Tip: Visit Avala Luxurious views, a hotel with sphinxes, and «Cheerful Šumadija»

Words: Daniil Korzhuev
Photos: Junona Slavina

The only mountain within Belgrade’s territory — Avala — is perhaps the capital’s main natural attraction. Belgraders regularly come here to relax in nature, barbecue, and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city and the neighboring Šumadija. Starting from May 1st, the 400 bus route will be launched directly to the top of the mountain, making it even easier to reach Avala. We’ll tell you what to do on Avala, what to see, where to have coffee, and where to have lunch.

Where to Take a Walk

Tourism on Avala began at the beginning of the last century. In addition to the paths laid then, there are many undeveloped and even dangerous trails on the mountain. Special equipment may be needed to hike some of them. On the wild trails, you can encounter rare protected animals, mostly birds such as the quail hawk, the European honey buzzard, and the green woodpecker. It’s even easier to come across a mountain spring — water from the most famous one, Savinac, was once used in the Weiffert breweries, but now it is not suitable for drinking. Abandoned mines are also scattered chaotically around the mountain—the so-called «Roman Well» is the easiest to reach, as the mine is not fenced off, but caution is necessary. For a more classic leisure experience, there are equipped picnic areas and barbecue spots near the television tower.

What to See

The two main attractions on the mountain are the Monument to the Unknown Hero and the Avala Television Tower. The monument, dedicated to all fallen soldiers of World War I, was erected in 1938 according to the project of Croatian and Yugoslav sculptor Ivan Meštrović, another famous work of his being the Victor monument in Kalemegdan. The monumental mausoleum made of black granite is built in the neoclassical style. Inside, visitors are greeted by eight four-meter-high Caryatids dressed in the national costumes of the peoples of Yugoslavia.

Another important point on the mountain, near the mausoleum, is the Hotel «Avala.» It was built in 1928 according to the project of Russian architect Victor Lukomsky. The building combines elements of modernism and Serbo-Byzantine style, with particular attention drawn to luxurious arches and columns with capitals. And, of course, two sphinx sculptures at the entrance — work of another Russian émigré, artist Vladimir Zagorodnyuk. Not long ago, you could have coffee and a snack on the charming terrace here, but now the hotel is closed, and its future is uncertain.

The tallest structure in Serbia and the Balkans, the Avala Television Tower, took five years to build — more than 4,000 tons of reinforced concrete were used during construction. The project was completed in 1965, but in 1999, as a result of NATO bombings, the tower was destroyed. Until the collapse of the Twin Towers, «Avala» was the tallest collapsed building in the world. Reconstruction began in 2006, and in 2010, Belgrade regained one of its main symbols. The tower’s height is now 204 meters, two meters taller than the original. The observation deck with stationary telescopes is located at a height of 122 meters — offering a magnificent view of Šumadija and the best possible view of Belgrade.

Where to Have Coffee

One floor below the observation deck, at a height of 119 meters, there’s a café with a panoramic view and a simple menu consisting mainly of sandwiches. Prices here are, to put it mildly, inflated, but if your goal is to enjoy coffee with a breathtaking view, order a mocaccino or a refreshing freddo cappuccino and «uživajte».

Where to Eat

Mitrovićev dom

Right at the foot of the tower is the restaurant Mitrovićev dom. The building is modern but it is a replica of the oldest mountain lodge in Serbia, which burned down in 2012. On the menu, you’ll find familiar dishes of traditional Serbian cuisine and a couple of specialties, such as butkica in horseradish sauce, veal cooked under a sač, and lamb in milk.

• Zaselak Toranj na Avali 8 • Link

Čarapićev Brest

Another mountain lodge with a restaurant, Carapicev Brest, was built in the middle of the last century at the place where, according to legend, Serbian war-leader Vasa Čarapić called on the residents of a neighboring village to revolt against the Turks. Here you can taste roast veal, medallions with mushrooms, and «Cheerful Šumadija» — roasted pork fillet stuffed with cheese and homemade dry-cured bacon.

• Fricka Lohe 32 • Link