Tucked away on the Adriatic coast is the town of Budva, Montenegro.  I knew almost nothing about Montenegro or Budva before I landed there for a month, and it completely surprised me, in a good way!

Surrounded by the Dinaric Alps on three sides, and the Adriatic Sea on the other, the scenery is spectacular. Pristine, green mountains dramatically fall off into the ocean.  Budva is often called the Miami of the Balkans, but I think a more apt name is the Hawaii of the Balkans.  Being by the mountains reminded me a lot of living in the Indian Himalayas.

Best Things to do in Budva

Many tourists head to Kotor Bay, further up the coast, but Budva has plenty of charm, is less expensive, and less crowded.  Here are the best things you can do in Budva:

1. Enjoy the Beaches

Mogren Beach in Budva

Mogren Beach in Budva

There are gorgeous beaches up and down the coast in Budva. Greco Beach is the beach right in town, and the easiest to get to. It’s well-serviced by the restaurants that line the waterfront.  Considering it’s in the middle of town, it’s pretty good, but not the nicest of the Budva beaches.  If you walk a little further (5-10 minutes) you’ll find Mogren Beach which is better.  

Mogren Beach is quieter and you can easily walk there by following the footpath along the rocky coast past the Budva Dancing Girl statue.  There’s toilets, a restaurant and you can rent beach loungers and umbrellas for the day.  I enjoyed swimming there early in the mornings before it got busy.  

The most spectacular beach in Budva is Jaz Beach.  Jaz Beach is further up the coast, about 2 km from town.  You can walk along the Adriatic Highway to get there, but the best way is to grab a taxi from town. Jaz Beach is the longest beach along this part of the Riviera and well serviced. You can easily spend the whole day there.

2. Explore Stari Grad (Old Town)My dog enjoying his walk through Old Town

Budva is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic coast, and it has a walled medieval city known as Stari Grad or Old Town.  Stari Grad is dominated by a citadel and huge fortification walls that were finished in the 15th century by the Venetians. It’s full of shops, cafes, and several churches with beautiful frescoes.  There’s even two Moritz Eis gelato stores (the famous Austrian brand).

This is a charming part of Budva and attracts a lot of visitors, so try to go in the morning.  It’s not big and very easy to navigate.  Although it’s a bit touristy, strolling through the labyrinth of cobblestoned lanes and exploring the old buildings is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. The Citadel is now a museum with great views of Budva and the marina. 

3. Eat Seafood at One of the Ocean Front RestaurantsRestaurants line the promenade by the Budva waterfront

Budva has terrific seafood.  In fact, if you head to the marina early in the morning, you’ll see the fishing boats returning with the day’s catch.  You’ll find a lot of restaurants along the promenade by the water. Some even have tables set up right on the beach. The restaurants closer to Old Town have the nicest views.  Take your pick, and enjoy fresh seafood on the beach.  Black risotto with squid is a local specialty.  

4. Relax with the Coffee Culture

Sidewalk cafes are everywhere in Budva, especially close to the waterfront.  It seems everyone takes time to sit down and enjoy a coffee.  The local coffee is black and thick like Turkish coffee, but cappuccinos, lattes, and espressos are readily available also.  Relax, sip your coffee, and enjoy one of the most popular past times in the country.

5. Walk to Podmaine Monasterythe entrance to Podmaine Monastery

Budva is built on the side of a mountain, with the main retail and commercial hub at the bottom by the sea.  But higher up are quiet residential neighborhoods and olive fields.  This is where Podmaine Monastery is located.  The Serbian Orthodox Monastery was originally built in the 15th century.  It’s a quiet, pretty monastery.  I was there on a Sunday morning and locals were streaming in for Sunday service.   The walk from town is a bit steep in places, but very manageable.  It’s not a big place, but it’s quaint and peaceful. 

6. Visit Nearby Sveti Stefanthe gorgeous beach and Villa Millocer at Sveti Stefan, taken from the cave terrace

Just 10 km down the coast from Budva is the little town of Sveti Stefan. Sventi Stefan is mostly famous for the walled island fortress connected to the mainland. The entire island is a private resort, but during the pandemic, it closed down and has not reopened. The island is still gated off to the general public, but there was a wedding going on when I visited – apparently, it can be rented out for events.  

