If you have a desire to experience of the history, design, style and aesthetics of the former Yugoslavia, then these destinations are for you!
As global tourism to the region of the former Yugoslavia has been increasing over the last few years, as well as interest in the former country’s history, art and architecture (as well as the concept of Yugo-tourism itself), I thought it would be fun to compile a list of places across that region where one can visit to learn about and experience a taste of Yugoslavia. In the decades since the onset of Yugoslavia’s dismantling in the early 1990s and the formation of new independent nations, many reminders of that former nation have vanished. Much of this vanishing has been a natural result of the unsurprising change in fashions, styles and trends from the 70s/80s Yugoslav-era to today (much like the rest of the world has advanced from that era with their fashions and styles). However, on top of just the changing of styles, in many places in the former republics, much effort was made towards actively erasing any reminders of the Yugoslav state all together, including the tearing down of statues/monuments, the changing of street names, the demolishing of buildings, and the removal of any other such types of symbols that might speak of Yugoslavia.
Yet, there are a few places still within the former Yugoslav republics where you can still find glimpses of that era (both stylistically and culturally) through museums, time-capsule-like locations and re-creations which continue to preserve and present the distinct atmosphere and energy which that former country exuded. This list will include not only the traditional and expected museums, but also historical sites, shops, cafes, accommodations, and other unique touristic sites that operate as enigmatic portals to a time long past and a country that no longer exists.
1.) The Museum of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, Serbia
Located in the Dedinje neighborhood of Belgrade is the Museum of Yugoslavia. Built next to Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito’s official Belgrade residence, the original name for the museum (until 1996) was the “Josip Broz Tito Memorial Center”. During the Yugoslav-era it was one of the central locations where Tito’s birthday, dubbed Youth Day, was celebrated each year on May 25th. Youth Day was characterized by a nationwide children’s relay race which concluded just across the street from the museum at Partizan Stadium. Every year, children from across Yugoslavia would send Tito home-made batons in hopes that it would be the one chosen for use in that year’s relay race. In 1962, the first museum building was opened to display all of the many children’s batons sent to Tito, as well as to serve as a display location for the many gifts given to Tito by national leaders from around the world. A few years later, a new building was added to the complex called the May 25th Museum, which allowed further exhibition space. Then, in 1975, the House of Flowers was built next to these two museum buildings to act as a winter garden for Tito and his wife Jovanka.
However, upon Tito’s death in 1980, the House of Flowers was used as his final resting place. Many of the original stylings, architecture and aesthetics of the three buildings of the Museum of Yugoslavia have been preserved over the decades, acting as a unique window into the time period. The official website for the Museum of Yugoslavia can be found at THIS link.
2.) The Red History Museum, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Situated in the ancient Adriatic city of Dubrovnik, Croatia is the Red History Museum. Opened less than a year ago in April of 2019, this new museum contains thousands of exhibits related to all facets of life in the former Yugoslavia, from cars, to music, to politics, to home-goods, to pop-culture, and much more. Not only is the museum arranged with traditional museum exhibits (showing history time-lines, vintage photos, maps, etc), but there are also several areas with period furniture set up to resemble an authentic Yugoslav-era apartment, which include even the smallest details of appliances, magazines, cigarettes and more. Through these lengths to put on display accurate representations of the past, the Red History Museum is able to display to visitors what normal every-day life would have been like for citizens during the Yugoslav-era. Furthermore, the museum takes Yugoslav-era artifact presentation even further by bringing in a bright red beautifully restored Yugo car into the museum’s entrance area, while the ticket booth for the museum is a shining silver K-67 kiosk (both of which will no doubt bright back countless personal memories for anyone who grew up in Yugoslavia). The museum also includes space for various temporary exhibitions, as well as a clever gift shop for anyone wanting to take away a momento. The official website for the Red History Museum can be found at THIS link.
3.) Caffe Tito, Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Tucked behind Sarajevo’s Historic Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the popular student hot-spot known as Caffe Tito. Set up as a tribute established to President Josip Broz Tito, this relaxed cafe is decorated with a fascinating variety of Yugoslav-era memorabilia, vintage photos, old newspaper clippings, old WWII-era military equipment and banners bearing Partisan mottos, such as the famous “smrt fašizmu, sloboda narodu” or “death to fascism, freedom to the people”. Also inside Caffe Tito, which is unsurprisingly painted in a red theme, you can even find a large bronze sculptural bust of Tito, based off of the well-known Tito sculpture by Antun Augustinčić. Altogether, the cafe almost verges on feeling like a time-capsule museum in the way that it has curated its playful collection of history, style and nostalgia. Meanwhile, the cafe has a beautiful outdoor beer garden to relax with your drink for enjoying the Sarajevo ambiance and the establishment’s hipsterish youthful atmosphere.
