Who hasn’t heard of the spa towns of Hungary and the Czech Republic? Some of us would even call Budapest a spa metropolis. The Balkans has Bansko in Bulgaria, a superb ski resort blessed with mineral waters. However, there is another jewel: the spa town of Vrnjacka Banja in Central Serbia. The place is absolutely beautiful, with splendid gardens, natural springs, massive trees, and hills. Besides you get Serbian royal treatment. We have to admit that the Serbs and the Greeks are the best hosts in Europe. The food is delicious, the coffee and cakes superb, the weather great and the facilities prime quality. Rush to Vrnjacka Banja before the word gets around and let your body and mind relax to the bone.
The first thing that caught our eyes was the gardens. The whole place seems like a giant park interspersed by buildings. Also, the architecture really matches nature. Though from different periods, most buildings are elegant and simple, a reflection of the surroundings. The terrain is a bit irregular. Nevertheless, it’s easy to walk around. It gets hot in the summer when we went. However, all you have to do is get under one of the countless trees. There is no need for a car or a bus! We walked everywhere, especially after eating so much. Take note that the nearby Goc Mountain (part of Vrnjacka Banja municipality) operates as a ski resort in winter.
You probably haven’t heard about Vrnjacka Banja, but the place goes back to Roman times. In fact, there is a roman well from the II Century BC downtown. However, in 1835 Prince Milos Obrenovic hired Baron Herder to completely upgrade Vrnjacka Banja to the standards of Karlovy Vary, in the Czech Republic. By 1860, new pools and villas made Vrnjacka Banja the spa town in Serbia, and the region. During the Yugoslavia years, several hotels and pools were built. It seemed to us that Vrnjacka Banja is back, with a reasonable number of new and refurbished hotels.
Where to Stay
We had a brilliant time in Hotel Slatina. They’ve recently upgraded the entire building to include state of the art facilities. The tastefully decorated rooms have a spacious bathroom and a balcony overlooking the park. The onsite restaurant offers delicious food and coffee, and a veranda to chill. The spa downstairs is top-notch, with mineral pools, saunas, and all sorts of massages. The hotel is in a peaceful corner of the park, just 5 minutes walking downtown. We must thank the manager. He drove us to the outstanding monasteries nearby. We are telling you, the hotel is fantastic!
Hotel Tonanti is another option in front of the park but closer to downtown. This new hotel has a huge spa as well as an outdoor pool and a garden. On the other hand, Hotel Aleksandar is a meticulously restored villa from 1929. They have a lovely outdoor pool, a full-size spa and big rooms with balconies. Finally, if you want to undergo treatment, you can book a room at the Merkur Medical Spa. The center has a reputed medical staff providing all sorts of services and therapies.
What is Vrnjacka Banja like?
Vrnjacka Banja spa town is in the hills of central Serbia. Actually, the city is on the foothills of Goc (1147m) and the Gledicke mountain range. Water flows from these mountains to the Zapadna Morava River and the green meadows all around. That’s why there’s so much water. The city itself is amongst endless parks. Therefore, don’t rush and enjoy your time at different spas, walk around nature, and discover monasteries. Fortunately, the city is pretty neat. You can see old villas, interesting buildings from socialist times, and a couple of new projects.
Food & Coffee
Probably Serbian is the only food that rivals that of Greece. It’s very easy to eat freshly made quality food all around the country. Vrnjacka Banja is no exception. You will have no trouble finding new and traditional restaurants, especially along the promenade. They serve food from all over the world. In all honesty, all of the cafés with terraces overlooking the park are great. We had cakes and desserts everywhere. Mind the portions though, Serbians love to eat! The coffee is superb everywhere, and they make it exactly as you want. An additional perk: most places open till midnight in summer.
Cool places get overbuilt all around the world. Massive hotels, roads, cars, and malls are everywhere! However, Vrnjacka Banja has two main natural assets. Since the place doesn’t disturb the mountains much, you won’t see hideous infrastructure. In addition, water flows along the slopes and the earth is bountiful, so the city has endless parks with trees and plants. That said, for those of you more adventurers, you can go on incredible hikes up the nearby mountains of Kopaonik (2017m), Jastrebac (1492m), Zeljin (1785m) and Stolovi (1375m). Fishing is very popular too.
You will probably spend a lot of time in the spa of your hotel. We even went twice a day, as soon as we woke up and at night. However, there are other interesting options to explore. The most famous one is the Medical Hotel and Spa Merkur in the middle of the park. You won’t have trouble recognizing the fantastic building. Even if you don’t enter, be sure to check the entire compound. This is one of the centers that made Vrnjacka Banja the premier Spa in Serbia. On the southern end of the park you will find Izvor Jezero, a mineral spring set in a cool futuristic building. Further south is Mineralni Izvor Snežnik, a natural spring with three wells.
As we’ve mentioned, walking about Vrnjacka Banja is a must. Obviously, walk all around the park, including the Japanese Garden. Then walk to Belimarkovic Castle, the oldest building in the city. This north Italian style castle built from 1888 to 1894 by the famous general Jovan Belimarkovic is now a museum. From there, walk along Jovana Cvijica to see several mansions such as Vila Misovic. Finish your walk along the promenade where you will find cafes and villas. Don’t forget to check the buildings downtown, especially along Beogradska and Krusevacka streets. A few blocks away is the Orthodox Church Presvete Bogorodice.
Set a day aside to go back in time and visit extraordinary historic temples. Some 40km from Vrnjacka Banha is Kalenic Monastery, built from 1407 to 1413. Further down the road you will find the Church of the Holy First Martyr Stephen, also known as Lazarica Church. Built from 1375 to 1379 this unique temple blends the local Morava school of architecture with Bizantine masonry. Closer to town is Ljubostinja Monastery, built from 1388 to 1405 and still in use today. Take note that the three monasteries are within equally beautiful nature. Taxis in Serbia are inexpensive, and drivers are professional. Agree to a price, relax, and enjoy the ride!
How to Get to Vrnjacka Banja
Vrnjacka Banja spa town is in Central Serbia, next to international road E761, between Kraljevo and Krusevac. It’s connected to the entire country by bus. Numerous buses a day go from Belgrade to Vrnjacka Banja in 3 to 4 hours. There are many buses from Nis each day, and the journey takes 2 to 3 hours. Additionally, there are 2 buses a day from Skopje and one from Podgorica. If you are flying into Serbia, the closest airport is the one in Nis, about 100km away. Belgrade International Airport is a bit further away. Take note that the bus terminal in Vrnjacka Banja is 500 meters away from the center, on Vojvodjanska Street.