Get ready to sink your teeth into delicious vegan mushroom pastries as you take in some of the best attractions Belgrade has to offer.
Why this vegan guide to Belgrade?
After visiting Belgrade on three separate occasions to visit Serbian friends, I know a thing or two about surviving as a vegan in Serbia’s capital city. From accidental discoveries to food and places I’ve found through insider information, this vegan guide to Belgrade will prepare you for a pleasurable and cruelty-free visit!
Useful vegan phrases in Serbian
Ja sam (m) vegan/(f) veganka [pronounced: ya sam veh-gan-kah].
I do not eat…
Ja ne jedem… [pronounced: ya ne yeh-dem]
…meat – meso [pronounced: mess-oh]
…fish – ribu [pronounced: ree-boo]
…eggs – jaja [pronounced: ya-ya]
…dairy products – mlečni proizvodi [pronounced: mlech-nee proyz-voh-dee]
Do you have plant-based milk?
Imate li biljno mleko? [pronounced: im-mah-tay lee bil-nyoh mleh-koh?]
Does the pasta contain egg?
Ima li u testu jaja? [pronounced: im-mah lee oo test-oo ya-ya?]
Does the soup contain meat?
Ima li u supa mesa? [pronounced: im-mah lee oo soo-pah mess-ah?]
Da/ne [pronounced: dah/neh]
An intro to Serbian cuisine
Similar to other Yugoslavian countries, meat plays a significant role in Serbian cuisine; according to my friend Djordje, Serbians “worship meat”. Cheese and eggs are also prominent. But not to fear, because beans, cabbage, red pepper sauce and plenty of vegan filo pastry feature regularly. You may also be pleased to know that the majority of rakija is vegan-friendly (plum and raspberry are my faves), just watch out for the honey-flavoured ones!
Learn more about why vegans can’t eat honey.
Attitudes to vegan diets in Belgrade
In my experience, the hospitality was excellent and the restaurant staff were very keen to find something that I could eat.
The only bad experience I had was when I ventured outside of the touristy areas and ate at a modern pizza restaurant called Pizza Bar; the waiter informed me that the dough contained eggs and was very uncooperative when I tried to ask for the quinoa or falafel salad without dressing (I ended up with a bowl of salad leaves and a few tomatoes). But don’t be put off since this experience was definitely a one-off and even the more traditional restaurants often have a vegan option (see Accidentally Vegan Serbian Foods).
Eating out as a vegan in Belgrade
Whilst staff are accommodating, many non-vegan places will serve you adapted dishes (usually with all sources of protein removed), which means you’ll be hard-pushed to get nutritionally-balanced meals whilst eating out in Belgrade; although, I have frequently been pleasantly surprised by some of the meals on offer.
What’s more, Belgrade’s vegan locals and tourists are demanding more choices, which has led to a burgeoning vegan restaurant scene; currently, these are mostly in Stari Grad (Old Town) and the rest of the central area but vegan options are steadily becoming more available in Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) and even Zemun, particularly as Beyond Meat grows in popularity.
Times are changing. A waiter at Rai Urban Vege, a new vegetarian restaurant I visited (twice) in Dorćol, told me that about 60+% of their customers are Serbian and that there is a growing interest in vegan food, mainly for health reasons. It’s likely that there will be many more options for vegans in Belgrade in the near future.
Accidentally vegan foods in Belgrade
Top tip: Look for food labelled posna (sometimes posno/posnu)! The Serbian Orthodox Church requires its members to fast each year and avoid eating meat, dairy and eggs. Fish and honey are still considered posna but this label makes it much easier to find vegan food in Belgrade, particularly before Easter and Christmas. You can use this word when asking for some of the accidentally vegan foods I’ve listed below.
Look for food labelled posna
Head to a pekara (bakery) and you will likely find a number of accidentally vegan baked goods, including pita/burek. These pastry pies are made out of deliciously thin layers of pastry, filled with various simple fillings and then rolled up into spirals. Some of them will have cheese and meat inside but the pastries containing only krompir (potato), pečurkama (mushrooms), blitva (chard), jabuka (apple) and trešnja (cherry) are usually vegan-friendly since the pastry is traditionally made using just flour, salt and water.
My absolute favourite accidentally vegan food in Belgrade has to be the prebranac (thick bean stew) I ate at Danubius. Prebranac is often cooked with smoked meat or sausage but the base of the sauce is simply beans and veg so you can ask for the posno version; it’s so rich and gratifying! Pasulj is a more soupy version of this dish and can also be accidentally vegan.
Other Serbian posno dishes you can find include sarma (fermented cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and walnuts), punjena paprika (stuffed peppers), rižoto od povrća (vegetable risotto) and ajvar (red pepper spread to eat with bread).
