Your visit to Belgrade would not be complete without visiting the oldest tavern in the city. On your Belgrade tour take a break at Kralja Petra Street #6 where the “?” tavern is located. Have a seat at the wooden footstools that remain the same in the tavern for a whole century and refresh yourself with the so- called “komplet”, the indispensable coffee made in traditional way with a delicious Turkish delight on the side.
Tavern - kafana culture is part of the tradition in Belgrade. Civil society organizations in the 19th century often used taverns and other public spaces for their meetings and as a platforms for their actions. In that sense, we could say that the taverns are representing the cornerstone of the civil society. Taverns were created as institutions of civil society, and they are serving the same purpose until the present day.
In the main bazaar, as core of Belgrade used to be called, across the side doors of the Orthodox Church (Saborna crkva), there is little tavern on the ground floor of one of the few surviving houses from the Turkish times. This tavern with the unusual name is the oldest Tavern in Belgrade and it is nearly 200 years old. It was built as the property of Prince Milos Obrenovic I in 1823, and he gave it as a gift to Naum Ičko, his commercial consul and one of the organizers of the First Serbian Uprising who turned the house into tavern and named it "Serbian tavern”. The house was built in the Balkan style and it was designed by the anonymous Greek architect.
Initially, this house was the residence of the Macedonian diplomat Naum Ičko, but later Milos Obrenovic gave the house as a gift to his personal doctor Toma Kostic in 1826. Mr. Kostic was also known as “ećim” which is a Turkish word for doctor. The house was donated to Mr.Kostic as a sign of gratitude for his benevolence during the Second Serbian Uprising. Mr. Kostić changed the name of tavern into “ Toma’s tavern”
The name of the tavern was changing with every new owner. Next owner adopted a new name 1878 “Kod Pastira” (By the shepherd) and the name that stands today was given by another new owner Mr.Ivan Pavlovic, who first is changed “Kod Saborne crkve” (By Orthodox Church). Church authorities did not approve of such a name for the tavern and until the dispute with the Church lasted he came up with a temporary solution. Not knowing how to call it, the owner has set up a big question mark at the front door. Shortly afterwards, the citizens of Belgrade accepted this name which was not changed ever since.
In the tavern "?" (Question mark) in 1834, the first game of billiard was played in Belgrade. Another interesting fact is that this tavern was often visited by Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, the major reformer of Serbian Language.
Entrance door and floors are authentic; there are a church calendar and the coat of arms of the Obrenovic Dynasty. There are two panels on the wall. One panel contains a short history of Question mark tavern, and another panel contains the words of the song which starts with the rhyme: “The Question mark tavern, tavern of my city. It was ordinary back in a day, but it is famous now”. There are white walls and dried red peppers that are hung on the furnace in the corner. The wooden bar that looks straight at the entrance door, and neatly dressed waiter standing by its side. Low tables made of dark wood, surrounded by matching footstools. Red embroidery on white canvas hung on the wall. In the window pane, there is dried gourd and a chain of garlic, pottery clay and sunflower...
The Question mark tavern is not just a regular tavern it is an institution that a cultural monument after World War II. It is located in the heart of Belgrade in the vicinity of Kalemegdan fortress and many other Belgrade attractions. Do not miss this spot in your Belgrade tour with the atmosphere and charm that makes it a gathering place of Serbian bohemians.