Is there anything more festive that excessive consumerism at year-end? If Belgrade’s holiday lights haven’t lured you to the shops just yet, here are a few ideas about where to make last-minute holiday purchases in the city. If you feel the urge to splash out,, rather than waste money on tacky magnets or overpriced airport souvenirs, treat your loved ones – and yourself – to some great local design, handicrafts and delicacies.
If you are after some signature Belgrade street style, look no further than DechkoTzar (Gracanicka 16). Created by siblings Nikola and Nenad Radojcic, this brand is famous for funky t-shirts, some of which celebrate Belgrade in very creative ways. The latest series is dedicated to Serbia’s rivers and Yugoslav typography and is already coveted by Belgrade trendsetters.
If you fancy more upmarket designers, Ana Ljubinkovic (Kneza Sime Markovica 10) is famous for candy-coloured frocks and quirky shoes, which celebs like Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga have worn. For more stripped down, classic women’s wear, Dragana Ognjenovic’s (Cara Lazara 9) minimalist monochrome dresses are a good choice.
Finally, if hats are your thing, visit some of the last remaining milliners in Balkanska street and get anything from a standard flat cap to a fez – all at low prices. For less gaudy pieces of Serbian ethnic wear, check out the Ethnographic Museum (Studentski trag 13), which often stocks nice traditional sashes, or the Museum of Applied Arts (Vuka Karadzica 18), which offers a selection of medieval-style jewellery.
You can always find knick-knacks to haggle over at the stalls at the entrance to Kalemegdan park, but you can probably find more quality handicrafts and better deals at some of the increasing number of stylish concept stores in the city.
Makadam, a shop/café in leafy Kosancicev Venac, has a great selection of local design, from traditional to modern and from locally made crockery to pillows, all with the distinctive geometric Pirot-patterns.
If you are looking for proper antiques, check out Dub, a gem of a shop in Zetska 13. It is packed with anything and everything, from ornate shawls to antique carpets, all made by housewives all over Serbia. The knowledgeable owner is keen to tell the stories behind each item.
For contemporary crafts, Belgrade Design District (Cumicevo Sokace 28), nestled between Nusiceva and Republic Square, has everything from organic craft soaps (in All-Nut) to pottery (Galerija 1250).
Finally, if Yugoslav memorabilia is what you’re after, there is no better place than the new gift shop of the Museum of Yugoslavia (Mihaila Mika Jankovica 6). There, you can find Tito-shaped piggy banks as well as postcards with photos of “the greatest son of Yugoslav peoples and nations” sunbathing and playing tennis.
For delicious edible souvenirs for friends and family abroad, you can’t go wrong with a jar of ajvar, a traditional pepper-based spread. It is easy to get hold of the mass-market brands, like Bakina Tajna, in any supermarket. However, more artisanal homemade jars can be found at any of Belgrade’s green markets, such as Bajloni, at the bottom of Skadarlija. If you are going for homemade ajvar, ask the merchant if you can try some first. Make sure the lid is properly sealed.
If you have a sweet tooth, Bosiljcic, Belgrade’s last old-fashioned craft confectionery, at Gavrila Principa 14, is the place to go. It stocks homemade Turkish delight, a staple in Serbian homes since Ottoman times.
In the past few years, however, Belgraders have become more interested in craft chocolates. Two of the best places for these creations are Mandarina (Gracanicka 16) and Valentina i Karanfil (Gospodar-Jevremova 6), which not only offer novel flavours but chic packaging as well.
Another recent trend among Serbian foodies is local truffles (black and white), which are much cheaper than those coming from Istria and Italy. Fans of this pungent fungus can find it in anything from oil to chocolate at Damar Truffles (Zetska 2).
If it is a nice traditional tipple that you are after, go for Serbian rakija (fruit brandy) or wine. Fancy bottles of rakija at a slightly higher mark-up can be found at Rakia & Co shop (Terazije 42).
On the other hand, there is no better place for wine than the beautiful Finovino (Pop Lukina 6). There you can not only choose between dozens of producers but be guided by the extremely knowledgeable staff. However, if you are content with something less showy to stock up your drinks cabinet with, head to Cerpromet’s spirits and wine emporium in Kapetan-Misina 30. It has an excellent range of tipples, including Serbia’s own take on cognac, Vinjak.
If you want to go hipster and treat some craft-beer snobs in your life with local brews, head to 300 Cuda (Balkanska 21) or to Majstor za Pivo (Zorza Klemnsoa 18). They have some of the best local and foreign craft beer cans and bottles. For craft gin, head to the gin stall within the newly opened Beogradski Market (Zorza Klemensoa 19). You can buy some quality local and foreign bottles there and treat yourself to a nice G&T at the same time – an excellent way to calm your nerves after all the stressful shopping.
This article originally appeared in BIRN’s Belgrade Insight newspaper.