From its low mountains off the Adriatic Coast to the highlands of Serbia, there is much to see and explore here, including a wide variety of architectural styles ranging from Romanesque to Gothic, from Renaissance to baroque. Throughout the land are great monuments or else their ruins, including fortresses, ancient churches, Byzantine-style basilicas, and Roman amphitheaters. If you're pressed for time, spend a day exploring Belgrade and the rest of your time taking in Montenegro, which has a far greater scenic allure.
With a population of two million, Belgrade, on the southern tier of the Carpathian Basin where the River Sava links up with the Danube, is your gateway to the country. The city has been "the capital of the Serbs" since 1403 when the Turks drove the Serbs northward. The train station lies on the south side of Belgrade. From the station, tram 1, 2, or 13 heads for the Kalemegdan Citadel, a major attraction on the north side of town. A Roman camp in the 1st century A.D., today this is a complex of Orthodox churches, Turkish baths, Muslin tombs, and a big military museum presenting a warlike view of the country.
The art and culture of Serbia are showcased at the National Museum, Trg Republike 1A, which displays everything from ancient artifacts to Picasso. Serbian folkloric costumes are best seen at the Ethnographical Museum, Studentski Trg 13. A section of great charm is Skadarlija, originally settled by gypsies but later turned into a retreat for Bohemians. Much of its 19th-century artistic flavor remains intact.
In contrast to Serbia, Montenegro is optimistically called "the jewel of Europe." Train arrivals are in Bar, a port city of only minor interest. From here, buses fan out to the area's major scenic wonders. From June to September, all of Montenegro is a popular holiday spot, centering on the beautiful Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans and a major bird sanctuary. Kotor is a major resort town situated at the head of southern Europe's deepest fjord. It's a walled medieval city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The other town of interest is Budva, built by the Venetians in the Middle Ages. Today it is Montenegro's leading beach resort. Its old walled town, destroyed by two earthquakes in 1979, has been reconstructed.