Kraljevo is a royal name with a royal name meaning “royal city“. This ceremony was held in Zica, a magnificent monastery from the 13th century on the edge of the city decorated with original frescoes. If you have a penchant for medieval art and history, you’re in luck because the fairytale castle Maglic and many more monasteries are near Kraljevo. Magic rises far above the river Ibar, which in itself is a sight to behold in early May when the lilacs planted in the Middle Ages bloom. Try to be here for the Merry Descent in July when tens of thousands of people descend downstream to Kraljevo in a light, drunken flotilla.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Kraljevo:
Catch a taxi or bus to this monastery, which is appreciated for what the building means as much as the architecture on display.
The monastery was ordered by Stefan Prvovencani (also responsible for Maglic Castle, which appeared next time). In the Middle Ages, the Serbian king was not officially king until he was anointed in Zica, so since the 13th century, seven kings have been crowned here.
There is a neat symmetry because the monastery also has seven doors.
The frescoes of the churches are amazing, the oldest ones go back to the year 1200 and show scenes like the Assumption of the Virgin and the Orthodox type, Christ the Pantokrator..
An incredible sight from any angle, this 13th-century castle sits on an impassable promontory hundreds of meters above a meander in the Ibar River. Its name comes from the Serbian word “Magla” for fog, and in winter these walls are often covered in fog. In the courtyard, you can see the ruins of the barracks, the palace, and the church, while the outer walls with seven towers have been restored. There are wooden paths and stairs that help you enjoy the view of the mountains and the Ibar Valley.
Check out the hotels in Kraljevo, Serbia.
A little west of the center of Kraljevo, the National Museum is located on a nice square next to the cathedral and opposite the park of St. Sava. This beautiful neoclassical building from the 19th century houses permanent exhibitions of art, archeology and ethnography, which were reconfigured in 2008. You can indulge your curiosity about the medieval Royal, Ottoman period and learn about the litany of conflicts the city was caught up in. In the 19th and 20th centuries, bourgeois life was dedicated in the city, as well as the dark story of the mass execution of the Nazis in October 1941.
The rigid walls of the Ibar river gorge below Maglic are decorated with lilac trees.
According to legend, King Stefan Uroš I placed them as a romantic gesture for his betrothed Helena of Anjou. She was a French princess and helped usher in an era of learning and culture in the 13th century. The purple flower appears at the beginning of May, and for the last decade, this event has been marked by the “Lilac Days” festival. At that time, medieval themes were held in the Maglič castle and the monasteries of Zica and Studenica.
In English “Merry Descent” Veseli Spust is a non-competitive regatta down the Ibar from Maglič to Kraljevo.
This is a big, silly flotilla in early July, with up to 20,000 people joining whether it’s sunshine or a downpour. Boats can be quite improvised, with people crossing in wooden rafts, old military docks, and inflated tires. There is no real danger because the river is shallow and slow-moving. On the picturesque 25-kilometer road, you can hear the strains of strong brass bands and catch the smell of barbecue.
Revelers also use buckets to throw water at people on other boats, in good spirits of course.
Lord Vasa’s Konak
In most cities in central and southern Serbia there are “Konaks“, and they started as residences for senior administrators in the Ottoman Empire.
The style was adopted after the Turks were overthrown, and this is the case with this prominent house from 1830 in the center of the city. Lord Vasa’s residence was commissioned by Prince Miloš Obrenović as a residence for the city’s bishop and is located in the leafy surroundings of St. And it remained the seat of the diocese until 1941. It is a beautiful semi-detached building, with stone walls up to the first floor, under a beautiful wooden gallery covered with extended canopies.
It now houses an orthodox spiritual center dedicated to the influential mid-20th century bishop Nikolaj Velimirović.
Serbian Warriors Square
Something we haven’t mentioned about Kraljevo is the extraordinary appearance of the city.
Prince Miloš apparently designed it: he drew a very rough sketch of what he wanted in a pan filled with sand with his finger, and the architect Laza Zuban did it in action. Around the circular central square, Serbian Warriors Square (Trg Srpskih Ratnika), there is a very organized grid system. This space has a lot of gravitas at street level and you can spend some time there as it is home to the tourist office. In the center is an impressive monument to those who died in the Second Balkan War and the First World War, which opened in 1932.
Cathedral of St. Trinity
The King’s Cathedral has an interesting origin story, including the first prince.
Miloš Obrenović stayed in Kraljevo during the Second Serbian Uprising at the beginning of the 19th century. He made his camp at the place where the church is today. At that time, there was only a small wooden building that served as a Christian place of worship in the Ottoman kingdom. It is said that Miloš promised God that he would build this church if he helped him defeat the Turks. After the liberation, Miloš fulfilled his promise and the building was erected between 1824 and 1839.
On the winding road next to the Ibarska Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s one trip you simply have to make. UNESCO describes Studenica as the largest and richest monastery in Serbia. Studenica was founded in 1100 by Grand Duke Stefan Nemanja and two churches were built of white marble. The place is almost dreamlike, with epic mountain backdrops and circular forts surrounding the complex. In the Church of the Virgin and the Royal Church, there are frescoes from the 1200s and 1300s, in excellent condition considering their age and the time in which they lived.
Hermitage Cell of Saint Sava
When you go to the Studenica monastery, bring some walking shoes, because you can even reach the river bank to start this network of monastic cells, carved out of the cliff face. It is claimed that Saint Sava himself lived in that monastery in the 13th century, and today there are still monks who will show you around. The cells are about 12 kilometers or a two-hour walk from the monastery and pass several interesting places. One of them is the marble quarry that the great prince Stefan Nemanja used for the construction of monastery churches.
If you want to dine in Kraljevac taverns, you must schedule a visit to the tavern, a traditional Balkan tavern.
A meal in one of these establishments is a kind of crash course in Serbian hospitality and culture.
Meals include six courses, bands will play folk music, and encourage everyone in the establishment to sing along. A few Taverns to keep in mind in Kraljevo are Cutura, Tavern Stab, and Tavern Carsija on the market. Some of the dishes offered by the tavern are meze, shop salad (cubes of feta, cucumber, tomato, onion), soups, and grilled meat. The lamb, pork, and beef are always worth trying, and it comes in a cake or a pie.