Having been bombed over 70 times during the Second World War, Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, has risen from the ashes and rebuilt itself into the economic and administrative center of Montenegro.
Located at an altitude of 44 m above sea level and situated on the banks of not one, not two, but five rivers—Zeta, Moraca, Ribnica, Cijevna and Sitnica, Podgorica is a colorful bustling town, where you can still walk along a beautiful promenade, or walk its serene parks and spend the day mingling with the colorful local population. Nearby is the well known Scadar Lake, a haven for bird watchers and nature lovers alike. In 1326 Podgorica was named after the hill Gorica, which is in the northern part of the city but it has also been called by other names in the past.
The favorable geographical position of Podgorica has made the city an attractive location for residents, trade and tourism. The city is ideally situated only a few kilometers from both winter ski centers in the north and seaside resorts on Adriatic Sea, so you can water ski in the morning and snow ski in the same afternoon!
The Mediterranean climate with warm summers provides for excellent grapes that are used to make wines, like Vranac and Procorden, as well as the Rakija or grape brandy, often referred to as the ‘water of life’.
Gorica, meaning little mountain, is the hill that overlooks the city and Podgorica literally means ‘under the Gorica’ in the Serbian language. Podgorica was founded here around the 11th century, but was called Birziminium at the time, and later in the Middle Ages before 1326, the town was known as Ribnica, and between 1946 and 1992 it was called Titograd.
Podgorica is located at the crossroads of several important routes and is strategically located along the valleys of the rivers Zeta, Moraca, Cijevna, Ribnica, and Sitnica, in the ravine of Skadar Lake and in the vicinity of the Adriatic Sea, in the fertile land with favorable climatic conditions.
During the Illyrian age, the area was inhabited by the Labeates and Docleats tribes. The Labeati were a developed settlement, and their military was particularly advanced. They even had their own fortress Medeon (now Medun). The Dokleats inhabited the valley of the Zeta River, and thanks to the fertile plain experienced fast economic growth. Their biggest settlement was Doclea.
In the beginning of the 5th century the first Slavic and Avar tribes arrived here and around this time, the Roman Empire was beginning to break up. Eventually, new towns were created. Podgorica flourished and became economically strong. Trade was strengthened and infrastructure was developed. The flow of goods, merchants, messengers and other passengers augmented its development, economic power, military strength and strategic importance. The Turkish occupation of Podgorica in 1474 interrupted the city’s progress.
The Turks built up huge fortress and developed trade connections. The fortified city enabled the Turks to resist all attacks from invaders. According to a decision made in the Berlin Congress in 1878, Podgorica was integrated into Montenegro marking the end of four centuries of Turkish.
During the World War II it was bombarded over 70 times and was devastated to the ground. On the 19th December 1944, Podgorica was liberated, and this town is celebrated today as the Municipality Day. After the war, the city was renamed Titograd, which became the capital of the Socialistic Republic of Montenegro. The name of Podgorica was reinstated on April 2, 1992.
Sights around Town:
Medun: 12 kilometers northeast from Podgorica is a former fortified town of the Illyrian tribe Labeati—Medeon or Medun erected in the 3rd or 4th century AD. Medun was an important stand point of the Illyrian tribes in the fight against the roman invasion. During the middle ages and the reign of the Turks, the fortress was as an important town. Now, it also houses a museum of Marko Miljanov Popovic, one of the most respected Montenegrin leaders.
Duklja: Near the Zeta region in Moraca, barely three kilometers away from Podgorica, there are the interesting excavations and ruins of the old town Duklja or Doclea. The city had been devastated by the Goths in the late 5th century, and hit by the earthquake thirty years later. It wasn’t as developed as Medun but under the Romans it grew into the most advanced town of present Montenegro. Remains and traces of the bridge on Moraca, ruins of palaces, numerous sarcophagi with the richly decorated bas relief, and tombstones with Latin inscription are some of the wonders that one can find here.
Nemanjica grad (Nemanja´s town): In the very heart of the town are the remains of the bulwarks and towers of the medieval fortification of Ribnica. The founder of the Serbian dynasty, Nemanjici, is said to have been born here. The stalwart fortified lodgment still remains impressive even after the ravages of time. It is a cultural monument and a great place for a day out. The picturesque caves in the complex are worth a visit.
The Dajbabe Monastery: This holy edifice, one of the many in Montenegro, is the work of nature. It is located on the Dajbabska gora hill and is situated in a cave which is naturally in the shape of a cross.
