Belgrade can make the grade


“This is the new capital of European cool”, says Roger St Pierre

The statistics are impressive: 42 museums, 67 art galleries, 26 theatres, a vibrant café culture and lively night life all add to the appeal of Belgrade – capital of Serbia and SE Europe’s fourth largest city. It’s a history packed but thoroughly modern venue for the young and the young at heart.
There’s an infectious mood for having fun that dates back to the dark days of the break-up of Yugoslavia: ‘Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die’ became the maxim after the war.

Today, a decade on, things are looking far more optimistic for a country that could soon be joining the EU and, with living standards improving rapidly, fatalism has been replaced by impassioned hopes for a positive future.
People are well dressed, the shops are well stocked, public buildings have been spruced up and the amenities are of an appropriate standard for a modern European city with a population of more than two million.
Downtown, with its busy department stores and boutiques, is bustling and the bohemian Skadarlia district has been compared to Montmartre, while the Zemun district, on the right bank of the Danube, is truly charming.

Lower cost congress city
Airllft is good, Some 30 international carriers, including seven low-cost airlines, currently offer around 250 direct flights (and 25,000 seats) into the Serbian capital while it was deemed by an Economic Intelligence Unit World Cost of Living Index for Major Cities as being one of the least expensive major congress cities in Europe. Convenience comes into the agenda. Belgrade is not only an easy flying distance from Western Europe but now has a thoroughly modern infrastructure.
Just 15-minutes from the sparklingly modern Nikola Testa International Airport and five minutes from downtown, the impressive Sava Center is SE Europe’s largest conference facility. It offers 7,000 delegate seats across 18 meeting rooms, as well as 4,000 square metres of exhibition space. Other key Belgrade convention and trade fair venues include the Belgrade Arena, Expo XXI and the Belgrade Fair Building.
Within walking distance are more than 1,000 guestrooms in a range of international brand hotels, with Grand Hyatt Regency, Continental and brand-new Hilton and IN Hotel properties being particularly convenient, while taxis are inexpensive and traffic is manageable, making wider-flung hotels just as accessible.
If boutique properties are your ideal there’s the ultra-hip Hotel Zira, five minutes from downtown by cab, and, located on the main pedestrianised shopping street, the 55-room Italian-modernist inspired Belgrade Art Hotel.
This is an 8,000-year-old city with a rich archaeological heritage. The scars of the tragic war that broke up the old Yugoslav Republic have largely disappeared and urban regeneration has brought a renewed vitality.
Sightseeing landmarks include the Parliament building, the majestic Kalemegdan fortress and a huge and imposing Byzantine hilltop cathedral, while ground handlers offer an enticing range of excursions.
After hours, delegates can enjoy arguably the best range of entertainment and nightlife in all Europe.
Many will make a beeline for the banks of the Danube and Sava rivers, where some 150 floating restaurants, bars and clubs offer a wide range of cuisines, from traditional Serbian to Japanese, and music that covers the gamut from euro pop to jazz, hip-hop, rap and even a bizarre hybrid dubbed as turbo-folk!

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