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The two faces of Belgrade

History has made its mark on the Serbian capital

No one claims Belgrade is pretty.. New Belgrade, least of all. A marshy waste land, it was developed in the 1970s as a new capital city for the socialist Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. The huge modernist building that housed the Central Committee of the Communist Party (now Palace of Serbia) is located here as is as the luxurious Hotel Jugoslavia which has welcomed celebrities from Queen Elizabeth II to Tina Turner, The balance of the area, developed in the rationalist style dubbed ‘brutalism’, consists of block after block of identical towers currently housing over 200,000 residents.

Cross to the other side of the Sava river to discover historic Belgrade, explore the ‘old’ city and sample the country’s traditional food and drink. The quaint Rakia Bar offers more than 50 flavours of this potent local brandy, including the traditional plum rakija. In winter, treat yourself to a warm rakija with cinnamon and clove. Rakia Bar, Dobračina 5,. Telephone +381 11 3286 119. Visit an old-fashioned ‘kafana’ to enjoy the local specialty ćevapčiči – a skinless sausage. The Kafana Čubura is at Macvanska 1, telephone +381 11 244075. For fine dining with views of the Danube and Sava rivers try the Carda Sara Koliba, a floating restaurant where the accent is on seafood. Book on the website, starakoliba.rs.

Belgrade’s two biggest museums, the National Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum, have been shuttered for over ten years but there are others of interest. The museum dedicated to the great Serbian engineer and inventor, Nikola Tesla, is housed in a 1929 residential villa at Krunska 51. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00 am to 20.00. Website: http://nikolateslamuseum.org

The Ethnographic Museum showcases folk costumes and crafts; its shop is a treasure trove of potential souvenirs- silver copies of medieval jewellery, home textile items, glassware. (Credit cards are not accepted.) Open Tuesday – Saturday from 10.00 to to 17.00 and Sunday from 09.00 to 14.00 at Studentski trg no.13. Website: www.etnografskimuzej.rs

The Military Museum is inside the historic Belgrade Fortress in Kalemegdan Park. Outside the museum’s main building are tanks, howitzers, and armoured cars some of which were captured from retreating Nazi and Axis forces . Exhibit includes parts of a US F-117 stealth aircraft downed by a Serbian S-125 Neva/Pechora. Website: www.muzej.mod.gov.rs

Back in New Belgrade, the aviation museum displays about 75 planes and a number of engines in a mushroom-like building near the airport. Winter hours November, 1st to April, 1st: Monday to Sunday: 8:00am – 4:00pm (last entry at 3:30pm) Website: www.muzejvazduhoplovstva.org.rs

3 to note

currency: the Dinar, RSD, (previously CSD))

Time difference: GMT +1

Language Serbian, some English, phrase book useful

Zemun, a 15 minute taxi ride from the Sava Centar, is an attractive historical district, perfect for a leisurely stroll. Until WWI, Zemun was part of the Austria-Hungary empire; the old town of Zemun reflects the spirit of 18th and 19th century urban life. Cobbled streets, cosy cafes, picturesque old churches and the 19th century Gardos or Millennium tower named not after the recent millennium but the previous one. It was built to celebrate a thousand years of the Austrian empire. A good dinner choice in Zemun is Saran, a traditional fish restaurant on the riverside (with steak and chicken for non-fish eaters). Open Monday: 15.00 – 23.00 Tuesday – Saturday: 12.00– 01.00h Sunday: 12.00 – 23.00 Telephone  for reservation +381 (11) 2618235 or +381 (69) 2618235. Website: www.saran.co.rs

Take a walk down Belgrade’s Knez Mihailova, a central street lined with shops, where the facades are a textbook of architectural styles from the 19th and early 20th century. At no 42 is the Secessionist building, originally a 1920s bank, which is now the Zepter Museum, Serbia’s first private museum, showcasing the nation’s 20th century and contemporary art. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays – 10.00 –20.00; Thursdays and Saturdays – 12.00– 20.00 www.zeptermuseum.rs. Or explore Savamala for its art galleries with a stop at the Supermarket concept store on Uzun Mirkova street. Over one hundred local and international brands, from street wear and high fashion accessories to culinary gadgets and gifts.The in-store Bar 8 serves artisan coffee, craft beer and wine. Open Monday-Saturday 10.00 to 22.00, Sunday 12.00-20.00. Website: www..supermarket.rs

Tips for visiting Serbia. Change some euro or dollars at an airport ATM for Dinars. Credit cards are not accepted in taxis and not always accepted elsewhere. Smoking is permitted in bars and restaurants; ‘non smoking’ tables may be right next to smokers. Tipping is not obligatory in Serbian restaurants, but if you are satisfied with the service then leave a 10 to 15 percent tip. At bars and in taxis leave a tip by rounding up the amount.

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