As the capital city of Montenegro, Podgorica is full of activities for travelers simply passing through or staying for a while. For three months I lived in Podgorica and explored the city, finding the best places to eat, best sights to see and events to attend. Of course, I had a lot of valuable input from my Meanderbug friends and a good number of locals to find the best of the best. Let me encourage you to check out these top 15 things to do in or near Podgorica.
- Soccer Match – Catch an FK Budućnost or Varvara soccer match. Located in the heart of Podgorica, the football stadium provides easy access to the matches. All matches are inexpensive, even free sometimes. For a more intense experience, enter the stadium from the South end and dwell among the die-hard fans as they shoot off fireworks and climb the rafters, standing and chanting the entire game. [WARNING: viewing from the south end is explosively loud and definitely not a “safe” experience, but it is out of the ordinary. Meanderbug strongly recommends that you not participate in shooting any fireworks for liability and even potential incarceration reasons!] But, attending a soccer game is a must for any tourist looking to experience the city.
- Gorica Park– Just a few hundred meters from downtown Podgorica and adjacent to the stadium, Gorica Park is the Central Park of the capital city. In addition to walking and biking roads and a few trails, it is also home to an adventure park with rope courses, a kids’ play area, and a coffee shop. From areas on the top of the hill, visitors have an unbeatable view of the city. Also, recently opened in the center of the park is a Mediterranean Garden that has been developed by several friends of Meanderbug. Explore the park and the winding trails that lay on this giant hill. It is perfect for runners or photographers looking for a good view. If you have kids, let them do the kids’ adventure area with the staff for a small fee while you enjoy a cup of coffee at the new café located directly next to the playground. Below the park toward the city is St. George Church which pre-dates the separation of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. Also, Bočari Cafe is located at the gate entrance to the park. This is a hub for nature lovers and those more inclined to free thinking.
- Zrno Coffee Shop – For one of the best cups of coffee in the city, make your way to Zrno. The vibes are modern yet comfortable, with a tasteful interior design that encourages productive writing or meaningful conversation. The drinks range from ice coffee drinks full of caramel to strong espresso or pour overs. They do a good job on the lattes and Americano. Zrno also has a few freshly baked snack goods that arew worth a try.
- Pod Volat – Authentic traditional Montenegrin food is a must when in Podgorica. The favorite place for locals and travelers alike is Pod Volat. They have the dishes locals eat, cooked by skilled chefs and sold at reasonable prices. Traditional dress, food, and music are the highlight of this eatery. The bread (lepinje) is made fresh daily, complementing the array of traditional Montenegrin cuisine. While there, take in the kula or old Turkish tower marking this area of old town Podgorica.
- The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ Church – The Orthodox Church found in the center of the city is pretty impressive, especially considering that it was built in 2014. Still, the cathedral looks as if it was built hundreds of years ago, in a time when extreme attention was put into every detail. The massive stone structure is beautiful in size and design. Stone sculptures are found chiseled by hand into the side of the building. The golden roof and inlay compliment the white limestone. The interior has marble floors and is covered in historical golden murals reflective of the Orthodox religion. The cathedral is of equal splendor to other famous cathedrals that have been around for centuries. This one also carries a bit of modern life and some political statements that are evident in the iconostasis on the side wall.
- The Burek Stand – One of the most popular Balkan foods, burek is found everywhere in Podgorica. But, ask any local where the best burek in the city is, and he or she will tell you to look for it in the small shop located behind the cathedral. Nameless, this hole-in-the-wall “restaurant” always has a line of customers. As you walk up to the window, you can see the burek being made fresh in the background. For only a few dollars, you can treat yourself to one of the best fast food greasy meals in the city. Be sure to try it with the yogurt. You can drink the yogurt like the locals or dip the burek into the cup. [NOTE: While this is the best burek in the city, if you want the best version of this you need to eat pita in the village at a farm stay. These country cooks take this Turkish variation to a whole new level. Seriously!]
- Millennium Bridge – The Millennium Bridge is an architectural marvel. Constructed in 2005, the big bridge spans the vast Morača Canyon. Under the bridge at the base of the canyon, the Moraca River at times trickles and during other seasons gushes through the city. While there are similar bridges in other places, this symmetrical suspension design contrasting with the rugged canyon with river below and mountain backdrop above the city skyline, make this a distinct locale. Check it out for the range of views or for a place to just enjoy a stroll and a good conversation.
