When my family had to fly to England for a few days, I found myself on my own in Podgorica. I intended to sit in a hostel and catch up with some work, but being in a new capital and not seeing it would have been a wasted opportunity. So I researched the best things to do and see, then I went to see and do them. Though largely uninteresting and fairly grim, there are some nice areas, excellent mountain views, the streets are great for running, and everywhere there are pizza kiosks and restaurants serving delicious food and great coffee. In summary, I wouldn’t recommend Podgorica as a destination, but if you have a travel layover for a day or two, then read on to find all the best things to do in Podgorica.
Podgorica Montenegro- its location and history
Podgorica, the capital city of Montenegro, lies inland, surrounded by mountains on the only plain area in the country. The town was founded at the confluence of the rivers Moraca and Ribnica under a hill called Gorica from which it took its name – the word “pod” means “under “in most Slavonic languages. After the second world war and with the merging of Montenegro with its neighbours to form a new nation, the city was renamed Titograd to honour Joseph Tito – president of the new Combined Communist State of Yugoslavia.
During the Second World War, Podgorica was flattened by more than 70 airborne bombing missions, and so very little of the city today is older than the soviet gridiron of communist Yugoslavia. Much of the post communist development is along the same lines, perhaps built with modern facades but to no higher a standard of structural quality. If you add to this that the place is quite dirty – Montenegrins have a miserable culture of leaving litter and rubbish – Podgorica is definitely not my favourite place. But I was here for four days, and in case you find yourself here too, then here is my guide to the city’s attractions.
So … What Are the Things to do in Podgorica?
The Old Town – Stara Varos
Every time I hear the words “Old Town” my eyes light up. This is where I expect to find historical charming architecture lining narrow winding streets. Podgórica’s Stara Varos has a narrow winding street, but it’s not charming, as Stari Bar. Stara Varos it’s a poor fairly dilapidated area boasting only two attractions. These are the Old Mosque and the Turkish clock tower (Sahat Kula), which is located outside the old city and is the icon of the city. Nearby is the Pod Volat restaurant which serves tasty and inexpensive local food.
Though unexciting in itself, the Old Town is on the pedestrian route to see the Nemanjin Grad – the ruins of the Ottoman fortress from which you can stroll down to the river and find the most charming relic of old Podgorica, the bridge over the River Ribnica.
Ribnica Bridge and the Two Rivers
The Old Ribnica Bridge was built in Roman times and reconstructed in the 18th century. Today, with the skyline of the historical Ottoman fortress above, it is perhaps the only site which could rouse your imagination of how Podgorica might have looked before the wartime bombing.
The bridge crosses the Ribnica just next to where it joins the much bigger Moraca river. Here you will find the modern concrete Blazo Janovic Bridge, which is an impressive geometric arched structure but perhaps most interesting seen from below for all its graffiti.
The Moscow and Millennium Bridges
From the Blazo Janovic Bridge, there is a pleasant walk through the park to the pedestrian Moscow Bridge, underneath this, a small stony beach makes a popular summer spot for locals to swim in the river.
When you are crossing the Moscow Bridge stop to take a photo of Millennium bridge with its impressive cable suspension structure. On the other side of the river, you can find quite a spooky statue of Vladimir Vysotsky, the Russian Bob Dylan. Vysotsky was an iconic Russian singer-poet, still well known as far away as Poland, and presumably in Montenegro too.
Nova Varoš (New town)
The Moscow and Millennium bridges lead directly to Podgorica new town, the Nova Varos. It is built on a gridiron of wide streets and includes pedestrian areas lined with modern shops, restaurants and cafes. This is the best place to stop and have lunch. On sunny weekends the sidewalks and pedestrian streets are full of people chatting over coffee. Kids play football in the big Trg Nezavisnosti city square. This area has a relaxed, friendly vibe, feeling much more like a rural town than a European Capital.
From the New town, you can make your way on foot to Gorica Hill, on the way don’t forget to visit St George’s Church.
St. George’s Church
The church was established in the tenth century but has been rebuilt several times since. Inside you can find frescoes and nineteenth-century icons. It is the oldest church in Podgorica and more charming than the newly built Orthodox Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection.
Gorica hill is one of Podgorica’s top attractions – an excellent place for walking, cycling and running – with three paths of different lengths 800, 2,000 and 3,000 metres. The hill is a forested oasis in the city sprawl. There are interesting information posters about local birds and plants. On your walk, through the forest paths, there are several activity areas including the Adventure Park. Walking around Gorica hill was one of my favourites activities in Podgorica.
Adventure Park Gorica
If you are hungry for some zip-line activities, then Gorica Adventure Park with its tree-top obstacle course should be on your list. The great thing is that the park has something for the whole family. There are obstacle courses for kids, youngsters over 14 and for adults. All look like fun. If it’s too much for you, you can relax with a coffee and cake in the Cafe STO CINIS while the kids can play on the free playground and outdoor gym.
JU Muzeji i galerije Podgorice
Located on Miljanova Street, (very close to Hilton hotel) the ground floor contains modern picture galleries, while the upper level has information about Montenegrin history and the city. The displays here include outfits of traditional dress and military weapons. Twenty minutes is enough to see all the exhibits and entrance to the museum is free.
Most of the museums in Podgorica are free to entry.
Centre of Contemporary Art – Petrovic Palace
The palace of King Nikola is now Podgorica’s Centre of Contemporary Art. This place has four permanent exhibitions dedicated to Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as temporary exhibitions by local artists. Entry is free.
