Montenegro has been on our list of places to visit for a very long time. Therefore, we had to incorporate it into the Balkan road trip we took during the summer. The only real decision to make was where to base ourselves. As Montenegro is an up and coming tourist destination there were a few places to choose from. Kotor, Tivat and Budva were all options.
After further research, we decided on Budva for its picturesque coastline and numerous bars and restaurants. We also chose it because of its location. As we wanted to take a number of day trips to different places in Montenegro, wherever we were based had to have a central location. Therefore, Budva ticked all the boxes. The most cost-effective way for us to get to Budva was to fly into Dubrovnik airport and then take an airport transfer which took around 2 hours, including a fun little trip across the Bay of Kotor on a ferry.
Budva certainly proves that good things do come in small packages. It is a compact, walkable town which is very beautiful. However, it is important to note that even though the town looks like it is a well preserved historical hotbed, much of the old town was actually destroyed when a catastrophic earthquake struck Budva on 15 April 1979. However, almost all the buildings were restored to look like they did originally. Budva has a lot going for it and here are what we consider to be its best things.
A Range of Accommodation
As Montenegro was part of our main summer holiday, we had two weeks to play with. Therefore we wanted to ensure we factored in some relaxation and downtime. As we are not really beach people, we opted for the Avala Resort & Villas because of its amazing pool and the fact it is a stone’s throw from the city walls and old town. Meaning that we could chill out by the pool on some days, yet if we fancied venturing out to see what the town had to offer, it was all right on our doorstep – the perfect combination.
It is one of the highest rated hotels in the town and therefore does have quite a hefty price tag. We booked it as part of a package (flights and hotel) which was a lot more reasonable than booking them separately. However, there are loads of other hotels, apartments, B&Bs and even Airbnbs in the town all within reasonable walking distance of the old town. Therefore, we’re sure you will find suitable accommodation regardless of your budget.
As mentioned above we’re not really beach people, therefore did not spend much, well actually any, time on the ones in Budva. Not even the private beach belonging to our hotel. There are a mix of sandy and pebble beaches along the Budva Riveria and are considered the best beaches in Montenegro. In fact, Jaz beach was even named Lonely Planet’s number 1 beach in 2015. Others include Mogren, Richard’s Head and Pizana, which are all located in Budva old town, making them easy to reach if you are staying in central Budva.
If you fancy somewhere a bit different, why not hop on a water taxi from Budva and head to St Nikola Island. It is called Školj by the locals. You can see the island raising from the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea from the mainland. It is a great place to spend a day chilling out and relaxing. With numerous beaches (three big ones and a number of small ones) all the way around it, even on the busiest summer day, we’re sure you will find a quiet area just for yourself.
If watersports are your thing then Budva will be right up your alley. Every time we looked out to the Adriatic sea we could see someone whizz by us on a jet ski or speedboat. Proving just what a popular area it is for hitting the water. There are a number of companies on the Budva Riviera that offer different activities, including the ones just mentioned, together with parasailing, scuba diving and tubing, amongst many others.
The prices are also extremely reasonable in Budva, especially compared to a number of other European beach destinations. If you want to book something, the easiest way to do it is to visit one of the main beaches. You will find the tour operators, touting their business there. We would always recommend shopping around to ensure you get the best price. Also, with loads of companies fighting for the business, haggling is always an option too.
Talking of the marina, or Dukley Marina to give it it’s full name, it is somewhere you must visit if only to ogle at boats, especially the amazing multi-million-pound yachts. Mr ESLT and I sat on the waters edge for hours planning which one we would buy and where we would sail off to if we won the lottery – ah the dream! Dukley Marina is in the centre of Budva and a mere minute walk from the Old Town walls. It really is impossible to miss.