- Mall of Montenegro – The locals refer to this place as Gintaš. Much of the building is a grocery store and small city mall. (Yawn.) But, there is also a year-round farmers market located here that is worth exploring. Locals gather and rent tables in order to sell their produce. Available products here include farm fresh everything in season with imports at other times. You can find potatoes, peppers, apples, plums, nuts, honey, eggs, cheeses, fish, and so much more. While the ground floor is farmers market, the upper floor is cheap kitsch that is breaking more than a few copyrights. All the same, it is fun to explore. Support locals and eat fresh, healthy, and delicious fruits and vegetables often brought from their own gardens.
- Freedom Square – An urban park, freedom square is home to local concerts, races, and events on a regular basis. Several fast food restaurants and shops are located close by, so even if no events are going on, the fountain and benches make it a great place to enjoy a coffee and take a break in the city. This is a good evening destination as the street becomes a walking street where people of all ages and families will be out taking a stroll.
- Zabljak Crnojevica Fortress – this ancient fortress is tucked away near the river. You wind your way up the hill to find the trail that leads to it. Once you arrive in the fortress you have spectacular views of Skadar Lake in one direction and Albania the other way. This is a good spot to hang or to have a photo shoot with so many ancient walls and stones.
- Korzos Bakery – the oldest bakery in town, this family-run bakery started in 1961. The Hamza family makes local recipes and some family favorites from Kosovo daily. Besides traditional Turkish or domača (domacha) coffee, you can find a sweet to go with it. Also, be sure to try the specialty Špricer. This bosa beverage is a dense Turkish drink with light fermentation.
- City Kvart– City Kvart is home to some seventy shops and restaurants all in a small area. Walking streets connect the shops while trees provide shade for shopping, creating a nice outdoor experience. During the day coffee shops are full of customers, but at night it is transformed as coffee shops close and the bars and nightclubs open, making this a top area for nightlife in the city. No matter the time of day, there is something to do at City Kvart.
- Niagara Restaurant (and waterfall) – Just outside of Podgorica is a place to go for a photo shoot, and a drink or a snack by the Cijevna River. Walking maybe 100 meters past the restaurant you will arrive at the Niagara waterfall. OK, it’s not that Niagara Waterfall, but it is impressive in its own way especially in the spring and early summer months when the snowmelt and spring rains cause high water flows. Food options to try here include the in season orange juice, the meat and cheese plate, and the fresh fish.
- Karver Coffee Shop & bookstore – this stop is more about the ambiance than the fare. Formerly a Turkish bath area, this under the bridge experience includes bad coffee and decent graffiti by the river. Writers and artists find their way here. You have to check it out.
- Sky Bar at the Hilton – the views on the top floor of the Hilton are perfect for photographers as well as for friends to hang for some quality time. This is a good option any time of day, but it really sets itself apart at night with the city views.
Some honorable mentions for Best Things to Do in Podgorica:
- Duklja – Roman ruins on the outskirts of the city. While these are impressive, unfortunately it is not well maintained and is even closed at times of the year with tall grass and reports of too many snakes to access. Go with reasonable expectations and you may be more than satisfied.
- Medun Fortress – this fortress is about 13 kilometers north of town on the way to the Kuci Mountains and Bukumirsko Lake. The Medun Fortress is a great young family outing with a short uphill hike. Plan a picnic or to make coffee as there is an ancient table there that is ideal for time together and pics.
- PG Academy – a new restaurant and pub. With a range of foods and pizzas, PG offers the first micro-brewery in the country.
- My Brilliance – a health food cafe with various smoothies, juices, and locally roasted coffee. This is one of the many in the City Kvart area, but one of the better vegetarian/vegan options in town.
- Caffeine – a couple locations in the city with much better than average coffee. For those that may be in the market for good coffee beans, Caffeine 2 is the only option.
- Hotel Podgorica – the restaurant terrace offers great river views. Catch a sunset meal or late night dessert while taking in the canyon river views. The espresso here is pretty good or you can be like one of the locals and order a dojč (Deutch). This is a coffee beverage unique to Podgorica that is a hybrid between a cappuccino and a latte.
- Hard Rock Cafe – the only foreign franchise restaurant in the country, the food here is decent enough. And it is the Hard Rock Cafe after all. You can pick up a Podgorica souvenir t-shirt or mug here.
Meanderbug is honored to work with Albijon Neziraj on this photo set. Formerly a refugee, today Albijon is a graduate from the Picture Change program and he continues to develop himself to make a difference in his community.