Serbia’s intriguing capital is one of the cheapest places for a break in Europe
Serbia’s intriguing capital is one of the cheapest places for a break in Europe, ahead of Prague, Budapest and Seville, according to a recent poll.
Belgrade has a mix of Tito-era concrete buildings, medieval fortresses, bohemian quarters with old-fashioned 19th-century kafanas (taverns) and art deco hotels. Cheap as chips, yes. Cheerful, too.
Where to stay
This hotel (majestic.rs) has a tragic tale: it was where Manchester United’s ‘Busby Babes’ (named after manager Sir Matt Busby) stayed the night before the 1958 Munich air disaster in which 23 people died, including eight of the young players.
It is a fine art deco hotel, well-located and with comfortable double rooms from £64. A poignant photo of the players hangs in the lobby.
Illustrious former guests of this elegant 1908 hotel (hotelmoskva.rs) include Indira Gandhi, Albert Einstein and Yugoslavian Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ivo Andric used to write in a corner of the glittery cafe. Expect chandeliers, marble floors, cosy rooms — doubles from £94 B&B — and tasty Moskva Schnitte berry-and-pineapple signature cakes.
Intriguing: The view of Belgrade from the Danube. The city has a mix of Tito-era concrete buildings, medieval fortresses, bohemian quarters with old-fashioned 19th-century kafanas (taverns) and art deco hotels
On the top floor of the Rajiceva Shopping Center close to Belgrade’s fortress, Mama Shelter is fun, colourful and good value, with doubles from £93 (mamashelter.com).
Don’t let the shops below put you off, as the views from its restaurant/bar terrace are superb, the atmosphere is lively, the location great and the rooms smart, with bright splashes of contemporary art.
Belgrade Art Hotel
Located on Kneza Mihaila, this modern hotel (radissonhotels.com/individuals) has a cocktail bar overlooking the busy stream of shoppers below. Rooms are in neutral colours and are a decent size, with doubles from £71. Guests can use a sauna and also book massages in the little spa.
Where to eat
Service is friendly and fast at Manufaktura Restaurant (pictured) on Krajja Petra Street – and a meal with wine costs about £15 per person
On Krajja Petra Street close to St Michael’s Cathedral, Manufaktura (restoran-manufaktura.rs) is a cheerful brasserie with a large open-plan room offering ‘authentic Balkan food and drink’ — all sourced from Serbia. Burgers, sausages, roast lamb, cheese plates, hams and trout salads are to be had. Service is friendly and fast. About £15 pp with wine.
The Grand Salon
Within Hotel Majestic, this charming restaurant has a mainly meat-based menu featuring veal goulash, steaks, pork cutlets and grilled chicken. One of the charming waiters has met the late Busby Babe survivor Harry Gregg, and Manchester United fans still make pilgrimages here. Two courses with wine cost £17 pp (majestic.rs).
Restaurant Dva Jelena is situated in the bohemian quarter of Skadarlija. Pictured is a charming cobbled street in the area
In the bohemian quarter of Skadarlija, a long-time haunt of writers and actors, Dva Jelena, meaning Two Stags (dvajelena.rs), is one of several cavernous, extremely jolly kafana restaurants/inns. Expect wood-panelled walls, musicians playing traditional songs on clarinets and accordions, plus delicious stews, pork skewers, crepes and pies. About £17 pp with wine.
Kafana Question Mark
Dating from 1823, this is Belgrade’s oldest surviving tavern — marked on the outside with ‘?’ above the door. Inside are little low-level wooden tables to which waiters deliver hearty beef stews and plates of grilled meat accompanied by beers and plum brandy (rakija) shots. Beer/shots £1.45. Beef stew £4.
This quaint bookshop on Kneza Mihaila has a mezzanine gallery and a cocktail bar — a great spot to unwind after a day of tramping around the sights; £3.60 for a whisky sour.
What to see and do
Entrance is free at the Belgrade Fortress, pictured, which offers wonderful views of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers
Belgrade Fortress is on a hill surrounded by a park with wonderful views of the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. Entrance is free.
Saint Sava Temple is a vast Orthodox church based on Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia. It has space for more than 10,000 worshippers and the roof rises to 269ft.
The Nikola Tesla Museum chronicles the fascinating life of the scientist with Serbian roots. Tours (£5.80) are in English including fun demonstrations of Tesla’s discoveries (nikolateslamuseum.org).
The National Museum, pictured, is filled with works of art from the Roman and Greek periods as well as paintings by Picasso, Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh
The National Museum is in a grand building next to Republic Square. Entrance is free on Sundays or £1.45 at other times, giving you access to works of art from the Roman and Greek periods to paintings by Picasso, Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh (narodnimuzej.rs).
Take a stroll down pedestrianised Kneza Mihaila to enjoy the street performers and stop for coffee in one of the many cafes.
Stop for a cup of coffee and a spot of people-watching on pedestrianised Kneza Mihaila, pictured above
How to get there
Luton-Belgrade returns from £52 (wizzair.com). Fifty-minute airport-to-city buses cost £1.10 or taxis are £14.50. You must either be fully vaccinated, have a negative PCR test result within 48 hours of travel or have proof of Covid recovery.
Visitors are required to wear face masks when entering premises and to have Covid test certification for bars and restaurants after 8pm.
On return, you must complete the UK’s Passenger Locator Form (gov.uk).