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Rather than fighting it, it is wisest to accept that rakija is inevitable when visiting Belgrade. This is especially true when visiting for the first time, as locals may be eager to expose you to the national drink. These are the best places to experience rakija in Belgrade, along with one tip for where to avoid.
Rakija is available in each and every Belgrade drinking establishment, so singling out venues is a bit redundant. The same selection can often be found in different bars after all, so the only thing differentiating them is the prices and interiors of the venues.
There are always exceptions of course, and Rakia Bar is that when it comes to the hard stuff in Belgrade. The bar opened in 2006 with both eyes firmly focused on this most traditional of Serbian pastimes, and it has thrived ever since. More than 100 rakija brands and flavours are available here, making this the ultimate spot to find for anyone looking to try a variety of rakijas.
There is also a Rakia Bar souvenir shop, for anyone wanting to buy some to take home. If you particularly enjoy a variety in the bar, then this is absolutely a good idea, rather than drinking as much as you can on your first go. If you don’t believe us, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
We’re going to contradict ourselves again by saying that it is difficult to single out places for rakija before doing just that, but Ambar restaurant deserves a special mention. This riverside spot has a great selection of rakijas, but the difference here comes from the knowledge of those serving the drinks. The waiters and waitresses will be able to give you the lowdown on any and all flavours, putting your mind at ease before you send that same mind for a spin.
The rakija that you drink in restaurants, bars and kafanas will likely be of the industrial kind. This doesn’t sound too appealing, but it must be remembered that this is true of most drinks in these places. Establishments are buying in bulk after all, so quality often takes a backseat to quantity.
The absolute best place to buy rakija in Belgrade is from the many green markets that dot the city. Not only this, but you should also pay special attention and keep an eye out for rakija that is sold in plastic bottles with homemade labels. This might sound like a recipe for disaster, but you need to trust us on this one.
Rakija is almost always better when it is domestic, and it doesn’t get much more domestic than what the Serbian elderly concocted over the winter. The liqueurs on offer will be far stronger than what you get in the bars, but will also bring you one step closer to that most genuine of Serbian experiences. Just be careful not to drink too much, lest you go blind.
If heading to the green market and buying an unmarked bottle of moonshine doesn’t really appeal, then the next best bet is to sample the rakija made by the family members of friends. We’re not lying when we say that the overwhelming majority of previous generations make their own rakijas, and you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself at the house of a friend and they bust out a hastily-labelled plastic bottle of the clear stuff.
Belgrade’s nightlife is legendary, but the good times are best experienced in living rooms and kitchens around the city. The none-more-domestic nature of this is one of the best parts of living in Belgrade and beyond.
As mentioned previously, Belgrade’s nightlife is every bit as legendary as the city itself, and much of the myth is built around the splavs (boast clubs) that fill the riverbanks. A big night out in Belgrade will almost always end at one of these, whether it is the intensely cliched Freestyler or the alternative cool of 20/44. The boats are as varied as they are numerous.
One thing that is almost always true is that you shouldn’t go buying rakija on them. This isn’t because of the drink itself — the liquid you imbibe will be no different to that on sale in restaurants in the city centre — but the likelihood of waiters taking financial advantage of drunk foreigners increases. This isn’t always the case of course, but it is best to establish the price of a glass of rakija before deciding to order it. This is common sense, but it should still be mentioned.
You are going to drink rakija at some point during your trip, whether you plan on it or not. The more domestic that rakija can be, the better.