Skadar Lake: Going by its surface area alone, the Skadar Lake is the biggest lake on the Balkan Peninsula and holds a special regional importance since it is located on the border between Montenegro and Albania. A larger part of the lake falls under Montenegro, and is named after the Albanian town of Skoddar located on the coast. Skadar Lake flows into Adriatic Sea through the river Bojana. It is the largest sweet watered surface on the Balkans, and the youngest in Europe.
The lake is actually a crypto depression—it goes below the sea level because of tectonic displacements and is considered to be a geographical phenomenon. The lake is 43 km long, about 14 km wide, and the average depth is about 7 m. The area of the lake increases from 370 sq km to 550 sq km during the rainy season and that is also the cause for numerous floods happen. A nearby locality called Plavnica (aptly meaning Flooded Place) has very little water during the summer months but during the winter months it is covered with it.
The lake is extremely rich with fish, over 35 different varieties and in the absence of predatory fish, the lake has become the biggest fishing area in the Balkan Peninsula. There are over 50, small, and overgrown islands around the lake most of which became islands only recently. There are also numerous cultural and historical monuments, with churches from the 14th and 15th centuries. A visit to the Kom Island and the Church of the Holy mother of God nearby are highly recommended tours. There are several other such places that you can explore around the lake and its vicinities.
The lake is also extremely rich in ornithological treasures and represents one of the greatest bird reservations of Europe. You can find exquisite flora and fauna here. The biggest waterfowl of Europe, the rare pelican, can be found on Skadar Lake.
The Millennium Bridge: The Millennium Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the Moraca River. It was designed by Mladen Ulicevic and opened on July 13, 2005, Montenegro's National Day. It is one of the city's most prominent landmarks. The 140 m long bridge creates an imposing image over the city’s skyline.
Podgorica is a cultural centre of Montenegro. The city’s museums display exhibits showcasing the city’s rich culture and heritage dating from its ancient past to modern developments.
The former winter palace of the city’s royalty, the Winter Palace of King Nikola I, now holds a fascinating gallery and concert. The Palace was built in 1891 and given as a gift to Prince Mirko. It was turned into the Gallery of Art of Non-aligned Countries. On display is the rich treasury among many other permanent exhibits.
Since 1995, the Palace of the Petrovic is a part of the contemporary art centre. The gallery holds over 1500 permanent displays. Contemporary local painters also exhibit their work here. It also has collective and thematic exhibitions of artists from the country and around the world and as well as exhibitions of archaeological findings from the region. The art complex also houses a mini theater, and the Perjanicki dom, a unique exhibition space.
The Montenegrin National Theatre is a prominent national theatre visited by world renowned artists and it has also gained much international acclaim. The theatre was founded in 1953 as the Titograd National Theatre. Other museums in the city include the City Museum which displays the city’s rich history—archeological, ethnographic, historical and cultural; and the Natural History Museum.
The city also plays hosts to many events such as the cultural event called the Cultural Summer of Podgorica with theater plays, concerts and exhibitions; Moraca, a diving competition; the Skadar Lake Trophy, an international fishing competition; the Podgorica International Marathon; and the Podgorica Evening, a traditional celebration of the liberation day of Podgorica during World War II.
Fillets and Drinks:
The region is well known for its food and drinks. Although there are a few meals that are specific to the Podgorican menu, the local favorite is the popeci, a traditional Podgorica meal of pork fillets.
As for drinks, try the local Montenegrin red wines and the Niksic bear, a trademark of Montenegro representing the highest in the European standards of quality. The favorable climatic conditions of the regions produce some of the best wines including the ‘nectar of life’. Vranac, Krstac, Procordem, and Chardonnay are just some of the wine brands that have become common in markets all over the world. Brandy is to the Balkan countries as whisky is to Scotland. It is produced here in several varieties, the most famous being the one made of grape called Lozovaca.
Getting in: You can arrive in the city by air. The airport is situated just 12 km from the heart of the city. There are regular passenger trains connecting the city to neighboring cities. Tickets are cheap and there also are overnight trains with sleeping cars for a more comfortable journey. You could also opt for busses. Bus station serves number of domestic destinations, as well as those in neighboring countries. The bus and train station are located next to each other just a ten minute walk from the city center.
Getting around: The city is not too large making it easy to get around. There is a well connected public bus system, and a number of minibuses. The most convenient way to get around is by taxi cabs.
Climate: The climate is influenced by the Adriatic Sea and has characteristics of the Mediterranean climate, which has warm summers, and mild and rainy winters. Abundant sunshine and warmth, favorable humidity and good amount of favorable breeze give Podgorica a very pleasant climate.