Why visit Podgorica?
It might not be the most beautiful city in the world, accommodation is limited and expensive and there isn’t much to see or do. But don’t let that put you off! Podgorica is one of Europe’s newest capital cities and remains distinctly off the typical tourist trail, meaning a sense of adventure is never far away. Furthermore, it is the home of Montenegrin culture and a real chance to rub shoulders with those who don’t work in the tourism trade.
The sweltering heat of the summer, though unpleasant, is nicely offset with abundant green spaces and there is a surprisingly robust cafe culture to enjoy, even if the concrete jungle backdrop is acquired taste. The Ottoman old town, whilst a shadow of its former self, at least hints at the long history of the city and if it all gets to much on Gorica Hill, past the city’s fine church: St. George’s, are some enjoyable walking trails.
Podgorica: the facts
The area around Podgorica has been inhabited since the Stone Age and by the beginning of antiquity came to be occupied by two Illyrian tribes: the Labeates and the Docleats. They were in turn replaced by the incoming Romans in the 9 A.D. who established the town of Doclea just a few kilometres north of where the city centre is today.
In the 5th century, when the Roman empire began to collapse, newly arrived Slavic and Avar tribes filled the power vacuum and after years of struggle against the Byzantine Empire, in 1042 the Ribnica kingdom was established. The realm grew in prosperity, due to its position on the important trade routes between Dubrovnik and the Serbian state of Nemanjici, and in 1326 the first mention of the name Podgorica appeared in documents stored in the town of Kotor.
Podgorica was soon to change hands again, however, and in 1474 it was incorporated into the expanding Ottoman Empire. This period saw great development of the city, as the Turks built a large fortress, defensive walls, minarets and houses, the traces of which are still evident in the city today. This situation would remain until the Congress of Berlin (1878) where the Ottomans were forced to give up control of the region and Podgorica was incorporated into the newly liberated Principality of Montenegro.
The early 20th century was a period of economic expansion in the city and by the outbreak of the First World War, Podgorica had grown to be the biggest city in Montenegro. The good times came to end, however, when in 1916 the city was occupied by Austro-Hungarian forces. Following the end of the hostilities, Montenegrin statehood was dissolved and the territory was merged with Serbia and incorporated into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The Second World War saw even greater destruction as the city was razed to the ground by Allied bombers on the request of Yugoslav partisans.
Following liberation, Podgorica was renamed Titograd and from the wreckage the city was rebuilt anew. Heavy industrialisation and improved infrastructure were constructed and health, educational and cultural institutions were founded, and the city again became the commercial and culture centre of Montenegro. Following the break-up of Yugoslavia the city avoided the wanton destruction of other areas but it was ruined economically and it is only today that Podgorica is slowly climbing back onto its feet.
Podgorica experiences a modified Mediterranean climate typified by hot, dry summers and cool winters. Summers are renowned for being extremely hot, which explains why many citizens leave at this time with average temperatures of 29-31°C but summer days in excess of 40°C are not uncommon. The rest of the year is generally pleasant with average temperatures of 25°C for around third of the year. In winter, it rarely drops below 0°C with averages of 5–7°C. Snow is rare, but rain isn’t, with about 120 rainy days a year.
Weather in Trieste now
Events season in Podogrica kicks off in February with the Ex–Yu Fest, which features films from all the former Yugoslav republics. In April, the international music festival A Tempo is held in the city and promotes classical music by Montenegrin and intentional soloists. Podgorica’s Cultural Summer, which takes place every June, is perhaps the city’s premier cultural event and features numerous plays, open-air movies and concerts primarily based around the Budo Tomovic cultural centre. For something a little different, check out the Dives in the River Moraca, which attracts a large crowd of people throwing themselves off the Vezirov bridge into the water below every July. And finally, for high culture fans, the FIAT (International Festival of Alternative Theatre) occurs every August and includes many works by intentional playwrites.
Podgorica is located in the centre of Montenegro, run through by the Morača and Ribnica rivers and sits at the northern end of the Zeta plain. Subsequently, the city centre is mostly flat (good for walking) with only a few hills surrounding the city (the most noticeable being Gorica which is close to the centre). On the west bank of the north-south running Morača river is what constitutes, very questionable, the business district. The eastern side is cut in two by the smaller Ribnica river, south of which lies the Old Town (Stara Varoš), what is left of the Ottoman old town. North of the Ribnica is the administrative centre New Town (Nova Varoš) the very modern heart of Podgorica and its central square Trg Republika. The shopping area is focused on ulica Slobe while there are cafés and bars to be found on Hercegovačka ulica. The train & bus stations are located in the eastern area of Podgorica. Unfortunately, there is not much to see in town but what there is, can easily be seen on foot with your Podgorica free walking tour.