The Cathedral of Christ’s Resurrection
This popular, newly built Orthodox Church was started in 1993 and completed in 2003. According to experts, the cathedral is one of the most interesting Orthodox churches built in modern times, with its glossy but not overdone interiors. The front facade with twin towers and arch reminded me of the cathedral in Kotor.
If you have a need for a Shopping experience, Podgorica is no doubt the top place in Montenegro being its capital and the biggest city in the country. Podgorica has three shopping malls
- Mall of Montenegro – located close to the old town – has a limited collection of shops and a rather run down feel.
- Delta City Mall the biggest and most popular shopping mall with Aroma supermarket and international brands
- Capital Plaza – Perhaps more high-end than Delta.
Wine Tasting in Plantaze Winery
My suggestion instead of shopping would be to try Wine Tasting.
At 2,300 hectares, Plantaže is one of the biggest vineyards in a single complex in Europe. Plantaze produces around 22 million kg of grapes a year and sells approximately 16 million bottles of wine. As well as the better known Merlot and Cabernet varieties, by far the highest volume of wine here is Vranac- a variety specifically limited by law to Montenegro and producing a dark, rich wine – full of flavour, but quite heavy in tannin.
Plantaze offers various wine tasting and wine and food pairing workshops. The wine is good – I tried. And the cheese is yummy too. So when you are in Podgorica, I think you should take one of the Winery tours and enjoy it.
For additional info about the tours and the prices check here.
Things to do around Podgorica
View from the Top of Dajbabska Gora
The triangular offices of the Dajbabska Gora Telecommunications Tower elevated halfway up a concrete spire form an iconic hilltop landmark. There is a good road up to the top of the Dajbabska hill, on the south side of the city where a public car park becomes the scene for the youngsters of the city to enjoy late night parties looking down over the twinkling city lights. The view of the city by day is not so lovely, but the air is fresh and the road used by joggers and walkers.
Cijevna or Cem River Waterfalls (Niagara falls)
A few kilometers away to the south east of Podgorica – you can find Niagara waterfalls – or at least that’s how locals call them. I don’t know if they took the name from the restaurant which sits on the bank just above the falls or the restaurant was named after the waterfall.
The narrow rocky gorge into which the waters fall is quite spectacular and it is a fun place for kids to jump about over the rocks. This waterfall is actually a man made weir, the still waters above are a millpond and the millrace runs down on the other side of the gorge. According to a notice board, the dam was built for milling grain about 150 years ago, but there seems to be nothing remaining of the mill.
The restaurant there is a beautiful place with a timber structure, open fires and traditional wooden items on display. There is a wide riverside terrace to enjoy a coffee or fresh juice. One point to note is that these falls may run dry in summer so check before visiting
If you are visiting with kids “Prihvatiliste i Oporavak Zivotinja” will be one of their favourite experiences. This place is a mixture between the animal shelter and a small petting zoo. They have a bear and a wolf too. Entry costs 5 Euro, for which you can pet and feed animals and stay as long as you like.
Part of the road to the place is very narrow so be ready to back off when you see someone coming on the opposite side.
Farther away at about 50km to the west and high in the mountains, you will find Ostrog Monastery in a stunning site set hard against a vertical cliff face. We were back in our vehicle now the family had rejoined me, but we parked at the bottom of the road and walked up a lovely stone stepped path through beautiful woodlands. It was February and the forest was carpeted with wild crocuses and here and there were also snowdrops.
The Orthodox church monastery was largely rebuilt in the 20th century after a fire, and is a remarkable place and well worth climbing the uncountable steps and stairs both through the woods and within the monastery itself. You can to visit two little painted chapels carved into the face of the rock, one housing the relics of St Basil, (Vasilije) and enjoy magnificent views back across the valley.
Doclea (Duklija) Ruins
Duklja is an archaeological site close to Podgorica. Doclea was the old roman city built around 1st Century AD with a population of around ten thousand people. On the site, you can see the old streets and housing, and temples, towers and others. Unfortunately, the site is not well maintained but some of the artefacts found on the site you can see today in Podgorica City Museum.
One of the biggest lakes in Europe, Skadar forms the border between Montenegro and Albania. Famous for its natural wildlife, Skadar is a beautiful place to visit by road and trek on foot.
Is Podgorica safe?
Yes, from my experience it is. I ran through the city on my own at night and I felt totally safe. Here everyone seems to mind his/ her own business, but are friendly when you ask for help.
Where to stay in Podgorica? – Hotels in Podgorica
Hilton Podgorica – is the poshest hotels in Podgorica, with a heated indoor swimming pool. The hotel is located on the border of New Town, near the park. That’s the best hotel if you want just to relax. And with excellent price off-season.
Hotel Hemra – the chicest hotel in Podgorica. Located in a pedestrian part of the New Town, with an excellent restaurant
Ramada Hotel Podgorica – The Ramada, which is connected to the Mall of Montenegro would also be a good choice.
If you are looking for cheaper accommodation then hotels, Podgorica has few hostels which offer accommodations not only in the dorm room but as well in a single or double room for as little as 15€ per night.
Things to do in Podgorica Montenegro, Conclusion
The Capital of Montenegro will never top any list of tourist destinations, but I enjoyed my time as a Podgorica tourist, wandering about on foot, and when my family returned from the UK, we enjoyed another day and a half exploring farther afield in the van. There is certainly plenty to do there and I was glad I took the opportunity to see what it had to offer.
What to do in Podgorica? Pin it for Later
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