Budva Old Town as a background to the marina

Make Your Visit To Budva Even More Interesting

Whether you wish to visit Budva on a day trip, hunker down for a holiday to unwind, or sample Budva’s history, you will find there is much to see and do. From the walled Old Town, the lively city, beaches and stunning natural environment and surroundings, Budva satisfies with a range of appealing attractions. However, a visit to Budva can be made even more interesting, and considerably more informative, by peering into its attractions a little more deeply.

Take the time to investigate the historical limestone Old Town (Stari Grad) where you will see its gates, public square, churches, citadel, and enclosing city wall including ramparts and towers. The history of the Old Town and its architecture is more interesting than what is now a labyrinth of pedestrian-only limestone thoroughfares that cut through a commercial precinct comprising shops, cafes and restaurants.

Enjoy the beaches and landscape at Budva. The beaches and slopes around Budva are well resourced so that visitors can enjoy the ocean and coastline in a variety of ways. But also explore them as parts of a seismically active coastline that stretches north and south along the entire length of Montenegro.

There are also other sites around Budva to delve into. These sites are within an easy drive of Budva along a stunning coastline.

Where is Budva?

The Adriatic coast of Montenegro extends for 290 kilometres from its northern border with Croatia to its southern border with Albania. Budva is situated in the northern third of Montenegro’s stretch of coast, just 25 friendly kilometres from Kotor or 30 kilometres from Cetinje across the inland plateau that rises from Montengro’s coastline. This stretch of coastline is both attractive and accessible, leading to the ‘Budva Riviera’ which is a very popular tourist and holiday destination.

Peer into the History of Budva Old Town

Budva Old Town is located on a low-lying rock platform on the south-eastern perimeter of the city. It is the historical core of Budva and the repository of its rich cultural heritage. Budva Old Town appears visually as a seamless extension to a city which is very different in character. The Old Town dates back to the third millennium and has been occupied principally by the Romans, Byzantines and the Venetians.

The small marina at Budva is seen adjacent to the Old Town and is a reminder of the need for the Old Town to be fortified to oppose invasion.
The attractive marina at Budva is seen in front of the Old Town against a mountain background

What can we find out about the Old Town that makes it more interesting that what we just see?

The City Walls of Budva Old Town

The imposing city walls or ramparts of Budva Old Town, by a bit of street science, stand about 10 metres high at the western gate and are several metres thick. The walls needed to be formidable as Budva, like Kotor, had to withstand not only Ottoman assaults, but earthquakes as well.

The city walls of Budva Old Town and its fortifications were constructed from masonry derived from limestone, dolomite and tufa. The Balkan Peninsula is rich in these carbonate rocks and they were used in a range of structures throughout the region. The colour of limestones can change by region. The limestone used to construct Venice and towns along the northern coast of Slovenia and Croatia was Istrian stone. It is a very white and hard stone, reflecting the integrity of its calcite (calcium carbonate). Alternate stones may tend to appear grey, yellow, green and even red due to impurities as well as the replacement of calcium ions in the calcite (form of calcium carbonate). The limestone used to construct the Old Town at Budva can be analysed to determine both its mineral and organic content, giving indications about its possible source.

Historical Context of the City Walls of Budva Old Town

The 9th Century city walls of Budva Old Town were constructed during the Roman-Byzantine period. The Roman Empire fell during the Early Medieval (476 AD to 1000 AD). Byzantium then primarily ruled Budva from 476 AD (later Constantinople and Istanbul). Budva then came under Serbia’s control in 1042 AD.

The powerful Venetian Republic controlled the Adriatic in the Late Medieval Period (1250 AD to 1500 AD) and ruled Budva from 1420 to 1797 AD in the midst of Ottoman invasions. It was during those years of Venetian rule that the fortifications and city walls of the Old Town of Budva had to be strengthened.

Geological Context of the City Walls of Budva Old Town

Historical invasion was not the only threat to Budva. The region also has had to contend with earthquakes. Geological maps show that Budva is located within an active seismic zone. A micro plate lies under the Adriatic along part of the length of the Baltic peninsula. There is also a major tectonic zone that runs north from Albania along the Baltic peninsula through the Dinaric Alps.The Budva coast is therefore sandwiched between a coastal thrust front and a continental thrust fault. 

The earthquake of 1667 damaged most buildings and opened up Budva’s original 9th Century city walls in multiple places. The Venetians rebuilt the walls and exclusively used masonry materials. Regrettably, history was repeated as recently as 1979 and Budva was very significantly damaged by another earthquake. The city was rebuilt using original materials but, needless to say, some of the city’s original style and appearance was lost. It is inevitable that faults around Budva will shift again in the future, and more earthquakes will result.