Podgorica Walking Tour
Podgorica Monument & Sights Guide
(Most Milenijum: Мост Миленијум)
What is it? cable-stayed bridge
Where is it? spans the Morača River
Information: The impressive Millennium Bridge is 140m long, was opened on July 13, 2005 and has become one of Podgorica’s most recognisable landmarks. The pylon, which soars up 57m is tied to 46 support and counterbalance cables, and casts an imposing image across the night’s sky.
St. George’s Church
(Crkva Svetog Đorđa: Црква Светог Ђорђа)
Monument Type: Church
Address: 19. Decembar
Information: Podgorica’s oldest and, without question, prettiest church, sits behind castle-like walls, at the foot of the Gorica hill. St George’s was built in the 10th century and is notable for its 16th century nave and the adorning 19th century icons and frescoes. For a shocking experience visit the overgrown graveyard.
(Trg Republike: Трг Републике)
What is it? central town square of Podgorica
Where is it? In the heart of New Town (Nova Varoš)
Information: Known up until 2006 as Trg Ivana Milutinovića, after the national hero and communist politician, Republic square was renamed after Montenegro had declared full independence. It then underwent massive renovation including being widened, paved and pedestrianised. A fountain was constructed and colonnades built but unfortunately, even the newly planted palm trees can’t make it look beautiful. It is. however, the centre of public gatherings in Montenegro and does have a few cafés, restaurants and free WiFi.
Parliament of Montenegro
(Skupština Crne Gore: Скупштина Црне Горе)
What is it? Political block of buildings including Parliament and Presidential buildings
Where is it? on the corner of Stanka Dragojevića and Bulevar Svetog Petra Cetinjskog in New Town
Information: Perhaps it reveals how little Podgorica has to offer that its mundane parliament buildings can be included on a list of top sites. For those that care, the parliament came into being in 2006 and currently has 81 members, each elected for a four-year term.
(Kraljev Park: Парк Краља)
What is it? City park containing a statue to King Nikola I
Where is it? On the northern bank of the Ribnica river, dividing Old town (Stara Varoš) & New town (Nova Varoš)
Information: Making up the newest green area in the city, King’s Park is pleasant enough and is a nice place to escape, even if momentarily, the grey listless buildings. Its most impressive feature is the imposing statue of King Nikola I, which was erected in 2006 and stands at an imposing 4m high. It sits opposite the parliament and depicts the last king of Montenegro, who was a general, politician , poet and national icon, astride his horse.
(Stara Varoš: Стара Варош)
What is it? The remains of Podgorica’s Ottoman old town
Where is it? on the south side of the Ribnica river, squeezed between the Morača river and Kralja Nikole
Information: The mini warren of housed streets is all that is left of Podgorica’s once thriving Ottoman old town. There are a couple of mosques to explore: Doganjska, which was originally constructed in the 15th century, and the more impressive Osmanagić (which has recently been repaired with Turkish money). The clock tower, which was one of the few Ottoman monuments to survive the bombing during the 2nd World War, used to serve as the place to give the call of prayer, and was built in 1667.
9 Things to do for free in Podgorica
Let’s be honest, Podgorica is not exactly packed full of things to see and do. However, what there is, need not break the bank and with a little bit of planning, and some useful advice from your friends here at hitchhikershandbook you can leave the city having seen as much as possible and still with some money in your pocket.
① Although a shadow of its former glory, walk around what remains of the Turkish old town Stara Varoš. Things to see include a couple of mosques Doganjska & Osmanagić and the clock tower, which is one of the few Ottoman monuments to survive the bombing during the 2nd World War.
② Despite its greyish appearance, there are a number of city parks to enjoy in Podgorica. The centrally located Njegoš & Karadjordje parks are the oldest and along with the recently designed King’s Park, make a great place to escape the cars and noise if only for a few short paces.
③ St. George’s Church (Crkva Svetog Đorđa: 19 Decembar) is the oldest and prettiest church in Podgorica and sits behind castle-like walls, at the foot of the Gorica hill. It is notable for its 16th century nave, adorning 19th century icons and frescoes and creepy overgrown graveyard.
