Places to visit in Herceg Novi: fortresses, museums, and restaurants of the “city of a thousand steps”
Places to visit in Herceg Novi
Fortresses, museums, and restaurants of the “city of a thousand steps”
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Irina Ryseva
Author: Irina Ryseva
Translation: Sarah Skel
18.04.2019

Herceg Novi is the most northern point and the most northern municipality up the Montenegrin coastline. It’s interesting geographic positioning and rich history are an attractive mix that makes this place sought after by tourists who seem to be getting more and more numerous in town and nearby locations. And that is despite the fact that Herceg Novi is deemed as the most remote and idiosyncratic spot even by locals, especially so because of the fact that the town’s only connection to the “mainland” is Kamenari Lepetane Ferry Line.

This overview will educate you on how to not get lost in the midst of the rich cultural and historic heritage of Herceg Novi, with all of its fortresses, monasteries, art galleries, and museums. We will tell you where the most beautiful beaches and long seafront esplanades are. We will teach you how to conquer the mountains or where to find a recreational course to your liking. The whereabouts of restaurants and cafes with delicious and unconventional menus and exquisite ice-creams are also included.

Geography and history

The town lies on the slopes of the Orjen mountain range at the mouth of the Bay of Kotor and borders two countries, that is, Croatia on the one side, and Bosnia and Hercegovina on the other. Unlike other major towns along the coast, Herceg Novi is a town of cascades descending in stepwise terraces towards the sea. “The city of a thousand steps” or “the city of a hundred stairs” is what Herceg Novi is called. Travelers must be in good shape physically to endure a tour of the relatively small historical part of the town.

Another peculiar feature of this place which also gives it a second alias, the “botanical garden of the Adriatic”, is the abundance of plants brought at different times by sailors from all parts of the world and cherished and nourished here. Mimosa is the symbol of the city. Until quite recently, it even showed on the town’s coat of arms. Every year in February, when mimosa bushes burst into blossom, the town gets engulfed in a month-long the Mimosa Festival known and loved in many countries throughout this region.

Herceg Novi truly boasts a rich history which has determined the town’s inimitable look to this day. The first settlements in this area date back to the Neolithic times and the early Bronze Age. Later, the area became the domain of Illyria and the Roman Empire. The town was founded in 1382 by king Tvrko I of Bosnia. Several years ago, a monument to the founder of the town was inaugurated on the promenade.

Monument to King Tvrko I, founder of Herceg Novi, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Throughout those years, the town went successively through the hands of the Ottoman Empire, Venetian protectorate, Russian Empire, Napoleon’s France, Spain, Austro-Hungary, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and, finally, the Republic of Yugoslavia.

As far as the Russian presence in this town, this subject deserves a dedicated essay, because Russia and Herceg Novi are tied with a long-standing relationship which has seen it all, from the ousting of the French to the sheltering of emigrants after the October Revolution of 1917.

Sightseeing in town

Despite its modest size and certain verticality to its positioning, the town has a lot of architectural and historical monuments in well-preserved condition.

 

Fortresses

There are as many as three fortresses, namely Forte Mare, Kanli Kula, and Španjola.

Forte Mare is a fortress laid by Tvkro I, the town’s founder, and located at the very rim of the sea. It is open to visitors during the summer when it hosts chamber concerts or the local film festival or becomes a venue for public film screenings.

Forte Mare, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Kanli Kula, which translates as the “bloody tower”, hovers over the old town. It is not known for certain who founded it, but the fortress was actively used and rebuild under the Ottoman rule, not only and not much as a defensive fortification but rather as a prison. It was rebuilt again during the Austro-Hungarian rule, and there were massive reconstructions after the ruinous earthquake of 1979.

Kanli Kula Fortress, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Today, the fortress is used as an amphitheater and hosts a museum. It is a venue for concerts and theatrical shows, and it is one of the largest open-air stages in the Adriatic. For several years now, Kanli Kula has hosted the Operosa Opera Festival, an event of international scale. Visitors to the fortress can enjoy the splendid view of the sea and the town, take a walk along the fortress wall or peek into some of the indoor premises.