The Northern City Wall and North Gate at Budva Old Town

The North Gate at Budva provided direct access into the Old Town through the northern wall from the harbour
The North Gate provided access through the Northern Wall at Budva
The North Gate is one of a number of gates through the city walls into the Old Town at Budva and provides direct access into the Old Town from the harbour. The northern wall of the Old Town is opposite the marina. The North Gate, seen in the image, is also known as the Gate of The Square of Budva Painters. This gate leads inside the Old Town onto Vrzdak Street which soon crosses Njegoševa Street, the most direct west-east route across the Old Town.

There are several smaller gates which also penetrate the north wall, leading to the marina.

There is a section of the Old Town’s city wall above the North Gate that typifies Budva’s walled defences. The width at the top of the ramparts was wide enough to allow defenders sufficient mobility to oppose an attempted siege. They could manipulate their weapons and move along the rampart to fortify new positions.

The bastions which were located at each corner of the city wall protrude forward. One of the bastions can be seen in the image. This would have ensured that the defenders on the city walls would have had a clear view of any attempts to breach the city gates. the surface area at the base of a bastion was enlarged by its being located at the intersection of the city walls. Apart from defensive advantages, this enlargement may also have acted to buttress the city walls and increase the stability of the bastion.

Loopholes can also be seen in the northern wall on either side of the North Gate. The loopholes are in the forms of narrow, vertical apertures through which archers could shoot their arrows onto the enemy below. They were later used through which to fire muskets.

The Western City Wall and West Gate at Budva Old Town

What to see inside the Budva Old Town having entered through the western wall via the West Gate
Inside the Old Town at Budva having entered through the western wall via the West Gate
The main town gate, the West Gate known and known as Porta Di Terra, provides access to the Old Town through the western city wall. This gate leads directly onto Njegoševa Street, the major thoroughfare through the Old Town.

The gate entrances along the West of the Old Town maintain the rounded arches which are characteristic of the architecture of the original build. It seems to indicate that the Venetians maintained the semi-circular arches during the re-build of the city walls.

The Southern City Wall and South Gate at Budva Old Town

The South Gate at Budva enters onto the Old Town Beach adjacent to the south city wall
The South Gate through the southern wall at Budva enters onto the Old Town Beach

The South Gate through Budva Old Town’s southern wall is a small gate located in the south-western corner which exits onto the Old Town Beach. This beach,  the Plaza Ricardo Glava, reserves some private access for paying guests. The image taken from the beach gives a glimpse across the Plaza Ricardo Glava of several things to see on the other side of the southern wall. Visible in the image is the spire of St Ivan; the unusual spire of St Maria in Punta; the roof of St Sava; the colour variation of the façade of the Holy Trinity; and the flag atop the Budva citadel.

The South Gate leads from the beach via Njegoseva Street which directs to the south-eastern extremity of the town. This is where the Public Square and Citadel are located. Clustered nearby are the Churches of St. Ivan (15-18th Century); Santa Maria in Punta of Budva (9th Century); and The Holy Trinity (18-19th Century).

The Eastern City Wall at Budva Old Town

The view of the eastern city wall of the Old Town from Pizana Beach shows many of the wall’s defences
Budva Old Town’s eastern city wall seen from Pizana Beach

The rebuilding of the walls around Budva Old Town incorporated many of the pre-existing defences. Things to see in the image include the strong bastions at the corners of the wall and the sentry fore-posts. These precluded adversaries from congregating at the base of the wall out of the sight of the defenders. You can climb the to the top of the walls from steps located along the eastern wall.

Inside the City Walls of Budva Old Town

The rectangular arrangement of the streets of Budva Old Town is consistent with the design of many limestone Old Towns located along the coastline of the Balkan Peninsula. The focus of the Old Town at Budva was a Public Square located in the south-eastern quarter.

The Public Square

The Public Square served as the market place and set the location of civic buildings and houses of worship. It was the focus of urban living and the square facilitated rallying of the population when the Old Town of Budva was confronted by threats.

Urban living within the Old Town was served by a rectangular network of very narrow cobblestone lanes. The width of these lanes has been preserved and so it is impossible to take a vehicle into the Old Town.

A slow meander along Njegoševa Street , which was the heart of the historical residential area of Budva, reveals how Budva has departed from its historicity. inside its city walls. The historical uses of the Old Town’s architecture have given way to its use as a commercial precinct. Many of its former residential properties have been refurbished both externally and internally as stores to sell anything that carries a designer label. A walk through the Old Town along its narrow lanes is like walking through an external mall.

The Citadel of St Mary and Austrian Barracks

The citadel within the Old Town reaches back to pre-Roman and was damaged by both invasion and earthquake. Its final form was consolidated during the brief Hapsburg occupation following the expulsion of the Venetians in 1797 AD. This period of dominion by the Austrians was replaced by the French in 1807 (to 1814). The Austrian barracks complemented the long section of the ramparts that faced seaward. The citadel was situated between the barracks and the southern wall.