But the big plus is the beautiful beaches that were for the exclusive use of resort guests, are now open to everyone.  

If you take the small forest path at the far end of the main beach, you’ll come across Villa Milocer, the former summer residence of Queen Marjia Karadordevic. It’s part of the Aman Sveti Stefan resort and also currently closed.  But the beach in front of Villa Milocer is open to everyone now and lovely. You can also swim from the cave at the far end of the beach with a terrace to sunbathe and jump into the water from.

The views of the island from the main road are spectacular – this is one of the most photographed spots of the entire Adriatic coast.  Don’t miss it! You can get to Sveti Stefan by bus or taxi from Budva.  

7. Go Sea Fishing on a Full Day Tourthere are many charters and taxi boats in the marina near Old Town

Many boats offer full or half-day fishing tours.  These usually include gear, bait, the services of a guide, and sometimes even lunch. Depending on the time of year, the most common fish are sea bass, mackerel, snapper, tuna, and shark.  Many operators combine fishing with some sightseeing and swimming. 

Keep in mind hobby fishing is subject to daily limits, and tourists require a fishing license.  Make sure you discuss this with the tour operator before you book anything.  You’ll find the fishing charters at the marina near the Old Town.

8. Take a Taxi Boat to Sveti Nikola

Just a few hundred meters off the coast of Budva is the largest island in Montenegro, Sveti Nikola. It’s named after the 16th-century church St. Nicholas which is perched on the northern side of the island, but locals call the island ‘Hawaii.’  Most of the island is closed off and not possible to explore, but if you want a fun boat ride and some unique beach time, this is well worth doing.  The taxi boats leave from the waterfront by Slovenska Plaza.

9. Party the Night Away at a Beach Club

The Budva nightlife is famous. While there are loads of bars and clubs along the waterfront, especially by Slovenska Plaza, Budva also regularly hosts summer music festivals and concerts at Jaz Beach. The Rolling Stones even played Jaz Beach in 2006.  Things were quiet when I was there during the month of May, but locals told me it gets very busy in July and August.

10. Do a Day Trip to Perast or Kotor

Perast or Kotor are two of Montenegro’s most popular and beautiful towns on the Bay of Kotor.  Both towns are easy to reach from Budva by one of the daily buses from the Budva bus station.  Taxis also make the trip.  

Kotor is a UNESCO site and much larger than Perast. There’s plenty to see, including a walled old town, like the one in Budva.  But Kotor also gets crowded, especially when the cruise ships come in. Perast is much smaller and quieter.  It’s a bit more authentic than Kotor. Both are worthwhile, and it’s a matter of personal preference about which one you should visit.

11. Eat Burek

Burek is a dish you will see all over the Balkans.  It’s a savory pastry made from layers of phyllo rolled around a filling and baked until crispy.  The most common variations are spinach, cheese, and meat, but I’ve also eaten zucchini, potato, and mushroom burek in Budva.  It’s a popular breakfast/lunch/snack food that is widely sold in bakeries all over.  

The Wrap-up on Best Things to do in Budva

Budva has a reputation for being the party place of Montenegro, and this nearly put me off going, but I’m so glad it didn’t.  Apart from a few locals having a couple of drinks, I didn’t come across or hear any hedonistic partying.  I’m sure things get lively at the waterfront bars during high season, but if you stay on the other side of the Adriatic Highway you shouldn’t be disturbed by any of that.

It’s a lovely, beachside town (or small city, depending on who you talk to), that has a lot to offer.  You can easily explore the rest of Montenegro from here, there’s an excellent network of buses, and the bus station is right in town.  The nearest international airport is Tivat, less than 20 km away.  

Make sure you add Budva to your Montenegrin itinerary, it’s a gem on the Adriatic coast and worth the time.

Guest Author: Suzanne Hooker of Suzanne Wanders Delhi

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