Traveling around Serbia isn't complete without having a sip of rakija and enjoying the authentic Serbian delicacy in the nearest kafana. When you visit Serbia, there's a chance that you'll get to visit the capital city in Belgrade. And while there are many restaurants in Belgrade, visiting Belgrade isn't complete without going to a kafana there. And in this post, I'm going to share a unique experience when I had a blast at Kafana Pavle Korcagin in Belgrade.
I found the information about Kafana Pavle Korcagin just a few months before my trip to Serbia. At the time, I was already a member of the group “Expats in Belgrade” on Facebook, and there was this member who shared a controversial post when he posted a link to the Youtube video about what he referred to as a communist pro-Serbian kafana in Belgrade.
As someone who has a particular interest in Yugoslavia's history in general, I decided to take a look and I was surprised by the existence of this tavern to the point that I made it to the top of my bucket list once I got to Belgrade.
What is kafana?
For heavy drinkers' nations like people in the Balkans, kafana is the epitome of social life in Serbia. Belgrade, as the capital city of Serbia, was once named the #1 party city in the world. It offers various nightlife, from the get-around social drinking at the local bistro in Serbian kafana to some fancier restaurants in Skadarlija or clubs around the Sava and Danube Rivers.
Kafana is the term used for the local tavern in the Balkans, particularly in ex-Yugoslavia countries and Albania. The concept started during the Ottoman Empire era, as a social gathering place that served coffee and alcoholic beverages.
Nowadays, kafanas are still popular in Serbia, and stopping by a kafana could be considered an authentic experience to immerse in the local culture where you share tables with other guests and have a chit-chat while listening to the live music and enjoy your rakija.
Kafana Pavle Korcagin in Belgrade, Serbia
Founded in 2001, you could only imagine that Kafana Pavle Korcagin started its business during the unstable political period in Belgrade, the capital city of the then-Republic of Yugoslavia.
A few months before I traveled to Serbia, I bought Asne Seierstad's “With Their Backs to the World: Portraits From Serbia” from a secondhand book shop. The book is about the story of Asne, a Norwegian journalist who got a chance to interview people from various backgrounds in Serbia during the political turbulence not so long after Milosevic's trial in the Hague and the assassination of the former prime minister of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic in 2003.
In the same book, you can read the story from different points of view. From a nationalist Serbian, a Titoist to a Yugonostalgic. After reading the book, I imagined that people in Serbia pretty much have different stances about the politics in the country. So when I learned about Kafana Pavle Korcagin and their stance about not recognizing Kosovo as an independent state, my intention to come to the tavern was to see which group they belong to, according to Serbian people in Asne Seierstad's book.
I was a bit hesitant to ask Dora to come with me, given the history between Serbia and Croatia in the past, especially since the video that I saw on Youtube labeled the kafana as a pro-communist.
To my surprise, the people at Kafana Pavle Korcagin were so welcoming and warm, I don't think it's fair to label them into one category since just like what people in Serbia should be, they are very vibrant.
The Background Story of Kafana Pavle Korcagin
I got a chance to meet Vojin, the owner of Kafana Pavle Korcagin, when I went there with Dora after our road trip around Serbia. Since I was particularly interested in their kafana concept, I also got a chance to inteview him a little about the idea of kafana and why they even came across as overproud Serbian, if anything.
I didn't even ask why the kafana was called Pavle Korcagin in the first place. However, a few days after I visited the kafana, I told my Serbian friend about this kafana and he said that Pavle Korcagin was supposed to be the main protagonist in a Russian socialist realist novel called “Kako se kalio celik” in Serbian.
When I dig a little more research about the book, I found some information in English about the book. It's written by a Russian author Nikolai Ostrovsky, and the title in English would be translated as “How the Steel Was Tempered“. The story was about the life of Pavle Korcagin, who fought for the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War.
Based on the chat I had with Vojin about the background of Kafana Pavle Korcagin, I think it's quite relevant, even though I don't think it's fair to see this kafana as a hardcore right-wing owned kafana in Serbia.
According to Vojin, it is correct that the concept of the tavern was inspired by the socialist value during the Yugoslav era under Tito. They wanted to highlight equal opportunities for everyone, only in this kafana do they have the same chance to relax with either a cup of coffee or a shot of rakija with good company and live music.
So despite the odd interior design where you can see the pictures of Tito spreading around the kafana, and the socialist elements like hammer and sickle, it was really just their unique selling point compared to other kafanas in Serbia.
And since the independence of Kosovo in 2008, they decided to advocate their stance through their branding as well. As Serbian, they believe that Kosovo has an integral part of their national identity. So losing Kosovo is almost equivalent to losing their identity as a nation.
To understand the sentiment, we have to go back to centuries ago in the 1300s, during the Battle of Kosovo, when the Serbian prince Lazar was killed during the fight against the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Murad I. As an outsider, I have to say that the history was too complicated for me. But I think it was clear enough for me to understand why the majority of people in Serbia refuse to recognize Kosovo independence.
