Montenegro’s famous Sveti Stefan is an icon. The 15th-century islet was once a tribal meeting place and trading centre on the Adriatic. Now it’s an exclusive Aman Resort where guests can relax in the village atmosphere and frolic on the pink sand beach.
Floating just off Perast’s shore is another icon of the Montenegrin coast – Our Lady of the Rocks. The man-made island was built in the 15th century by scuttling ships and throwing rocks. On the island, there is a small museum and Catholic Church, which is immediately recognisable by its blue-domed roof.
A stone’s throw from Our Lady of the Rocks, Saint George floats off Perast’s shore like it’s stopped in time. While Our Lady of the Rocks sees thousands of visitors annually, St George’s Orthodox monastery is off limits to visitors. The natural island with its monastic buildings and tall cypress trees completes Perast’s perfect view.
Snaking up the mountain that backs Kotor, San Giovanni Fortress is a challenge gladly taken on by tourists in Kotor. Also known as Sveti Ivan or Saint John’s Fortress, the 1,350 steps to the top are worth hiking, even in mid-summer heat. The fortress dates back to the 9th century and is in remarkably good condition. The views from the top are worth every step.
Half way up San Giovanni Fortress, Our Lady of Remedy’s bell tower shines like a beacon over the Bay of Kotor. Built in 1518, hikers heading up the fortress walls take a breather and offer up a prayer for the strength to keep going before making the final push for the summit.
Standing guard at the entrance to the Bay of Kotor, Fort Mamula on Lastava Island is a beautiful structure with a gruesome past. The island is part of a set of three fortresses marking the entrance to the bay: Arza on the Montenegrin side, Mamula in the middle and Prevlaka on the Croatian side. Mamula’s fortress is especially significant because it served as a prison island where Montenegrins were taken by the occupying Italian army during World War II.
It’s easy to see why Budva is one of the most popular destinations in Montenegro. Its 2,000-year-old town juts out into the glistening Adriatic, and it’s surrounded by idyllic beaches. The town was expanded by successive empires, but its architecture was mostly influenced by the Venetians who ruled it for nearly 400 years.
Ulcinj’s old town is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic Sea. Pirates from Ulcinj would raid wealthy landowners in Dalmatia or Italy and bring them back as slaves. Rather than working, however, they would be held for ransom.
Petrovac’s Kastel Lastva is a beautiful Venetian fort that was built by the Venetians to protect ships along this stretch of the coast. The rest of Petrovac’s original town is made up of classic stone buildings, and, offshore, Sveti Nedjelja Church perches precariously on a rocky island.
Rijeka Crnojevica’s stone bridge was built in 1853 by Prince Danilo, in memory of his father, Stanko Petrovic. The stone arch bridge and the surrounding buildings reveal a time when Rijeka Crnojevica was an important royal summer residence.
Cetinje, as the old royal capital of Montenegro, is home to some of Montenegro’s most beautiful buildings. Chief among them is King Nikola’s Court. Now a museum in the centre of town, the building’s striking red façade and white shutters give an insight into Cetinje’s royal past.
More recent than other historic buildings in Montenegro, Vladin Dom was built in 1910. The building, which has an interior courtyard, was the former Montenegrin parliamentary building. Today it’s part of the Montenegrin National Museum and houses the art, historical and ethnographic collections.
Also in Cetinje, the Blue Palace is the official residence of the president of Montenegro. The powder-blue residence has ornate white windows and striking red pillars. It was originally built for Prince Danilo in 1895 and remains one of the most beautiful buildings in Montenegro to this day.
Of all the regal former embassies in Cetinje, the former Russian embassy is the most impressive. The grand residence was designed by the Italian architect Coradini, who also designed Vladin Dom and the Italian embassy.
Successive wars and heavy bombing during World War II have meant precious little remains of the historical buildings in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica. Stara Varoš is one part of Podgorica that has survived. The area is known for its Ottoman Turk style and has been the centre of the city since the 15th century.