Belgrade? Weekend-trip? Vacation? – these question marks appeared over many heads, whom I told that I was flying to belgrade for four days for a vacation. I also had some prejudices in my mental luggage, but all of them were completely dispelled by one of the greatest cities I've ever been to!
To do #1: A flight with air serbia
No matter if you fly with austrian airlines or with the almost cult air serbia, you can reach belgrade within one and a half hours by a direct flight from vienna. The plane is relatively small, so only approx. 80 people can sit in it. In row 5 you have a great view on the propellers of the plane and because of the low altitude you can see a lot of the landscape. It feels a bit like time travel to a less modern, but thoroughly charming era.
Falkensteiner hotel belgrade was our first destination and the transfer service from the hotel went smoothly. By the way, this is also highly recommended, because some quite pushy cab drivers wait for you right after the exit to chauffeur tourists at overpriced prices.
20 minutes after getting off the plane we arrived at the hotel and were already impressed by the facade and also by the interior. Somehow the whole hotel has a very modern balkan flair including velvet and glitter.
To do #2: walk through the city with open eyes.
After unpacking the suitcases, having a small lunch on the terrace and changing € 50,- (equivalent to approx. 6.000 dinars) we already went on a first tour through the city.
A tip is to walk through the city with open eyes in any case. Not because it is dangerous – on the contrary, all the people are very friendly and speak good english – but because there are many works of art on the walls of the houses: the whole city is covered with graffiti.
Besides, belgrade is a city of contrasts. Beside a few "run-down" (in berlin one would probably say "hip") quarters, there are many wide boulevards, small alleys and beautiful, historic buildings. Often there are small gardens and cafes hidden behind the houses. Serbs love to spend the whole day outdoors and drinking coffee. Everything happens here a little slower and with "mediterranean" serenity.
To do #3: eat, eat and drink.
When the evening comes in belgrade, the restaurants and pubs are crowded. This is certainly not only due to the very reasonable prices (by austrian standards), but also to the very special flair of a city on the water. The danube and the sava rivers characterize the city and a lot of life takes place along these two rivers.
Whether it's romantic little eateries in hidden corners or hip restaurants on the waterfront, you can never get enough food and drink in belgrade.
The cheapest (and best) cocktails can be found at jazz basta. Hidden between houses and only a short distance from branko's bridge ("brankov most") you sit here on two levels in a true idyll. Some even say it would be perfect for getting married here…
Right on the sava river, there are many great restaurants on karađorđeva, such as "cantina de frida" or "ambar". Here you can gain a few grams of traditional serbian and international cuisine.
To do #4: party on a boat.
Serbs know how to party. And in belgrade they party on the boat. On the other bank of the sava river there are approx. 10 boats converted into party venues.
No matter what style or genre of music you find great, there is something for everyone here. In the beginning you have to get used to the slight swaying, but after the first rakija (fruit brandy) you will forget about it..
Also, from the boats you have a great view of the old town at night, while the lights are reflected in the water and you can see the restaurants on the other shore, meanwhile thinking about where you will go for dinner the next evening.
To do #5: tell all your friends and acquaintances about belgrade.
So there is a lot to discover and experience in belgrade. And belgrade does not at all live up to the prejudices that some western europeans have about the balkans. The city is obviously undergoing a transformation and is becoming one of the liveliest and most exciting metropolises in europe. Great and cheap food, friendly and open-minded locals and a good infrastructure let belgrade catch up with hot-spot cities like berlin, london or budapest. A city to remember and worth discovering and loving!