④ Even if Podgorica isn’t exactly renowned for its beautiful public spaces, there are a couple of town squares to explore. Trg Republike is the centre of public gatherings in Montenegro and does have a few cafés and free wifi. Rimski Trg, located on the east bank in the new part of town, contains Podgorica’s trendiest cafés and restaurants and is a favourite meeting point for Podgorica’s townsfolk.
⑤ Podgorica’s Modern Art Gallery (Centar Savremene Umjetnosti: Kruševac bb) is housed in the city’s most striking building, the elegant, white Petrović Palace that formerly belonged to King Nikola. The museum has exhibits dedicated to African & Asian art as well as a focus on 20th century Balkan artists. It is free to visit Mon – Fri: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. & 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. & Sat: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
⑥ Established in 1995, the Natural History Museum (Prirodnjacki muzej Crne Gore: Trg Nikola Kovacevica 7) is divided into 12 sections, each dedicated to the study and protection of Montenegrin flora аnd fauna. It is free to visit Mon – Fri: 9 a.m. – midday.
⑦ The Daily Market (Velika pijaca: Bratstva i jedinstva bb) is Podgorica’s premier marketplace (bazaar) filled to the brim with local produce from the surroundings villages and is well worth checking out for some authentic sights, sounds and smells of the city.
⑧ For fans of statue spotting, Podgorica contains a few interesting ones to enjoy. Opposite the parliament the equestrian statue to King Nikola Petrović is impressive for its size. The Bird of Peace, outside the Palada shopping centre, is innovatively made from old guns voluntarily handed over by the local population after the Balkan Wars. Although perhaps the most impressive is the Partizan Memorial, a gleaming white mausoleum guarded by fierce-looking Partizan fighters on Gorica Hill.
⑨ Where would a capital city be without a few bridges? The most impressive is the old Turkish bridge over the Ribnica popularly called Skaline (the stairs), that retains an air of romanticism in spite of the imposing edifices of the surround. The newly constructed Millennium Bridge, is an interesting design and as quickly become emblematic of the city.
Map: 9 Things to do for free in Podgorica
Staying in Podgorica is very much a challenge for the budget traveller. When we arrived on a grey, windy, rain-swept evening all the hostels that we initially tried were full, all declaring that you need to book in advance. The problem is that the options in the city are not great, with only a limited number of hostel beds available. If you miss out on these then prices climb very steeply, very quickly, so our advice is book ahead if at all possible.
Rooms Lijepa Kata (Steva Kraljevića bb) is not your typical hostel, is extremely difficult to find and fails to advertise itself in almost any place. It is, however, a life saver if you do actually manage to find out about its existence. The sleeping arrangements were a basic bunk bed and one toilet to share between the 6 or so rooms, but at the attractive price of 15€ a bed (when everywhere else was quoting 40€+) was good enough for us.
Hostel Nice Place (19 Decembar 60) is located very close to the city centre and comes very well reviewed. There are 4/5 mixed dorms and double bed private costing 11.40-14.40€ depending on season and if it’s the weekend, and although it was full when we tried, the hostel owner was apologetic and did try to organise us a bed elsewhere, even if he was unsuccessful.
Hostel Podgorica (Gojka Radonjica 11) is centrally located near the Turkish Old Town, with dormitory (10-15€) and private rooms (25-40€) options available. Facilities include wifi, common room and lockers and there is also a kitchen for travellers to use.
Nightlife in Podgorica can be broadly divided into two areas. In the Centar district, and especially on Njegoševa ulica and around the central square Trg Republike, lie the majority of the city’s cafés, bars, restaurants and clubs. The other concentration of nocturnal activity is located on the west bank of the River Moraca around the more modern Rimski Trg in the Vectra neighbourhood.
Given its grim appearance the nightlife in Podgorica is surprisingly well developed although the popularity of certain bars and clubs seems to wax and wane with the new moon. At present, for those looking to dance the night away, check out Buda Bar, which is open all day and deep into the night and Club Mint, located in the south stand of the stadium and a popular weekend spot that hangs on until very late.
Things to buy
The city centre shopping district is based around the streets: Njegoševa, Slobode & Hercegovačka which are mostly pedestrianised and are packed full of shops, cafés and banks. For those interested in clothes and fashion head to Bulevar Džordža Vašingtona, home of the boutique in Podgorica.
Podgorica’s two major markets are Mala pijaca, which specialises in fruit, veg and other foodstuffs, and Tuski put, which can be found near the edge of town and is a warren of stalls selling all manner of bric-a-brac. And if you are in need of anything else, head to one of the hypermarkets Mall of Montenegro or the little further out Delta City, where you can but English language books at Mamut.
