Budva is the most visited destination in Montenegro and is considered to be the Miami Beach of the country. It does not take much to understand why- this ancient city boasts a plethora of exciting things to do and see. From its Venetian-style architecture to the stunning sun-drenched beaches, Budva is the destination of choice for over one million tourists each year.
Montenegro literally translates into Black Mountain, a name originating from its previous inhabitants, the ancient Venetians. Montenegro gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878, and was formally recognized as a country in 2006. Most of the locals speak Serbian and Montenegrin, but you will hear numerous languages being spoken on Budva’s pebbled shores due to the city’s strong international appeal.
Budva is over 2,500 years old, which makes it the oldest settlement in the Adriatic! The influence of the Romans who once occupied it can still be seen today in Budva’s old town. Many historians believe the old town was once an island that has since been joined to the shore by sand.
Budva enjoys about 270 days of hot Mediterranean summer each year, which helps to make it a sought after summer getaway for young people from all over the world who want to bathe in the blue waters, catch a perfect tan, and party like a rock star every night.
There is no shortage of yachts in Budva’s marinas or lack of fresh seafood being served in restaurants around town. Whether you are traveling with a special someone, or in a group with friends, Budva is a sunlit and enchanting place that exemplifies the treasure that is Montenegro’s Adriatic coast. Here is what to see and eat in Budva, Montenegro!
Slovenska Plaza is not what the name implies. It is actually Budva’s largest and most popular beach spanning about 5,000 feet (1,600 meters.) Framed with green hills on all sides and thatched umbrellas among the sand, Slovenska Plaza is reminiscent of South Beach in Miami. If the sun is out you can count on seeing beautiful bathing ladies, kids tossing up the sand, and vendors with tasty snacks and cold drinks. Slovenska Plaza’s sidewalk is lined with casual cafes, bars, and restaurants, and the best part is that they are all walking distance from the Hotel Astoria. The beach itself is soft and sandy, and gets crowded more often than not, so I recommend that you choose your lounge chair and umbrella before 11am to beat the crowds and to gain an optimal people watching vantage point.
All of Montenegro’s beaches are beautiful, but Mogren Beach stands out as one of the true gems in the country’s Mediterranean setting. Mogren is comprised of two separate beaches. Mogren I and II are joined by a small cave-like tunnel, which can be easily crossed. Mogren beach runs from Cape Mogren to the Vidikovac Hotel, and is framed by chiseled cliffs and lush vegetation. The beach is littered with bright umbrellas, sunbathers, and plenty of drinking and snack joints along the boardwalk. You can spend a sunny day tanning on the golden sand, sipping iced coffees, swimming in Mogren’s pristine waters, or bravely diving from Shark’s Rock cliff. Mogren Beach received the blue flag in 2004, which indicates that is a hygienic and safe beach for tourists and locals alike. You can get to vibrant Mogren, which is steps from the old town, by a concrete pedestrian-only boardwalk.
The old town, or Stari Grad, is located on a small island that has slowly developed into a peninsula with the passing of years. There are five entrances into Stari Grad along the ancient Venetian walls, and each will lead you to and through a Medieval town full of narrow streets, terracotta roofs, cobblestone paths, and plenty of shopping and eating spots. Two travelers can easily grab a tasty lunch for 25 to 30 Euros, and then walk off the meal among the old world. Churches, monasteries, and other relics of the past can be found in Stari Grad, which is super pedestrian friendly because it is car-free. You will experience stunning panoramic views of the city while walking about this 2,500-year-old area influenced by numerous societies such as the Romans and Ottomans. Be sure to check out the Museum of Budva. It holds many artifacts that showcase Budva’s long history and evolving culture. The collection includes pieces from the 5th century B.C. and from the Middle Ages. By night the old town becomes a stage for occasional outdoor concerts, but remains tranquil the rest of the time.
Budva’s Citadel is the highest structure in the old town and serves as a stunning lookout point just as it was meant to do some 1,000 plus years ago. The Citadel was built as a protective entity for the city, and from the top, the surrounding sea could be scanned from any possible attacks. Nowadays the small entrance fee and climb up the stairs is well worth the view- the best in the entire city. Once you come out onto the open-air terrace you will see the blue ocean, orange roofs, and the marine paradise below you. Other surrounding points of interest include the Holy Trinity Church, Church of Saint Ivan, and the Church of St. Mary’s of Punta.
Where to Eat
Jadran is a local favorite and has built a great reputation on none other than fresh and deliciously prepared seafood. Since 1976 Jadran has been serving up fresh catch from the Adriatic to both tourists and locals who want a taste of the ocean. Jadran brings in its own catches of the day and prepares them any way you like. Prawns, mussels, clams, shrimp, and octopus are almost always on the menu, and guests have the option of dining inside the air-conditioned dining hall or outside just inches from the shoreline by the beach, or on one of Jadran’s three terraces. Let your waiter suggest a white or red with your meal and do not forget to come with an appetite. With an eclectic décor, friendly and efficient staff, and a plethora of seafood options on the menu, Jadara is an overall excellent choice for dining in Budva.
