Bar, Montenegro, is an unsung resort town on the country’s south coast. Nestled between breathtaking mountains and the glistening Adriatic Sea, Bar offers plenty of culture and history to discover, nature right on its doorstep, and a string of pebble beaches to relax on.
While Bar may not be as well known as, say, Kotor or Budva, two of Montenegro’s most well-known destinations, travelers will find an authentic atmosphere here, and plenty to see and do during a short visit. There’s sizzling weather, too, with 270 days of sunshine every year.
From the best time to travel to what to eat and drink, discover everything you need to know about Bar, Montenegro.
Why Visit Bar, Montenegro
With gentle azure waters and buzzing beaches, Bar, Montenegro, is a seaside spot with plenty of jaw-dropping nature just outside of the city.
Lake Skadar National Park, home to the largest lake in the Balkans and a wealth of wildlife, is a short drive away. The green slopes around Bar are scattered with ancient monasteries, pretty vineyards, and villages where life is slow.
Culture and history are present, too. If you enjoy delving into a destination’s past, Stari Bar, the picture-perfect old town, is a must-visit, while lazy beach days are encouraged on the coast.
From sunbathing and swimming to simply strolling the marina and enjoying local cuisine from a shady spot outside, Bar is a dream destination for travelers who enjoy the heady scent of summer.
History & Culture
As a nation, Montenegro is one of the youngest in the world—established only in 2006 following independence from Serbia—but the region holds plenty of history.
Byzantine and Ottoman empires have laid claim to this region of Montenegro at various periods in time. Stari Bar, three miles from what is considered the new town, is where Bar’s history is most visible, built upon as early as the sixth century by the Romans.
The old town is circled by 11th- and 12th-century Byzantine city walls festooned with thick Mediterranean vines. The ruined state of some of the ancient buildings only adds to Stari Bar’s charm.
Stari Bar has seen its fair share of battles, including in 1877 and 1878 when it lay siege to the Montenegrin forces during the Montenegrin-Ottoman War. A large explosive was detonated inside the town’s aqueduct, cutting off water supply and forcing the town to surrender.
When the region experienced a huge earthquake in 1979, residents moved towards the coast, in what is now the new area of Bar. Though residents have returned to Stari Bar in the years since, with some of the region’s best restaurants in the old town, it has the feel of a storied open-air museum.
Then there’s towering Mount Rumija, looming over Bar by some 5,230 feet, which holds plenty of religious significance. Each year, during the Feast of Pentecost, the Cross of Jovan Vladimir is carried to Rumija’s summit during a festive procession from the village of Velji Mikulići.
During the 11th century, Vladimir was the ruler of Duklja, a Serbian powerhouse that once encompassed much of southern Montenegro. There’s a modern church built in 2006 in Vladimir’s honor in the center of Bar.
Wildlife & Nature
One of the first things travelers notice when visiting Bar is the dramatic, green-carpeted mountains that rise from the hinterland.
Skadar Lake National Park, just four miles from the Adriatic Sea at its closest point, is particularly impressive for its wildlife and nature. It’s worth packing binoculars on a visit to Skadar Lake, which is one the country’s largest habitats of birdlife, including around 270 different species.
The majority, around 90 percent, are migratory, including the rare Dalmatian pelican, one of the largest freshwater birds in the world. Storks, little egrets, cormorants, and herons also nest and feed among swampy areas of the lake. Keep your eyes out for eagles and falcons overhead, too.
If you go for a paddle in the lake, just remember that you won’t be alone. Three snake species and 50 types of fish inhabit the water, including carp and the endemic ukljeva.
The beautiful landscape between Bar and Skadar Lake offers a feast of flora, including citrus, olive, fig, and grape vines, while wild boars, foxes, wolves, and rabbits roam the oak and beech forests.
On a visit to Bar, travelers could admire one of the world’s oldest trees. Located nearby, in the rural village of Tomba, marvel at the Old Olive Tree, or Stara Maslina, believed to be 2,000 years old.
Tips for Visiting Bar, Montenegro
Bar is easy to explore on foot. You can get from the beach to landmarks such as King Nikola’s Palace, the Church of St. Jovan Vladimir, and the marina in no time at all.
If you’re a first-time visitor to Bar, consider splitting your time between Stari Bar and the waterfront.
Take a taxi to Stari Bar, which lies on the foothills of Mount Rumija. A taxi takes around 15 minutes, and once you’re through Bar’s wide boulevards, the scenery becomes more pastoral.
