river is very wide here, and sometimes when I sit here, I feel like I’m right next to the seaside.

Swans in the Danube River on Zemun Promenade
Image by Stevan Aksentijevic from Pixabay

All along the quay, you’ll find many bars, cafes, and restaurants. No matter what you like to eat, you’ll find something tasty here – from seafood to Serbian traditional meals, to steaks, all the way to Italian food. If you like long walks, the long promenade can take you all the way to Ušće, to Brankov Most, and right back into the city center.

Explore the Nature on the Great War Island & Beach Lido

Like swimming in rivers, and want to take a dip in the Danube? During the warm summer days, there’s a pontoon bridge that connects Zemun and the Great War Island. As soon as you get down from the bridge, you’ll come across one of Belgrade’s most popular beaches, Lido.

Great War Island is a protected nature reserve and is a real sanctuary right within the city. You can go on and explore the island, or stay on Lido and enjoy the sunshine. Besides crossing the bridge, there are more ways to pass the river – with a canoe or a SUP you can rent out in one of the places on the New Belgrade quay (a great option is Daska i Veslo). 

Watch a Play in the Madlenianum Opera & Theatre

For fans of opera, ballet, and theatre, Madlenianum is the perfect place to finish your daily visit to Zemun. The theatre is located on Glavna Street (the main street) in Zemun. If you’re interested in visiting, you can also buy tickets online before you get there.

Try Some of the Amazing Food

One of my favorite things about Zemun is its rich culinary scene. Starting with the open market, where you can buy a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, dairy and meat products, and a lot more. Besides that, there are a lot of fast food joints, where you can grab girice (small fried fresh), or try Serbian burgers (pljeskavice).

Image by Zan Andjic from Pixabay

If you’re visiting in the morning, make sure to stop by one of the bakeries for burek (a type of pie), a local specialty. For lunch or dinner, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from steaks, fish & seafood, to local specialties. Zemun’s culinary scene is a true gourmet experience.

Experience Zemun’s Nightlife

If you’ve already spent some time in Belgrade, then you know that this city never sleeps. The same goes for Zemun. The nights start late and finish even later. For clubbing, your best option would be to go down to the river to some of the popular clubs and splavs.

An image of a bar with a large number of alcohol bottles displayed
Photo by Chan Walrus

On the other side, if you want a more chill atmosphere, you can stay in the city center & the pedestrian zone, where you can find many pubs and bars to hang out. The best thing is that all of these places are quite affordable, so you won’t go broke after a one-night out in Zemun.

Visit the Zemun’s Synagogue and Learn About its Odd History

Zemun is full of bizarre stories, and the story of Zemun’s synagogue is no different. Before WWII, Zemun had quite a large Jewish community. Unfortunately, due to the tragic events of the war, more than 95% of the local Jewish population fled the country, passed away, or disappeared.

Zemun Synagogue
Sinagoga Zemun by Matija is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The synagogue remained abandoned, and during Milošević’s governance in the 90s, it was sold to private owners. That’s where the bizarre history starts. The synagogue was turned into a rock club, and then into the traditional Serbian restaurant, which remains to this day.

There are plans to revert the building back into a synagogue, but it remains uncertain when this will happen.

Witness Zemun’s Days of Diversity

Zemun used to be a bordering town between the Austrian and the Ottoman Empire, with many different cultures and religions living together – Ottomans, Jews, Germans, Hungarians, Serbs, and more. During WWII, the town lost the majority of the German and Jewish residents.

The traces of the town’s diverse past can be found all around the neighborhood. Within the walking distance from one another, you’ll find the former Ashkenazi synagogue (yep, the one with the restaurant inside of it), catholic, protestant, and orthodox churches.

However, the most obvious evidence is the Zemun’s cemetery, located right next to the Gardoš Tower. While it might not be your first choice to stroll a graveyard, this one is definitely worth a visit. You’ll see people of many religions buried one next to another. You’ll also see bizarre hyper-realistic monuments where the infamous local criminals were buried.

Zemun Things to Do

Photo by Boris Hamer

Zemun has so many great things to do that this list could go on forever. We wanted to keep it simple for you and pick out our favorite activities in the cute town within a city.

Now it’s up to you to go on and explore all that Zemun has to offer, and once you do, don’t forget to drop us a comment down below and tell us all about your experience!

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out our guide for visiting the Belgrade Fortress, Kalemegdan!

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