Ever since I came back to Belgrade in 2016, I put myself through countless arduous tasks in order to bring you the knowledge, dear Reader, of the best ways to spend time in my beloved hometown. This promethean striving led me to run, eat and listen to music, but no task was harder than trying to figure out what the best places are to spend you time sweating. After many a sauna session, and research into the public baths at home (sadly extinct) and abroad, here is the list, already 5 years in the making.
Metropol is a Belgrade institution. Initially designed Dragiša Brašovan to serve as the HQ of the youth wing for the Yugoslav League of Communists, it was re-designed instead to be one of the best hotels in town, due to its proximity to the city centre, the National Assembly and the wonderful Tašmajdan park. After a long period of decay in 1990s and 2000s, and a catastrophic fire in 2007, it reopened in 2012, after a lovely revamp. One of the best additions is the bright, beautiful Limegrove spa which looks out to the park and visitors can enjoy the cool off on its terrace. When I went there a few years ago, I enjoyed sitting on the terrace as well the sauna, the steam room and the wonderful pool, however one downside was that they were quite busy, as the spa centre is popular with families
I am very partial to Tašmajdan Sports Centre as it is very close to my flat. I love spending my summers at its wonderful open pool, and in the winter its spa centre (especially when you get a ticket that allows you to use the olympic indoor pool) is one of the best ways to spend a hungover weekend. Located inside an old fire station, which was converted into a sports centre in 1968, Taš’s spa is cosy and dark even during the day even through it looks towards the tsree, and attracts a fun local crew. It has my favourite steam bath in the city, the two saunas (one with salt) are usually kept sufficiently hot and the spa pool is good for a dip, if not for a more serious swim. The overall design leaves a lot to be desired and, although clean, can look shabby.
WellnessLand in Vračar used to be the pinnacle of health clubs in Belgrade when it opened in 2000s. Although it attracts a generally posh (which in Belgrade almost invariably means uptight) set, it has the most polite and professional staff. The gym (only surpassed in its beauty by its sister gym at SkyWellness) is amazingly equipped and is not to be missed if you decide to visit. The spa centre, is equally amazing with two saunas (Russian and Finnish), a pool, a jacuzzi, a decent hammam and one outstanding feature often missing in Belgrade: a cold water dipping pool. It is especially dear to me as I do try to follow Wim Hof’s advice. One downside to the spa is that it is on a basement level, so it lack sunlight and the design is very much in line with what was considered opulent in 2000s Belgrade with classical references.
Crowne Plaza (or ex-InterContinental) is another Belgrade institution, built as part of the wider Sava Center-Genex complex in 1979. Although the design was updated when it switched brands, it still has the 70s feel of Sava Centar. The spa area is probably the most beautiful one in Belgrade as, from the outside it looks like one is trapped inside an emerald. It is predictably fantastic to spend time in as you can enjoy the largish pool, the jacuzzi and look out from one of the saunas. When I visited, the crowd was convivial with a lot of old Genex hands will talking about their adventures working in the countries of the non-Aligned movement.
Hyatt is the last major hotel of the Yugoslav era. Designed by the unparalleled Ivan Antić, close to his masterpiece, the Contemporary Art Museum, it opened in August 1990 and still has the early 1990s, late 1980s exuberance about it. Its massive Olympus spa centre has a different layout compared to most spas in Belgrade as the saunas and steam rooms are part of single-sex locker rooms. Its tour de force, however is the huge circular hot bath next to the pool, which offers views towards Ušće tower (former Central committee building), as you are shaded by 1990s style indoor greenery.
I 25. maj
The choice of 25. maj sports centre as Belgrade’s top spa, is due to my admiration of its architecture (this is another Antić masterpiece) and the great, populist vibe of the place. The indoor pool with its curved roof is unbeatable in the city, while the two huge saunas and the spa pool area are always lively with locals, many of whom are regulars, thanks to the reasonable price. The place is always spotless, has natural light and you can always go for a stroll next to the Danube once you are done with the sauna.
I want to thank those who made this possible and who suffered through all the Sisyphean sweating with me – Marina, Andreja, Milan and Miloš (who has the best private sauna in Grocka, and possibly the world).