Montenegro’s old-world architecture takes visitors on a journey through the history of a bygone era. On the coast, stone palaces line the shores and ancient old towns jut out into the azure sea. In the old royal capital, majestic residences remind visitors of a time when Montenegro was an important crossroad between east and west. And throughout the country, ornate churches serve as tributes to the devout faith that’s central to Montenegro’s culture. Take a beautiful and cultural journey through Montenegro’s breathtaking old-world architecture.
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.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
Also part of Aman Sveti Stefan, Villa Milocer is the former royal summer residence of Queen Marija Karadjordjevic. The villa is surrounded by a beautiful forest of olives, pines and cedars. The front terrace is shaded with glorious purple wisteria, and the whole property sits on the shore of a private beach.
Villa Milocer, Aman Sveti Stefan, Montenegro, +382 33 420 000
Perast, in the Bay of Kotor, is one of the most picturesque towns in Montenegro. The seaside hamlet is full of restored palaces, churches and old ruins which show the wealth and power that was once concentrated here.
Our Lady of the Rocks
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.
Our Lady of the Rocks, Montenegro
Saint George Island
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.
Saint George, Montenegro
St George Monastery | © Ihor Pasternak/Shutterstock | Ihor Pasternak/Shutterstock
Kotor’s walled Venetian old town is a treasure trove of palaces, churches and old-world architecture. With its terracotta roofs, green shutters and bright flower boxes, this 15th-century town exudes old world charm.
Kotor old town, Montenegro
San Giovanni Fortress
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.
San Giovanni Fortress, Kotor, Montenegro
Our Lady of Remedy
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.
Our Lady of Remedy, Kotor, Montenegro
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.
Fort Mamula, Montenegro
Ostrog Monastery is one of the most visited sites in the Christian world. Founded in the 17th century by St Basil of Ostrog, the monastery attracts people of all faiths. The seemingly gravity-defying monastery is carved into a face of sheer cliff and stands out like a beacon over Bjelopavlići Plain.
Ostrog Monastery, Danilovgrad, Montenegro, +382 68 330 336
Djurdjevica Tara Bridge
Djurdjevica Tara Bridge
Once the biggest vehicular concrete arch bridge in Europe, the Djurdjevica Tara Bridge towers 172 metres above the Tara River and connects the two sides of the Tara Canyon. The beauty of the bridge is enhanced by the stunning greenery of Europe’s deepest canyon.
Djurdjevica Tara Bridge, Montenegro
Budva old town
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.
Budva old town, Montenegro
Bar old town’s aqueduct is a marvel of engineering and one of the best preserved in former Yugoslavia. The Ottoman Empire built the aqueduct in the 16th century, and it brought water to the town from Mount Rumija, three kilometres away.
Bar old town, Montenegro
Ulcinj old town
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.
Ulcinj old town, Montenegro
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.
Petrovac | © Olena Z/Shutterstock
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.
Rijeka Crnojevica, Montenegro
King Nikola’s Court
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.
King Nikola’s Court, Dvorski Trg, Cetinje, Montenegro
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.
National Museum of Montenegro Vladin Dom, Novice Cerovica, Cetinje, Montenegro, +382 41 230 310
Former Russian embassy
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.
Former Russian Embassy, Vojvode Batrica, Cetinje, Montenegro
Former Russian Embassy | © Gennadiy Solovyev/Shutterstock.com | © Gennadiy Solovyev/Shutterstock.com
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.
Stara Varos, Podgorica, Montenegro