If you fancy being the captain of your own boat for the day, then you can hire a boat/yacht yourself in Budva and explore the local area. Starting at approximately €550 per day for an 8 berth, it’s a great way for a family or group of friends to spend a day of their holiday. I can only imagine the views of the coastline are breathtaking from the water. If you prefer someone else at the helm, then you can also take a sightseeing boat tour from the marina for a fraction of the cost.
The old town (Stari Grad) was definitely our favourite areas of Budva and you can really see and feel the (reconstructed) history here. It is actually one of the oldest towns along the Adriatic sea’s coastline. As lovers of walled Medieval towns, Budva gets a massive thumbs up from us. Hiding behind the stones walls is a labyrinth of narrow Roman streets. They are home to a number of restaurants, shops and boutiques which we thoroughly enjoyed visiting. Especially when the afternoon summer sun became too much for us.
Budva Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (encompassed in the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor). In fact, many consider it to be an open-air museum. With a huge number of attractions, cultural sites and historical monuments there is a lot to see and admire. The area inside the walls is not massive. Therefore it won’t take you long to walk around if you only want to see it just to say you’ve been. However, we would recommend grabbing a drink at one of the bars and relaxing in the shade of a palm tree.
Bars & Resturants
Budva was not what either of us expected. It is far more lively than we ever imagined and has more bars than you can shake a stick at. In fact, a section of the town reminded me of my wild days in Ibiza. Bars selling fishbowls and playing loud dance music (ahhh the sound of youth). Therefore, making it a popular destination with groups of friends and young couples from elsewhere in Montenegro and from neighbouring countries. However, as that’s not our thing anymore (sob), we simply did not venture to that part of town.
Instead, we opted to stay close to the city walls and Marina. That area is jam-packed with lovely restaurants. Because we visited in July we were able to experience al fresco dining every night. Even though we visited in the peak of summer and during the World Cup, we never struggled to get a table. The only exception was on the days that Sweden or England, or Sweden v England as was the case, were playing. One of our favourites was the Old Fisherman’s Pub, one because of it’s amazing fresh seafood and two because of the mouthwatering stonebaked pizzas. Oh yeah, and the views over the marina are pretty stunning too.
Churches and Monastries
There are numerous churches along the Budva Riviera and if like us, you love churches, you will want to visit a few of them. If you do not want to venture far from Budva Old Town, not to worry as there are three churches in Budva itself. They are a great place to duck into to get respite from the sun for a while whilst admiring the architecture too, of course. Next, to the ramparts and the Citadel of Budva Castle, you will find The Church of Holy Trinity. Its construction was finished in 1804. It has a bell loft with three bells and a dome. We had a quick wander around. It is very deceptive and is not as big inside as it looks from outside.
There is also the Saint Ivan Church which dates from the dates from the 15th century. The current church is actually built on the remains of a church which dates back all the way to the 7th century. And last but certainly not least is the Catholic Church of
Budva’s Castle (Citadel) is a must visit. It sits high on the southern side of the town overlooking the Budva below it. It was built in the 15th Century and over the years because of numerous earthquakes, it now stands a bit worn but still beautiful with the Montenegran flag flying high from the top of it. There is a small admission fee of €2 but it is well worth it. We spent around an hour at the top. We took in the breathtaking views of the town and the mountains beyond it in one direction. And the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea and St Nikola Island to the other.
Originally owned by the state, it is now privately owned. In the Citadel there is a small museum and a library which houses rare maps. The main terrace acts as the main stage of the annual Theatre City festival which includes theatre performances, evening poetry readings and exhibition. It is also home to a fantastic looking restaurant which we kept saying we would try and are now kicking ourselves that we never took the opportunity. Maybe it’s an excuse for us to return one day?
We really enjoyed our stay in Budva. Even though it is already extremely popular, at times we felt like the only Brits there (which is not a bad thing). However, as it becomes more popular, which it inevitably will, it will probably be necessary for the town to grow. This will be to ensure it can provide enough facilities and amenities for the crowds. We just hope it doesn’t lose its quaint charm while doing so.
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