In a city where ordering an “iced coffee” will get you a coffee with a scoop of ice cream and a “plain chicken breast” usually comes slathered in bacon and cheese, Belgrade is not exactly synonymous with “health.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the drinking/smoking/cheese-eating culture here, but dig a little deeper (beyond the heart-attack-inducing, meat-filled menus) and you’ll find that there is an entire city’s worth of outdoor activities and delicious meals that won’t send you into cardiac arrest worth exploring. The produce is some of the freshest and healthiest you’ll ever taste, and there’s a hefty focus on fitness among everyone in the city… which which will come as no surprise once you see firsthand how built the men, women and children are.
A Few Tips For Your Health-Conscious Survival in Serbia:
- When ordering at Serbian restaurants, ask for the leanest cut of meat and a side of grilled vegetables with light oil — two things that are on every menu citywide. Considering how well every piece of meat is cooked in Serbia (seriously, these people know their way around a cooktop) even the simplest piece of grilled chicken will taste like actual heaven. And FYI?
- Do the best you can to steer clear of secondhand smoke. It’s pretty much impossible because it’s everywhere, but take advantage of outdoor seating whenever you can. The perfect excuse to kick back and enjoy the weather.
- Eat all the fruits, vegetables and nuts you can get your hands on. They’re cheap, fresh and delicious, and so much better than anything you can get at home.
- Everywhere in the old city is walkable (or, if you’re not into getting 30,000 steps a day, bike-able), so don’t waste your time with cabs. Bopping around on foot will give you the chance to get your blood pumping and see all of the things — two birds, one stone.
- If you’re looking to get a hardcore workout in, hit up a personal trainer. They’re crazy cheap ($10 an hour) and super strong an effective. Even one session is worth it just to see how seriously Serbians take their gym time.
Now, onto your perfect healthy day:
Get A “Farm To Table” Breakfast The Old Fashioned Way
There are farmer’s markets all over Belgrade, and they’re open every day of the week, usually until around 4pm. Each market is filled with dozens of vendors selling the freshest fruits, vegetables and produce that you’ll ever taste (you haven’t eaten an almond until you’ve eaten one from one of Belgrade’s farmer’s markets). You can get an entire Kilogram of cherries for less than a dollar, though be warned — it’s really hard not to finish them all in one sitting. They’re that good.
Fall In Love With Tennis
What better way to get moving than with the #1 tennis player in the world? The clay courts at the Novak Djokovic Tennis Academy are located a stone’s throw from the river running path, directly next door to the SKY Wellness Complex which has a gym an a pool. While Djokovic himself may not be around to offer pointers (though he does stop by to practice whenever he’s in town…) the academy’s trainers are incredibly talented and can coach you in perfecting your backhand in perfect English. Lessons are 3,000 Dinar (around $25), and court rentals range from $770 to $1500 Dinar ($7-$15) depending on the time of day
Spin Your Wheels
After your court sesh, head over to Markoni Sport (located on the river path about a mile from the Djokovic Academy) and grab yourself some wheels. Rentals are $5 a day, and you can cruise along the bike path that runs the entire length of the river. Watch out for pigeons, though — for some reason, the ones in Belgrade are fearless (/kind of stupid), and have no problem wandering their way under your wheels.
Get Your Feet Wet
What better way to see a city than from the water? Rent a kayak at one of the vendors located along the bike bath, and stroke your way down the Sava river. It’s a great way to take in the city’s historic architecture while working your upper body strength, and will give you a chance to check out the famed floating “Splav” night clubs from afar since most people in Belgrade party all day long.
Live The Lake Life
Ada Ciganlija (otherwise known as “Ada Lake”) is basically summer camp for adults. Ride your bike around the 8km loop, and stop for any range of activities including waterskiing and wake boarding, rock climbing, volley ball, swimming or kayaking. Hit up Bikini Beach Bar for lunch, where you’ll find a delicious mix of healthy Serbian dishes and Middle Eastern Cuisine (Think: A massive grilled chicken breast with hummus and tabouli), then spend the rest of the afternoon lounging on the day beds. Fair warning: There is a nude beach directly across from the waterskiing course.
Take In A Sunset View
After you drop off your bike, it’s a quick hike to the top of the Belgrade Fortress, an old Citadel overlooking the river. “The Wall” offers the most stunning view of the sunset over the water, and you can BYOB, BYO snacks or BYO green juice, depending on your mood. It’s a great place to sit, think, meditate, journal or hang out and meet other people. Make sure your phone is charged — no matter how #present you are in the moment, you are definitely going to want photos.
Grab Dinner On The Promenade
A toast to the #weekend past and week ahead…because there's always a reason to celebrate at Ambar! ty for the photoshare @ivana_samardzic #ambar #beograd #belgrade #betonhala #uzivanje #zabava #party #parties #fun #instaparty #ladiesnight #bestoftheday #crazy #friends #friend #chilling #cool #love #night #music #funtimes
Back down by the river, there’s a strip of restaurants called “The Promenade.” The development is brand new, and offers all kind of different cuisines ranging from Mexican to Asian to Italian. Check out Ambar Restaurant for traditional Balkan Cuisine (which, FYI, has plenty those *perfect* slabs of meat I was talking about), or Druga for some good, healthy Italian. Aperol Spritzes are optional, but recommended.
Image credit: Jay Dred