Unsurprisingly, Belgrade comes top of the list for shopping in Serbia. But it’s where exactly in Belgrade that is key.
Serbia is a land of surprises, many of them ready to dazzle and impress from the moment a visitor arrives. Others are less obvious or well known; those wonderful places only those who live there know about.
In part one of our Serbian Insiders series, our experts shared their favourite foods and restaurants, as well as their top pics for culture, adventure, kids and nightlife. This time, our Serbia Tourism insiders impart their local knowledge and wisdom of where to shop (and what to buy), where to stay for romance and where to go for relaxation when it’s cold outside.
Unsurprisingly, Belgrade comes top of the list for shopping in Serbia. But it’s where exactly in Belgrade that is key. Head to the Choomich Design District, for an authentic, local fashion and design shopping experience and the chance to purchase clothing by young Serbian designers.
For a little piece of tradition, head to the region of Zlatibor for hand knitted woollen clothing. Make sure to seek out the authentic Sirogojno Style produce – unfortunately there are cheap imitations abound too, which should be avoided. But the real thing still follows a centuries-old method of making, where to protect themselves and their families for the long, cold winter, the women of the village would process and dye their own wool with mountain herbs and barks and knit clothes inspired by the colours of the mountain landscape they called home.
The most romantic place to visit, our insiders say, is Kaštel Ečka. Built in 1820, inspired by English hunting lodges, the castle these days operates as a hotel. Its distinctive red/pink exterior, majestic park setting and mix of modern and medieval rooms can be found just 60 kilometres north of Belgrade, in the village of Ečka.
For a different, but no less impressive castle stay, head to Castle Fantast, in the region of Vojvodina, around 60 kilometres from Novi Sad. Built in the early 1900s as a display of wealth by owner Bogdan Dunđerski and as evidence that he was not bankrupt, as had been rumoured. Today, it serves as a hotel and restaurant. The extensive grounds are open to the public, as are the mausoleum (where former owners are buried) as well as the tennis courts, horse stables (which were once famed for producing some of the best thoroughbreds in Serbia), a small ostrich farm, and the runway for small aeroplanes.
Make sure not to miss the Church of St George and its painting of the Virgin Mary by the artist Uroš Predić. Rumour has it that the Virgin’s face was changed to instead depict Mara Dinjacki, the blacksmith’s wife, who Dunđerski was apparently in love with. Guided tours around the castle and grounds are available for a small fee.
Relax For the ultimate in relaxation, head to the luxurious Hotel Premier Aqua in the spa town of Vrdnik. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Fruška Gora, in a national park boasting the thermal waters of an ancient natural spa and a 15th century monastery where a prince is laid to rest, yet within reach of both Belgrade and Novi Sad, the hotel offers the best of both worlds. A modern spa, indoor and outdoor pools and five-star suites, make it very hard not to relax.