An interesting thing happened to me on the way to Retro(bel)grade tonight. There I was on Twitter, minding my own business (um, no, not really…), when an RT came along from a fellow Twitterer from Croatia, asking for assistance in finding lodging and other tips in Belgrade for his girlfriend. The girlfriend, Magdalena, had arranged and paid for a trip weeks ago to attend Madonna’s concert at Belgrade’s Ušće Park. Unfortunately, the organizer cancelled the excursion just days prior to the event citing “lack of enough interested” travellers. As she had already spent a hefty sum on the purchase of a VIP ticket for the concert and other expenses, canceling her trip entirely is the last thing she wants to do.
Well, I’ve gotten to be a pretty damn good concierge ’round these parts. So I DM’d my e-mail along to the fellow Twitterer, we exchanged a few e-mails and a couple of hours later, Magdalena and I were on the phone, Croatia-to-Serbia-via-Twitter, talking about her up-coming trip and the good ol’ days of the Former Yugoslavia. Thanks to the speed and magic of Twitter, it seems Magdalena’s trip will run smoothly and I’m hoping she’ll really enjoy the concert and Belgrade.
Which brings me to my point. Aha! And you thought Twitter was all about “pointless babble”. To help disprove that, it’s about time I started bringing you useful information that you’ll need when visiting Belgrade. I’ll begin by writing about one of the essentials that I covered with Magdalena and her boyfriend today:
Hotels and Hostels in Belgrade*
Belgrade has once again become a vibrant city, full of tourists. Very often there is some sort of festival or other manifestation going on in the region, which is why I recommend booking a hotel or hostel well ahead of time. Depending on the purpose and duration of your visit, these are what I consider to be your best choices:
1.) Cheap and cheerful: If you’re here for the party-till-you-drop, get up, rinse and repeat lifestyle that Belgrade readily offers all year round and just need a decent place to crash, Belgrade has a growing number of quaint and practical hostels. There are so many that I really can’t make a list of all of them now, but a simple online search should provide you with a good amount of choices. In choosing one, I recommend that you use your basic consumer common sense. If they have a nice, updated, professional web site and are in a well populated or popular area of the city then they probably take their business seriously. Prices at the average Belgrade hostel range from 10 Euros (for a 4-6 bed dorm type room) to 24 Euros (for a private twin bed room). Meals shouldn’t be a problem as Belgrade is crawling with good restaurants and fast food joints.
2.) A walk down memory lane: Whatever the purpose of your trip, if you really want to get a feel for old Belgrade, there’s really only one way to go – Belgrade’s historical Hotel Moskva (Hotel Moscow). Located on the Terazije Plateau in the heart of downtown Belgrade, this gorgeous 4-star architectural gem was built in 1906 and was just recently renovated. Museums, theatres, fine dining, and the essence of old Belgrade surround this beauty and you will find convenient transportation to any other part of the city. The rooms have been modernized and redecorated in an early to late Art Deco style to suit the Hotel’s exterior and former fame between the two World Wars. Such historical figures as Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Charles, Indira Gandhi, Albert & Mileva Einstein, Leonid Brezhnev, Felipe González, Kirk & Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Jean-Paul Sartre have been guests of this hotel over the last century. If they could combine business and pleasure here, I’m sure you can too. Incredibly enough, prices at the Moskva range from 50 Euros (single) to about 200 Euros for one of the 6 historical suites.
3.) The everyday Belgrade: There is another side of Belgrade. The less impressive and less historical side that your average Belgrader lives in. If that’s the Belgrade you want to walk away satisfied from, then there’s no better place than the renovated Hotel Srbija (Hotel Serbia). Located on one of the largest and longest streets in the city, just a few km from downtown Belgrade, it has recently been privatized and renovated. The hotel offers a modern, efficient 3-star service with attention to business oriented clientele (e.g. free wireless Internet in all rooms). Prices range from about 50 Euros (single) to a little over 120 Euros (VIP suite) and they have over 300 rooms so there’s bound to be an available one.
4.) In and out: If you’re just in town to get some business done, the company’s picking up the tab, and you don’t really care about getting to know the city, then a) What are you doing on my blog??? and b) Stay at the Hyatt Regency like you always do. It’s over on the New Belgrade side, across the Sava river from the Old City. Although, I seriously doubt you’ll be able to avoid good times, great meals on the riverfront and awesome views there either!
I’ll be following up on this entry in the near future with another one on transportation in Belgrade. Belgrade has a very specific, dysfunctional and busy transportation system as well as heavy traffic downtown and on the bridges. Oh, and the story on taxis in Belgrade is a doozy. Until then, your friendly concierge wishes you a pleasant stay in Belgrade!
*Disclaimer: The unsolicited opinions expressed here are based on my views and personal experience and do not necessarily reflect anyone else’s opinion, the true state of things or even common sense for that matter.