Just 150 km from Dubrovnik there is Podgorica, one of Europe’s youngest capitals. Why not combine these two very different cities in one trip?
Hardly definable, Podgorica is a city that has changed its name five times in the course of its thousand-year history (it is still remembered by many as Titograd) and that mixes Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and Soviet influences and atmospheres with the new buildings that symbolise the contemporary era, such as shopping centres and offices.
Nestled in a valley north of Lake Shkodra, the city lies at the confluence of two main rivers, Morača and Ribnica, into which other rivers flow. To the west of Morača stretches the new business district, while to the east the city is divided into Stara Varos, the historical centre, and Nova Varos, a modern area full of shops and bars.
It is not the most beautiful capital city in Europe, but it is worth seeing: Podgorica is a lively city, pervaded by a strong optimism and desire for growth, perfect for those who want a city break in an unusual destination.
Give it a thought: you won’t have to scramble to see famous sights amidst crowds of tourists and you can spend a pleasant day (or more!) visiting interesting art galleries, stopping for a snack in elegant cafés, strolling through parks and riverside promenades and indulging in a lively nightlife.
Podgorica may not boast monuments and attractions as famous as the great European capitals, but there are nevertheless interesting things to see that we recommend below.
Perhaps more than other cities, however, Podgorica should be discovered freely, without a set itinerary. You might discover elaborate and colourful street art amongst the anonymous and sad Soviet buildings or come across a stall serving the best burek in town (puff pastry pie filled with minced meat or spinach and cheese) and a thousand other surprises.
The Cathedral of the Resurrection is Podgorica’s top attraction. It is an imposing religious building of Serbian Orthodox rite built in 1993.
The gigantic dome surmounted by a golden cross and the intricate marble decorations covering the exterior walls are a real marvel; the entrance gate is no less impressive, surmounted by a gigantic stone arch and decorated with frescoes. Seen as a whole, this huge white stone church with two 25-metre high bell towers is both imposing and elegant.
The interior is a constant surprise: the entire surface has been decorated with colourful images in a riot of gold. Some have a clear provocative intent: among them the most emblematic is the one of Karl Marx burning in hell, a thinly veiled indication of the locals’ feelings towards communist regimes.
One of the most beautiful things to do in Podgorica is to walk along the banks of its rivers. Perhaps the most beautiful are the banks of the Ribnica, long stretches of which are lined with trees and lined with paved stone paths and steps: an oasis of tranquillity just a stone’s throw from the shopping streets, bars and restaurants of the centre – perfect for stretching your legs or, conversely, standing still and watching the water pass by and enjoying the silence.
Another place of peace is the Njegošev Park located along the banks of the Morača River, not far from the point where the three main rivers intersect. It is an ideal starting point for exploring the old town.
During your walk along the riverbank, you will come across several old stone bridges.
Of the various bridges spanning Podgorica’s rivers, the Millennium Bridge has become a tourist attraction due to its symbolic value. This impressive white steel cable bridge is the pride of modern Podgorica: 173 metres long, it joins the two banks of the Morača River.
In the evening, the bridge is illuminated and provides an impressive view. The best place to admire it is from the Moscow Bridge, a footbridge that runs parallel to it.
Near the Millennium Bridge you can admire the statue of Vladimir Visotsky, a well-known Russian singer-songwriter depicted here without a shirt and with a skull at his feet.
If you wonder what is so special about a Russian singer that he deserves a statue in Montenegro, bear in mind that Vysotsky profoundly influenced popular culture in the countries of the Soviet axis during the Cold War years.
He was openly opposed by the Soviet regime, which went as far as not spreading the news of his death; despite this, a crowd of fans turned up at his funeral to pay their respects.
The Clock Tower is considered by the people of Podgorica to be one of the city’s landmarks.
At first glance, this 16-metre high square stone tower does not seem to have anything special about it, but one can understand its importance when one considers that it is one of the few remaining buildings from the Ottoman Empire.
Tucked away in the beautiful green setting of Petrovica Park is the Centre for Contemporary Art, a small but interesting gallery housed on the ground floor of an old manor house that was once home to the royal family.
The gallery organises exhibitions by local artists and hosts permanent exhibitions of European, Asian, African and South American art.
The New Town is a surprisingly modern area, worth seeing for its vitality and to indulge in some shopping and entertainment. It is also the area of nightlife, where the young (and not only!) will find plenty of places to spend an evening of drinks, music and chatting.
The three main streets of the New Town are Slobode Bokeška, Slobode Ulica and Slobobe Njegoševa: this is where most of the shops, bars and nightclubs are concentrated.
Another area recommended for those seeking nightlife entertainment, and in particular the youngest, is City Zwart, which starts next to the Delta Mall, the city’s largest shopping centre.
From Podgorica, one can easily reach the Montenegrin side of Lake Shkodra by car, bus or train. The largest lake on the Balkan peninsula seen from above has a curious dolphin shape; it lies just halfway between Montenegro and Albania and has become a popular tourist attraction.
The best way to admire the beautiful landscape, still untouched by economic development, is to take a boat trip on the lake: it will be a day of total immersion in nature and silence that will give you indelible memories.
Another unmissable attraction around Podgorica is the Ostrog Monastery, an Orthodox monastery carved entirely out of the mountain rock that has become a pilgrimage destination for believers of different religious faiths.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
The best area to stay in Podgorica is certainly the Old Town within the city walls: charming and comfortable, full of amenities and with all the main tourist attractions within easy walking distance.
Within a radius of only 3 km from the centre you can find a wide variety of good quality accommodation. At a fraction of the price of other European capitals, you can find nice, well-furnished flats, modern B&Bs, 3-star hotels and even a couple of international chain hotels.
If you are aiming for extreme savings, you can choose from the city’s many hostels, suitable for young people and tourists without too many demands.
If you want to reach Podgorica by car from Dubrovnik, there are two possibilities.
The quickest and shortest route is via the M6 and M18, but this way you have to drive a long way into Bosnia and Herzegovina. The alternative is to drive south along the Croatian coast and once you enter Montenegro cut inland. In the first case calculate about two and a half hours, in the second an hour more.
It is possible to reach Podgorica from Dubrovnik by public transport because the two cities are connected by a direct bus, but the journey is very long: calculate between four and five hours depending on the time of departure and traffic.
If, on the other hand, you want to get to Podgorica , you can take a low-cost flight departing from several European cities; given the tumultuous development of the city, it is possible that departures from other cities will be added soon.
What's the weather at Podgorica? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Podgorica for the next few days.
Podgorica is located in the hinterland of Montenegro, in the south-western part of the country. It is approximately 150 km from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, 90 km from Potor and 25 km from Lake Shkodra.