There are more than enough things to do in Podgorica to keep you entertained for at least two full days; here is what travel writer Jub from Tiki Touring Kiwi suggests.
The Bay of Kotor and Budva were always mentioned in my conversations before arriving in Montenegro. Both are popular for their own reasons, but I was confused about why Podgorica rarely came up. After all, Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, is the largest city in the country. There must be some fun things to do in Podgorica, right? So, I decided to go see it for myself.
If you want to embrace a non-touristy city in stunning Montenegro, here are some of the top tourist attractions in Podgorica. I recommend staying in the city for at least two full days.
Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!
What To See In Podgorica: Top Podgorica Tourist Attractions
As Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica is the country’s most important city. It’s its economic, cultural, educational, and political center and has a lot of historical and architectural value. However, Podgorica is an attractive city because of its downright gorgeous setting at the confluence of the Ribnica River and Morača River. Around Podgorica, you’ll also find the lush Bjelopavlići Valley and Zeta Plain. This location is no coincidence; it’s been strategically important for centuries.
Notably, the Zeta Plain, south of Podgorica city, is home to the phenomenal Lake Skadar National Park, the largest lake in southern Europe and a super-popular destination for outdoor adventures. Lake Skadar, one of the best places to see in Montenegro, makes for a beautiful day or weekend trip from Podgorica.
Experience Montenegro’s Niagara Falls
You can’t help but smile at the name.
From what I could tell, the name is used to catch the attention of us tourists who will likely eat at the restaurant also called Niagara, right next to the falls. Well played on the marketing front. The falls are 7 kilometers from the city center, and I must say, the restaurant is in the perfect setting.
Thankfully they haven’t fully exploited the ‘Niagara’ name and have kept prices reasonable. The falls, however, were disappointing as they only came to life in the winter, so my early October visit was too early.
I still enjoyed the trip out here, though, as the landscape around the river is so moon-like. Check them out!
Taste Local Wines
There is much more to European wines than France, Italy, and Spain.
The Balkans produce a lot of (drinkable) wine, too. Between Podgorica and Lake Skadar are millions of vines baking in the July and August heat, ready for the big harvest in September. The most popular cellar is Šipčanik (8 kilometers from Podgorica), that offers various tours and tastings year-round.
The most popular grape variety in Montenegro is vranac, an indigenous grape the locals are justifiably proud of. If you can’t make it out to the winery, plenty of bars serve local wine. Alternatively, you can head to the supermarket and grab a bottle of a local vintage yourself.
This is a terrific place to visit combined with Niagara Falls, as they’re in the same direction.
Enjoy A Local Basketball Or Football Match
If you want to see success in action, watch a KK Buducnost (Podgorica) basketball game at the Moraca Sports Center. Why? They’ve won 11 consecutive domestic basketball league titles. That’s impressive.
Watching a local sports event is a fun way to compare how sports events are held in your own country.
A few of my observations from watching KK Buducnost:
- 2 euro tickets
- no beer is sold in the arena
- no cheerleaders
- the small group of passionate (ultra) supporters in the corner were incredibly loud
If you want to watch football in Podgorica, the two leading clubs are FK Buducnost and FK Mladost. They play at Pod Goricom Stadium and Mladost Stadium, respectively.
When you get to Podgorica, Google the club names to find out if they’re playing. I find the locals are never 100% sure what the schedules are.
Visit The Centre Of Modern Arts (Petrovic Palace)
You might be surprised to see the Petrovic Palace in all its pinkness in the middle of the park. The Centre of Modern Arts is free to visit and browse through both permanent and temporary exhibitions.
There was the option of hiring a knowledgeable guide, which is an excellent option as there are very few details about the art on display. If you like to know the stories behind the artist, choose the guided tour.
Hike To Various Viewpoints Around The City
Podgorica isn’t surrounded by massive mountains towering over the city like Kotor, but there are rolling limestone hills nearby. Most provide astounding panoramic city views.
There are trails on the hills, but the limestone mountains don’t have much foliage on them, so you can go whichever way your heart desires without the fear of getting lost.
Take A Dip In The Moraca River
I was gutted arriving in Kotor to see no one swimming in the bay. Yet, I was definitely happy a local told me you’d see many people taking a summertime dip in the Moraca River flowing through the city.
Take a moment and think: how often can you go swimming in a river that passes through a capital city without feeling gross? They’re usually a filthy, fast-moving, brown color.
I think that’s what made my short (cold) swim so satisfying. The water was slow-moving, and I could see my toes. Yay!
Crisscross Your Way To Millennium Bridge
If taking a dip in the Moraca River doesn’t sound like you, take a walk across the Podgorica bridges. Five bridges cross the rivers in the city center, two of which are pedestrian-only.
The most famous is the Millennium Bridge. One of the top sights you should see when you visit Podgorica, this cable-style bridge is quite the spectacle and, since opening in 2005, has helped ease traffic congestion.
See The Remarkable Transformer-Like Robots
One of the most unusual, even bizarre, attractions in Podgorica are the “Transformers Depending Podgorica.” Seven huge Transformer-like robot sculptures dot the city center, set up by a young artist named Danilo Baletic in 2014. These towering artworks are actually made from scrap metal, including pieces of old cars.
You can see these extraordinary sculptures at seven locations around the Podgorica city center, from street corners to parks. The biggest “Transformer” stands at the main square; Megatron is 14 meters high.
