Belgrade and the Busby Babes: Sir Bobby Charlton was among the Manchester United players entertained at Serbia’s Hotel Majestic the night before the Munich air disaster…
- The hotel is a ‘shrine to the victims of the 1958 air crash’, Tom Chesshyre finds
- He learns that many Manchester United supporters have paid it a visit
- READ MORE: The best places to visit in 2024 named by Lonely Planet
Stepping into the lobby of Hotel Majestic in the centre of Belgrade, Serbia’s capital, you find yourself in a shrine to the victims of the 1958 Munich air crash.
This is where the late Sir Bobby Charlton and the rest of Manchester United’s youthful ‘Busby Babes’ were entertained, along with their manager Sir Matt Busby, on the night before the tragic accident that took place during a refuelling stop on the way to Britain. In total, 23 lives, including eight players, were lost.
In the reception is a poignant black-and-white picture of players being addressed by Sir Matt in the hotel’s restaurant. Sir Bobby, aged 20, sits in the foreground dressed smartly in jacket and tie with an arm resting casually on a chair.
Around him are his teammates Geoff Bent, Eddie Colman, Duncan Edwards, Mark Jones and Tommy Taylor — all of whom died.
Close by is a copy of the menu from that evening signed by the players. There’s also a framed ticket to the match against Red Star Belgrade, which was drawn 3-3, enough to get Manchester United through to the European Cup semi-final. Sir Bobby scored two goals.
Tom Chesshyre checks into Hotel Majestic (left) in Belgrade, where the late Sir Bobby Charlton and the rest of Manchester United’s youthful ‘Busby Babes’ were entertained on the night before the 1958 Munich air crash
In the reception, there’s a poignant black-and-white picture of players being addressed by manager Sir Matt Busby in the hotel’s restaurant
A plaque presented by the Manchester Munich Memorial Foundation on the crash’s 60th anniversary remembers the deceased players, who included team captain Roger Byrne, David Pegg and Billy Whelan.
‘Many Manchester United supporters come by, especially on the February anniversary,’ says Nenad, the receptionist. ‘It is an important part of sporting history, even though it is a sad one.’
The hotel offers anyone who drops by a free souvenir map of Belgrade with information on Manchester United’s 1958 visit, including a reproduction of the game day ticket and the picture of the players at its restaurant.
Hotel Majestic, built in 1936 in art deco style, has long been one of the best places to stay in Belgrade.
Over the years its elegant rooms with parquet floors, period furniture and high windows have attracted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, as well as the French actor Alain Delon and the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.
‘Hotel Majestic, built in 1936 in art deco style, has long been one of the best places to stay in Belgrade,’ writes Tom
Elizabeth Taylor and the French actor Alain Delon have been drawn to the Hotel Majestic in the past
Hotel Majestic offers anyone who drops by a free souvenir map of Belgrade with information on Manchester United’s 1958 visit. Above is the city’s harbour
Sir Bobby, pictured above in the 1950s, once said of the crash: ‘It still touches me every day’
Doubles at Hotel Majestic from £113 B&B (majestic.rs); Luton-Belgrade return flights from £91 (wizzair.com).
It’s a short walk from Knez Mihailova, the main shopping street, and to Belgrade Fortress, a medieval stronghold at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers. The National Museum (home to local works and paintings by Picasso and Van Gogh) is close by, as is Saint Sava Temple, a vast Orthodox church, and the Nikola Tesla Museum, dedicated to the pioneering engineer whose name is behind Elon Musk’s electric cars.
Hotel Majestic’s restaurant cannot have changed much since the visit of the Busby Babes, retaining its sleek art deco curves, marble columns and fine art collection
Our waiter recalls his pleasure at meeting the late Harry Gregg, Manchester United’s 1958 goalkeeper, who revisited the hotel and who had helped Sir Bobby from the plane’s burning wreckage in Munich. ‘A great honour,’ he says.
Sir Bobby once said of the crash: ‘It still touches me every day.’ And it must have meant a lot to him that Hotel Majestic continues to honour him and his teammates.
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