Located just outside of the city limits next to the Nikola Tesla Airport, the Belgrade Aviation Museum is notable first for its architectural value alone. A purpose-built museum, its modernist curves and geometric panes of mirrored glass stand in stark contrast to the flat, ploughed fields surrounding it.
Designed in 1989 by noted Bosnian architect Ivan Štraus, the interior of the building contains a history of manned flight in Serbia. Impressively laid out inside the circular dome, the collection runs from the early 1900s to the cusp of the 21st century. Of particular interest are a Messerschmitt Bf 109, a Supermarine Spitfire Mk V and an Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, which were three of the most iconic planes of World War II. More significantly, this is the only museum where those three planes from Germany, Britain, and Russia can be seen sitting side by side all bearing the livery of Yugoslavia–a quirky result of Belgrade’s unique history. There is also a rare Hawker Hurricane.
Also notable are displays featuring a selection of NATO aircraft and drones disabled by Serbian air defence forces in the more recent Yugoslav Wars. These include pieces (proudly displayed) of a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter and a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, both shot down in 1999.
Some larger aircraft sit outside in the shadow of the museum, their aging hulks combining with the sheen of the odd glass structure to provide a melancholy picture. The sense of decay is exacerbated by an airplane graveyard consisting of exhibits that evidently did not make the cut and thus lie abandoned and rusting in the lee of the space-age structure. The overall combination of architecture, history, and ruin porn create a peculiar and compelling environment.
Know Before You Go
As the museum is located near the main airport, it is most easily accessible by getting to the airport itself. A good idea is to visit while entering or exiting the country. The walk from the airport is less about 10 minutes long and, as the building is quite visible, it is difficult to get lost.