The history of Belgrade’s streets is closely linked to the overall urban and economic history of the city. The routes of some of the current city streets were marked by the Romans, others by Turks, and some by Prince Miloš Obrenović himself.
The Romans determined the routes of today’s streets: Knez Mihajlova Street, Vase Čarapića Street, Kralja Petra Street. In the time of the Turks, Cara Dušana Street and some others in Dorćol were marked, and after the first and second Serbian uprising, Prince Miloš Obrenović set the directions of today’s Narodnog fronta and Gavrila Principa streets. All the streets were marked in 1872 and 1888, and the names of today’s streets originate from that time: Balkanska, Dobračina, Višegradska, Knez Miloševa, Knez Mihajlova, Kosovska, Simina, Hilandarska.
Knez Mihajlova Street, the first modern street of European Belgrade, is the oldest communicationsline from Roman times,running from Kalemegdan to the south of Serbia. Along this street, several picturesque buildings were erected in classical, baroque, and secessionist style, giving it warmth and charm. There are several cultural republic and city institutions here: the City Library, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, “Spasić’s Endowment”, Palace “Albania”. It houses a number of galleries, taverns, stores of leading domestic and foreign companies. The street is closed totraffic.
The Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts was founded in 1886 following the tradition of the Society of Serbian Letters and the Serbian Learned Society. Some of its members were world-famous celebrities: Dmitri Mendeleev, Ilya Repin, Leo Tolstoy, Henry Moore, Jan Kasu, and others, as well as our well-known scientists and writers: Ivo Andrić, Branislav Nušić, Mihajlo Petrović, and many others.
Construction of the Palace “Albania” was completed in 1938, and it was the tallestBelgrade building. With its modern architecture, at that time it was the dominant height regulator of the spatial composition along the Terazije-Slavija line.
Vase Čarapića Street, parallel with Knez Mihajlova Street, is also one of the oldest Belgrade streets in which, in the 19th century, the main Belgrade district was located. Today, it houses: the Ethnographic Museum, Kolarac People’s University, Belgrade University,Captain Miša’s Mansion, and the street faces the Students Square.
The Ethnographic Museum possesses over 60,000 items and the following collections: folk costume, fabric and carpets, economic devices, crafts, furniture, dishes, and items related to customs. It has pictures, old photos, and items from non-European countries. As an independent institution, the museum was founded in 1901, but the collection of ethno material began much earlier. It is known that some of our ethno materials were exhibited in Moscow in 1867. During the First World War, the Museum suffered considerable material damage. Today it is considered one of the richest ethnographic museums in the Balkans.
Kolarac People’s University is located in a building that Ilija Kolarac left as an endowment. It was founded in 1878. It has a lecture department, with a gallery and a library, a foreign language department and a music department.
Belgrade University pulls its roots from the Great School founded in 1808, converted into Lyceum of the Principality of Serbia in 1838. The first Serbian university, in today’s sense of the word, was founded in 1905..
Captain Miša’s Mansion is the largest and most beautiful Belgrade palace of the second half of the 19th century, completed in 1863. It was a private family house of the “Danube captain”, then the richest man in Serbia, Miša Anastasijević. During the construction, the owner gave this impressive palace to the Serbian people “to use it for cultural and educational purposes”. Respecting the will of the endower, almost all the important cultural and educational institutions of the Principality of Serbia worked in this building, which continued later.
All these institutions face the Students Square, the oldest square in the city. In this area there was a Turkish cemetery that was dislodged in the 1860s, and part of thearea was turned into a market in 1824. Since 1927, there is a park with monuments dedicated to meritorious Serbs: Dositej Obradović, Vuk S. Karadžić, Josif Pančić. Until the First World War there were representative hotels in this street, “Makedonija” and “Imperijal”.
Republic Square, in which Vase Čarapića Street is located, is the inner city centre. It is dominated by two important cultural and historical institutions: the National Museum and the National Theatre, as well as the Monument to Prince Mihailo. The first theatre in Belgrade started its work in 1841 in Đumrukana. Today’s building was completed in 1869 and still has the largest gala theatre hall in Belgrade. The construction began at the initiative of Prince Mihailo Obrenović, and the foundation stone was laid just three months before his murder. The opening of the National Theatre took place in October 1869 with the performance “The Posthumous Letter to Prince Mihailo”, according to the text written for this occasion.
The National Museum is one of the oldest scientific, cultural, and educational institutions in Belgrade. It was founded in 1844 with the great dedication of Jovan Sterija Popović, a writer and then head of the Ministry of Education. It did not have its own building for a long time, and in many movements, especially during the First World War, numerous exhibits, as well as entire collections, were destroyed ordisappeared. It was moved to the present building, erected at the site of the famous Belgrade café “Dardaneli”, in 1952. The National Museum exhibits, collects, and studies monuments of material culture and art on the territory of Serbia, from the time of the first traces of human civilisation. It holds over 22,600 inventory items, numerous and diverse collections of prehistoric, ancient, and medieval archaeology, domestic and foreign graphics, works of medieval and recent world art, as well as collections of old paintings. It also has rich numismatic collections. Republic Square is also the site of an impressive bronzemonument to the Prince Mihailo Obrenović, set up in 1882. Several Serbian cities participated in the construction of this monument.
The Aleksa Krsmanović Foundation was built in 1885 as a private merchant’s house, with a beautiful façade, where special attention was paid to art and craft works. The Krsmanović brothers bought the house in 1898. After the death of the last owner in 1914, the building was, according to the will, given to “Serbian society”, as “The Aleksa Krsmanović Foundation”. From 1918 to 1922, this building was a temporary residence of King Aleksandar Karađorđević, and, on 1 December 1918, the unification of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes in the Yugoslav state was proclaimed there. It changed its purposes, so, since 1946, it was a diplomatic club, and later the Protocol of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the SFRY.
In parallel with “Terazije”, there is Nikole Pašića Square, the youngest square in the narrower part of the city, built in 1953. In this area there is thesemi-circular palace of the Trade Union Hall, the building of the newspaper “Politika”, and the Museum of Revolution. The dominant place on the square belongs to the monument to the statesman and politician, Nikola Pašić, and the architecturally beautiful fountain.
Nearby there is the building of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, one of the most beautiful buildings in Belgrade. It was completed in 1936, after the interruption of works during the Balkan Wars and World War I. It was designed in the neo-Renaissance spirit, with rich interior architectural and artistic decoration. The entrance to the building is decorated by the sculpture group “Play of Black Horses”, set up in 1939 as the work of Toma Rosandić. In this building, the constitution of the SFRY was proclaimed in 1945, there was thefirst conference of non-aligned countries, interplanetary union conference, and many other manifestations.
Across from the National Assembly building there is the Old Palace, now the City Assembly, built both as theprivate and official residence of King Milan Obrenović. The building was designed to architecturally exceed everything that had been built until then for official residences of the Serbian princes. Between the old and the new palace (the Presidency of the Republic of Serbia) there was the princes’ residence, the first building built on “Terazije” in 1840. In 1845, it was the palace of Prince Aleksandar Karađorđević. In the uprising of May 1903, King Aleksandar Obrenović and Queen Draga were killed in this residence, after which the building was demolished.