HIstorical Churches Inside the City Walls of Budva

Clustered nearby are the Churches of St. Ivan (15-18th Century), Santa Maria in Punta of Budva (9th Century), St Sava (12th Century) and The Holy Trinity (18-19th Century).

St Sava Church in foreground of Santa Maria Church in background in Budva Old Town
Churches of St Sava (L) and Santa Maria in Punta (R) at Budva Old Town

Image credit: Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Santa Maria in Punta

The oldest of the churches, Santa Maria (804 AD), or more specifically, Santa Maria in Punta, is located on the intersection of the eastern and southern walls, and in this context the meaning of ‘in punta’ reinforces the location as ‘the point or the tip’.

Santa Maria (or St Mary’s) is an excellent example of how the architecture of the early Christian churches was influenced by the Romans.

The interior of the Church of Santa Maria shows the use of the Roman semi-circular arch is very apparent, including the large, semi-circular arches that are built into the walls of the nave. The arches are mounted on the capitals of square columns, the columns sitting on plinths. These arches distribute the load above them. The semi-circular ceiling that spans the nave utilises the same principle as the Roman barrel vault.

Image credit: Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The façade of Santa Maria shows some inconsistencies due to the inevitable restorations that occurred over the years. The masonry is anything but uniform and some features are not consistent with the period of the original facade. The wheel window may have been a later Romanesque addition. The arched window on one side of the wheel window is consistent with the period of the church’s build, but inconsistent with the rectangular architrave of the window on the other side.

The Church of St Sava

The Church of St Sava (1141 AD) was completed under temporary Serbian rule from 1042 AD until Budva was occupied by the Byzantines in 1143. This placed the building of St Sava within the Byzantine-Romanesque period and these styles are represented in the church. The exterior of St Sava is constructed using polychromatic masonry which was occasionally used by both Byzantine and Romanesque architects for external decoration. St Sava has a single nave and one end of the church is semi-circular. This feature was continued in the Romanesque and was used as the apse. The small arched window at this end of the church maintains the Roman influence into both the Byzantine and Romanesque styles.

The Holy Trinity Church

The comparative simplicity of the Holy Trinity Church (1804) is not so simple – at least not historically. The building of the church is linked to the fall of the Venetians to the Habsburg Monarchy in 1797. The orthodox community within Budva sought, and were successful in, gaining permission to build a church. The Holy Trinity Church was completed in 1804, just three years before France occupied the region. What is interesting about the Holy Trinity Church is its design. Europe had now moved architecturally through the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods, but Budva built a church similar to its earlier Byzantine roots. Perhaps this was to emulate an architecture that was consistent with its original history. This is not unique to Budva. The extravagant decoration of the interior in preference to decorating the exterior is also consistent with earlier styles. The architectural style of the Holy Trinity Church is quite similar to the Church of St Luke in Kotor on which we have written a separate post. St Luke’s Church

Image Credit Holy Trinity Church: Richard Mortel from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

St Ivan’s Church

The other church in the vicinity, St Ivans (or St Johns), like so many other edifices in Montenegro, has suffered earthquake damage (1667) and some of its original features have been replaced during ongoing restoration. The facade of the church is Gothic with paired windows. Each window has a characteristic Gothic pointed arch and is separated by a mullion. The windows as a pair are situated under a pointed curved pediment. The windows along the side of the church are also in the Gothic style. The tower, erected in 1867, has rounded arches and decorative quoins along its edges contrasting with the stucco surface.

Image Credit St John’s Church: Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What to Do in Budva

One of the reasons for Budva’s popularity is because there are many things to do for both day-trippers and stayers. Visitors who are drawn to the venue’s history and architecture are usually happy to spend a day In Budva making their way around the Old Town. But Budva also offers facilities for families and individuals to stay much longer, particularly in the warm summer months.

Basking on the Budva Beaches

The beaches at Budva seen from an elevated location
Panorama of Budva coastline

Budva is pretty and the beaches around Budva have been groomed for holiday makers and sun lovers. During summer days there would be no end of things to do in the water. Visitors can happily enjoy swimming, diving, catching the taxi boats, yachting, parasailing, jet skiing, kayaking, bungee jumping and tennis, just to draw on some of the activities available.  You won’t get bored in Budva if you enjoy water sports.

We have already identified two tranquil beaches close to the Old Town. They are the Old Town Beach, which is near the southern wall, and Pizana Beach, which looks onto the eastern wall. The sand on these beaches is relatively fine due to their protected location.

A track leads away from the Old Town Beach to larger beaches along the coast, namely Mogren and Mogren 2. Another beach, Jaz Beach is a little further around the headland, past the Jaz Battery and Fort Mogren.

