Snapshot: Budva, Montenegro

Budva, Montenegro is pretty far off the beaten path as far as European vacation destinations go. In fact, the small nation of Montenegro itself is one of Europe’s lesser touristed countries. One of the former Yugoslav republics, it’s bordered by a sliver of Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina...

Budva, Montenegro is pretty far off the beaten path as far as European vacation destinations go. In fact, the small nation of Montenegro itself is one of Europe’s lesser touristed countries. One of the former Yugoslav republics, it’s bordered by a sliver of Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast, and Albania to the southeast. Known to Montenegrins as Crna Gora (which translates to “Black Mountain”), Montenegro is characterized by high peaks, spectacular fjords, and one of the most unspoiled coastlines on the Adriatic Sea.

The Budvanska Rivijera is the center of Montenegro’s tourism industry, with miles of pebbly beaches and crystal clear turquoise water. Budva is actually one of the oldest settlements along the Adriatic coast. Legend has it that a Greek sailor named Boutoua founded the town back in the 4th century BCE. Over the centuries it fell into the hands of the Romans, Venetians, Byzantines and Austro-Hungarians, each leaving their own distinctive cultural mark on the city.

Framed by rocky coastal mountains and the Dinaric Alps in the distance, Budva’s Stari Grad (Old Town) is a haven for tourists looking for historical sights. Limestone buildings with tiled roofs line cobblestone streets and picturesque public squares. Tall, fortified walls built by the Venetians still surround the town. Visitors can walk along the battlements to see dramatic mountain and sea views too. Within the walls are many posh shops, cafés, restaurants and galleries. There are also three ancient stone churches worth visiting as well—Sveti Ivan (St. Ivan), Sveta Marija (St. Mary) and Sveti Trojstvo (Holy Trinity).

A sleepy fishing village during much of the year, Budva is transformed in the summer months when tourists (primarily from Russia, Serbia, and other Eastern European countries) descend upon the town. Luxurious yachts drop anchor at the harbor and the city streets can become snarled with traffic.  Visitors bask in the hot Mediterranean sun by day and enjoy the vibrant nightlife in the evenings.  The summer season officially starts each June with the Pjesma Mediterana, or Mediterranean Song Festival. Superstars like The Rolling Stones and Madonna have even performed in Budva in recent years.

There are several nice beaches in Budva, but the most popular one is Mogren beach. Located at the base of some very steep, forested cliffs, it’s only a few minutes walk from Old Town along the shore. In the other direction, a seaside promenade is lined with restaurants serving fresh fish, pizza, and local cuisine; exclusive boutiques and souvenir shops; hotels and popular nightclubs.

On our visit to Budva last May, we noticed several construction sites for luxury hotels right on the beach and on the hillsides above the Stari Grad. The city appears to be enjoying a real estate boom. I’d predict that in a few more years Budva might become Europe’s next “Big Thing.”

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