Things to try
A couple of local Podgorican specialities include Popeci, a type of bread-crumbed pork fillet stuffed with white cheese and topped with mayonnaise and sour cream and carp prepared with strained plums and stewed vegetables. Other cheap eats include the Montenegrin staple pleskavica, a kind of hamburger which is sold in most places and Pizza Caffe (Oktobarske Revolucije 85) where you can get cheap pizzas for less than 5€.
You are never far away for an internet connection in Podgorica and it is even possible to get online at the free public wifi on Trg Republike. If that fails you, check out our useful map to help you fulfil your virtual needs.
Podgorica Airport is located 11km south of the city in the district of Golubovci. It is one of only two international airport in Montenegro as is the main hub for the flag carrying Montenegro Airlines who provide connections to Frankfurt, Ljubljana, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Vienna & Zurich. Other significant airlines and routes include Ryanair (Brussels & London), Air Serbia (Belgrade) & Turkish Airlines (Istanbul).
Podgorica Train Station (Željeznička stanica Podgorica: Trg golootočkih žrtava 7) can be found south of the Ribnica river around 15min walk from the city centre. There are frequent domestic trains to Bar and Nikšić (2.40–3.60€), 3 trains daily to Bijelo Polje (5.20–7.60€) and a once daily international train to Belgrade in Serbia (19.20–28.80€). More details about train times and costs can be found here.
Podgorica Main Bus Station (Autobuska stanica Podgorica: 1 Trg Golootočkih Žrtava) is situated very close to the train station and a short walk from the city centre. There are numerous domestic connections including Cetinje (4-6€), Hercegnovi (8-9€) and Kotor (7€) and international services to Sarajevo, Bosnia (16.30–17.40€), Belgrade, Serbia (18–24.50€) Skopje, Macedonia (26.50–31.50€) and Dubrovnik (15€) & Zagreb (48€) in Croatia. A full list of domestic buses out of Podgorica can be found here.
The bus system in Podgorica is limited to 11 urban and 16 suburban bus lines. Tickets cost 0.80€ but the whole system suffers from a lack of investment and private bus companies and taxis are more frequently used to move around the city.
Due to its importance and location, Podgorica lies at the centre of all the major roads in Montenegro. The south-east running E762 heads to the Albanian border and onto the city of Shkodër. The E65, heads north-east out of Podgorica on its way to Mojkovac and beyond to Serbia and central Europe. The continuation of the E762, runs north-west to Nikšić, before continuing to Bosnia and onto western Europe. Heading west to Cetinje is the M-2.3 and to go south west to Bar take the E80.
Podgorica Hitchhiking Out
Hitchhiking out of Podgorica really couldn’t be simpler. The capital city’s small size means that reaching the edge shouldn’t take you too long, although heading north-east is by far the trickiest destination by which to travel.
North towards Niksic & Durmitor National Park
To reach the hitchhiking spot on the E762, take buses #E1, #E6, #60 or #68 from the centre to Delta City shopping centre (or alternatively a 25min walk). Walk away from the centre along Cetinjski put until you meet a large roundabout. Turn right, walk about 350m, until you see a good area to start thumbing.
West towards Cetinje, Budvar & Kotor
Take buses #E1, #E6, #60 or #68 from the centre to Delta City shopping centre (or alternatively a 25min walk). Walk away from the centre along Cetinjski put until you meet a large roundabout, continue straight and start hitchhiking from the other side.
North-East towards Mojkovac & Pljevlja
The Novito supermarket on Bulevar Vilija Branta is best reached by taking buses #6 or #6a from the Train station to the last stop stadion FK “KOM”. From here it is a very short walk away from the centre to the hitchhiking spot.
South-East towards Shkodër (Albania)
The best place to hitchhike towards Albania is on Tuski Put, which is located behind the train station. From the city centre, cross the Ribnica heading south along Bratstva i Jedinstva. Walk past the Mall of Montenegro until reaching the road Bracana Bracanovića and turn left. Follow this road underneath the rail tracks and beyond the Tuski put market and where the road narrows into one lane start hitching.
South-West towards Bar & Petrovac
Following the same instructions as towards Shkodër (Albania). Head along Bratstva i Jedinstva away from the city centre, but instead of turning left, continue straight whilst the road name changes to 4. Jul. At the end of this road lies a roundabout, continue straight over it and start hitchhiking from the other side on the E80.
Written by: Jon