This complete guide to visiting the iconic Avala Tower from Belgrade using public transport includes directions, maps, and the top things to do in Avala.
Berlin has Fernsehturm, and Belgrade has Avala. Avala Tower was never on my list of things to do in Serbia’s capital. But when we had some time to kill on a sunny Saturday morning in Belgrade, we decided to visit. After what felt like hours of online research and a trip to the tourist information office, we still failed in our first attempt to get to Avala using public transport. After that, I became a bit obsessed with figuring out how to reach Avala Tower by bus. We tried again the following day and this time, we made it. And I’m glad we did: It turned out to be a highlight of our week-long stay in Belgrade.
Standing at 204 metres, Avala is the tallest structure in Serbia and the highest tower on the Balkan Peninsula. Many people go to take in the views from the observation deck—but in my opinion, visiting Avala is more about the history and the experience. The walk up to the tower through beautiful parkland is divine. Viewed up close, the details of the tower are mesmerising.
This complete guide to visiting Avala Tower from Belgrade includes a full run-down of the current public transport situation, things to do in Avala, and my tips for visiting.
Table of Contents
- What is Avala Tower?
- Where is Avala Tower located?
- Visiting Avala Tower: Essential info
- Getting to Avala Tower by bus
- Things to do in & around Avala Tower
- Tips for visiting Avala Tower
What is Avala Tower?
Avala Tower (Avalski Toranj in Serbian) is a working telecommunications tower. While the tower’s design is interesting, especially the unusual tripod concrete base and triangular cross-section, it’s the story behind Avala that makes it a Belgrade icon and tourist attraction.
The tower that stands on Belgrade’s outskirts today is Avala’s second incarnation. The original Avala Tower was constructed between 1961 and 1965 and was a pioneering design for its time. Serbian architect Uglijesa Bogunovic and engineer Slobodan Janjic were responsible for the project, which at the time of its completion was one of the 10 tallest towers on earth.
As well as being a symbol of Yugoslav might and New Belgrade‘s influence, Avala Tower served a practical function: The antenna was used to transmit television signals across the country. The original tower also had an observation deck, serviced by two elevators.
At 8.40pm on April 29, 1999, one of Avala’s legs was struck by the first of two NATO bombs, causing the tower to completely collapse. The bombardment was orchestrated to take down Radio Serbia Television, the country’s public broadcaster and an important source of information during wartime. The station prevailed, but the demise of such an iconic structure and significant feat of engineering was a huge blow.
Much like Belgrade itself—a city which has famously been destroyed and rebuilt 40 times throughout history—Avala Tower rose from the ashes. Just five years later in 2004, Radio Serbia Television launched a campaign to rebuild the structure, and would eventually raise over one million Euros in public donations. The site was cleared in 2005 and in 2006, construction on a new tower began. Six-thousand tonnes of concrete later, Avala Tower 2.0 reopened to the public in April 2010. The new Avala Tower is an exact replica of the original, but stands two metres taller.
Where is Avala Tower located?
Avala Tower is located in Beli Potok, a suburban area that falls under greater Belgrade. It’s a distance of roughly 20km south to the base of Mount Avala, the small mountain where the tower sits. Getting to Avala from downtown Belgrade takes about 30 minutes by car or 40 minutes by bus.
Visiting Avala Tower: Essential info
Avala Tower has been open to the public since April 2010.
When to visit
Avala Tower operates year-round, with different working hours for summer and winter. Mount Avala is a heavily forested area with idyllic walking trails, so it’s recommended to visit when the weather is good, in spring or early summer. Summer has the added benefit of a weekend events program, with live music and performances on the Avala promenade beneath the tower. In winter, the area is covered with snow, which also looks beautiful. Choose a day when skies are clear to get the best views of Belgrade from the observation deck.
Avala Tower is open from 9am until 4pm in winter (1 November until 31 March) and from 9am until 8pm during high season (1 April until 31 October).
Although most of the Avala complex and walking trails are free to visit, you’ll need to purchase a ticket if you want to ascend the tower to the observation deck or Panorama Cafe. Tickets cost 300 RSD for adults and 150 RSD for students. Tickets can be purchased from the desk underneath the tower, on the right-hand side of the complex as you approach from the trail (next door to the gift shop). Cash and card are both accepted.
Getting to Avala Tower by bus
The first time we tried to get to Avala by bus, we had two things working against us: We were travelling in early March, still the low season in Belgrade, and it was a weekend. But don’t let our mishap put you off: It’s extremely easy and affordable to get to Avala Tower from downtown Belgrade using public transport. Here’s how.
Click the markers for information or continue reading for a detailed break-down of the route.
Where to buy a daily transport pass in Belgrade
Travelling from central Belgrade to Avala and back again requires four trips (two buses and two trolleybuses). It’s more economical to buy a daily transport pass than single-journey tickets. Daily passes are sold at Moj Kiosks, the red and white free-standing shops you see all over the city centre and behind most bus stands. A daily pass costs 240 RSD (approximately 2.30 USD).
Step 1: Trolleybus to Slavija Square
The Avala Tower website recommends travelling to the base by bus from Trošarina. However, we found a bus that runs direct from the city centre and is much easier for tourists to find.
Buses for Avala originate at Slavija Square, so your first task is getting there. From Republic Square, you can either walk the 1.7km south along Kralja Milana, or take trolleybus number 19, 21, 22 or 29 to Trg Slavija station (see map above). Alight at the big round about. (We missed the stop and got off at the next stand, Katanićeva, instead. This turned out to be a happy mistake: We simply backtracked 20m and walked west along Katanićeva/Krusedolska street, passing directly in front of Saint Sava Temple, to the next main road. We then caught our next bus from Karađorđev Park station.)