Each of these popular beaches is very well resourced but if you are looking for a peaceful afternoon, they may not be the place for you. The sand on these beaches further away from the Old Town is more likely to be of a coarser grade, even a fine gravel ranging to pebbles. This is due to its wider exposure to storm currents and perhaps even material being washed from the coastal landforms behind the beaches.

A popular Budva beach which offers plenty of things to do is Jaz Beach which is an easy drive from Budva
Jaz Beach, just one of the popular beaches at Budva

The most accessible beaches at Budva are in front of the city. They sweep from the Marina to the opposite headland. The ubiquitous ‘sun beds’ and rentable water craft take up much of the space on the beaches. However, there are ample areas available for public swimming.

Budva in the Evening – the Budva Nightlife

Budva City with its ocean foreshore and mountainous background promises much to do after sunset
Budva City

Needless to say, there is a plethora of bustling clubs, bars, bistros, restaurants and cafes, along with a Casino. So, during summer nights there would be no end of ways of how to enjoy Budva either in the city or along the waterfront. The location of all those facilities can easily be found on Google maps. We’ll leave it to other posts to fill in the details if that is your interest.

When it comes to a meal recommendation, the seafood we enjoyed at the Old Fisherman’s Pub, which is adjacent to the Marina, was the most varied and highest quality we ate on the entire Balkan Peninsula. Here is what we enjoyed.

A seafood platter of grilled fish, squid and octopus, mussels and prawns in tomato sauce with a hint of chilli, grilled vegetables on rice with bread to absorb the sauce; a beverage to wash it down; hot pancakes filled with custard and ice cream on a bed of chocolate, topped with a warm fruit slurry and served in a hot fry pan followed by coffee. It was the first time since arriving in Croatia that we were enjoying a sea food meal to expectations.

Exploring Beyond Budva

You won’t want to spend all your time in Budva – there is plenty to see and do in the region surrounding Budva as well. Here are some proven ideas.

Take a Drive and See the Lovely Montenegrin Coast

Irrespective of whether you are visiting Budva for a day trip or to stay longer for a sea-side holiday, enjoy a leisurely drive towards Albania and see the picturesque Montenegrin coast. Take the time on a beautiful day to pause at attractions that take your attention. If you are into the earth sciences, stop every now and then when you see an interesting cutting or distant landform.

The lovely Montenegrin Coast is being developed as a holiday coast and one of the more interesting attractions is, of course, Sveti Stefan. This small resort island provides one of the iconic photographs used to promote Montenegrin tourism.

One thing to do is drive to the small peninsula of Sveti Stefan, a popular resort south of Budva
Sveti Stefan (St Stephen)

Take a Boat Trip Around Kotor Bay

Another thing to do while you are in Budva, if you haven’t been to Kotor, is to organise a boat trip around beautiful Kotor Bay. You get to Kotor by bus or rental vehicle if you prefer. You can read about Kotor and Kotor Bay in our post.

The Picturesque Drive From Dubrovnik To Kotor

Spend a Day in the Peace and Tranquility of Skadar Lake National Park

When in Budva you are just one hour by car to Skadar Lake National Park. You should put aside an entire day for your visit, because Skadar Lake offers something for everyone. You can check out what there is to see and do at Skadar Lake in our post.

Skadar Lake National Park: Things to Do, Ecology and Landscape

Visit Cetinje – the Cultural Capital of Montenegro

Still not sure of what to do around Budva? If you are on holiday in Budva and have the time, then take the thirty minute drive over the coastal mountains onto the central highland. The capital of Montenegro was originally located in the Skadar Lake basin, but due to ongoing Ottoman invasions, the capital was moved to Cetinje. Consequently, it was in Cetinje that culture and diplomacy flourished. The capital of Montenegro is now Podgorica, but the vestiges of Cetinje’s history and opulence still remain.

Cetinje | Sights Of A City Of History And Culture

Lovcen National Park

And if you’re in Cetinje you are also just a stone throw from Lovcen National Park, the site of a panoramic mausoleum and karst landscape.

The Panoramic Mausoleum and Karst Landscape of Lovcen National Park

So, the inevitable conclusion is that there is much to see and do around Budva, particularly if you are having a Budva vacation.

Final Thoughts on Make Your Visit To Budva Even More Interesting

We chose to travel to Budva hoping to see vestiges of Montenegrin history and archaeology. We got from Budva Old Town a connection with its past and how life was lived there. It was also evident that Budva is an active summer holiday destination and much of what to see and do in Budva is based on the city’s redefinition as a vacation hot spot with an emphasis on its modern beach culture and nightlife. By all means visit Budva – and even better, stay at least a few days to enjoy, not only Budva, but all the things you can see and do around it. There are attractions to suit every taste.

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