Cetinje – The Old Royal Capital of Montenegro

In this destination report we will visit the sights of Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro.

Old and new

After a great time in the gorgeous coastal town of Kotor it was time to move on to my next destination. The plan was to first take a bus from Kotor to Cetinje, spend an afternoon in the city, and then move on to Podgorica where I would stay for the night.

It would make for a nice contrast as the town of Cetinje used to be the old royal capital of Montenegro while Podgorica is the current capital of the Balkan republic.

montenegro map
My plan was to first take a bus from Kotor to Cetinje and another bus from Cetinje to Podgorica later in the day. ©Google Maps

Montenegrin buses

Bus travel in Montenegro is cheap and straightforward as most towns are linked by frequent buses. These buses come in all forms and sizes – ranging from large touring car buses to a small minibus and everything in between.

It is usually not a problem at all to buy your ticket on the day of travel at the bus station ticket office or directly from the bus driver. All bus stations have easy-to-understand timetables posted, although you can also check the useful busticket4 website for times and prices.

It is seemingly possible to buy your bus ticket online through this website too, although I have no first-hand experience since I bought my tickets at the bus station. Do note that large bags placed in the baggage compartment of the bus are subject to a small luggage surcharge (most of the time between 0.50 and 1 euro) – something which is customary in most of the countries which make up former Yugoslavia.

kotor bus station
It was a short walk from my hotel in the old town of Kotor to the bus station. ©Paliparan
kotor bus station
Kotor’s bus station. ©Paliparan

Bus views

The bus I took had a fairly light load of just a handful of passengers only. It first made its way through a long tunnel towards the main coastal road, making its first scheduled stop at the bus station of Budva, Montenegro’s largest and most popular coastal resort.

The views over Budva and the Adriatic Sea were lovely, especially after the bus left Budva again and sneaked up on the mountain road towards Cetinje.

If you have your own wheels, I would however not recommend taking the road via Budva, even though this is the fastest option. Instead, I would opt for the twisty mountain road from Kotor to Mount Lovćen National Park, which is even more scenic.

bus montenegro
My bus was old but comfortable. ©Paliparan
bus view budva adriatic sea montenegro
Views over Budva and the Adriatic Sea as seen from the bus window. ©Paliparan
budva coast
Budva is Montenegro’s main coast resort. ©Paliparan
budva montenegro
View over Budva. ©Paliparan
cetinje scenery
In the mountains around Cetinje the scenery becomes more bleak. ©Paliparan
bus station cetinje
Just over an hour after departure from Kotor my bus arrived in Cetinje. ©Paliparan

Walking through Cetinje

With a population of around 18,000 inhabitants, Cetinje isn’t exactly a large town. It makes exploring the town by foot in just a few hours an easy task.

Cetinje feels actually rather pleasant and most of the city centre streets and buildings are nicely renovated, something which is instantly noticeable when walking the town’s main pedestrianised street.

Many of the mansions lining the street used to be foreign embassies and government buildings at the time when Cetinje was the royal capital of Montenegro. One of the most impressive mansion is the National Museum of Montenegro, which used to be the country’s former parliament building.

Although already in Medieval times some ruling dynasties based themselves in Cetinje, the town really started to flourish in the period between 1850 and the beginning of the First World War, at which point it was the world’s smallest capital with around 5,000 citizens.

After World War I the town however declined when the Montenegrin parliament decided to move most of the administrative buildings to Podgorica. When Montenegro regained full independence again after the breakup of Yugoslavia, it was again Podgorica which was chosen as the national capital being the largest and most important city in the country.

cetinje square
Most streets and squares in Cetinje’s city centre are nicely renovated and have a clean and tidy feel to them. ©Paliparan
vlaska church
A statue in front of Vlaška Church. ©Paliparan
cetinje street
Cetinje’s main pedestrian street. ©Paliparan
cetinje building
Some of the larger mansions in Cetinje used to be foreign embassies. ©Paliparan
houses
Cetinje houses. ©Paliparan
national museum of montenegro
The former parliament building is now the National Museum of Montenegro. ©Paliparan
street
Cetinje has a rather pleasant small-town feel. ©Paliparan

Cetinje Monastery

One of the more impressive sights of Cetinje is the town’s monastery. Originally founded in the year 1484 and later rebuilt in 1785, the monastery is said to have a fragment of the True Cross.

An even more famous relic is the mummified right hand of St. John the Baptist which is stored in a bejewelled chest, although this is usually not shown to visitors.

