Enjoy the finest nightclubs, bars and restaurants in Europe's new capital of cool
From Times Online
Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona - where next?
If you're into clubbing holidays and have done the usual suspects, Serbia's capital Belgrade has come on to the radar quickly in recent years, developing an exciting, ever-changing cobweb of clubs and bars.
The music scene caters to all-comers, from rock and jazz clubs to Balkan beats and turbo folk - a curious mix of electronic beats and gypsy or Turkish-influenced folk singing that's worth experiencing at least once.
You can also find the best in underground electronica, techno and house music, with venues tempting a regular stream of international guest DJs and artists.
Belgrade is different enough to enjoy daytime around the city before hitting the town for an evening of revelry.
Wandering the city offers a welcome change to the pristine facade of Europe's chocolate-box old towns, with the faded grandeur of the few pre-20th century buildings sitting awkwardly alongside concrete communist-era structures.
The recently completed marble exterior of the huge St Sava Orthodox church glistens next to other buildings while the National Theatre, Old Royal Palace, university buildings and National Museum (closed for renovation) provide some older highlights.
High on a hill at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, the Kalemegdan Fortress dates back to pre-Roman times - the current walls were contructed to the 15th and 16th centuries. The views are tremendous and it houses a beautiful park, one of many green spaces across the city.
The Hotel Moscow, open but currently being refurbished to 5-star standards, is one of the most beautiful art noveau buildings, dating back to 1906. It sits near the pedestrianised Knez Mihailova Street with its plethora of designer clothes shops attesting to the emergence of the nouveau-rich, thought the country is still economically crippled.
The good news for tourists is that the city is incredibly cheap by our standards. Main courses in the best restaurants are £5-£10, killer cocktails in the coolest bars are £2.50-5, while a beer should set you back between £1 and £1.50 depending on the venue. And the local brews (try Jelen Pivo or neighbouring Montenegro's Nikšicko) tend to be far superior to and cheaper than the foreign imports.
While the people are some of the friendliest in the world, the one complaint I heard is that they are still being punished after suffering enough because of Slobodan Milosevic. Economic sanctions were accompanied by travel restrictions, many of which are still in place - it's very hard for residents to obtain visas to visit the EU, for instance.
To try to simplify the situation in one of the world's most historically complex countries would be foolish - it's best not to engage in political conversation, plenty blame the West for 1999, but visitors receive a very warm welcome.
Recently opened, and a sign of development (along with the nearby 5-star business hotels), is the Belgrade Arena, one of Europe's largest indoor venues, seating 23,000 people. Not everyone would be too excited to host the Eurovision Song Contest, but it was a welcome way back on to the international stage for Serbia this year. The arena has attracted big name acts from all genres, including The Police, Nick Cave, The Chemical Brothers and José Carreras.
We visit a bar that was a mainstay in the legions of 'underground' party places that sprung up during the Balkans Conflict. Ironically named The Federal Association of Globe Trotters, or World Travellers' Club, at a time when no travel was possible, it sits hidden in an apartment block, with no sign outside and a buzzer entry system.
These venues were an escape for the young during the fighting, in a city that gained a reputation for partying through the bombing. Now there's no need to hide though they still don't want to advertise themselves - the venues have a laidback vibe and a sense of a cool and exclusive illegal party, even if their existence is now sanctioned and they welcome foreign customers.
There's a fashionable overground bar scene spread throughout the city, with one of the most popular strips (if you'll excuse the pun) being Belgrade's very own 'Silicon Valley' on Strahinjica Bana in Dorcol - so called for the number of glamorous, artificially enhanced females trawling the streets looking for wealthy males. There are good bars to be found despite the show.
Elsewhere the club scene changes frequently, not least because it is seasonal. In the summer, barges on the Sava and Danube host dozens of bars and clubs that close during the winter. Try Sound or Exile if you aren't able to get there for the vibrant winter scene, while open-air club Bassment takes place in the fortress during the summer.
Some of the top venues are within a short stroll of each other - famous techno club Andergraund is literally under the Kalmageden fortress, while 20 metres away you have mad dancing at the Baltazar bar on the way to Magacin 3, a vast but opulent wasehouse club another 50 metres down the hill next to the river that plays host to showier clientele.
And the best thing? You can follow the lead of the locals and club-hop to your heart's delight without hitting your wallet. Club entry is free, they make their money behind the bar, so there's no need to worry about skipping to a different place if the mood and music isn't taking you where you want to be.
Most bars open until between midnight and 2am, while clubs we visited closed around 5am.
Top 5 clubs ...
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