Podgorica is the capital city of Montenegro, a rugged, mountainous country in the Balkans. Named after the Gorica Hill overlooking the city, the Podgorica Municipality is the country’s cultural, economic and educational hub. While it may not be a bucket list travel destination by any means, there are charming spots to uncover here that will surprise and delight you.
Montenegro is beloved for its sweeping landscapes and spectacular 180-kilometre Adriatic coastline, yet the capital never gets much love from travellers. Hopefully, this article will show you that there are plenty of interesting things to fill in a day or two here. Keep reading for 17 things you can see and do while in Podgorica, Montenegro.
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Old Town Walking Tour
Podgorica’s Old Town isn’t like most others in Europe. Air raids during World War II destroyed the majority of the city’s houses, walls and fortresses dating back to the 15th century, including those built by the Ottomans. As a result of this destruction, attractions are far and few between.
The stone Clock Tower, built in 1667, is one of the few Old Town structures still in-tact. The 15th-century Doganjska Mosque and the 18th-century Osmanagic Mosque remain too, providing a glimpse into the once-thriving Ottoman settlement.
For a €1 reservation fee, you can join the first and only Free City Tour in Podgorica. Departing from Montenegro Hostel in the Old Town, your local guides will show you around the city through their eyes. Rather than trying to find the best monuments and attractions all on your own, you’ll be conveniently taken to some of them with your small group!
As well as seeing the sites, you’ll get to know a bit about the city’s history, culture, cuisine, nightlife, and whatever else you may be curious about. This is a fantastic way to get to know what Podgorica is all about from a locals perspective.
Cathedral of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Podgorica’s most incredible attraction is Saborni Hram Hristovog Vaskrsenja, aka the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This elaborate Serbian Orthodox Church is eccentrically designed with a textured stone facade and two 26-metre-high towers on either side. The colourful, eclectic interiors feature impressive mosaic frescos, marble floors and golden chandeliers. Take some time to notice and appreciate the little architectural intricacies both inside and out.
You might be surprised to learn that this cathedral was only consecrated in 2013, although construction began two decades prior. Also unexpected is the controversial image in the apse depicting Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Tito burning in hell. The cathedral has unexpectedly long opening hours too, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. during the week and until 9 p.m. on weekends.
Another modern addition to Podgorica’s skyline is the Millennium Bridge, connecting the Old Town with the New Town. Constructed in 2005, it has quickly become one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. This architecturally-unique all-white bridge features a 57-metre-high pylon with 12 supporting cables. From certain angles, it resembles a shortened pyramid.
The bridge spans 173 metres across the Moraca River, the largest river in Montenegro. With designated walking paths on either side, you can cross on foot and appreciate the beauty of the river flowing below you. Stop by in the evening as well when the bridge is brightly illuminated.
Vladimir Vysotsky Monument
Next to the Millennium Bridge by the Moraca River is a stainless steel monument dedicated to Vladimir Vysotsky. Vysotsky was a renowned Russian poet, actor and singer who had a strong influence on Soviet culture. In one of Vysotsky’s poems, he claimed his love for Montenegro and expressed regret that he could not call the country his second home.
Surrounded by a giant metal frame, the Russian icon is depicted holding a guitar in one hand and raising the other hand triumphantly. Even though many Westerners won’t have heard of Vysotsky before, it’s nice to spot one of the rare statues in Podgorica.
Only a 10-minute drive from central Podgorica is Montenegro’s own Niagara Falls. While much smaller than the waterfalls in North America, Vodopad Nijagara still holds its own. Water flowing from the Prokletije Mountains by the Albanian border into the Cijevna River creates this peaceful and idyllic spot that you won’t want to miss.
It’s hard not to feel relaxed here as you listen to the sound of the waterfalls and spot the ducks and geese playing and swimming around. The restaurant by the riverbank is a superb place to enjoy a seafood lunch and a glass of wine or a cold beer. For those driving back into town, they also make a great latte.