Trolleybuses 19, 21, 22 and 29 depart regularly, every 3 to 5 minutes, throughout the day. View the full route on PlanPlus.
Step 2: Bus to Avala foothill
When you arrive at Slavija Square, look for the Hotel Slavija Garni (east of the McDonalds). The stand for your next bus is on the street that runs along the right side of the hotel, Bulevar Oslobođenja. The stand is located on the right side of the road, around 30m from the corner. A bus shelter and a Moj Kiosk marks the spot.
The bus you need is public bus number 401, travelling south. Apart from a short detour in Jajinci, this bus takes Bulevar Oslobođenja/Bulevar JNA the entire way down to Avala. The journey takes around 40 minutes, with frequent stops to pick up and let off passengers. Along the way, you’ll see some of Belgrade’s most intriguing Socialist architecture, including clusters of massive concrete apartment blocks. As you near your destination, houses become more sparse and empty patches of land more prevalent. Avala Tower comes into view only towards the end of the journey.
Jump off the bus at Avala station, which is located outside Restoran Lipovica on Google Maps. At the stop, you’ll find a couple of markets, a pharmacy, and a few local restaurants.
Step 3: Walk to Avala Tower
When you jump off the bus, turn around and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing in front of the market. The trailhead for the hike up Mount Avala opens up directly across the road. You’ll see directional maps and a few picnic tables. People who are driving can park their cars here and walk up the rest of the way instead of taking the road.
The path up to the tower is 1.2km long and follows a steady incline. The entire route is concreted, sign posted, and marked on Google Maps (view it on the map above). There are lots of switchbacks, so its nothing too strenuous. Wooden benches and trash cans are positioned every 100m or so. One thing you’ll notice about the area is how clean it is—please keep it that way and avoid littering.
We were a bit perturbed when the first group of walkers we encountered were fitted out in gym gear and carrying trekking poles. But we had nothing to worry about—the walk is really quite easy. On our way, we met elderly couples walking their dogs, young families with kids, and groups of friends. All up, the walk up took us about 40 minutes at a slow pace, and around 20 minutes on the way back down.
Although the area was still a bit grey in early March, little white and yellow flowers were just coming into bloom. At the top of the path, there’s a direct entrance into the Avala complex, with the ticket booth, toilets and a cafe located on the right of the tower base as you approach.
Getting back to Belgrade
When you go to leave Avala, descend the path back to the main road and take a north-bound 401 bus back to Salvija Square. The bus stand is directly opposite the market where you alighted.
I’m told that the city operates additional bus services for tourists during the high period. If you have more information, please use the comments section below to share your tips!
Things to do in & around Avala Tower
Avala Tower architecture
Most of Avala Tower’s quirky architectural features can be appreciated without going inside. Noteworthy design elements include the sky bridge and the tower’s tripod base, which mirrors the shape of a traditional three-legged Serbian chair.
A large open terrace below the tower permits excellent views of the structure and its inner workings. The cross-section looks like a six-pointed star when viewed from underneath.
Avala Tower Observation Deck
The Avala Tower Observation Deck is located 122 metres up the tower, or 445 metres above Belgrade street level. The deck is accessed via an elevator (tickets required). Panoramic views of the countryside around Belgrade are visible from the 360-degree deck. It’s just possible to see the city in the far distance.
The deck is billed as open-air, but it is in fact glassed-off, so unfortunately it’s not the best for photography. At least the glass is kept clean. There’s a small opening along the top where you can hold your camera out—if you’re game.
Panorama Cafe is located one level below the observation deck. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but they do serve nice Italian coffee and tubs of gelato. The cafe offers almost the exact same views as the deck from its pane-glass wraparound windows.
The Avala complex is home to two excellent gift shops that are worth mentioning: Souvenirs of Serbia, and Ethno Gallery. Both sell local and handmade products, including textiles and leather shoes alongside the usual array of magnets, posters, tea towels, etc. The offerings here are much better than anything we encountered in the city—I highly recommend having a look around.
Picnic & recreation areas
Playgrounds and a rock climbing wall have been set up at the base of the tower to entertain kids. There’s also an outdoor gym. There are dozens of tables both around the tower and at the start of the walking trail, making the park a nice place for a picnic lunch.
As well as the hike up to the tower, there are other marked walking trails on the opposite side of the mountain. It takes another 100m of uphill to summit Mount Avala.
Church of Christ
This small wooden church is located southwest of the tower along the main road. It’s dedicated to St. Despot Stefan Lazarevic, a former ruler of Serbia.
Monument to Soviet War Veterans
Located further down the mountain along the road, this monument is dedicated to the people killed in an airplane crash that occurred on Avala in October 1964. Some of the passengers were members of a Soviet military delegation flying to Belgrade to mark the anniversary of the city’s liberation. The monument, sculpted by Jovan Kratohvil, was created in their honour.
Tips for visiting Avala Tower
- Bring a water bottle (there’s a fresh water spring at the start of the trail where you can refill).
- Wear a hat. Most of the path is exposed, especially in winter when the trees are bare.
- Carry a scarf. Although the observation deck is partially enclosed, wind still gets through and it can be a bit chilly.
Have you visited Avala Tower? What are your favourite things to do in Belgrade, Serbia?