4.) Guesthouse Yugodom, Belgrade, Serbia
Nestled in the cute Dorćol neighborhood of Belgrade’s old town is “Yugodom”, an apartment which has outfitted itself to exude the impression as if you have just stepped off of a time-machine into the ‘Golden Era’ of 1960s/70s era Yugoslavia. Bedecked with elegant period furniture, vibrant wallpaper, retro appliances, and everything else you could imagine to set the nostalgic scene, the Yugodom exists not only as a museum-like experience to absorb Yugoslav design aesthetics, but it is also a guesthouse, billing itself as a "Stay Over Museum”, where you can book rooms for the night in order to properly take in the whole transportative experience. Its two bedrooms are expertly decorated, with one organized as a “60s themed” room and the second a “70s themed”, while the living room gives off more of an 80s vibe. Started in 2013 by young Belgrade interior designer Mario Milaković, this unique accommodation is one-of-a-kind in Belgrade, offering a type of experience that attracts not only tourists from around the world, but also people living within the former Yugoslav republics who want to dwell for a bit in the memories from the Yugoslav “Golden Era”. The official website for the Yugodom can be found at THIS link.
5.) Tito’s Bunker (ARK D-0), Konjic, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Hidden within an unassuming building within the steep slopes of Bjelašnica Mountain along the Neretva river valley, just southeast of the town of Kojnic, Bosnia, is the entrance to the underground Atomska Ratna Komanda (or “Atomic War Command” in English), otherwise known more shortly as ARK D-0 or simply Tito’s Bunker. This secret subterranean nuclear command center and protective bunker, which contains over 100 rooms cover almost 7,000 sq m, was built into Bjelašnica Mountain during the Cold War era to house the Yugoslav political elite in case of an attack. Meant to sustain a 20 kiloton nuclear blast, this underground complex was constructed over the course of nearly 15 years, starting in 1953. While Tito nor the country of Yugoslavia ever required its services, it was nonetheless always kept on standby at all times just in case disaster struck. However, as Yugoslavia began to be dismantled and the Bosnian War began in ramped up in the early 1990s, the bunker instead became a strategic military location during the war for re-supplying and as a medical base.
However, even despite the war, the bunker was largely kept in pristine condition. After the war, the new government of the newly independent Bosnia kept the existence of the bunker hidden from the general public. It was not until 2007 that existence of the bunker was made public and plans were released that it was to be turned into a public museum and gallery space. Opened in 2011 to the public for the first time, the bunker continues to retain much of its original Yugoslav-era military technology and equipment, as well as its furnishings and Tito’s private quarters. In addition, art exhibits are scattered around the huge complex from both regional and international artists. This unique Yugoslav time-capsule and one-of-a-kind art gallery is among the most singular museum experiences in Bosnia. For information about tickets, visit the Kojnic tourist website at THIS link.
6.) Tito’s Blue Train, Belgrade, Serbia
During the Yugoslav-era, when President Josip Broz Tito wished to ride the rails across his nation, his means to do so was via his own personal luxury train. The train’s exterior was painted in a distinct shade of blue (even the locomotives), while the train’s interior was lined in elegant wood panels, expensive furniture, fine curtains, modernist artwork and beautiful carpets, all gleaming with the uniquely Yugoslav design aesthetic that one would expect from a train meant to represent a country. Tito was not the only notable individual to ride upon this train, he also routinely hosted upon it many visiting dignitaries during their visits to Yugoslavia, such as François Mitterrand, Yasser Arafat, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Queen Elizabeth II, just to name a few. When Tito passed away in 1980 in Ljubljana, the train was used to carry his remains in a procession of mourning back to Belgrade, during which thousands of people came to watch the train pass to pay their last respects. Today the train exists much in the same condition and state as it did during the Yugoslav-era, with it sitting idle as a museum object trapped in time. However, every once in awhile, the train has been used for public touristic excursions to Montenegro, but today it sits at a train garage at Topčider in Belgrade where it is open to tours. You should be able to buy tickets for the Blue Train (Plavi voz) at either the central Belgrade train station or at Topčider station. Then take the tickets to the train garage across the street from the Rasadnik stop on Tram #3 [coordinates].
