Vrnjacka Banja, the Unexpected Royal Spa of Serbia

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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 and Kyustendil in Bulgaria. 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.

There are seven mineral springs in Vrnjacka Bajna. The best hotels offer incredible baths and treatments. In winter, people from all over the Balkans visit to ski in nearby Goc. Come summer, the biggest music and art festival in the country take place in the city. Rush to Vrnjacka Banja before the word gets around, and let your body and mind relax to the bone.

Vrnjacka Banja Spa Town Serbia

First Impressions

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.

Vrnjacka Banja - pedestrian street

History

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.

Today, Vrnjacka Banja is a modern city that attracts a young crowd and families. The city hosts some of the best music and art festivals in the region. Mountain biking, hiking, and bird watching are very popular too. Besides, the Faculty of Hotel Management and Tourism of the University of Kragujevac is here too. That’s why the city enjoys professional service.

Old house in Vrnjacka Banja

Where to Stay

Our favorite hotel in Vrnjacka Banja is Hotel Park. It’s a contemporary building in the center of town. However, since it overlooks the gardens, it’s very quiet. The hotel’s onsite spa and wellness center are amazing too. Book a room with a balcony to enjoy the fresh air. You won’t believe the quality of the complimentary breakfast. Be sure to walk around town after eating so much!

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 Slatina

Other Hotels

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.

We recommend Hotel Fontana for couples. The hotel is in the middle of all the action but has its own quiet garden. The full-service spa center is huge, so it’s never crowded. It’s got two pools, a sauna, a Jacuzzi, and all types of treatments. Since it’s got parking, it’s perfect if you are driving. The plush rooms are big and comfortable.

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. However, you don’t need to stay in the hotel to enjoy its treatments. Stay in one of the best hotels, and go to Merkur to relax.

Vila Aleksandar

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.

Since it’s a spa town, Vrnjacka Banja has a relaxed and easy-going vibe. People visit to enjoy nature, bathe in mineral waters, rest, eat and have wine. You will see couples, friends, and families mingle without a problem. That said, you can always be alone. The city has so many parks and nature that’s it’s perfect for a couple of days of quality personal time.

Vrnjacka Banja Spa Town Serbia

Food, Coffee & Wine

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.

If you like wine, head to Grabak Winery. It’s a massive complex within walking distance of the center. You can taste all types of wines, including Sauvignon and Malbec. The winery has its own 2-hectare vineyard. Not only that, but you can play tennis, volley, walk in the park, and bathe in its two pools.

Vrnjacka Banja main street

Nature

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.

Be sure to ask in your hotel for your favorite sport. As mentioned, people from all over the Balkans visit to exercise. You can always join a group of mountain bikers or walkers. Serbians are pretty welcoming and enjoy meeting people from all over the world. Besides, since most speak perfect English, you won’t have a problem.

Vrnjacka Banja Spa Town Serbia

Spas

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.

However, we strongly advice you use your own hotel pools. The ones we recommended above have the best mineral waters and treatments. Besides, you won’t believe the prices! All you have to do is enjoy. The same applies to food. The above-mentioned hotels have fantastic nutritional programs that are worth trying.

Hotel Merkur

Sights

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.

You can also walk to Rudinci Village just half an hour away. Only 2000 people live in the village. You won’t see any big buildings or crowds. It’s to the east of the city. From there, you can stroll along forests. The area is pretty safe so you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you get lost, ask anyone around and you’ll find your way.

Belimarkovic Castle

Excursions

Set a day aside to go back in time and visit extraordinary historic Serbian Orthodox Monasteries. Some 40 km 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 Byzantine 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!

From Vrnjacka Banja you can continue your trip through the Balkans. Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is some 200 miles (320 km) away. Sofia is a bit closer, 180 miles (300 km) away. You can drive to both places in a bit over three hours, and there are buses. Another popular route is to Montenegro. You get to see the country’s famed mountains!

Ljubostinja Monastery

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 100 km 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.

Another option is to go to the Morava Airport. It’s a small airport just 25 miles (40 km) from the city. Flights from Thessaloniki, Belgrade, Tivat, and Istanbul operate from there. You can rent a car at the airport and drive to the city in 45 minutes. We can’t assure you that you’ll find public transportation from this airport.

Local artists

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