While the blogspohere exploded this morning about Beyonce’s risque outfit (warning: pictures may not be suitable for work) during her first show in Belgrade, I was more interested in the location.
Beyonce kicked off her Mrs. Carter World Tour (which is really just a Europe & North America tour) in Belgrade, the capital and largest city of Serbia. Thus, I decided to use the opportunity to spotlight one of South-Eastern Europe’s fastest growing cities.
Belgrade is not traditionally on most travelers’ travel list – but as one of the emerging cities of Europe, it’s worth giving the city a look.
First, you may be wondering: where exactly in the world is Belgrade?! This map should help in answering that…
The nation of Serbia is bordered by Hungary to the North, Romania to the Northeast, Bulgaria to the East, Macedonia and Albania to the South, Bosnia and Montenegro to the West, and finally, Croatia to the Northwest. So essentially, smack dab in the middle of South-Eastern Europe.
Because of the proximity of the city to several other well known travel destinations, Belgrade becomes just a day train ride away for the curious and adventurous traveler. For instance, Belgrade is a 8 hour train ride from Budapest, 6.5 hours from Zagreb and 9 hours from Ljubljana.
While Belgrade may not traditionally be at the very top of your travel list, if you find yourself in Eastern Europe for some period of time or in any of the aforementioned more popular cities, Belgrade is worth visiting for a weekend trip or possibly even more. Who knows? You might like it so much you decide to opt for a longer stay like some of the expat population who currently call Belgrade home.
Some random facts about Belgrade/Serbia
– Belgrade lies on two international waterways, at the confluence of the rivers Sava and Danube which surrounds the city on three sides
– Because of it’s positioning, Belgrade is called the “Gateway to the Balkans” and the “Door to Central Europe”
– The official language is Serbian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Serbian Cyrillic has 30 characters, and each letter corresponds directly to one sound, which makes it unique in comparison with other writing systems. However, many residents speak other languages, including English, German, French and Russian
– If you aren’t familiar with the name, here’s a little background: The nation has a long and storied history and is more familiarly known as the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. After the First World War, Belgrade became the seat of Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes until the collapse of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia
– When the Kingdom broke up, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia officially declared independence and became their own sovereign nations, along with Serbia
– Belgrade became the capital of the sovereign nation Serbia on June 6, 2006
– Serbia officially applied for the European Union (EU) membership in December 2009 and became an official candidate in March 2012
– The official currency is the Serbian Dinar (RSD). At the time of this posting, 110 dinar is about 1 Euro which is the most widely accepted foreign currency in Serbia
– Belgraders are known for their love of parties and long, long nights out and there are lots of nightclubs in the city of Belgrade
– Belgrade is one of the oldest European cities – it was founded in 3rd century B.C. by the Celts, before becoming a Roman city
– The “Silicone Valley” has another meaning in Belgrade. It is the downtown area with lots of cafes where lots of ladies with obviously enhanced plastic surgery made body parts are known to frequent
Where to Stay
There are quite a lot of hotel options in the city and you’ll find most choices to be quite affordable by Western standards with 4 star hotels running around an average of $80-$100/night for standard rooms. In Belgrade, you can get a luxury hotel at just a fraction of the cost you would pay in other more popular European cities.
For instance, the Metropol Palace, Belgrade is a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel in the heart of the city which will run you about $180/night for a standard room during the weekend. Compared with a similar hotel in, say Paris, which will run you at least $400, this seems to be a bargain. But of course, Belgrade is no Paris, right? But it’s working on it :)…
U.S, Canadian and British citizens need a valid passport to enter Serbia but do not need visas to stay in Serbia for up to 90 days within a 180-day period. If you want to stay in Serbia longer than 90 days during any 180-day period, you need to apply for a temporary residence permit at the local police station with authority over the place you are staying in Serbia.
FYI. Please be advised, though most visits to Serbia are trouble-free and without incident, the issue of Kosovo remains a potential cause for unrest. You may not travel into Serbia from Kosovo, unless you initially entered Kosovo from Serbia. The Serbian immigration authorities have denied entry to travellers whose passports contained entry or exit stamps from Kosovo. If you plan to travel to Serbia by land, you should consider entering the country from a non-Kosovo crossing point.
Have you been to Belgrade? What did you enjoy most about the city? What advice would you give potential visitors to Belgrade?