A rakish gem in Belgrade
Born from the passion for travel and particularly Brazil of brothers Nebojsa and Nenad Kostic, the Square Nine established itself in 2011 as the best example of Belgrade's renovation with understated luxury and impressive character, far from the standardized feeling arising from international chain hotels present in the city. Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld brought modernity to Studentski Trg and the central Knez Mihailova district while blending in with the traditional neighboring buildings. The modern Bauhaus-like faÃ§ade made of stone and wood gives an alluring foretaste of the warm American- and Danish-inspired interior design. The Kostic brothers undoubtedly are passionate men who love to travel and take souvenirs back to Belgrade. Their property constitutes the best traveler-themed hotel one could fathom with vintage original furniture from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s sourced at auction houses and stores across the world. Yet, the hotel feels like home and radiates a very positive, hip and cosy vibe. The lobby displays numerous master pieces from Finn Juhl, Bruno Mathsson, Ole Wanscher, Arne Jacobsen and Kaare Klint. All are original pieces. Each seating piece in need of repair has been upholstered with Loro Piana fabrics or Edward Green leather, how rakish! Iconic pieces such as the central tête-à-tête couch and the vintage globes tremendously add to the refined atmosphere, especially in the evening when ceiling lights are dimmed and the globes give out their warm light. The patchwork of aged Persian rugs add just enough to obtain the perfect setting to admire the Crema Europa limestone walls and columns covered in Loro Piana linen and Edward Green leather with a dry Martini. The Arne Vodder bar stools rotate entirely, easing the visual discovery of the place and the potential elegant encounters guests are deemed to have at the bar, an unpretentious hot spot for locals and travelers. If one were to list the world's best craftsmen and brands for furniture, cutlery and materials, one would most likely quote Square Nine's suppliers: Loro piana blankets, Frette linens, Pratesi towels and bathrobes and Edward Green leather. Yet the hotel's most surprising items were the brass luggage holder present in each room and the idea of the architect to filter the natural light coming from the restaurant glass ceiling - spreading coffee bean bags, letting in just the right amount of sun light. The coziness is naturally found in the 45 guest rooms featuring hard wood Cumaru flooring and panels as well as cashmere Loro Piana bed throws. Ranging from 32 to 47 sq. m for rooms and 90 sq. m for suites, the rooms are the largest in town and undoubtedly the most remarkable. The toiletries are naturally from Hermes, where else? Pratesi bath towels and robes are exquisite yet delicate products so when the Square Nine's owners met with Pratesi, they were advised to take great care of the cleaning. Instead of outsourcing, they went for a significant investment in a very high-end and delicate in-house laundry. Well, if that isn't what the Rake stands for, I'll be damned. Luxury normally comes at a cost. Yet, rooms at the Square Nine, a member of the Luxury Hotels of the World, average 220 EUR (165 GBP / 245 USD) over the year. I travel 180 days a year. While talking dough isn't my style, this is the best value for money I have seen. Ever. Bonus: the hotel features a Sisley spa and an 18m long pool.