Nestled on the banks of the Danube River, Hotel Yugoslavia stands as a symbol of Belgrade’s rich history and its journey through the turbulent 20th century. This grand hotel, once one of the most luxurious hotels in Yugoslavia, and “among the top 5 largest and most beautiful hotels in Europe” is an iconic landmark honing back to Belgrade’s days as the capital of Yugoslavia.
Hotel Yugoslavia opened its doors in 1969, marking a significant milestone in the former Yugoslavia’s quest for modernity and international recognition. Designed by the renowned architect Lavoslav Horvat, the hotel’s architecture combined brutalist and functionalist elements, reflecting the spirit of its time.
During its heyday, the hotel welcomed dignitaries, celebrities, and travelers from around the world. Its grand ballrooms and luxurious suites were the backdrop for diplomatic meetings, lavish parties, and cultural events. The hotel’s casino and restaurants offered entertainment and fine dining experiences that were second to none. Visitors to the hotel included Queen Elizabeth II, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Belgian and Dutch royals and Tina Turner.
The late 20th century brought significant challenges to the region, and Hotel Yugoslavia was not immune to the turmoil. The breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the subsequent conflicts cast a shadow over the hotel’s glamorous past. It became a shelter for refugees during the wars, and its grandeur slowly faded. During the 1999 NATO bombings of Yugoslavia, the hotel was hit by missiles on the night of 7th/8th May. A total of three missiles hit the building, severely damaging the hotel.
However, the resilience of Hotel Yugoslavia is a testament to the enduring spirit of Belgrade. After a period of neglect, the hotel underwent a transformation and rebuilding in the early 2000s, being partially privatized and renovated, breathing new life into the historic structure. This revitalization aimed to recapture some of the hotel’s former glory.
Today, Hotel Yugoslavia stands as a blend of its storied past and modern aspirations. The hotel has been updated with contemporary amenities and services while preserving some of its original architectural charm. Its location, with picturesque views of the Danube, remains one of its most attractive features.
The hotel is no longer the luxurious five star establishment it once was, and while parts of the hotel are in use today, the annex remains abandoned and decaying. There are plans for a total regeneration in the future, including two 33 storey towers, however as yet no work has taken place.
Just off to the side of the open hotel complex, we ducked into the still-derelict annex, which is splattered in graffiti and has a few intact windows clinging to life. The interior was dark, dank and caked in pigeon shit. Old furniture was piled up haphazardly. Paint peeled from the walls and ceilings that weren’t charred black. There were some signs that people had been living in the building- the odd mattress and pillows scattered amongst the rubbish. Whilst the lower floor was filled with discarded and damaged debris, the upper floors were an empty concrete shell. The once ornate staircase has now taken on a new form of beauty, decaying and industrial. A few plants had taken up refuge on the second floor, piercing through the clumps of concrete and rubble that had fallen from the floors above. The once grand hotel holds a lot of history, hopefully it can be preserved and given a new life in the future.
Last Updated on 31 October 2023 by Michael