A Beginner's Guide To Serbia

While Balkan backpackers make a beeline for buzzy Budapest, chill on the coasts of Croatia or jolly down to Greece, far too many overlook the majesty of Serbia.

For those in the know, this emerging hotspot is where visitors can lather up in a spa in the morning, ski empty slopes in the afternoon and rave through the night till the early hours.

Here are our top five tips to making the most of your first trip to Serbia.

Earn your hangover in Belgrade

Almost like a fun adventure, Belgrade makes drinkers work a little harder to find its hidden secrets.

The city’s best bars often disappear as quickly as they pop-up, so befriend a local to find the current hotspots. Local guides, the Belgrade Greeters are good for showing you around the city’s coolest froth shops.

If you want to do it alone, start with cocktails at Federal Association of Globetrotters (Bul. Despota Stefana 7/-1), the colourful and kitsch basement bar hidden at the bottom of some plush apartments, before moving on to the electronica DJs of Prohibicija Bar (36 Karadjordjeva st) for a pre-club loosener.

This is a city that continued to party even when bombs fell, so raves go on until the very early hours. Club Plastic (Ugao Takovske i Dalmatinske) is the place to be seen until 6am, where guest house DJs test the sounds systems. Its side venue Mint is more cutting-edge with its musical selection.

Go to a festival… in a fort

When it comes to event venues, few countries make the most of their architectural gems like Serbia. While Festicket have managed to find festivals in some of the best venues in the world, Serbia puts other countries to shame when they present music in their historic forts.

Take the award-winning, world-beating EXIT Festival for example. In a setting suited to greatness, EXIT takes over the Petrovaradin Fortress in Novi Sad - a huge stronghold on the banks of the River Danube.

This incredible event has left an indelible mark on the summer calendar as over 2,000 performers, leaning mainly towards the electronic side, fill its 22 stages.

There is also Nišville International Jazz Festival, who every year welcomes 100,000 jazz enthusiasts to enjoy exciting piano legends and horn heroes within the walls of its Turkish fortress.

Featuring workshops often held by the headliners themselves, confirmed artists so far include Tania Maria and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra.

Soap up in a spa

The spa town of Vranjska Banja boasts some of the hottest springs in Europe, which are both therapeutic and beautiful to see.

This ecological oasis has everything to put holidaymakers in the zen zone at the start of their break, or rebuild the mind and body of those that have left both in a fortress. Surrounded by the might of the great outdoors, local wellness centre offer everything from massages and thermotherapy to hydrotherapy and sonotherapy.

Ski on Serbia’s untouched slopes

For snow lovers, there’s nothing like a clear run, and Serbia’s biggest secret is that it has some of the quietest slopes on the Continent. The resort of Kopaonik, towards the centre of the country, has recently been given a facelift and is ideal for some pistes and quiet.

With 13 runs to choose from, including blacks, blues and reds, the resort has challenges for all abilities. It is also home to Serbia’s first snow park, so snowboarders and adrenaline junkies can get their tricks fix too. What we love the most though is the lack of toddlers clogging up the ski lifts. Make sure you experience it before the ski schools take over.

Eat like a king, pay like a pauper

While Denmark might be leading the gourmand revolution, and pop-up stalls might be taking over the streets of London and Paris, the Serbian gastronomy landscape is busy rustling up something different.

Wander along Skadarska, a cobbled street in Belgrade’s old town, and you’ll find their traditional dishes of ćevapčići (minced meat)and goulash served in huge, belly-swelling sizes. The bills plate up at historic prices too.

For something a little more cutting edge, try Supermarket Concept Store (Visnjiceva 10), a restaurant-cum-shop-cum-bar. Its bare walls and low-hung lights could have come straight from New York but its food is more Balkan than Brooklyn. Try the potato terrine with bacon or get mesmerised by their cherry parfait with Bavarian cream.

The sleek and chic Zaplet (Kajmakcalanska 2) may take some finding, but the rewards are bountiful for those who make the effort. The warm octopus salad and hazelnut parfait are both good, but nothing quite beats their extensive wine list.





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