Discover the accidentally vegan foods
Shopping for vegan food in Belgrade
Idea and even some smaller supermarket chains have vegan products like plant milk, vegan cheese, soy or almond-based cream, etc. You can find most of these vegan products in the organic/healthy food aisle but there are also some awesome vegan surprises dotted around the other sections.
For more specialist vegan ingredients, you’ll want to go to a bio shop or organic market. There you can find tofu, seitan, tempeh, lentils, nooch and even vegan chocolate!
What to do as a vegan in Belgrade
Originally a separate town situated on the border of the Austrian and Ottoman empires, Zemun is a charming municipality that runs along the right bank of the Danube river.
Fun fact: the Danube runs through 4 capital cities, more than any other river in the world!
Vegan food and activities in Zemun
I definitely recommend checking out Zemunsko Groblje (I have a weird obsession with graveyards and this one is a real mishmash of graves and mausoleums decorated with captivating portraits). The Gardoš Tower, which has panoramic views of Belgrade, is situated nearby. A pub and a restaurant share this vantage point and the staff are accommodating to vegans. Focaccia, chard pastries, various salads, vegetarian risotto and tomato broth and grilled vegetables can all be easily adapted. More allergen info is available on their website (link below).
From Gardoš, you can wander down the winding stairs and meandering cobbled streets to the riverside. The houses around here are quaint and charming and, once you reach the riverside, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes with vegan options. I dined at both Danubius and Platani, where I ate Thick Bean Stew and Baked Eggplant (without mozzarella) respectively. Each meal was extremely delicious and satiating. Platani also served chopped olives and fresh garlic oil alongside the bread, which tasted amazing drizzled over my aubergine. Oh, and if you’re a NoLo drinker, Danubius serves Heineken 0.0!
Vegan-friendly places to stay in Zemun
My favourite place to stay in the whole of Belgrade has to be Apartments Marconio Wellness Club in Zemun. It’s pricier and a bit out of the way (they also have apartments closer to the centre but these are even pricier) but the buses are super easy to navigate and the rooms have private spas and kitchenettes; you can cook your own vegan food and then relax in your own personal hot tub and sauna! One of the rooms even has a swimming pool!
There is an apartment with an aquarium though, which I would personally avoid as a vegan.
Stari Grad (Old Town)
The heart of Belgrade and home to some of the best views and monuments, Stari Grad is a must-visit. In addition to some of the best shopping streets and malls, this area of Belgrade is brimming with vibrant wall art, vegan food establishments, historic buildings and romantic walks.
Vegan food and activities in Stari Grad
Grab yourself a coffee and a pita from any number of the pekaras in Stari Grad and take a stroll down Knez Mihailova. Explore the impressive street art around Savamala, walk around Belgrade Fortress and take in the view from the west side of Kalemegdan Park.
There are so many vegan establishments in this area of Belgrade that it’s difficult to recommend just a few. But I can’t not mention Rai Urban Vege, which I visited twice (I enjoyed it so much that I had to bring my Serbian friends the second time). Newly opened and tucked away down an unassuming alleyway, Rai Urban Vege is elegant and utterly charming. The staff are welcoming and helped to create a relaxed yet energetic atmosphere. As for the food? Even my meat-loving Serbian friends were blown away by the vegan fare!
Once you’ve gorged yourself on food, you can wander along the waterfront. If you walk far enough (it will certainly grow back your appetite), you’ll end up at Dogma Brewery, which serves fantastic craft beer and Beyond Meat burgers. Stop at one of the lively bars en route, if you wish, or head back into Stari Grad to enjoy the vibrant nightlife.
I recommend Mama Shelter, a trendy hotel that serves vegan food in its restaurant and is right next to Stari Grad. This really is the place to be if you want to experience Belgrade’s nightlife.
Other vegan accommodation in Belgrade
Prefer to stay in 100% vegan accommodation? Check out these vegan hotels!
There are currently no vegan or vegetarian B&Bs that I know about in Belgrade, although there is a hostel with a vegetarian kitchen, known as Magic Beans. It’s a bit further out to the east of Belgrade but it looks cool because it’s a not-for-profit organisation that has its own organic farm and community gardens. I’ve not stayed myself since I prefer to stay in self-catered accommodation and I can’t find any online reviews but the vegetarian hostel is listed on Hostels Club and the information states that they serve vegan meals.
If you’ve stayed at Magic Beans, please let me know what it’s like so I can share in this vegan guide to Belgrade!
I’d love to hear about your experiences as a vegan in Belgrade! Got any restaurant suggestions? Know any places to avoid? Or want to share your best vegan Serbian travel story? I look forward to hearing about them in the comments below!