7.) The Zagreb 80s Museum, Zagreb, Croatia
Just a block north of Jelačić Square in the center of the city of Zagreb, Croatia is the “Zagreb 80s Museum”. Set up in a traditional Zagreb apartment is a unique museum that has re-created a 1980s Yugoslav-era style with exacting precision. This fully interactive museum lets you explore the space at your pleasure by allowing you to interact with the exhibits and explore the environment as if the apartment was your very own. Feel free to jam out on the record player with Yugoslav rock albums, test your skills at the Atari video game consoles set up to play, do some typing on the beautiful vintage typewriter on display, enjoy playing dress up in some vintage wardrobes, or even search through the cabinets of the museums faithfully preserved and presented kitchen. And on top of all of this, the museum also has a bright yellow restored Zastava 750 car on exhibit which you can explore. The Zagreb 80s Museum is most certainly like no other museum in Zagreb and operates as fantastic portal to those reminiscing of the Yugoslav era, or simply those who want to have a glimpse of it for the first time. The official website for the museum can be found at THIS link.
8.) Hotel Mladost, Tjentište, Bosnia & Herzegovina
If you are ever travelling high into the Zelengora Mountains to the beautiful peaks and alpine forests of Sutjeska National Park, the prime accommodation within the park is a spectacular destination called Hotel Mladost, nestled deep in the park’s pristine valley. Built in the 1970s, this fantastic hotel, which provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains and meadows, is a unique synthesis of rustic mountain lodge and Yugoslav modernist architecture, giving the space a distinct retro vibe and appearance. The rooms of the hotel are uniquely designed and furnished, and while they don’t necessarily have their original furniture or mid-century furniture, the hotel still acts as an effective means of transporting you to another era through its adventurous design and aesthetics. In addition, the whole Sutjeska National Park complex around the hotel, also developed during the 1970s mostly, also contains the same fashion of stylistic trends and features present in the hotel. And of course, a MUST see is the amazing Sutjeska monument just right next door to the hotel. For more information about staying at Hotel Mladost, as well as more info about Sutjeska National Park, check out THIS link to their official website.
9.) The Re-Use Center, Ormož, Slovenia
Situated in the small Eastern Slovenian village of Ormož is a modest second-hand shop called the “Re-Use Center” (Center Ponovne Uporabe). While this seemingly average shop filled with used clothes, knick-knacks, children’s toys and other sundry items might appear unremarkable at first, the surprise of this place is found in the upper level of the shop, where you will find an apartment set up as a time-capsule to the past. Dedicated to the 1970s/80s era Yugoslav design aesthetic, this apartment was recently decorated by the members of the second-hand shop as a place for people to experience the past. Explore their vast collection of vintage dishware, kick back in a fantastically modernist mid-century upholstered sofa, gaze at the streamlined beauty of their elegant Iskra phones and enjoy drooling over their assortment of classic Yugoslav-era candies and liquors. Anyone who grew up during this era will be instantly transported through time the moment they pass into this set of magically decorated rooms, while those who didn’t themselves live through this era will be captivated by the apartment’s warmth and allure. The apartment museum space is free and open daily during the normal business hours of the Re-Use Center. For more information, check out the shop’s official Facebook page at THIS link.
10.) The Sava Center, Belgrade, Serbia
Among the most ambitious and architecturally imaginative civic buildings created during the Yugoslav-era was the Sava Center in New Belgrade, Serbia. Designed by architect Stojan Maksimović and built in several stages between 1976 and 1979, this massive event center and shopping complex was conceived in 1975 after Tito offered Yugoslavia up to host the second annual OSCE international conference. The result was an amazing structure of glass walls, textured concrete, polished metal and exposed utilities that look futuristic both inside and out. This huge multi-level space soars and impresses, possibly being one of the most innovative and striking examples of 70s era Yugoslav architecture in Belgrade, if not all the former Yugoslavia. When walking through the shopping center section of the Sava Center, one gets the feeling they are walking through a spaceship more than exploring a retail space. Having changed little since its construction, the Sava Center continues to exude the classic 70s Yugoslav aesthetic, while giving visitors a fascinating view of the height of the country’s architectural achievements and interior design innovations. A MUST visit here is the beautiful long-bar found at the north end of the ground floor. Stop and get a drink and absorb the scenery! The official website for the Sava Center can be found at THIS link.
