When you head east from the busy and overcrowded Belgrade, following the course of the Danube river, in less than an hour’s drive through hilly, orchards and vineyards enrichened landscape, you reach Smederevo, the former capital of the Serbian Despotate, medieval Serbian state, and today the center of the Danube region.
This city, inhabited by just under 100,000 people, is fascinating at first glance, already with its geographical position on the river bank, just before the confluence of the Great Morava into the Danube, on the slightly bumpy surface of the Pannonian Basin. Therefore, the settlement has existed here since the time of the ancient Romans, who poetically called it The Golden Hill (Mons Aureus).
The first association to Smederevo is usually the Fortress, the throne city of 15th-century despot Đurađ Branković, officially the largest plain fortress in Europe. It is a gathering place for tourists from all over the world, so you should not be surprised by the “hordes” of Asians armed with modern smartphones, which admire the famous windows carved in the stone of the former grand hall for the reception of the despot’s court in the Small Town of the Fortress.
With a good guide, you’ll also find here the legends of the Damned Jerina, Vuk the Fiery Dragon, and many other stories based on a history well mixed with mythology. During your visit of this imposing structure, spanning on over 11 acres and surrounded by water, you will wonder repeatedly how it was possible to construct it in just 11 years, without modern construction techniques, from stone pulled from Golubac and connected by mortar into which chicken eggs were added in order to hold better. From the Tower of the Small Town, it offers fantastic views of the Danube and a big part of the city, making the famous Jerina’s Tower the favorite place for Instagram addicts, who sometimes wait in line to create the perfect selfie.
During the summer, film and theater festivals take place at the Fortress, and if you arrive at the right time, you can also enjoy the battles of medieval knights, in authentic costumes and with faithfully reconstructed weapons. This year, in May, the Fortress hosted the spectacular “Battle of the Nations”, a competition in knightly combat that was attended by as many as 2,000 fighters from 39 countries.
A good time to visit Smederevo is the very beginning of September when the traditional event “Smederevo Autumn Festival” is held. September 6-8, the Fortress and the streets of the city celebrate grapes and wine, along with the carnival atmosphere. This event has been held since 1888 and has grown from a fair with the grape harvest occasion into the most significant tourist and economic event of the Danube Region, visited by about 100,000 visitors a day.
Smederevo is a city of hedonism and has enjoyed the benefits of its fertile soil for centuries. Prince Miloš Obrenović liked to come here for rest, so in the village of Plavinac, 4 km from the city center, back in 1829 he bought a property and built a summer house. King Milan and Queen Natalija hosted court parties here and gathered famous artists and writers. A courtyard park was built around the villa “Golden hill”, with a beautiful view of the Danube and the Pannonian Plain. Here they drank wine and talked wisely while looking at the river Milan Rakić, Laza Kostić, Milovan Glišić..
When Milan and Natalija divorced, the queen rearranged the building, and in order to make it all the way she wanted, she hired the famous court architect Jovan Ilkić, the same one who designed the National Assembly in Belgrade, the Moscow Hotel and the Officers’ Home where today is the Student Cultural Center.
After World War II, this was the favorite meeting point of the party officials of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, known as the Federal Executive Council Villa. It has long been closed to the public, and today it is possible to visit exclusively organized and with prior notice.
Even those who find themselves in Smederevo by accident, without a plan, will enjoy the good entertainment, excellent food and famous wines, which today produce numerous wineries.
It is enough to take a walk from the main city square, dominated by the Temple of the Holy Martyr George the Victorious, through the King Petar Street down the Danube river.
There are more than 40 catering establishments in this one of a kind city promenade that will pleasantly surprise you with its variety, design, and offer.
From lovely pastry shops to hipster cafes designed by famous Serbian architects and pubs for high-quality craft beer from Smederevo, to old school restaurants with checkered tablecloths and metal ashtrays – everything is at your disposal and whatever you choose you won’t make a mistake.
The gastronomic offer is as rich and varied, and in addition to traditional Balkan cuisine, you can enjoy great Italian food and, of course, the specialties of fresh Danube fish. The most pleasant surprise will come when you get the bill – Smederevo caterers will make you happy with low prices comparing with the capital prices. At the end of King Petar Street, the Danube awaits you and, if you arrive at the right time, a spectacular sunset that you will remember forever.