Experience The Local Nightlife
I was surprised by the nightlife in Podgorica on most nights of the week. After 5 pm, locals start to fill up the cafes, bars, and restaurants around the Bulevar Ivana Crnojevica and Njegoseva intersection.
As places close, those who don’t go home often head to Buda Bar to hear a DJ play eclectic music. If that isn’t your vibe, you can continue walking around the stadium area to find music to suit your taste.
Spend Time People Watching In The Parks
Yay for yet another Eastern European capital creating lots of green space inside the city. Bonus points for Podgorica because of the lack of greenery on the nearby hills.
I stumbled across lots of parks, and people seemed to use them throughout the day.
Why do I care about parks so much, you ask? They are a great spot to people watch and have a picnic. Additionally, a daily dose of nature does you a world of good.
Wander Around The City
The Old Town in Podgorica is undoubtedly different from your regular Old Towns in capital cities. Most of the town was destroyed during the Second World War. The city was bombed more than 70 times, making it one of the most bombed cities. Sadly enough, almost no effort has been made to rebuild the once-pretty town.
Yet you can wander the streets, with the many religious buildings standing out. Check out, for example, the Osmanagica Mosque, a great example of Ottoman architecture in Podgorica, and the Church of St. Demetrius.
And Saborni hram Hristovog, one of the biggest Orthodox churches globally, is something I somehow missed. Don’t make that same mistake!
Elsewhere, please keep your eyes peeled for street art; a few pieces caught my attention.
Admire The Cathedral Of The Resurrection Of Christ
One of the latest additions to the skyline of Podgorica, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, was consecrated in 2013. This enormous Serbian Orthodox cathedral boasts large white-stone towers topped with crosses, while the interior features large chandeliers, gilded frescoes, marble floors, and lively murals.
Spend Some Time At Culture Club Tarantino Podgorica
If you’re looking for where to eat in Podgorica, you might want to check out Culture Club Tarantino. Situated on one of the city’s most charming streets, this restaurant and bar are dedicated to promoting local art, music, and other events.
It’s a super-hip spot that’s great from morning to evening. Grab a cup of coffee in the morning or do some people-watching in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s a popular spot among students, creatives, and alternative people.
See The Roman Ruins Of Doclea
Situated only a few kilometers from modern-day Podgorica lie the ruins of Dolclea or Dulkja. This ancient Roman city used to be home to up to 10,000 people but declined in the 4th and 5th centuries. Today, you can still see many remains of this once-thriving Roman city, making this a recommended excursion from Podgorica.
Explore Lake Skadar National Park
One of the top Montenegro tourist attractions lies less than 30 minutes by car south of Podgorica. It’s under 30 kilometers from the city center to the Lake Skadar National Park Visitor Center in Virpazar, truly the number one day trip you can do.
This magnificent national park encompasses the entire shore of Lake Skadar in Montenegro, including the villages and towns, wetlands, hills, and ruins. It’s an essential area for birds, but it also offers all kinds of outdoor activities, from kayaking and swimming to hiking and cycling.
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Where To Stay In Podgorica
Perla Residence Podgorica & Spa
Without question, one of the best hotels in Podgorica, Perla Residence Podgorica & Spa, lies just outside of the Old Town and features several exciting amenities. There are a terrace and garden, a gym, a spa and wellness center, free WiFi, and private parking. An on-site restaurant serves Spanish, Latin American, and local cuisine. All rooms are well-equipped, including a flat-screen TV, a kitchen, seating area, bathroom, and dining area.
Situated in the city’s business zone and near the train station, Hotel Laurel lies a short walk from the city’s core. Guests can use the spa and fitness center, stay in touch through free WiFi, wine and dine at the restaurant, and park their vehicle at the free parking garage. The rooms are air-conditioned and come with a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. Some rooms have a private balcony with views over Podgorica, too.
Hotel Alexandar Lux
In terms of location, Hotel Alexandar Lux is one of the top Podgorica hotels. It’s on Hercegovacka Ulica, the main pedestrian street in the city, offering easy access to many of the main Podgorica attractions. You’ll find numerous restaurants, bars, and shops all around the hotel, while its apartments come with a leather sofa, bathroom, and a kitchenette. Shared facilities include table tennis and a gym. Free WiFi is available as well.
Among the most stylish and elegant places to stay in Podgorica, Hotel Hemera has tasteful and warm interior decorations. It lies in the heart of the city, well within walking distance from attractions like the National Library, the City Stadium, and Gorica Forest Park. There is free WiFi, as well as a Turkish bath and sauna. The restaurant at Hotel Hemera is a beautiful place to relax with a meal after a day of Podgorica sightseeing. Rooms have standard amenities, including a seating and dining area, a mini-bar, a bathroom, and a flat-screen TV.
Wrapping Up On Fun Things To Do In Podgorica, Montenegro
Do you agree Podgorica is the most underrated capital in the Balkans? Don’t let this discourage you from visiting. It’s one of the best places in Montenegro to visit, home to, and surrounded by some of the most incredible Montenegro sights.
I visited Podgorica in early October and noticed that Podgorica tourism is still in its infancy. I saw few other tourists while actively exploring nearly all corners of the city.
There are more than enough things to do in Podgorica to keep you entertained for at least two full days, and as a bonus, you get a break from the crowds in Kotor and Budva. Not that you shouldn’t visit those destinations, though. In terms of what to see in Montenegro, they’re as good as things get. Just include Podgorica in your itinerary as well. It is arguably the best place to stay in Montenegro for trips to Lake Skadar, after all.
So tell us, what fun things to do in Podgorica will make your bucket list?