5 reasons to visit Podgorica, Montenegro

You won’t find Podgorica near the top of many city break charts, but there is plenty going on in the Montenegrin capital to warrant popping up for a day or two from the coast..

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1. The city has an interesting story

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Podgorica’s modern capital boasts such rich layers of history that it has changed name no fewer than five times.

Remnants of Roman times, its long days as a fulcrum of the Ottoman Empire and – in its savage socialist architecture – reminders of the functional days under Yugoslav communism are all present.

To glean a window into the city's past, head to the City Museum, a neatly packaged together sweep of history and culture that offers Roman artefacts through to orthodox Christian icons, 16th century Venetian documents and traditional folk costumes. The spiky Turkish daggers are particularly chilling.

2. The food and wine is seriously underrated

A vineyard in Montenegro (Shutterstock)

A vineyard in Montenegro (Shutterstock)

The rich bounty of Adriatic seafood, plucked fresh from the coast, makes its way into the local restaurants - along with tasty river fish, which are sometimes spiced with paprika.

Grilled meat dishes are delicious too, especially cevapi, delicious meatballs that are best served with raw onion and creamy cheese, plus a generous side of traditional bread. Don’t miss the local prsut, delicious air dried ham often still cultivated by small family producers in the mountain villages.

The country’s wines are spot on too, and great value for money. For reds, look out for the consistent and mighty Vranac blend, while the white grape to seek is Krstac, the perfect partner to seafood. The national beer is the crisp Niksic, whilst a sprinkling of domestic craft beers are also starting to drift into the capital.

3. The unique atmosphere of Stara Varoš

Osmanagic Mosque, Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Osmanagic Mosque, Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

The oldest, most atmospheric quarter in Podgorica sends you spiralling back through the centuries, to when the Ottoman sultans held sway. They stayed for 400 years and Stara Varoš (the Old Town) is their legacy, writ impressively in local stone using construction techniques you’ll find all over the region.

The most atmospheric way to arrive is across the old stone bridge that spans the bijou Ribnica River. Highlights include the ruins of the Ribnica Fortress, which dates back to the 15th century, and a brace of historic mosques.

The older Starodoganjska Mosque is still home to Islamic institutions, while the more eye catching Osmanagic Mosque houses the tomb of hajji Mehmet-Pasha Osmanagic. He is credited with its creation - it has recently undergone a much needed and very welcome renovation.

4. Petrovic Palace's dreamy pink exterior

Podgorica's Petrovic Palace (Wikimedia Commons/Sailko)

Podgorica's Petrovic Palace (Wikimedia Commons/Sailko)

This is a find that surprises anyone still wondering about Podgorica’s charms. This elegant 19th-century pastel pink cultural oasis is set in verdant grounds, kissed with outdoor sculptures. Its a lovely place unwind in on a sunny day.

The grounds house temporary exhibition space, with two floors of the main gallery given over to an eclectic collection of temporary exhibitions that are usually free to enter. The other floor is a surreal sweep through avant garde art spliced with traditional art from around the globe.

Think eye-catching Socialist modern work with old-world Asian batiks and you’re on the right lines. There is a palpable leaning towards Yugoslavia’s old socialist-era buddies with the modest collections.

5. Podgorica's the ultimate day trip base

Niagara Falls, near Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Niagara Falls, near Podgorica, Montenegro (Shutterstock)

Podgorica offers the startling chance to visit Niagara Falls. OK, so it’s not that one...

On a steaming hot day, you may prefer it here, as you can comfortably swim in the waters. You’ll be glad to learn there is a restaurant appropriately called Niagara, with a view of the falls to enjoy after your swim.

If you want to get more active in Montenegro’s glorious outdoors, the mountains offer tempting hiking opportunities, while its rivers and lakes are great for kayakers. For more of a cultural kick, join a guided tour to explore historic Podgorica.

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