Splav Hot Mass
When it comes to nightlife Belgrade seems to be on the fast track. It enjoys very good reputation globally. Recommended by travel magazines and websites worldwide and often listed in the “Top 10 nightlife destinations in Europe”. But, still this topic seems to be controversial among locals and expats. Belgrade nightlife is well-known for three things: rafts on the rivers Sava and Danube called splavovi in Serbian, traditional restaurants featuring live music called kafanas in Serbian and the clubbing scene mostly consisting of electronic music.
‘I don’t really know how come that some clubs have made it onto the list to be honest, the clubs are mostly the type for the posh twats where there is too much pouting lips and showing off one’s plumes so to speak and not enough real dancing going on. Also kafanas are over-rated in my opinion,- says a male member of Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club while commenting on National Geographic article “Top 10 nightlife cities” .
The ‘poser clubs’ are crappy for some and there are certainly very many good clubs where you cannot see overly pretentious twats ‘pozeri’. Also these newly opened “club kafanas’ are not ‘the real thing’. The proper kafanas are down in Skadarlija and in its proximity playing proper traditional music not that turbo thumping folk,-goes another bitter comment from another active member of BFV Club while commenting on the same article.
Quality nightlife in Belgrade does exist, but you need ‘to go the extra mile’ and find it. Certainly it will heavily depend on personal preferences and expectations visitors have when it comes to clubbing. If you enjoy live traditional music and a nice dinner, kafanas in Skadarlija or the like may well be a great choice. Don’t forget that “new” kafanas keep sprouting up at every corner of the city and it’s quite interesting to hear that they all tend to have similar names, such as “Ona moja” or “Ona, a ne neka druga”, so be aware those are a new generation of kafanas that some consider to be a lousy copy of the traditional ones. The lot that flock to these kafanas tend to be ‘wet behind the ears” and that very lot tend to be all done up. Serving food might not be included in the offer and the music is some people think a far cry from traditional Serbian evergreens ( Serbian ‘starogradska’ muzika) , but old and new turbo thumping folk ‘noises’.
If you are heading for splavovi some people ilke to warn you in good time that there are some posh twats pozeri type places and commercial house, R’ N’ B’ and Hip Hop music coming from the local DJs. The most popular ones are Drugstore Play, also Freestyler, Shake & Shake, Hot Mass and iconic Sound are open to public during the summer seasons exclusively. And because of the same lot from above some people will have warned you that you might end up feeling crappy mingling with a bunch of pretentious twats. But, I am assuming the old saying ‘Live and let live’ comes in handy here. Neither underground nor alternative is everybody’s cup of tea.
Povetarac used to be very good summer splav featuring alternative music. Lots of booze, dancing and kisses. I haven’t been there for quite a while though. Therefore, I would suggest boat 20/44 that is open during the whole year and hires both local and international disco, house and sometimes, but not very often techno DJs. Prices and the crowd are decent. Right next to 20/44 there’s another techno boat, popular for after – parties that can indeed be brilliant sometimes. The main problem with this is that there are some people somewhat rough- around- the- edges there who tend to be up to no good and might often cause a brawl one too many so you might be better off going elsewhere .
After you’ve crossed the Brankov Bridge the route will lead you to popular Savamala borough known as the “Creative District” or the “Clubbing District” of Belgrade. This city area has gone very mainstream as of recent. Popular venues are: clubs Mladost, Ludost and Brankow and bars Prohibicija and Zavod. A bit more alternative are Culture Centre Grad that I very much recommend both for live bands and DJ performances. Situated in the same street as KC Grad (12 Brace Krsmanovica) club Peron is a very popular place focused both on live bands and DJs. It’s that kind of a place where people dance and mingle. Berliner pub and Ben Akiba cocktail bars are good places to visit next to a well secluded jazz bar Bašta in 1a Male Stepenice.
If you feel hungry give the ‘poser’ restaurants a wide berth in the main zone of Savamala and go elsewhere where you grab a bite for real, Visit Beton Hala venue on the riverfront where you will find a whole lot trendy restaurants. Under the railroad bridge in Savamala there is another splav called Lasta. In the summertime Lasta splav is open to public and hosts world- class house DJs in a popular Sunday matinee.
A number of decent looking clubs and restaurants are located in the downtown. The Tube used to be the top club in Belgrade a while ago. But now it’s well populated by younger folks and au courant clubbers. In the same street as the Tube is Geca club. Geca can be a good place to enjoy house and techno, yet it might not leave the wow effect on you but a quite complete feeling, which is good enough , methinks. Just around the corner, in 6 Francuska Street there is another club DOT. This one hosts both local and foreign DJs leaning towards house and techno.
Radionica restaurant and bar
A few meters down the road and you are standing in the proximity of the Lower Dorćol, an ex industrial zone that seem to have come to life again. Coffee and restaurant culture is emerging. Restaurants such as Trag, Homa, Radionica and Thai Time are well worth a visit. Jazz club Čekaonica is relocated to Bitef Theater next to Bajloni green market. This is probably the best place for jazz lovers in the city. Belgrade classic Bitef Art Cafe moved to a new location in Palilula in Mitropolita Petra. It is a cool club for people over 25, offering live music and concerts. However, its atmosphere and its interior seem to be leaving an impression of an after- party to Serbian Fashion Week.
Restaurant culture is picking up in Vračar residential borough too. Quite contrary to the concept of Lower Dorćol this area is popular by up-market restaurants cosseted away in the old villas. Very good ones are Dijagonala, Zaplet, Maska, Biblos, Na ćošku and Mala fabrika dobrog ukusa. Kitchens tend to be open until midnight.
As for the underground music, don’t miss out on Belgrade’s “techno cathedral” Drugstore club in a somewhat hidden location of Palilula borough. Works on Fridays or Saturdays. This is where some serious partying is going on! A touch of ‘industrial’ mixed with techno artists from around the world coupled with visuals. If you prefer squats, visit Inex Film at Karaburma. INEX is an old factory turned into a club, gallery and studios. Events are usually free of charge.
Not to forget Ciglana klub ljubitelja teške industrije that we haven’t still checked out, but we heard it’s very cool and quite quirky so to say.
Ciglana Klub Ljubitelja Teške Industrije
Somewhere in close proximity of the Danube, between Visnjicka Banja and Karaburma boroughs, there is a quarter called Rospi Ćuprija. The best known for a number of brick manufacturing factories, the vast expanses of which take up the northern perimeter of Višnjička fields, with their factory chimneys towering above that stand out a mile. Ciglana, klub ljubitelja teške industrije consists of a series of quite spacious work sheds, studios, cafes and exhibition area. Exhibition space in the hall has a massive ceiling above stripped of unnecessary decoration. As such, these are quite unique facilities in Belgrade, where it is possible to place the art works of unusual shape and huge proportions, wrote journalist Ljubica Slavković for City Magazine.
When it comes to festivals Belgrade is also diverse. Resonate is successful art and technology festival with very good music program. Also, traditional Belgrade Summer Festival (BELEF) offers many kinds of activities such as concerts and art exhibitions. There is also Musicology, a new festival emerging on Kalemegdan Fortress in organization of BITEF art cafe. Music selection has a strong inclination towards jazz, funky and pop performers and big names such as Kraak and Smak, Nicola Conte and so on. The most visited summer festival is definitely the Beer Fest at Ušće. It’s a very commercial event full of various kinds of visitors of different ages and backgrounds from many countries.
Dragana Kostica is the Belgrade-based editor in chief and founder of Still in Belgrade art, culture and club scene magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Cultural Policy and Management in Arts (MA of Arts) and a Bachelor degree in Archaeology.