To get here, pass by the turn for the airport and turn right immediately after the Cijevna Bridge. Keep heading straight as you follow the river. There aren’t many signs, but it’s not too difficult to find your way. While open year-round, the falls can be quite bare if there hasn’t been any recent rainfall, particularly by the end of summer. Before you make the effort to head out here, you can ask some of the locals to avoid disappointment. You’re in luck if you visit during spring, however, as you’ll discover vibrant purple wildflowers all along the banks.
Another natural gem near Podgorica is Lake Skadar. Shared with Albania, Skadar is the largest lake in Southern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula. The designated national park is easily one of the most scenic areas in Montenegro, and only a short drive from Podgorica.
Skadar is home to over 270 kinds of birds, including rare and endangered species. In fact, this is one of the only places in Europe where you can see pelicans. There is also a variety of protected plants and trees atop the steep mountainous cliffs.
Throughout the park, there are over a dozen churches, fortresses, monasteries and other sacred historic monuments, some of which date back to the 11th century. It’s also fun to spot the local fisherman out on the lake. The lake has seven native fish species and is known for its abundance of carp and eel.
There are tours you can book to make the trip here as smooth as possible, including pick up and drop off from your accommodation. A boat cruise is perfect for kicking back and enjoying the picturesque views. Make sure your tour involves a traditional Montenegrin cun boat so you can explore the narrow canals with ease. Some tours also include time to explore Virpazar, the medieval town on the banks of Lake Skadar.
Podgorica’s Dajbabe Monastery is a Serbian Orthodox Christian Monastery founded in 1897. At the top of Dajbabe Hill overlooking the luscious Zeta Valley, this unusual monastery is comprised of underground caves.
Dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, there are impressive catacombs and a slew of religious paintings across the cave walls. The large porch entrance with two bell towers on either side is the only visible part of the monastery.
This hidden gem is found about five kilometres south of central Podgorica. It’s a great place to head to escape the heat on a hot day.
The central square and heart of the city is Independence Square. Bordered by pedestrian streets Njegoševa and Slobode, the public meeting space is surrounded by palm trees and features a large central fountain.
Close to a variety of restaurants and shops, it’s a nice area if you feel like kicking back and people watching for a bit. You might be lucky and catch a live music performance here too.
Ribnica River Bridge
Crossing the Ribnica River is the Ribnica Bridge, also known simply as the Old Bridge. Just as the name indicates, the bridge is the oldest in Podgorica, built during the Ottoman rule in the late 1700s. It’s a charming attraction that offers a little slice of history and some nice photo opportunities. Depending on the time of year, the bridge will be surrounded by leafy green trees or white snowy riverbanks.
Close by the Ribnica Bridge is King’s Park, one of the city’s best urban spaces. It was established in 1910 in honour of King Nikola’s coronation, who ruled Montenegro until 1918, and was recently revamped in 2013.
Throughout the park are monuments of important Montenegrin figures, including the king himself, as well as a beautiful stone fountain that is colourfully illuminated in the evenings. Come by for a late-night stroll, or take a break in the shade during the day. There are chess tables too if you feel like bonding with the locals over a game.
About 40 kilometres north of Podgorica is the Ostrog Monastery, miraculously built into the side of a cliff 900 metres above the Zeta Valley. Although constructed hundreds of years ago as a pilgrimage site dedicated to Saint Basil of Ostrog, its current look is a result of renovations in the mid-1920s. Even for the non-religious, it’s considered one of the most significant sites in Montenegro.
The site is comprised of the upper monastery and the lower monastery, which are three kilometres apart. The upper monastery was built in 1665 inside two caves and contains the relics of Saint Basil of Ostrog, the Church of the Presentation and the Church of the Holy Cross.
Further down is the valley is the lower monastery, built in 1824. It houses the monk residences and the Church of the Holy Trinity. Admire the strikingly beautiful frescoes and stop to fill your water bottle up in the natural spring.