The Specialties at Kafana Pavle Korcagin
Like most kafanas in Serbia, Kafana Pavle Korcagin mainly serves traditional Serbian food and drinks. But in addition to that, to send their message through their stance about Kosovo, Kafana Pavle Korcagin also occasionally serves signature dishes from various countries that refuse to recognize Kosovo as an independent country. As an Indonesian, I know we're one of them.
In fact, I initially reached out to Kafana Pavle Korcagin when I checked their Instagram and saw that they once had Indonesian nasi goreng as their special menu. So I messaged them that I'd travel to Belgrade and plan to come and see if maybe they could serve an Indonesian dish for me to judge when I'm around. LOL.
To my surprise, their response was really accommodating that they told me to get back to them again at least one week before my visit so their chef could prepare something for me.
Apart from Serbia, here's a complete list of countries that haven't recognized Kosovo as an independent state:
Final Verdict: Enjoying the Nightlife at Kafana Pavle Korcagin in Belgrade
I decided to go to Kafana Pavle Korcagin with Dora since I don't think I'd like to go alone, thanks to my social anxiety issues in general. At first, I was a bit nervous because obviously, Dora is Croatian and the kafana kinda gave a strong vibe of being pro-Serbia.
However, the people at the kafana were super friendly and welcoming. Sure there were some Yugoslav jokes they threw here and there, but it was relatively harmless, I suppose?! Depending on how you see it, but at least I didn't see any fight across the nations like how the Serbs are mostly portrayed in the mainstream media. LOL.
Dora and I went to the kafana as soon as we arrived in Belgrade from our road trip around Serbia. We already ate a lot of barbeque in Leskovac on the way to Belgrade, so I actually doubted that I could finish my meals as soon as I arrived at Kafana Pavle Korcagin.
The Food & Beverages
I communicated with them via Instagram, and they told me that they'd be open until 1 AM, but their last order would be at 10 PM since the kitchen would be closed after that. I thought they'd go with regular fried rice since I specifically asked for an Indonesian dish.
However, when my meals arrived, I was rather surprised because it looked more like a fusion food between Indonesian and Balkan food. A compliment to the chef who was making an effort to serve an Indonesian dish for me, although I personally wouldn't know what kind of Indonesian food he was trying to make in the first place.
But when they mentioned that it was supposed to be meatballs, so I figured maybe they tried to recreate bakso goreng, with more like Serbian-style sauce? While I personally wouldn't say it's an Indonesian dish, I find the dish quite unique. And at least I know it's Indonesian since they served it with rice! 😛
Apart from the customized dish, I need to give a special compliment for their rakija instead. They have various kinds of rakija, from light to the strongest ones. And I have to say, their rakija was by far the best I've had in Serbia.
I had a few shots of raspberry rakija at Kafana Pavle Korcagin, and I thought I had never drunk any rakija that tasted better than that.
If you're looking for a place for social gathering, or just looking for a place to meet new people organically in Belgrade, I'd totally recommend Kafana Pavle Korcagin!
I'm not sure how popular the kafana is, given the idea there are over 12,000 kafanas in Belgrade. But hands down to Kafana Pavle Korcagin, I think it's one of the most lively taverns that I've ever visited in my entire life!
I'm not sure if it was also because I went there on (Orthodox) Christmas eve on January 6th, but given the idea it was during the time when Serbia still applied Covid restriction, I gotta say that the vibes at the tavern were impressive.
They also have live music in the kafana, which could literally boost your mood to start singing and dancing. Be careful though… Thanks to the amount of rakija you might drink at the kafana, God knows how much confidence you've gained to do it despite not knowing how to sing or dance! LOL.
Initially, I was planning to go back to the kafana before I went back to Turkiye just so that I could share the number of bus you could take to Kafana Pavle Korcagin if you go there by public transportation. Unfortunately, since I already caught up with my stuff after getting pickpocketed in Belgrade, I didn't get a chance to go back there. Maybe one day if I return to Serbia, though! 🙂
We drove to Kafana Pavle Korcagin, and while the parking spots were full around the kafana, there is a communal parking basement that you could use nearby. It's a walking distance, probably around 15-20 minutes from the kafana. Not too close, but it's good to slow down your alcohol intake at the kafana unless you get really drunk. In which case, I'd recommend you order a taxi online through either Yandex Go or Pink Taxi App instead.
Here's the detail of the location and business hours of Kafana Pavle Korcagin!
Kafana Pavle Korcagin
Ćirila i Metodija 2a 11000, Belgrade
Mon-Fri: 07:30am – 1:00am
Sat: 10:00am – 1:00am
Sun: 11:00am – 11:00pm
+381 11 240 19 80
Overall, I'd give 8 out of 10 for the experience, the food, and the hospitality at Kafana Pavle Korcagin. If you're planning to visit Belgrade, make sure to stop by this kafana to enjoy the authentic Serbian dish with a chance to enjoy their unique specialty dishes from around the world!
Have you been to any kafana in the Balkans before? Got any recommendations? Share in the comment below, and cheerio!
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.
I had complimentary meals and drinks. All opinions are mine.