11.) MEMO Museum, Pula, Croatia
Located near the The Park of King Peter Krešimir in the Istrian town of Pula, Croatia is the MEMO Museum, which dubs itself as the “Museum of Good Memories”. Opened not that long ago in 2018 by the Institut Mediterran cultural group, this novel museum allows visitors to learn about how daily life was experienced in Pula during the booming ‘Golden Era’ of Yugoslavia. Exhibits here are dedicated to each of the decades between the 50s and the 80s, while also being split up into sections which show off street scenes, town square scenes, and apartment life. As you explore the exhibits at the MEMO Museum, you also have the ability to interact with them all as well. Feel free to jump inside of their yellow Zastava 750, play some Yugoslav rock records, sit under the hairdresser's "hauba", or pound on the vintage 80s computer games. In addition, the museum also hosts and provides educational workshops for those looking to learn more about the music, interior design, sports, history, etc of the Pula during the Yugoslav-era. The official website for the MEMO Museum can be found at THIS link.
12.) Hotel Jugoslavija, Belgrade, Serbia
Situated along the Danube River of New Belgrade, Serbia is the famous Hotel Jugoslavija. Built as the first true ‘luxury’ hotel in the country under an architectural design team led by Lavoslav Horvat, this stunningly huge complex existed as a modern cultural icon during the Yugoslav era (taking almost two decades to create), while, during its hay-day, it hosted innumerable celebrities and dignitaries from around the world as they passed through the country’s capital city. Not only was the hotel renowned for its architecture and distinct Yugoslav-style of mid-century interior design, but inside it also boasted one of the largest chandeliers in the world. The hotel was struck by NATO bombs in May of 1999 and was later closed after privatization in 2006. It subsequently re-opened to the public in the early 2010s. While some of the hotel, such as the lobby, has been renovated and stripped of its original Yugoslav-era furnishings and design, many of the hotel rooms and the elegant ballroom still retain a great deal of their original Yugoslav charm and aesthetics. A stay at the Hotel Jugoslavija is a MUST for anyone who is a Yugo-enthusiast or interested in the region’s architectural or design heritage. The official website for the hotel can be found at THIS link.
13.) Vila Galeb, Herceg Novi, Montenegro
Just west of the city center of the ancient Adriatic town of Herceg Novi there sits a beautiful stately home right on the waterfront called “Vila Galeb”. Today it is part of the Igalo Institute complex, but during the Yugoslav era, it was one of President Josip Broz Tito’s many summer retreat getaways. This opulent 5,600 sq m villa, built in 1976 by local architect Milorad Petijević and bedecked in high luxury and style, was built for Tito as a place for him to stay during his visits to the Dr. Simo Milošević Institute here in Herceg Novi (which is right next door), as it was among the best medical rehabilitation facilities in Yugoslavia. Being that this villa was built for Tito’s medical retreats, the home is fixed with wide array of then-cutting-edge rehab offerings, such as mineral baths, mud tubs, jet pools, and other various therapy devices. While here, Tito also hosted dignitaries from around the world, such as Safia Gaddafi, Prince Charles, Helmut Schmidt, among others. After Tito passed away in 1980, the residence sat idle for many years, only occasionally being rented out by high class clients. As such, the Vila Galeb remained in much the same condition as when it was built in the 1970s. Finally, in 2014, this long closed and guarded time-capsule residence began to be opened to guided tours for the public for the first time, offering a rare experience of one of President Tito’s personal homes in such a preserved state. For info on guided tours of Vila Galeb, more can be found at THIS link to the official Herceg Novi tourist website.
14.) Villa Kumrovec
Josip Broz Tito, the lifelong president of Yugoslavia, was born in the small Croatian town of Kumrovec. He took on the role of president of the country after leading the Partisan resistance forces to victory against the fascist Axis forces and their collaborators during WWII, at which point Tito’s Kumrovec homestead was turned into a museum complex. Tito still enjoyed spending time in his youthful stomping ground, as such, he had a recently built hotel there Kumrovec converted into a personal residence for himself. The building itself is of a traditional style of local vernacular architecture designed by Branko Bon in 1948, but it was renovated in 1962 in order to accommodate Tito’s living needs, at which point the interior of the home was decorated in an impressive mid-century style, standing in unique contrast to its exterior. After the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the home was left vacant for many years, with all of Tito’s possessions and personal items left relatively untouched and in place. It was not until 2015 that the Villa Kumrovec was finally opened up to the public for tours. These tours present visitors with a unique glimpse into Tito’s life, as well as a preserved snapshot of the stylistic trends of the Yugoslav-era. Information about visiting the various Tito-themed attractions here at Kumrovec can be found at THIS link.
Here are a list of a few additional sites worth mentioning to check out if you are interested in further sites of this same theme as you travel across the former Yugoslav region. If anyone reading this can think of any others I should add to the list, feel free to comment or contact me!