Today, Kanli Kula is a theatrical and concert venue, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Španjola is a big fortress at a remote distance from the town center. To get there, you may need to use the stairs or get a ride. The fortress was founded in the XVI c. by the Spanish who took over and ruled the town for a short time during the Ottoman war, but its construction was completed later by the Turks who regained their position back very quickly.

Aerial view of Španjola, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

This fortress was like an almost autonomous town with inner buildings and bastions encircled by the high wall of stone. Today, the fortress is not in use but it is available for those willing to enjoy the view of the town and the sea on the one side and a view of the Orjen range on the other, or to appreciate the scale of this engineering structure.

How to find: the district where it is located is called Srbina. If you drive along Jadranska magistrala, when in Srbina, take the right turn and drive up the mountain. Watch out for the sign reading Tvrđava Španjola at the turn to the fortress.

 

Old town

One of the main landmarks in the Old Town is Sat Kula, the Clock Tower. To the right of the tower is Nikola Djurkovic Square, the town’s main square with cafés and banks, and on the other side of the tower, right inside the fortress wall, is Trg Herceg Stejpana, a place known as Belavista (the palace’s Venetian name) to locals.

Sat Kula and Nikola Djurkovic Square, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

In the very middle of Belavista sits Archangel Michael’s Orthodox Church built in the late XIX c. to the order of local residents. The Church was built on the spot of an eclectic-style church that was ruined earlier by the Turks. For some 100 years, the church was flanked by huge palms the city sadly said goodbye to in 2018 because of the palm weevil attack. The only way to see this square with century-old trees now is in photographs.

Next to the church there is a drinking fountain (which used to be the town’s main source of freshwater) styled in the same style as the church and donated as a gift to the town by one of its locals. There are cafés, galleries, an archive roomed in a beautiful Venetian building, and a library.

Belavista with Archangel Michael’s Orthodox Church and a drinking fountain, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

In Trg Mića Pavlovića in lower Old Town, there is Sveta Jeronima (St. Jerome’s) Catholic Church. It was built in mid-XIX c. in place of a mosque. In XVII c., this place was occupied by another catholic church. Due to the town’s joggling of protectorates, at different times one and same spot could be used for building churches of different confessions. Today, this is a functional church which sometimes hosts choir and classical music concerts.

Sveta Jeronima Catholic Church, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

In the same square, there is the town music school, and for this reason the square frequently turns into a concert venue for festivals of classics, guitar music, or jazz.

Just a few steps below, there is Sveti Leopold Mandic Church dedicated to a catholic saint born in Herceg Novi. His home is still on the embankment directly at the foot of Forte Mare.

From Mico Pavlovic square there opens a splendid view of the bay, the mouth of Boka Kotorska and Mount Lovćen.

View over the bay from Mico Pavlovic square, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

The town is known to be a home to a real pearl among orthodox monasteries and monuments of architecture, Savina Monastery in the eastern part of the town in a district bearing the same name. The precise address is Manastirska, 21. The monastery encompasses two Churches of the Assumption (Great and Small), and St. Sava Church which is said to have been built by the saint himself in the XIII c. The Small Church was built in 1030, and the Great Church of the Assumption was built later in XVIII c. The Monastery sits on top of a hill covered in a coniferous forest called Savinska Dubrava. The slopes of the hill are covered in vineyards; and an unbeatable view of the sea and the mountains opens from the very top of the hill.

Read more about this and other monasteries of Montenegro here.

Savina Monastery, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Herceg Novi and the area boast a great number of orthodox churches in fair preservation, even high up in the mountains where no-one longer lives.

Museums and galleries

To get to know the history of Herceg Novi and the area, travelers are recommended to visit the local Regional Ethnography Museum (Zavičajni muzej). The museum is quartered in a baroque-style house that used to be a residential building owned by the Komnenović family. The town’s citizen of honor Mirko Komnenović and his wife Olga bequeathed their home to the town, and later it opened its doors for the museum. It offers a collection of archaeological findings, domestic utensils and everyday objects belonging to various times, and the house itself gives an idea of how well-off townsmen lived in the XIX c. The Museum is open every day from 9 am till 6 pm, except Sundays.
Its address is Mirka Komnenovica 9.

In the direct proximity of the Regional Ethnography Museum, there is the memorial house of Ivo Andric, a Nobel prize-winning writer. He lived and worked in Herceg Novi for several years. The memorial house will offer you an overview of different periods of Ivo Andric’s life and work. His house now hosts various cultural events.
Address: Njegoševa 79.

