Travel with the kids to Belgrade : top 3 places to go
From the start, I want to say that there are much more than 3 places to take your kids in Serbia, and in fact this topic would be worthy of it’s own chapter. So I decided to pick our top 3 to start with and maybe I can add more as we go along.
Serbia is fast changing and leaving behind its former isolated past after the UN sanctions in the 90’s. Serbia has been looking firmly forward towards the EU in recent years, but there is one thing that has remained true all along then and now – Serbs are very proud of their hospitality. It just isn’t widely reported because, well, it is often overlooked in favour of tourist riddled places like Paris, Rome and so on. That is changing, with Lonely Planet and Trivago both citing Serbia as the “go to” destination in 2015. Given the turmoil that this country has been through in the past, Serbs are only too happy to tell you the truth about their homeland. Now, I am not suggesting that you go to random strangers homes, but what I am saying is that foreigners are very much welcome in Serbia.
Serbian hospitality was recently highlighted during the Syrian refugee crisis, with Syrian refugees reporting that they were treated very well for the first time by Serbs during their arduous journey. Serbia has also recently been credited by the EU for holding together the region’s stability during this crisis, more so than “some other EU member states”. So, forget everything you may have read in the press during the 90’s and embrace one of the last European countries still untouched by mass tourism.
Kids are always welcome in Serbia
As a family oriented culture, Serbia welcomes children. In fact, Belgrade is one of the safest cities in Europe to bring your family. Teach the kids a few Serbian greetings and words, they will be irresistible! In fact, Serbs are delighted to hear their language attempted by foreigners. Sure, they may laugh at your pronunciation (I know they did at me), but it is all very light hearted and considered delightful. You and your kids become immediately simpatični pronounced ” sim-pati-chni” – ie instantly appealing!
My kids (10 and 12 year old), who had never been before, went for the first time this year and despite not knowing Serbian anymore (shame on us, so our families have said), absolutely loved being there. Ok, sure they had family – but hardly knew them and most they’ve never met before. They begged us to cancel our Italian trip we had booked to stay LONGER in Belgrade. Now, I didn’t expect that to happen because I wasn’t sure how they would feel about the place. All they knew was that I LOVED it there – but since when does that sway kids at this age? No less their parent’s thoughts?
I know that there are a few blogs out there citing Belgrade’s night life, backpacker hang outs and generally focusing on the strengths of this city for the younger 20 somethings. I am here to tell you that Belgrade offers more – WAY more – for families and even older than 20 year olds, who are looking for genuine, honest and budget friendly holiday. Belgrade may not be Paris, Rome or London. And I don’t think it wants to be, nor should it. I love the fact that Belgrade is not yet over-run by tourists which is what appeals most to me – the city is being itself. But Serbia’s true heartbeat is the people themselves. And that makes all the difference between an irritating money grabbing tourist trap and a real place to visit.
So, what are the things you can do with kids while you are in Belgrade? It depends on whether you have a rental car or not. If you plan to visit outside of Belgrade (and I really, really recommend that you do), then hire a car, even for a day.
I just know that with two kids in tow, travelling from halfway across the world (ie Australia), we need to find a few things that they can do when we visit Serbia, or any other place for that matter.
1. Belgrade’s Zoo (Zoološki vrt), Serbia
Pronounced “zoo-loh-shki vrt”, Belgrade’s zoo is open 365 days per year from 8am. The Belgrade zoo is part of the city’s Kalemegdan park, and was founded in 1936. It has a unique history in that it was bombed – twice – once by Germany during the WW2 invasion in 1941 and then again by the Allies in 1944. People who hid in the zoo during the bombing raids died. Animals either died or were destroyed after escaping their cages.
At Belgrade’s zoo, your kids can see a range of exotic animals including reptiles, tigers (golden and white), monkeys, bears, giraffes, birds of prey, hippos, elephants, wolves, lions, and all the way from Australia, kangaroos. Did you know that bears and wolves are native to Serbia? Then go for a wander around the Kalemegdan park and the old fortress which overlooks the beautiful Danube river. Grab an ice cream from a street vendor in the park as well as a couple of souvenirs. You could easily spend most of the day out, and then return the kids back to your hotel with tired (yet hopefully happy) little feet, ready for supper, bath and bed! How many kids can go back home and say that they visited a zoo with such a unique history? Hopefully more as time goes on.
Muja, the alligator, and Buca the hippo, are one of only animals who survived the WW2 bombings.
Please note the Code of Conduct for Visitors to ensure the safety of all visitors and animals.
Address: Mali Kalemegdan 8, Belgrade, Serbia Tel: +381 11 26 245 26
Cost: 400 RSD for people over 15 years old, 300 RSD for kids between 3 and 15 years of age. That’s only about 2-3 euros per child! Now, that is an inexpensive day out for all the family. All information on the website is available in English.
2. Izvor Aqua Park, Serbia
If you happen to visit Serbia during the European school holidays (ie summer), and I highly recommend it, then rent a car from Belgrade and drive down to the Izvor Aqua Park. Belgrade has all the major rental car companies, our personal favourite is Europcar which has provided us with prompt, exceptional service every time. Mr Dejan Novaković is the agent who helped us at the Belgrade airport.
Izvor Aqua Park is only 75km from Belgrade (about an hour drive south) in Aranđelovac (pronounced “aran- djelo-vatz”), and their claim to fame is that they have the biggest water slides in Serbia.
On the Izvor Aqua Park website, you will find the full price list, map on how to get there, rules, and information about the park and hotel. Izvor Aqua Park has water fun for all ages.
Address: Mišarska 2b, Aranđelovac Tel: +381 34 700 500
Cost: Family passes (2 adults + 2 children) are 1,850 RSD for weekdays, and 2,350 RSD for weekends. That works out to be approximately between 15 to 20 Euro for the whole family, all day. Children under 3 are free. All information on the website is available in English.
If you want to stay overnight, you can stay at the Hotel Izvor, a 5 star hotel located next to the Aqua Park with all the facilities that you need, including a spa & wellness centre for mum and dad, dining, indoor pool, fitness centre and spacious rooms/suites. There is even an indoor bowling alley, games room and indoor/outdoor playground centre as well. Everything a family needs to an affordable yet luxurious vacation!
3. Rainy day back-up plan
It’s raining and you need to get the kids out from the hotel room before they start crawling the ceiling. Take them to one of Novi Beograd’s (New Belgrade) undercover shopping centres for some inside play time. You can go by car, taxi or bus. We took our kids (10 and 12) and their younger cousins to Delta City TC Shopping Centre (like the Westfield of Serbia), where they had indoor fun at Ultra Centar Galaktika (top floor). There is also a smaller indoor centre next door for preschool and smaller kids.
At Galaktika, you buy tokens or žetone to play games such as pinball, air hockey, claw prize games, car racing and similar video games. You can also purchase 30min slots for PlayStation time (on some bean bags). This is a cool kids place where they can also have parties. There are free documentaries about space and other astronomical topics at certain times so you would need to check ahead for screenings.
Cineplexx movie theatres are on the same level, as is usual in shopping centres as big as this one. Also there is a food court with the usual suspects (McDonald’s, KFC, pizzeria etc).
Verdict? My kids LOVED it and kept going back, even when it wasn’t raining! For parents: there is a licensed bar which serves coffee/tea too for the parents. The balcony outside is a smoking area.
So…go to Belgrade, and know that your kids won’t be the slightest bit bored!