With Montenegro’s best collection of museums allied with tangible history and plenty of fine architecture, Cetinje is one of the most underrated destinations in the former Yugoslavia. A culture-packed day awaits in the old royal capital of this fine country.
Explore the country’s best museums
Podgorica might be the modern capital of Montenegro, but Cetinje is undoubtedly the cultural centre of this small Balkan nation. The central Montenegrin town is home to the National Museum of Montenegro, a collection of museums housed in a number of historically important buildings around the city. One ticket is needed for entry to all, a single card that will take you on a trip from Montenegro’s tribal beginnings through to its modern incarnation.
Cetinje is small enough to cover using only your two feet, so spend the morning traipsing around the buildings that house the cultural history of Montenegro. Don’t be afraid to ask those working in the museums for a little extra information.
Just 4km from Cetinje lies the only cave in Montenegro that allows organised visits. Lipa Cave is two-and-a-half kilometres of stalactites, stalagmites, and all the rest – weird natural formations that have come together over millions of years. The prince poet Njegoš himself demanded the cave be explored, but it wasn’t investigated until long after the cultural titan had passed away. Be sure to call ahead before visiting.
Traditional food and historical architecture
With Montenegro’s tourist cave firmly in the rearview mirror, head back to Cetinje proper to enjoy the exterior of the buildings you explored in the morning. Cetinje is arguably Montenegro’s most architecturally interesting city, and nothing proves that point more than the Biljarda. The former residence of that man Njegoš, this white pseudo-castle was where Montenegro’s first billiard table was located (which explains the name).
The King Nikola Museum is another architectural wonder in Cetinje, a late 19th century palace that has its own royal history. The building was largely looted during the wars of the 20th century, but the facade is every bit as stunning now as it surely was in 1867.
All this history, culture and caving will surely create a rumbling in the stomach, so head to Cetinje’s Gradska Kafana for some traditional Balkan cuisine. There are no surprises on the menu, but who needs shocks when the grilled meat is this good? Don’t forget to sample a glass or three of rakija, although do try to keep it to three. The night is just beginning.
A night on these most royal tiles
Cetinje might not have the all-night beach parties that attract so many to the seaside, but there is a gritty Balkan charm to its bars, pubs and clubs that make it one of the best nights out in the country. Gradska Kafana itself a good option to start the night, but Scottish Pub Academia is a must for anyone looking for a fun-filled night. Saying that, mixing whiskey and rakija might not be the best idea…