Podgorica: Is the Capital of Montenegro Worth a Visit or Should You Skip It?

In this destination report we will visit the sights of Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro.

Podgorica

After spending a great time in beautiful Kotor on the Montenegrin coast and making a short stop in the old royal capital of Cetinje, it was now time to explore Montenegro’s modern-day capital of Podgorica.

Before the start of my trip I contemplated for a while whether or not I should include Podgorica on my Montenegrin itinerary. Although it is Montenegro’s biggest city and economic heart, it is not known as a particularly interesting city to visit for tourists.

In the end I decided to give Podgorica a chance for the simple reason that I never managed to visit on my previous trips to Montenegro and at least it meant an easy commute the next day to Podgorica Airport to catch my flight to Germany.

Would the city indeed disappoint – or has it some hidden charms?

Exploring the old town

From my Podgorica hotel it was a short walk to Stara Varoš, the old town neighbourhood of Podgorica. Now don’t get your expectations up too high. Whatever you might expect, Dubrovnik or Sarajevo it is certainly not.

The neighbourhood feels more like a old village located smack bang in the middle of a modern city. Although there are some winding roads (tarmac rather than cobblestones) and old Ottoman-era houses, there are an equal number of modern-day apartment buildings built right in between taking away all the charm.

That said, there are a two old Turkish mosques and a clock tower worth checking out and the area makes for a pleasant, low-key area to walk around. Just don’t go in with high expectations of a Medieval old town!

podgorica visit old town mosque
Walking through Podgorica’s old town. ©Paliparan
podgorica old town
Although Podgorica’s quiet old town streets make for a pleasant walk, it is certainly not comparable to Dubrovnik or Sarajevo. ©Paliparan
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Stara Varoš – Podgorica’s old town. ©Paliparan
podgorica old town
Podgorica’s old town has a few Ottoman-era houses and old clock tower. ©Paliparan
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Walking through Podgorica’s old town. ©Paliparan
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There are two mosques in the old town of Podgorica. ©Paliparan
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One of the two mosques in the old town. ©Paliparan

River

Stara Varoš is built just south of the small Ribnica river, which flows here into the much larger Morača river. Historically, the focal point of Podgorica used to be on the south side of the Ribnica.

Nowadays the city centre of Podgorica and most of the city’s cultural and social life can be found in the neighbourhood just to the north of the river.

The Old Ribnica River Bridge makes for a lovely way to cross the small waterway. There are some decent views here over the river confluence and the ruins of Nemanjin Grad, the old city fortress.

river confluence moraca ribnica fishermen
Fishermen at the confluence of the Ribnica (right) and Morača (left) rivers. ©Paliparan
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Nemanjin Grad fortress ruins with the Morača River visible on the left. ©Paliparan
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The old stone bridge over the River Ribnica. ©Paliparan
podgorica fortress view visit
View over the old bridge over the River Ribnica, the Nemanjin Grad fortress ruins and the Morača River. ©Paliparan

City centre

The modern-day heart of the city is centred around Independence Square with its large fountain in the middle. Around it you can find plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants.

Although Podgorica is certainly not Montenegro’s most exciting city, it is for sure the best place in the country for shopping and probably for everyday life as well due to the abundance of bars and pubs catering to government workers, businessmen and students from the local university.

It is therefore not a surprise that in this part of town you can find a number of government offices, such as the National Parliament, the Podgorica city hall, supreme court and a handful of foreign embassies.

You should however not expect hundreds of shops and pubs like you would find in a national capital like Belgrade. After all, don’t forget that the city of Podgorica only has 200,000 inhabitants – making it one of Europe’s smallest capitals!

podgorica city hall
Podgorica city hall. ©Paliparan
city centre
Podgorica city centre. ©Paliparan
podgorica cafe pub
There are many lively cafes and pubs in the city centre. ©Paliparan
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Independence Square. ©Paliparan
independence square
An obelisk on Independence Square. ©Paliparan
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The city centre is also home to many of the top hotels of Podgorica such as the Hilton. ©Paliparan
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The Office of the President of Montenegro. ©Paliparan

Riverside walk

From the city centre I headed back towards the Morača river. Along the riverside is a nice pedestrian walk from where you have some good views over the water, the city and the mountains in the far distance.

Even though Podgorica is located in a broad valley, the mountains are never too far away in the mountainous country which Montenegro definitely is.

There are also some good views over the many bridges spanning the Morača, of which the Millennium Bridge is the best known and one of Podgorica’s best known landmarks.

After a nice walk along the riverside it was time to find a place for dinner. I originally had my eyes set on an appealing-looking restaurant in the old town called Pod Volat, but when I walked across a cheap eatery advertising ćevapčići for dump prices I couldn’t resist as I was getting hungry. If memory serves well the ćevapi, salad, bread and beer were only 3 or 4 euro or so – quite a steal!

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The Millennium Bridge spanning the Morača River. ©Paliparan
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Riverside selfie. ©Paliparan
cevapi beer Nikšićko
Some ćevapčići and a cold Nikšićko beer. ©Paliparan

End of the Balkan part

After the decent meal I walked back to my hotel, but not before hopping into the adjacent shopping mall to buy a beer or two as small nightcaps to drink in my room.

The rest of the evening I just relaxed in my room, taking a bath while drinking a cold beer and listening to some traditional Balkan music. As I would fly onward to Germany the following day, this evening did mark the end of the Balkan part of this trip.

I thoroughly enjoyed the last few days being back in the Balkans and was already starting to make plans for a future trip to other parts of Montenegro, Serbia and other countries in the region!


In short

There is however one question which remains unanswered. Does Podgorica warrants a visit, or is it best skipped on your Montenegrin or Balkan itinerary?

I would say that for most tourists, Podgorica would not be a terribly interesting destination. You just cannot compare it to the historic, beautiful cities of the region such as Dubrovnik, Kotor and Budva, let alone to other Balkan capitals such as Belgrade and Zagreb.

Podgorica feels like (and to be honest, actually is) a provincial town at best. Don’t forget this is a city with only 200,000 inhabitants. You cannot expect the same atmosphere as the Montenegrin coastline, which is full of holidaymakers in summer, or the bustling and picturesque streets of Sarajevo’s Baščaršija area.

For most tourists Podgorica is about as appealing as that other Balkan capital of Prishtina (Kosovo) – and I would personally rank them both towards the bottom of my list of least favourite European capitals.

Montenegro’s capital is mostly an everyday city in which people work, study, shop and actually live. If you look at Podgorica from this point of view, the city isn’t actually bad at all. There are some good hotels, decent shopping and lively pubs and restaurants. It doesn’t seem like a bad place to live.

It means that Podgorica is certainly not a bad place to spend half a day in walking around and sitting down for a meal or drink. If you find yourself in the area and have some time to spare, by all means pay Podgorica visit! If you are flying in or out of Podgorica Airport like me on this trip, Podgorica isn’t a bad place at all to visit and stay for the night if you think it is more convenient.

But a touristic highlight of Montenegro Podgorica is certainly not. If you have only limited time in the country, I would strongly suggest moving immediately on towards the coast or the mountains which do make for top travel destinations.

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
11. Review: Ramada by Wyndham Podgorica, Montenegro
12. Podgorica: Is the Capital of Montenegro Worth a Visit? (current chapter)

** 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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