Skadarlija is a bohemian quarter of Belgrade and certainly the most well-known area of the city that preserves the spirit of the old Belgrade and its architecture. This area can be visited at any time of the day, since during the day it offers an extremely pleasant walk to,while during the night it changes its appeal with its bohemian spirit and mesmerizes with its charm both visitors and locals alike.
Skadarlija is called the area around the Street Skadarska in Belgrade. This relatively short street (around 600 meters) and the surrounding area are packed with small restaurants called kafana, which with their architecture and atmosphere preserve the spirit ofold Belgrade. For this reason the whole area was named the bohemian quarter, since to some extent it really preserves the soul of the city.
Before the urbanization of this area of Belgrade in 1870, this street was inhabited by the Gypsy population. It was a poor quarter where even a stream called Bibija flowed in the middle of the street. This stream was named after the Gypsy divinity of the Savior called Bibija. This stream exists even today, but was connected to the sewerage system and is not visible anywhere on the surface. After 1870 and the urbanization, this street was named Sakadarska, after the first Serbian city Skadar (nowadays in Albania). At this time the area underwent substantial changes which continued even later, with the aim of preserving the old Belgrade and its architecture.
Nowadays, this street with its dim lights and with its stone paved street preserves how Belgrade once looked, while with its numerous restaurants it preserves the soul of the city and only partially the once well-earned nickname bohemian quarter. During its history, because of its proximity to the National Theater, this street was visited by numerous actors who visited local kafanas after their theatre plays. Skadarlija was also visited by numerous writers, who left their mark on this important street of Belgrade. All in all, these people are to thank for the special kind of atmosphere that characterizes this place and that is still visible in some kafanas in Skadarlija.
Serbian Kafana restaurants
While writhing this article, as the author of the text, I realized that there is no translation for the Serbian word kafana in English. Usually, it is translated as a restaurant, but this could not be further from the truth. In Serbia, kafanas are restaurants that serve traditional Serbian food, but they are also a place for meetings, where people get together in order to spend quality time. Also, in most of these restaurants there is live traditional music throughout the night, meaning that for a Western visitor, kafana is more like a crossbreed between a restaurant and a nightclub. In addition, some of these “restaurants” were considered bohemian gathering places, since especially here in Skadarlija, numerous actors, writers and artists used to spend their time, creating a special atmosphere with their presence, loud discussions and sometimes even their performances. While a restaurant in western societies is often considered a place that serves food during lunch or dinner time, kafanas are places where people enjoy their time with family and friends, enjoy food and their drinks in loud conversations due to the music, where singing and dancing is more than welcomed.