Other than the famous writer, Herceg Novi has at different times been the place to live and work for artists from all over Yugoslavia, including the world-famous Petar Lubarda, a professor at the Academy of Arts. The town is still a home to many artists.

As a result, there are plenty of art galleries. The main gallery is Art Gallery “Josip Bepo Benković” in the Old Town in Marko Vojnović Street named after a Russian Admiral. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the gallery hosts the annual Winter Salon of contemporary art and exhibitions of world-famous artists, i.e. Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and others. Admission to the gallery is free. There is another art gallery in the same street, Atelje Prijić.

Close to it, in Belavista, there are more exhibition venues and galleries, among them Sue Ryder and Freska.

Herceg Novi has an indoor concert hall “Dvorana park”, a venue for theatrical performances, concerts of classical and contemporary music, children performances, and various festivals.
Address: Njegoševa bb.

To crown this overview of cultural and historical landmarks in Herceg Novi, it will suffice to say that cultural life here is bustling around the year. The traditional events held in Herceg Novi are as follows, to name a few:

  • the Mimosa Festival,
  • the Guitar Festival,
  • the Children’s Carnival,
  • Days of Classical Music,
  • Herceg Novi Film Festival,
  • the summer opera festival Operosa,
  • International Festival of Comics (HSF),
  • jazz and choir festivals,
  • art exhibitions,
  • concerts,
  • seasonal fruit, wine, and fish festivals.

This is just a small portion of what is available to residents and guests of this small coastal town.

At the seaside

Even that the town is bustling with cultural life, after all, there is the sea and the mountains, and they offer plenty of opportunities for an enjoyable pastime.

Let’s take a walk from the middle of the Old Town down the stairs towards the beautiful Pet Danica promenade and continue talking about the sea.

This almost 6 km long Pet Danica promenade takes its name after the five partisan girls who were killed in the liberation of the town during World War II. It stretches from Meline to Igalo, a small village bordering on Herceg Novi. This is a great place for long walks loved by locals and tourists. The story backing up this place is also captivating: the promenade was built directly where the Austro-Hungarian railway used to be. The railway was disassembled in the 1970s, the promenade was constructed, and the town got its completely resort-like appearance. Still, during your walk along the promenade, somewhere in the very middle, you will inevitably walk through a real railway tunnel piercing a mountain.

Pet Danica promenade, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Around the middle of the promenade is a small town port with a lighthouse, this central location is known as Škver. There is an open swimming pool, a place for competitions and other open-air events, there are also restaurants, cafés, and bars. A beautiful building in Škver which used to be a railway station reminds of the place’s railway past. Today, the ex-railway station has been refurbished to room a café, a bar, and an art gallery.

Škver and the town port, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Along the promenade, the strollers are welcomed by cafes, bars, restaurants, shops on the one side, and beaches and scenic cliffs.

If you take a walk from Meline to Igalo along the promenade, you will inevitably pop into two monuments of Yugoslavian architecture, two villas of Yugoslavia’s ex-leader Iosip Broz Tito. The villas are known as Lovćenka and Galeb.

Because of its geographic positioning in the bay, Herceg Novi does not boast long and wide beaches, unlike Budvanska or Ulcinjska Rivieras. Yet, the town and nearby villages stretch along the coastal line, and there are small beaches all along the way, either pebble or pontoon.

Almost every beach, except some hotel beaches, is divided into two zones, one with sunbeds and sunshades which can become yours for the day in exchange for a relatively affordable consideration, and the other one completely free where you can make yourself comfortable on a beach towel.

In town, the most popular beaches are Savina, Perla, Raffaelo, Peoples (all of them pebble beaches), and the beach on Škver right under the walls of Forte Mare.

Town beach, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Nevertheless, there are some beaches that stand out as pearls and are must see & visit.

First of all, these are the beaches on the Luštica peninsula opposite the town across the bay. In the summer, regular boat connection to Luštica is available from the town port.

