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With flight connections from all over Europe and the east, Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, is a convenient central location to start a journey through Montenegro. Twenty-four hours is just the right amount of time to spend here before moving on to discover the coastal and mountain gems of this stunning land.
Montenegrins take their coffee drinking very seriously. There’s no such thing as take away coffee, and Podgorica has a plethora of cafés and restaurants that are full of lively locals enjoying coffee in the sun with their friends. Start your day the Montenegrin way – with a leisurely coffee in one of the trendy restaurants in City Kvart.
Podgorica was bombed more than 70 times in World War II alone, so it’s a miracle that any of the old structures have survived. Luckily, Ribnica and Stara Varos did, and they’re highlights of the city. Ribnica is a 5th-century settlement on the banks of the Ribnica River. Visitors can walk around the stone ruins and Adzi-Pasha’s bridge, before continuing on to Kraljev Park.
From there, it’s an easy walk to Stara Varos, the old town. The area was built by the Ottoman Turks, and the quaint buildings are now full of jewellery stores and small boutiques. Complete the experience with a Turkish coffee at Byblos.
Twenty minutes north of Podgorica, the animal sanctuary is a unique place to get up close and personal with some native and non-native animals. Among the residents are two camels and a dozen emus who were abandoned by an Italian circus, an orphaned bear cub and an injured native eagle. There are also rabbits, llamas, deer, geese, chickens and tiny piglets that visitors can bottle feed. Only the predators are in cages, and the camels roam around looking for kisses while the kids (both human and goat varieties) frolic about. Visitors are given the chance to run with the emus and feed and interact with the animals. It’s a unique and delightful experience.
After a morning of exploration, it’s time to refuel. Podgorica has lots of good restaurants, but it’s worth the short trip out of the centre to Restoran Niagara. Set alongside the Cijevna River, the restaurant serves traditional Montenegrin dishes like grilled meat, seasonal salads, Njeguski prosciutto and local cheeses. A short stroll along the river brings you to the Cijevna’s beautiful waterfalls.
Just across the Cijevna lies Plantaze’s Sipcanik wine cellar. Plantaze is Montenegro’s largest wine producer, and their Cemovsko Polje vineyard in Podgorica, which covers 2.3 hectares, is the largest unbroken vineyard in Europe.
Visitors to Sipcanik can take a miniature train tour around the vineyard, before trying the wines. The wine tastings come with gourmet canapes made of regional specialties, like cheese and prosciutto from Njegusi village, marinated carp, locally produced olive oil and dried fruits.
Head into Stara Varos for traditional Montenegrin fare at Pod Volat or tasty Lebanese food at Byblos. Across the boulevard, in Nova Varos, there are contemporary restaurants like Restobar Strudla and Hotel Hemera. In the Atlas Centre, the Balkans’ only Hard Rock Café satisfies burger and beer cravings.
As a vibrant capital in fun-loving southern Europe, Podgorica really comes to life at night. In downtown Podgorica, Bokeska Street is the place to join the local bar-hopping scene.
The Hilton in downtown Podgorica is conveniently located within walking distance to the city’s parks, old town and downtown restaurants and nightlife. CentreVille Hotel and Experiences is a stylish option in the high-end Atlas Centre and is close to the central business district and City Kvart. Hotel Aurel and Best Western Premier are excellent mid-range options, also in convenient locations close to the city centre.