Hotel Insider: the Metropol Palace, Belgrade
A wide drive curves in front of the colossal facade of one of central Belgrade’s two five-star hotels, where doormen smilingly wave me into the palatial lobby. The multilingual check-in staff has exactly the right mixture of friendliness and efficiency, with check-in accomplished within a few minutes.
Although the Metropol Palace is on one of Belgrade’s busiest boulevards, it also backs on to one of the city’s loveliest parks, Tasmajdan. Its tree-shaded paths and fountains are a magnet for the many students from the neighbouring university faculties. It’s a lively and bustling area, but not exhaustingly so. A stroll through the park leads you to the Byzantine-style splendour of St Mark’s Church and the old town just beyond.
There’s a stylish hint to the hotel’s 1950s origins in the modern decor (the hotel was damaged by fire a few years ago, so it has been thoroughly refurbished). Deep-blue walls and dark wooden floors and wardrobes are brightened by floor-length windows and crisp white linen on the incredibly comfortable bed. The huge walk-in shower with rain and conventional shower heads takes up half the marble bathroom – something that more hotels should do. And there’s a fully functional hairdryer too, not one of those feeble things stuck to the wall.
The elegant marble lobby and its giant chandeliers hark back to the hotel’s illustrious past, when it hosted everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Che Guevara. Now, it’s part of the Luxury Collection and primarily a business hotel, with a multitude of conference facilities, meeting rooms and a classy lobby bar for drinks. They’ve made excellent use of its location, with the restaurant and breakfast room opening out into the park.
They’re appealing to all palates here, with influences from around the world. Vegetarians might have a problem in this carnivorous nation, though, as most of the non-meat options still contain fish (but are labelled as veggie). Asian touches include the salmon burger with wasabi mayonnaise (1,800 dinars [Dh72]). You’ll find authentic Serbian dishes, too, such as meat rissoles called cevapcici (1,335 dinars [Dh53]), but as it’s a five-star hotel, you won’t be paying authentic local prices.
The downstairs spa is wonderfully relaxing, with a 25-metre pool, large whirlpool bath, sauna, hammam and other treatment rooms. The chill-out area has loungers facing floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on to the park.
The drive to homogenise the city means that there isn’t much of a sense of being in Serbia, apart from parts of the restaurant menu. A less international, more local feel would have been preferable.
Many of Belgrade’s upmarket business hotels are on the other side of the Sava River in New Belgrade, which lacks the history and charm of the old town. The Metropol Palace is a better option for business people looking for an upscale, well-run and refined place to meet that’s in the centre of the city.
The bottom line
Double rooms start at €140 (Dh662) per night, including breakfast. Metropol Palace Hotel, Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra 69, Belgrade, Serbia (www.metropolpalace.com; 00381 11 333 3100).