A trip to Luštica is not about a boat trip to a beach only. Feel free to combine your trip with a tour of local landmarks. At the exit from the bay, there is Lastvica islet rooming Mamula, a well-conserved Austro-Hungarian military fortification. During World War II, the fort was used as a concentration camp. It was later abandoned. Mamula turned into an attraction for tourists who were taken here by boats and a scenic shooting location. Currently, the fort is being refurbished into a resort which is said to preserve the appearance of the fort.

Mamula, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Mamula can now be seen from the sea only, but it is worth it. Near it there is an islet with an orthodox church which, a Russian priest lived there and welcomed the parishioners.

Boatmen may offer a trip to the Blue Cave, a very beautiful marine cave and will eventually take you to Zanjice beach. It is the largest beach in the area, bordering a small but cozy Miriste beach. The beaches on Luštica are known for their cleanliness and the amazing open sea views.

Zanjice beach at sunset, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

If you seek solitude, Dobreč bay is at your service. The beach is accessible from the waterfront only. On the hottest of days, the water here is several degrees cooler than the average at sea. This place is equipped with a restaurant and a cozy shorefront. Dobreč beach is usually an uncrowded one: just a few tourists know about the place, but local divers and those lucky to own or hire a boat are frequent guests here.

Another popular beach destination near Herceg Novi is in Njivice peninsula right on the opposite side of the bay. It is accessible by boat or by car, some 15 minutes from the town center. This beach is owned by the Iberostar hotel chain. There is no free-to-use area here, but for only just EUR 20, you will be issued not only with a sunbed and a sunshade, but some towels and an offer of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The hotel is literally there to serve you, and the only thing you can’t do stay at the hotel itself.

Meline, Kumbor, Djenovich, Baošići, Bijela, and Igalo, the nearby villages in Herceg Novi Municipality, all stretch along the coast and have plenty of apartments to rent and beaches to swim for those who enjoy quiet and cozy pastime.

Active leisure

Aside from the traditional beach holidays, this area may be found attractive by those who enjoy active leisure in nature. You can go yachting, diving, or take part in the swimming marathon which admits all willing to participate held every year during the last weekend of July. Children may take up a summer course from the local yachting school.

The town has one of the country’s most active triathlon clubs which is known to host regular running or duathlon competitions for children and adults. Town sporting events are frequently, too. Herceg Novi’s peculiarity, that is, the abundance of stairs, has offered the idea of Novska Skalinada, a marathon routing from the promenade to Španjola fortress up and down the town’s stairs. The marathon is held in winter during the days of the Mimosa festival. Originally supported by only a small group of enthusiasts, Skalinada has grown to be a genuinely international running festivity.

One very special way to pass your time when in this area is all about the mountains. The town is at the foot of the massif of Orjen, which makes it a great place to start your journey to the mountains, and mountaineering club Subra is there to offer help. The club maintains many kilometers of marked trails of different height and complexity for hiking, bike tours and trail running (a sport/activity which combines cross country running and hiking). In this regard, Herceg Novi is in the forefront compared to other parts of the country and is a venue for runs and marathons attended by many prominent trail runners from Europe and Russia who choose Orjen and Montenegro generally as their training and running destination. However all these activities are available to everyone willing to take a fling.

View of the town and the massif of Orjen, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Mountain hiking is not only a best way to treat yourself to scenic views of the nature which is quite different from what you get to see along the coast but to get to see many of the architectural landmarks, i.e. old and ethnic villages, churches, and military fortifications lost up in the mountains.

Luxury resorts

Over the past several years, Montenegro has witnessed a number of massive construction projects featuring luxury resorts, with yacht marinas, apartments, hotels, spa centers and many other amenities. These are like fashionable towns inside towns. The first successful project of this kind is Porto Montenegro in Tivat. Even that these projects target very wealthy clientele, the resorts are open to local residents and tourists who may freely spend time at cafes, restaurants, spa and wellness centers, and attend concerts, exhibitions, and other events there.

After Porto Montenegro, the trend was picked up by major investors, and now Herceg Novi has two such resorts.

The first one is Lazure Hotel & Marina at the interface of Herceg Novi and Meline settlement. Investors have renovated Lazaret, a historical 18th century Venetian building.

The hotel is supplemented with a café, restaurant, a beach with a bar in the summer, and a wellness center will be soon inaugurated. When off-season, the management of the resort always plan theme parties, concerts, and various presentations for the townsfolks people and tourists.