When I visited, none of the rooms full of relics and other historic artefacts, paintings and gifts from foreign dignitaries were open, although it was still nice to walk through the premises and admire the frescoes and dimly lit chapels.

cetinje monastery
Cetinje Monastery is located on a beautiful meadow just outside of town. ©Paliparan
cetinje monastery
Cetinje Monastery. ©Paliparan
monastery entrance
The entrance to the monastery. ©Paliparan
courtyard monastery
The inner courtyard of the monastery. ©Paliparan
castle church
On the meadow in front of the monastery you can find the small Castle Church. ©Paliparan

Palaces and museums

There are a couple of other sights and museums in Cetinje which you can visit if you are in town. Most notably is perhaps the old royal palace where Nikola Petrovic I, the last king of Montenegro, lived.

Don’t expect a Versailles-like palace but rather a modest mansion, which for 50 years served as the royal residence. It became a museum in the 1920s and was looted by the Nazis in World War II, although enough artefacts and furnishings remain to give a good picture of life in old Cetinje.

Another notable sight is the Billiard Hall, which was the residence of another Montenegrin King, namely Petar II Petrovic Njegos. It housed the first ever billiard table in Montenegro – which was apparently such a noteworthy happening for the locals that it gave the building its name!

royal palace cetinje
The rather modest old Royal Palace is nowadays a museum. ©Paliparan
billiard hall cetinje
The walls surrounding the Billiard Palace. ©Paliparan

Lunch

After a bit of sightseeing and aimlessly walking around the city centre streets of Cetinje it was time to find a spot for lunch.

There are a couple of appealing cafes and restaurants on the square called Dvorski Trg, just a stonethrow away from both the Billiard Palace and the old Royal Palace.

For just 5 euro I got an extremely large (and quite tasty!) pizza and a beer – which was quite a steal.

street
Exploring the streets of Cetinje. ©Paliparan
house
Exploring the streets of Cetinje. ©Paliparan
cetinje street
Cetinje’s squares and pedestrian street have a number of appealing cafes and restaurants. ©Paliparan
square
A square in the town centre of Cetinje. ©Paliparan
dvorski trg
Dvorski Trg. ©Paliparan
pizza cetinje
I sat down at a Dvorski Trg restaurant and ordered a pizza and beer – which set me back under 5 euro! ©Paliparan

Back to the bus

Having finished lunch, it was time to walk back to the bus station as I had a Podgorica-bound bus to catch.

Even though Cetinje might not have any blockbuster sight and lacks the charms of Kotor or the allure of coastal resorts such as Budva, I still found it a pleasant place to visit for a few hours.

It certainly makes for a worthwhile day trip from the coast or an interesting stopover for those travelling between Podgorica or the inland national parks and the coastal region.

street cetinje
Walking back to the bus station. ©Paliparan
cetinje bus station
It might look like a typical Lidl supermarket from the outside, but it is actually Cetinje’s bust station. ©Paliparan

Trip report index

This article is part of the ‘An Adriatic Adventure: Off-Season Travel to Dubrovnik, Montenegro and a Bit of Bavaria‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:

1. Review: MasterCard Business Lounge Bucharest Otopeni Airport
2. Review: Aegean Airlines Economy Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
3. Review: Aegean Business Lounge Athens Airport Hall A (Non-Schengen)
4. Review: Olympic Air Economy Class Athens to Dubrovnik (Bombardier Dash 8-400)
5. Review: Apartments Festa, Old Town of Dubrovnik
6. A Dubrovnik Winter Trip: Off-Season Travel Away from the Tourist Crowds
7. Review: Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Kotor (Montenegro) by Bus
8. Review: Palazzo Drusko Deluxe Rooms, Kotor, Montenegro
9. Kotor, Montenegro: Old Town Charm in Europe’s Most Spectacular Scenery
10. Cetinje – The Old Royal Capital of Montenegro (current chapter)
11. Review: Ramada by Wyndham Podgorica, Montenegro
12. Podgorica: Is the Capital of Montenegro Worth a Visit?
13. Review: Wizz Air Podgorica to Memmingen (Airbus A320)
14. Memmingen: More Than Just a Low-Cost Airport Close to Munich
15. The Bavaria Ticket: Unlimited Train Travel Across the German State of Bayern
16. Review: Michel Hotel Landshut, Bavaria, Germany
17. Landshut: Bavaria Off The Beaten Track
18. Review: Air France/KLM Lounge Munich Airport

** rest of the chapters to follow soon **

Koen

Koen

Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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