The original road is incredibly windy and narrow, so be sure to take the main Podgorica-Nikšić highway when you’re driving here.
If you’re interested in ancient history and archaeology, go and see the ruins of Duklja. First mentioned in the 2nd century BC by Ptolemy, this ancient town is one of the best remnants of the Roman Empire within Montenegro. You can easily identify former bath houses, engraved columns, a basilica and the town forum.
This area is not your typical tourist attraction. The ruins are completely untouched, with no entrance fee charged and very few signs to guide you. You’re completely free to wander around on your own and imagine what life was once like here. You may even spot some cute goats roaming the ruins too! The ruins are only a few kilometres north of the main city, so you can easily take a quick taxi to get there.
Adventure Park Gorica
Within the tall pine forests atop Gorica Hill, you’ll discover an adventure park that’s perfect for all ages. Adventure Park Gorica is a breath of fresh air right outside Podgorica with different ropes and climbing courses to have a go at. The level of difficulty varies from track to track, so you can challenge yourself or take an easier approach as you appreciate the surrounding nature. If you’re waiting for a friend to complete their course, stop by the park’s cafe for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
If a laid-back morning is what you’re after, pop into Knjižara Karver on Obala Ribnice. This cafe bookshop is located inside a former Turkish bath house, making it one of the coolest spots in Podgorica. Start up a conversation with some of the local creatives hanging out here, or attend one of the frequently-held art exhibitions. The cafe is open between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. from Monday to Saturday.
Indulge in a delicious, hearty meal at Pod Volat, one of the top restaurants in the Old Town. The interiors and ambience are wonderful, and the menu offers tasty Balkan cuisine at an affordable price. Try the kebabs or goulash, and order some baklava for dessert.
Perla Residence Hotel and Spa
Wondering where to stay while in Podgorica? The brand new Perla Residence Hotel and Spa is an outstanding choice. Instantly feel at home in the modern one, two, or three-bedroom apartment suites. Each apartment comes with a private kitchen and dining area, as well as a living area with a comfy sofa bed. Best of all is the spa and wellness centre with a relaxing indoor pool and sauna. Travelling around Montenegro couldn’t be easier when you stay here, as you can rent a car or bike from the front desk and start exploring right away.
Bay of Kotor
One of the top things to do in Montenegro is to explore Kotor Bay, also known locally as Boka. This breathtaking bay by the Adriatic Sea is less than two hours west of Podgorica along the M-18 and the M-10 (previously called the M-2.3). This makes Boka ideal for a day trip.
Inhabited before the Middle Ages, there are well-preserved medieval towns surrounding the bay, including Kotor, Perast, Risan and Tivat. Once you’ve arrived, you can join a one-hour guided walking tour of Old Town Kotor and admire the incredible historic architecture.
Also worth doing is a boat ride out to Our Lady of the Rocks, an artificial island formed by old ships loaded with rocks. The most prominent structure on the island is the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, with a small museum attached.
Regardless of what activities you fill your time with here, the Bay of Kotor is a true Adriatic beauty that will take your breath away.
Recommended tours in Podgorica
- Best from our coast (Kotor bay, Budva, Sv Stefan, Tivat, Virpazar)
- Durmitor National Park from Podgorica – North Montenegro day trip
- MONASTERY TOUR – Impressive Montenegrin monasteries
- Cetinje & Njegusi Ham and Cheese Tasting Private Tour
- Around Boka Bay Private tour
- Lipa Cave Private Tour – Underground adventure experience
- My Guided Trip – Lake Skadar Private Boat Ride and Panoramic Tour
- My Guided Trip – Lake Skadar Private Hiking Tour
- Vacation Photographer in Podgorica
- National parks and wine tasting (NP Lovcen, NP Skadar lake, Cetinje, Njegusi)
- My Guided Trip – Old Road Lake Skadar and Ulcinj Private Tour
- Extreme 4×4 adventure with military vehicles
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