Best time: Lunch
Recs: Tomato soup, steamed mussels, grilled octopus
Located in the first and oldest hotel in Budva’s old city, Astoria Hotel’s very own Astoria restaurant is a convenient place to dine. Once through the elegant hallway and up the stairs, diners have the choice to sit in the intimate modern dining room or out on the terrace with stunning views of the beaches and water below. The menu is completely international and all the meats, vegetables, and seafood items are fresh and made to order. Whether you are looking for a casual place to lunch or a romantic dinner for two, Astoria can provide you with an unforgettable meal. The wine list is extensive and diverse. Specialty cocktails, fresh-squeezed juices, and non-alcoholic beverages are also served here. Whether or not you are a guest of the Hotel you are welcomed to dine in the charming Astoria restaurant.
Recs: Steak salad, prosciutto and mozzarella salad, pork medallions with grilled zucchini.
Best time: Lunch or Dinner
Porto Restoran’s scenic location along the Budva Marina just may be its second best feature after its food. Just steps from Stari Grad, Porto Restoran offers views of the Adriatic and boasts a long-standing reputation as a scrumptious Montenegrin seafood establishment. Since opening in 1998, Porto has attracted hundreds of diners with its intimate décor, outdoor and indoor setting, and friendly service. Whether you order lobster, clams, prawns, or fish you can be sure that your catch is fresh and prepared with care as not to disturb the seafood’s naturally intended flavor. With an extensive international wine list and numerous menu options Porto is a great option for landlubbers too.
Best time: Dinner
Recs: pan-seared shrimp, grilled squid, fish of the day
Zeleni Gaj Restoran and Pizzeria is a popular informal restaurant located in Slovenska Plaza just inches from the seashore. Zeleni Gaj offers guests picnic-style dining directly on the sand so close that the waves crashing in and out can be heard. Don’t worry about dressing up to come here. This eatery is a place to relax, kick back, and have a great meal while watching the swimmers and sunbathers just beyond your table. The location is sublime and is exactly what Mediterranean informal dining is all about- being able to enjoy affordably priced fresh seafood accompanied by the perfect wine with sand under in between your toes. If you grow tired of fish, order a pizza or sandwich with the local pear brandy instead. Zeleni Gaj is an ideal spot to come to unwind and watch the sun go down after a long day spent in your swimsuit.
Best time: Sunset (early dinner)
Recs: Grilled fish, grouper stew, lamb and potatoes, pizza
Demizana is a traditional Montenegrin restaurant situated in downtown Budva close by the old town. It offer both indoor and outdoor seating, and is the type of place where home style Montenegrin cuisine and custom join to create a place you will not forget. Guests can sit either inside the rustic stonewalled dining room or outside on the open-air veranda surrounded by luscious plants and inviting décor.
Open since the mid-nineties, Restaurant Porat is located right along the Adriatic shoreline and boasts fine seafood dining for all to enjoy. Larger parties are advised to make reservations ahead of time, but the small trouble of calling ahead will be worth your while once you take your first bite of Porat’s tasty dishes. Prepared in traditional Montenegrin fashion, Porat’s home-style food can be enjoyed seated at comfy and colorful booths that once served as boats (they have since been split and upholstered.) Prices range from 30 to 50 Euros per couple. Porat’s carefully selected wine list, charming nautical theme, and its mouth-watering seafood plates will make this restaurant a highlight of your trip. Porat is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Best time: Dinner
Recs: tuna, catch of the day, fish with shrimp sauce
Budva is one of the most fun places I have visited. If possible, I strongly recommend renting a car to get around the stunning Budva Riviera. Taxis can get quite pricy in and around Budva, but thankfully the old town can be walked and getting to most of its beaches on foot is easy. With nearly 300 days of summer weather and miles of beach, you will find no shortage of fun in the sun. The Montenegrin culture has been strongly influenced by various empires throughout the centuries, but hospitality and friendliness are at the heart of every encounter you will have with the people of Budva and in the surrounding towns. Try the local Vrnac red wine and do not miss the local delicacies: smoked ham, baked lamb, and pan seared fresh trout. As of Fall 2011, Montenegro retains its independence as a country but is awaiting approval of membership into the European Union. Montenegro converted to Euro currency in 2002, and most of Budva’s banks will be able to exchange your domestic currency for Euros. If you have the time check out the other beaches in the area. Jaz Beach, Petrovac Beach, and Kings Beach are also great swim spots, and not as crowded as some of the others. Diving and water sports are a huge industry along the coast. Kayaking, Scuba, waterskiing, and jet skiing are popular among thrill seekers. Diving in Ulcinj will take you along portions of a sunken ancient Roman city and two shipwrecks from the 1700s- the Adria and the Forvest. From May to October Budva hosts tons of concerts, bazaars, dance festivals, art exhibits, car shows, and more. Leave the kids with the babysitter, bring your strongest sunscreen and live it up in Budva… an ancient town with a sexy modern twist.
Have you been to Budva? What do you think of the sites and and food in this what to see and eat in Budva, Montenegro? Leave me a comment below!