Cetinje, the Old Capital of Montenegro

Cetinje was the capital of Montenegro for centuries until Podgorica was declared as capital in 1944, at the end of WWII. It has become the cultural and historical center of Montenegro until the present day. The official residence of the President of Montenegro is also in Cetinje.

Because the old capital and the mausoleum of Njegoš are not far from each other, we could visit the two places on the same day during our Montenegro road trip. Cetinje is reachable from other historic sites, such as Budva on the coast, Kotor. It is part of the Lovcen National Park tour that starts from Budva.

The history of the Cetinje

Cetinje was founded in 1482 when Ivan Crnojević moved his capital to the foot of Mount Lovćen. He had his court built at the new location that year and established a monastery as a personal endowment in 1484. The name Cetinje came from the Cetina river.

Cetinje made many developments under the rule of Prince Nikola I Petrović. During the time, numerous public facilities were built, such as the first hotel, then the new Prince’s Palace, the Girls Institute, and the hospital. After the recognition of Montenegro’s independence at the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Cetinje became the official capital of Montenegro.

Former French Embassy

The old centre of Cetinje

Our first impression of Cetinje was its numerous old but elegant buildings in this place. These were once Embassies from countries around the world. We could read a short English description of each building’s history presented on a copper plate outside of each building. Due to the newly established relations with various European countries, many buildings become foreign embassies.

Compared to those Mansions, Cetinje Monastery is a less impressive building. Some simple one-floor houses and these stately mansions line up on the same street. Cafes have seats on the streets, and locals were sitting outside, eating and drinking. There was no high-end business in the town. It was interesting to see Balkan life there. After so many years, this secluded city still looks so glamorous, charming, and characteristic.

When it was lunchtime, we ate in a local restaurant. The restaurant could be part of the owner’s house because the eating room looked like the living room before. The meal was tasty, but we couldn’t determine the ingredients used in our food.

Street scene in Montenegro's old capital, Cetinje
Historic Building in Cetinje, Montenegro

Mausoleum of Njegoš

We continued our journey of the day to Lovćen. The mausoleum of Petar II Petrovic-Njegoš is at the top of Lovćen national park. After a long concrete road, we walked up many stone steps until the entrance of the mausoleum. Stone stairs were inside a large concrete tunnel and were in big stone blocks. It was very chilly inside the tunnel.

In the entrance area, we witnessed a 360-degree spectacular view of the rough grey mountains and had a WOW feeling above the clouds. It was quite windy there. The mausoleum itself was not particular of our interest, but the nature is stunningly beautiful.

You can book an organized tour from Kotor to the national park.

A long concrete road to the Mausoleum of Njegoš

Kotor Serpentine

According to our original plan, we should take the same road via Cetinje back to Tivat. It was easy to drive, and we would be back in less than two hours. However, we discovered another route via Kotor Serpentine.

Kotor Serpentine has many hairpin turns. You need to have strong nerves to drive there. There is little room for error on this road. I would not recommend a novice driver to attempt. The stretch is very steep, but it ends at one of Montenegro’s most beautiful places, Kotor Bay. During the winter season, there was nearly no traffic. The views were spectacular, and we could stop at one place to capture the landscape.

View of Kotor Bay from Kotor Serpentine

Travel tips

Where to stay

Cetinje has several hotels and apartments that are priced reasonably. They are much cheaper than the accommodations on the Adriatic coastline. Some good choices are:

How to get there

Cetinje is located on the main road Podgorica-Cetinje-Budva, which makes it well connected to the inside of Montenegro and coastal areas.

From Budva: After a 10-minute drive south of Budva’s old town, there’s a turning that heads inland to Podgorica. The road leads straight to Cetinje.

From the Bay of Kotor: You can also get there via Lovcen, which is an scenic route. You can take the stunning serpentine road above Kotor to Njegusi, head over to Lovcen then continue on to Cetinje.

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