PODGORICA, MONTENEGRO: Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro and it has been the capital of Montenegro since the time of Socialist Yugoslavia. Podgorica’s aerial view looked absolutely stunning from the plane as we were getting closer to the airport. We could see Dineric Alps and Skader Lake from the cabin. It was a beautiful landscape overall. But the city itself is not at all a typical European destination that tourists would visit. The lady in our hotel was asking us why we picked Podgorica as there isn’t much to see or do. But there are lots of Montenegrin coastal lines and mountain resorts that attract many tourists in this country. World War II left the city in great destruction and much of its historic Ottoman architecture vanished with bombings. Now it’s a modern planned city with laid back atmosphere.
Podgorica city center is about 45 minutes of drive from the airport. The airport is very small and everything is very conveniently located very close to each other, like customs, baggage claim, and rental car etc. The city doesn’t get lots of tourists since it’s not a typical European tourist destination with many sightseeing spots. Lots of people were looking at us interestingly when they saw we were walking with camera and maps; some groups of kids were very happy to see our daughters and were very friendly with them. They even tried their best to speak in English with us.
Transportation here is very cheap. We had our rental car but since taxi is so cheap, we used that to get to the center all the time, didn’t have to worry about parking and stuff. Food is also cheaper here if you compare with rest of Europe or other Eastern European cities.
TIME of TRAVEL: We flew to Podgorica during the Easter Break of 2014 in the 1st week of April. Our plan was to mainly explore all the small countries of former Socialist Yugoslavia and Albania.
OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Hotel BaMBiS in Podgorica. It’s not really in the city center but taxis used to charge use around 2 euros to get to the center point which was about 3kms away. The neighborhood is a quiet one without any restaurants close by. We had to take taxi to the main square for dinners. But it has free parking, Wi-Fi, and excellent breakfast…all included in the price. It’s a 4-star hotel with above average customer service. I would highly recommend to anyone and would stay here again if I ever go back to Podgorica.
EATING and SHOPPING: Since Podgorica doesn’t receive many tourists; we didn’t see any souvenir stores here in the city center or anywhere. I saw in our hotel some beautiful Montenegrin dolls in display but none elsewhere. There are many shops in the pedestrian zone of old town, just be careful when you buy brand name items here, many are not authentic ones.
We had our first dinner in a pizza place by the pedestrian street in old town. There were lots of teenage boys who were asking for food or money from here when we sat down to eat. But the restaurant lady told us not to give them anything; they eventually spend it on drugs. Anyways, our next day lunch was at Carine near Trg Republic. Thanks that it was a pleasant day and we could sit outside. The place had big collection of soup, salad, pasta, and ice cream, cake, and pastries for dessert. Another good place for any meal would be going to Skader Lake. We went there one late afternoon and had some pastry and hot drink by the lake in a restaurant called “Jezero”. You get a very nice view of the lake and mountains.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: Most of the points of interest in Podgorica are near the city center and can be visited on foot. We had roughly a day and half for this city. Without the museums, it took us about couple hours to visit everything in the center. We kept half a day for Skader Lake and that was one good spot not to be missed here.
1) TRG REPUBLIC: It kind of disappointed me but Trg Republic is the main square of the city. It’s a big gathering spot for the locals. Square doesn’t have much to see other than a big fountain in the middle. There are few restaurants at the corners of this square. Haven’t been there at night, may be, the places comes to live at night.
2) MOSKOVSKI BRIDGE and MILLENNIUM BRIDGE: From the pedestrian old town, we walked little bit further towards the river and reached Moskovski Bridge over Moraca River. It’s for pedestrian and people can take the stairs beside the bridge to go down to the river bank. The beautiful modern bridge adjacent to it is the impressive Millennium Bridge. Millennium Bridge looks very photogenic at night when it’s lit up. It’s a nice place to take a stroll at late afternoon.
3) OLD CLOCK TOWER and TURKISH TOWN: The little Turkish town in Podgorica is an old residential place with couple mosques and narrow, curvy streets. An old clock tower also stands at one starting point of the Turkish neighborhood. These mosques are quite old, one we saw from outside was not a working one but the other one was still active. There isn’t much to do here. I was hoping for some Turkish markets but saw nothing other than some old houses and few locals. One local mentioned, about 30 – 40% Muslims of Podgorica live in this neighborhood.
4) SKALINE: This is a really picturesque place and is the confluence of River Ribnica and Moraca. An old Turkish bridge is there over a little stream of Ribnica. There are also some ruins of an old town, some steps, and sitting area near the rivers…a pleasant atmosphere all around. This is definitely a place worth visiting.
5) PARLIAMENT and MONUMENT to KING NIKOLA: Montenegrin Parliament is very close to city center. The Parliament building is not that impressive but the park opposite of it is a lovers’ point and a nice place where locals come for picnic or to relax. Monument of King Nikola stands in that park opposite of the parliament.
6) ST. GEORGE’S CHURCH: This Serbian Orthodox church is located on the slope of Gorica Hill where the city got its name from. It’s a 10th century church. Inside is pretty small but nice; loved its peaceful surroundings.
7) WAR MEMORIAL on GORICA HILL: after visiting the church we started climbing the hill little further. It’s a beautiful natural park with lots of trees and bushes. This whole area is a natural reserve, a great place for nature walk, bird watching, and enjoying some moments outside the busy city life. We even saw a little turtle walking on the ground. Little bit more into the park, is a WWII War Memorial. The memorial is not a flashy one; it’s hidden at one side of Gorica Hill where no one really goes. But check out the small hill if you like hiking or taking leisure walks.
8) SKADER LAKE: This is the largest lake in the Balkans. It took us little more than half an hour to reach a panoramic view point from Podgorica city center. The lake shares its border with Albania too. There is a restaurant called “Jezero” by the lake and opposite of an old monastery. We had some hot drinks and pastries here with an excellent view of the lake and mountains. The restaurant can arrange boat tour on the lake and the visitor center is there too. The water was rough that afternoon, so we skipped boat ride and just sat down by the water for long time enjoying its stunning view.
Lessandra Monastery is opposite of this restaurant but we couldn’t make it there because of the road condition. But there are lots of things to do in Skader Lake National Park if you have time and like outdoor activities.