Even though Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro, it does not top many peoples’ itinerary for a visit to the little Balkan state. If you start browsing online on what things to do in Podgorica it doesn’t take long before the blog posts describing it as ‘the dullest shithole I’ve ever been’ start to dominate your search history. As it is geographically situated quite ideal for a stop over between Albania and Kotor, I decided to visit anyways and make my own judgement.
What to do in Podgorica
Discover Podgorica by foot
Podgorica has one highlight that towers fiercely over all others and justifies visiting the little Montenegrin capital on its own. Obviously the first thing you have to do when you set foot in Podgorica is arrange for seeing this awesome highlight as soon as possible. Sadly the next thing to do is arranging transportation for your way out. Stay one night and then move on. You don’t need more time to see it all.
I am not exaggerating when I state that all highlights in town can be visited by foot within 3 hours. Unfortunately these ‘highlights’ are not that special. I could start a whole epistle in lyrical prosaics on how shitty these sights are but that wouldn’t serve any other purpose than showing off my writing skills as they aren’t that shitty. Just not overly exciting. Except for the one awesome highlight I mentioned. One you MUST see, so you really got no other choice than to linger for about 24 hours in Podgorica. Here is how you should spend those 24 hours.
So the first thing you do after checking into your accommodation is booking a taxi to visit the Sipcanik wine cellars of the Plantazane Winery – possibly the most interesting wine cellars I have ever visited (and I have been to Bordeaux). When you’ve got this fixed you can head out on foot to go explore historical Podgorica.
Walk past the Clock Tower straight towards the Ribnica Bridge which is the prettiest part of the historical centre. Podgorica suffered over 70 bombings which destroyed most old buildings but the ruins around the bridge are nice enough to justify spending a little time.
Bring your swimsuit as there is a nice little pebble beach here where you can take a dip in the Moraca river – yes its quite clean. There is also a nice beach bar built up against the fort, pumping out mellow deep house tunes. I can totally imagine this being a cool hangout spot for locals. When I was there – mid September – it was virtually deserted.
If you do a little more research leafing through travel guides and blog posts you’ll discover the other highlights in town are the Millennium Bridge, Petrovic Palace, Vladimir Vysotsky Monument, Moscow Bridge and several lookout points. All not really worth the detour.
Worth visiting are the Goricom Park with the little St. George Church in front of it. The small church is really picturesque and the park is a great way to escape the summer heat. If you have small kids you’ll love the park as it has a big adventure climbing park laid out around a big cafe. This means mum and dad can take shifts playing with the kids and kicking back on the terrace with a pint of local lager.
Visit the Sipcanik wine cellars
When I booked a winery tour at the Sipcanik wine cellars of the Plantaze Winery I was expecting a normal wine tasting tour in a cool cave-like cellar. The reality is much better. The Sipcanik wine cellars are actually an old secret military underground aircraft hangar which had been lost for decades and has recently be rediscovered. In 2007 the Plantaze Winery invested heavily in turning this historical treasure into their new wine-cellars and the results are awesome.
Even if you don’t like wine, when do you ever have the chance to visit a secret military airbase built into a cave to avoid detection? Not just any hangar, the cellars fit over a dozen airplanes. To top that, the wine-tasting tour as well as the wines themselves are excellent. Montenegro might not have the reputation as as wine-country, but Plantaze is working hard to change that. The wines on the tasting go with tasty food-pairings. When in Podgorica this visit really is a must.
Because the cellars aren’t in town, and you want to be able to have a few wines at the place the only way to visit is by taking a taxi. Ask your hotel to book one for you to avoid getting ripped off. Have an maps-app open on your cellphone to track the route to make your driver aware that you know the way. Scamming taxi-drivers are a problem in the whole of the Balkans. Anything between €4-6 for a single ride is reasonable.
Where to eat and sleep
Podgorica got a few good places to grab a bite. If you’re looking for good local dishes Pod Volat in Old Town is a good option. The place I personally liked best was La Lanterna situated in Novi Grad (new town) which has a nice ambiance both inside as well as outside. In downtown Podogorica there are three streets that are littered with little restaurants and bars, perfect for a couple of drinks – albeit at slightly elevated prices compared to elsewhere in town. Try the bars at Njegoseva, Slobode and Balsica street.
Some people recommend particular bars (for example Bar Berlin is often mentioned on blogs) but I didn’t find certain particular bars stand out more than their competitors. Just head over there and see which crowd suits you best.
Booking rating: 8.6 | Privates from EUR 79
On my visit I stayed at the Ramada Hotel one of a few luxury hotels in Podgorica. They have lavishly large rooms and a tasty buffet breakfast served on a balcony with a great view overlooking town. Our room even had a private terrace! The Ramada is conveniently located within walking distance from both the train station and bus terminal and also about a 20 minute walk from Old Town. Their general manager makes an effort in employing local people and helping them with their personal goals as well as their professional.
The best time to visit Podgorica is in spring, when the days start to get longer and the weather is warm and sunny. From June to August temperatures soar up to 40 degrees Celsius making a visit less than pleasant. September and early October are ideal times as well but the chance of rainy days increases dramatically towards the end of October.
Because Podgorica receives little tourism prices aren’t elevated above the local standard as much as in other European capitals. For a Balkan country however, Montenegro is not cheap.
|Daily Budget||45 EUR (50 USD)|
|Local bakery||EUR 1 (1.10 USD)|
|Meal in a restaurant||EUR 10-15 ( 12-17 USD)|
|Dorm||EUR 12 (13 USD)|
|Double in a 3-star hotel||EUR 40 (45 USD)|
In & Out
Montenegro has two airports, Tivat Airport and Podgorica Airport. The latter is located 11 kilometers South of town and is the quickest way in. There are no busses so the best way to get to the city centre is by taxi which will costs you between € 8-12.
Montenegro is connected to the European railway system and can be visited by train from Belgrade or Bar. Podgorica also has a line going to Niksic, the second largest city in Montenegro. The railway station is located next to the main bus terminal and close to the Podogorica mall – about 2 kilometers from the city centre.
The best way getting in and out of Podgorica is by bus. There are connections to Albania, other Balkan capitals and also to the historical seaside towns of Kotor, Budva and Tivat. As the timetables regularly change and busses don’t necessarily run on time its best to book your tickets directly at the station and inquire for the fares and times as well.