Belgrade Fortress, stands on top of the confluence of the Sava and the Danube rivers. This is the last raised ground in the Balkan Peninsula before the vast stretch of flatland of the Pannonian Basin, extending all the way to Central Europe. The Fortress position is of outstanding strategic importance, accounting for its role as a border fortress throughout much of its history. It served to guard the border between the Roman Empire and barbarian lands across the Danube and the border between the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires.
The Romans were the first to build a fort in the late 1st century as the HQ for the IV Roman Legion – Flavia Felix. Its remnants are barely visible today. The present layout of the Fortress took shape in the late 18th century.
Around this fortification on the hill above the Sava and Danube confluence, the ancient settlement of Singidunum grew up. It was later to become the Slav settlement of Belgrade. The Belgrade Fortress has been demolished and rebuilt on numerous occasions. On top of the Roman walls stand Serbian ramparts and on top of them, Turkish and Austrian fortifications.
During the first decades of the 14th century this small hill-top fortification was extended as far as the river banks.
Under the rule of Despot Stefan Lazarević, Belgrade became the new capital of Serbia. The Despot’s palace was built in the old castle, and a military harbour was added on the Sava river.
With the Austro-Turkish War, a new era began. Under the Austrian occupation from 1717 to 1739, and after the construction of new modern fortifications, the Belgrade Fortress was one of the most powerful military strongholds in Europe. But, before the Turks returned to Belgrade in 1740 all the newly constructed fortifications were demolished. By the end of the 18th century the Belgrade fortress had taken on its final form.
Kalemegdan, today Belgrade’s most beautiful and largest park, was during the time that the Fortress was Belgrade’s main military stronghold, used to observe and await the enemy in battle.
Consequently its name derives from the Turkish words kale meaning ‘fort’ and meydan meaning ‘square’ or ‘field’. The Turks also called Kalemegdan Fikir -bayır which means ‘hill for contemplation’.
Kalemegdan contains the Keys of the Belgrade Fortress memorial, the Monument of Gratitude to France, the Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion, the Music Pavilion, the Great Steps (Veliko Stepenište), the Zoo, a children’s fun fair, and a number of monuments, sculptures, sports facilities, resturants and cafés.
Belgrade Fortress today is a cultural property of great importance, and a venue for frequent cultural, artistic and entertainment events.