A second resort is underway construction in Kumbor and bears the name of Porto Novi. Porto Novi is a true town with homes, a park, a square, a fish market, a hotel and some shops, a marina and other buildings hidden in a coniferous grove on the very coast. The first phase of the resort is expected to be commissioned in 2019.

Kumbor, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Spa and wellness centers and recreational tourism

On cold or rainy days, especially during off-season, one can relax at one of the wellness centers at hotels which have recently become quite a few in town.

Here are some of the hotels with spa & wellness centers: Palmon Bay&Spa (Sava Ilića 7), Sole Mio Wellness & Spa (Save Kovačevića 67a), Wellness and Spa Hotel ACD (Ulica Narodnog fronta 91, Meljine). By spring 2018, Lazure Hotel & Marina expects to inaugurate its own wellness & spa center.

Near Herceg Novi, in Igalo, there is Dr. Simo Milošević Institute for Physical medicine, rehabilitation and rheumatology. The institute sits on the very coast in the direct proximity of deposits of healing sea muds.

Igalo, view of Dr. Simo Milošević Institute, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

One of the institute’s focus areas is preventive medicine and thalassotherapy, as well as children rehabilitation. The institute can room up to 1450 visitors. Many tourists come for medical treatment and rehabilitation from Russia, Norway, Serbia, and other European countries.

Restaurants and cafés

As any other tourist venue, during the tourist season Herceg Novi bustles with cafés, restaurants, snack points, and coffee shops, many of which would close with the arrival of autumn.

We will list the most interesting and famous cafés and restaurants.

The city’s landmark café is its Gradska kafana (Town Café) in Njegoseva, the town’s main street, in a historical Empire-style building. In early XX c., it used to be a movie theater, and today, the upper floor is a coffee house with a terrace and a balcony offering a beautiful view of the bay and the town. The lower floor is occupied by a restaurant. This is the most loved and frequently attended venue among locals. They come here come to meet over for a cup of coffee or to discuss business, or to simply admire the view.

Opposite the Town Café is Bife Beograd, a no less legendary place. A small coffee shop and a café are at the very beginning of the pedestrian area. These two venues are in competition, but they are equally loved by locals.

On the promenade, in the very middle of Škver in the old train station building, there is Stanica Café & Bar. This place used to be a movie theater set up by the world-famous film director and musician Emir Kusturica. No one will tell you for certain whether Kustirica still owns the place, but its managers have worked hard to create a truly inspiring interior.

 view of Herceg Novi promenade from the port, Herceg Novi, Montenegro

Near it is Do-Do, a cafe with a selection of Italian ice-creams. The menu has sandwiches, salads, and pizzas. Locals love this place, and on weekends and whenever the weather is good, one must hunt a vacant table. Luckily, they sell ice-cream to go.

A small family-run fish restaurant Feral is in Škver, too. In addition to traditional meats, daily catch is also on the menu.

Meat lovers are recommended to stop by Babić, a restaurant in Igalo. It sits next to the motorway and does not have a nice view, but meat dishes are its specialty. The owner of the place will either welcome you at the butcher’s where you can buy something to take home, or will see you inside the restaurant. Please remember that this is traditional food, meaning that you may end up with a portion that is hardly manageable by one.

Al Posto Giusto, an Italian restaurant, is one more popular place in Igalo. This is a place for those who love pasta and pizzas.

Those of you enjoy sophisticated vegetarian foods and drinks and good coffee, make sure to visit Peter's Pie & Coffee at 18 Šetalište Pet Danica, Herceg Novi.

For signature cuisine and desserts, visit the restaurant at Lazure Hotel & Marina. Despite its five-star location, the restaurant is moderately priced, may be just a trifle more expensive than the local average.

In the summer, in Bjela, a settlement near Herceg Novi, restaurant Bura near the Park hotel opens its doors with an interesting menu of Mediterranean dishes.

If you drive another 500 meters along the motorway towards the ferry line, you will notice a cabin with a sign reading “Školjki Kamenari”. This place is a farm where oysters and mussels will be fished out for you right from the sea. You can enjoy your oysters right on the spot. The owner of the farm will open them for you with a special knife and sprinkle them with lemon. Do remember to grab along some white or sparkling wine.

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