The 1999 NATO bombing of the Serbian capital is well documented. It’s hard to miss the bombed-out shell of the former Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building on Nemanjina Street in the heart of the city and if you head around the back of St. Mark’s Church in Tasmajdan park, you will also be able to see what is left of the former Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS) building.
But further from Belgrade’s city centre, there is a far more interesting building, architecturally-speaking, which was also attacked by two NATO missiles as part of the same military strike. The Air Force Command building in the municipality of Zemun, some 6km from the centre, is still part-occupied by the Serbian Armed Forces but the edifice shown in the photos below has remained unused since the time of the bombing. Designed in 1935, the Air Force Command building is considered one of the most important works of Modernist architecture in the former Yugoslavia and can easily be visited en route to Zemun’s more charming spots which are predominantly located close to and along the River Danube. If you are looking for alternative things to do in Belgrade, this area is well worth exploring.
How to get to the Air Force Command building
Zemun is just beyond New Belgrade and getting there by bus is very easy. The #84 travels over Brankov Bridge and #83 over Stari Savski Bridge. The tourist board can provide a useful route map detailing the Belgrade bus system, and routes are also available online. The cost of a one-way ticket is 150.00 RSD (£1, US$1.20, €1.20) but it makes more sense to buy a daily 24-hour travel card, which only costs 250.00 RSD, and is valid on the trams and trolleybuses as well as on regular buses.
Both the #83 and #84 stop outside the Air Force Command building.
The alternative to public transport is the walk. It takes about an hour to get to Zemun on foot. There is a pleasant path all the way along the Danube or you can head there via New Belgrade.
Is it OK to photograph the Air Force Command building?
Although the building belongs to and is still partly occupied by the Serbian military, there are no restrictions that I am aware of when it comes to photographing the abandoned part of the building. There is no security but there are guards stationed in the part of the building that is still occupied and it probably isn’t a good idea to take photos there.
For the best light visit in the morning when the sun is behind you.
As an aside, it is also no problem to take photographs of either the former Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building or the former Serbian Broadcasting Corporation (RTS) building. There is quite a bit of security outside the former Ministry of Defence but they have no issues with you taking photos.
How long is required to visit the Air Force Command building?
Not long, 30 minutes at tops. It is not possible to go inside the building and the section still occupied by the Serbian Armed Forces is of little interest architecturally. From the building, it is an easy 10-minute walk to the riverfront and Zeman’s more conventional attractions, which include the River Danube, quaint houses, a couple of churches and the impressive hilltop Gardos Tower.
And finally …
We spotted this model of the Air Force Command building in the Museum of Aviation, which is located next to Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport.
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