Belgrade is the capital city of Serbia and has a population of around 1.7 million. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe and has since ancient times been an important crossing of the ways where the roads of eastern and western Europe meet. The city lies on two international waterways, at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, which surround it on three sides. Because of this position, Belgrade is fittingly referred to as the Gateway to the Balkans and the Door to Central Europe.
Belgrade is the only European capital on the banks of two international rivers, namely the Sava and the Danube. The medieval town of Singidunum, which has been known by the Slavic name of Belgrade since 878, was built at the site where the Belgrade Fortress and the Kalemegdan park are situated today, above the place where the Sava flows into the Danube. Only in the 19th century did the town spread to the right bank of the Sava, where Novi Beograd, connecting Belgrade with Zemun, was built, and in recent years towards the right bank of the Danube and the town of Pancevo.
It is one of the oldest towns in Europe. It has a 7000-year-old history and the oldest archaeological findings date back to 5th millennium AD. Due to its auspicious geographic position, it was exposed to numerous invaders and was under the influence of many civilizations, such as those of the Celts, the Thracians, the Romans, the Huns, the Goths, the Byzantines, the Hungarians or the Turks. As many as 40 armies have conquered Belgrade and as many as 38 times it rose again from the ashes.
Belgrade was utterly devastated in World War II and many innocent people were killed in bombings by the Nazis and the Allies alike. Only several hundred thousand citizens of Belgrade survived the war. Today, the population numbers 1.6 million. There are some 300 cultural monuments in Belgrade, more than 70 libraries, 30 theatres, 50 museums, 40 churches and more than 700 archaeological sites. Belgrade boasts magnificent cultural and historical edifices, such as, among others, the Belgrade Fortress and the Orthodox Cathedral.
As a tourist destination, Belgrade is also famous for its nightlife, gastronomy and excellent restaurants. It is surrounded by natural resorts such as Mt Avala and Mt Kosmaj, as well as the Big War Island, on the river Danube, in the very heart of Belgrade, with a visitors' centre where one can observe 200 bird species and 50 mammal species. One can also go for a swim at Ada Ciganlija, an island on the river Sava, with pebbly beaches and numerous sports and recreational facilities. Guests to Belgrade can also visit a downtown bohemian quarter of Skadarlija, reminiscent of the 19th century life of numerous famous artists and poets, and can also walk along the most central Belgrade street, Knez Mihailova, which is a pedestrian zone and which, when it comes to urban planning, takes its descent back to Roman times.
Belgrade has a moderate continental climate, with an average temperature of 11.7oC. The Košava - a southeasterly and easterly wind which brings clear and dry weather in intervals of two to three days, mainly in autumn and winter - is characteristic to Belgrade.
Belgrade is the capital of Serbian culture, education and science. It is home to the highest concentration of nationally important science and art institutions: the Serbian Academy of Science and Art, founded in 1886 as the Serbian Royal Academy; the National Library of Serbia, founded in 1832; the NationalMuseum, founded in 1841 and the National Theatre, founded in 1869. The city is also home to BelgradeUniversity, founded in 1869 as the High School, as well as the Arts University.