If you’re a more active traveler or perhaps you’re already experienced Stari Bar, a day trip to Skadar Lake National Park will not disappoint. Hire a local guide or take a taxi to one of the lake’s monasteries, kayaking spots, or quaint villages such as Virpazar on the western edge of the lake.
As with most of southern Europe, the heat can feel intense during summertime so travel with all of the essentials, including sun protection and plenty of water.
For a souvenir to imbibe on long after you return home, pick up the local tipple, the sweet, fruity brandy called rakija.
Things to Do & Attractions in Bar
Browse Bar’s Storybook Old Town
Stari Bar offers a delicious blend of ancient old streets that wind within the city’s medieval walls. Emerald-green cypresses rise above the buildings, adding to the drama of this enchanting spot.
Wander among the crumbling walls of the former fortress for some of the best views of the surrounding landscape, including serrated mountains to one side and the Adriatic to the other.
Admire the stone-built Omerbašića mosque facing the old town wall. This beautiful mosque was built in 1662 and features a single minaret. Among the town’s well-preserved Orthodox churches are the 15th-century St. Veneranda and the 16th-century St. Katarina.
Another highlight is Bar Aqueduct on the northern edge of Stari Bar. This impressive aqueduct once provided the old town with its water supply, until the system was scuppered by the 1979 earthquake.
The aqueduct’s giant stone arches—built in the 16th century by the Ottoman Empire—are a remarkable sight and it’s the only remaining structure of its kind in Montenegro.
You’ll find a small handful of tavernas in Stari Bar. Stop at one with shaded seating for a refreshing drink and taste of the locality. Simple dishes of shrimp salad, grilled eggplant, whole grilled local fish, pizza, and fries are typically available.
Visit King Nikola’s Palace
The peach-hued King Nikola’s Palace was built in 1885 for King Nikola I Petrovic—the last monarch of Montenegro—facing Bar’s waterfront and main beach.
Today, this palatial sprawl houses a museum of beautiful antiques, art, and artifacts, surrounded by attractive gardens featuring lush palm trees.
After exploring the decadent rooms of King Nikola’s Palace, walk the short distance to Bar Marina. The route follows a palm tree-lined promenade towards rows of boats lining the busy harbor. This is also where you can take the ferry to Bari and Ancona in Italy.
A cluster of bars and restaurants are dotted around the waterfront area, offering a perfect respite from the summer’s heat.
Discover an Ancient Coastal Fortress
Ulcinj Fortress is an ancient castle built on Ulcinj’s craggy limestone cliff edge, 30 minutes south of Bar.
This extraordinary UNESCO-protected fortress was built around the fourth or fifth century B.C., enveloping the old town. The imposing complex is considered one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic.
Stroll the narrow cobbled streets and take in the sublime coastal views from the weather-worn walls. Pop into the Museum of Local History in Ulcinj to gain a deeper sense of the region’s rich heritage.
Ulcinj Old Town is home to some fantastic restaurants, too. Try Restaurant Fisherman Hari for delicious seafood dishes with spectacular sea views. If you’ve a penchant for flavorsome mussels, shrimps, scallops, and octopus, Antigona is another top spot for indulgent dishes.
Explore the Largest Lake in the Balkans
Skadar Lake National Park, just a 40-minute drive away, is one of the best aspects of Bar for nature lovers.
Over 27 miles long and almost eight miles wide, crossing the border into Albania, the shores of Skadar Lake are dotted with churches, monasteries, and tiny villages, backed by steep mountains.
Head for a hike near the village of Virpazar, stopping at Winery Masanovic for a tasting of silky wines and rakijas, the local brandy. You could also drive to Vranjina to visit its 13th-century monastery, just across the water.
Nature is a big draw, with plenty of bird life nesting and feeding among the shamrock-green lily pads and marshy patches of the lake.
Enjoy a swim, hire a canoe, or join a boat tour from Virpazar to Beška Monastery, actually a nunnery, with two 14th-century churches near Murići Beach. Afterward, enjoy a rustic lunch at one of the village’s waterside restaurants.
Read: Best Lakes in Europe
Admire a Modern Church
The gold domes of Bar’s Church of St. Jovan Vladimir glisten against the Mediterranean sunshine.
This infant church was completed in 2016 following 10 years of construction. It’s now the largest Orthodox church in Montenegro.
The Church of St. Jovan Vladimir is an impressive, grand building, built in a Serbian-Byzantine style with a chalk-white facade, punctuated by seven large bronze doors around the exterior. Among its features are two bell towers and a large central domed roof surrounded by several smaller domes.
Enjoy a wander inside to view the two symmetrical chapels on each side of the church and the vibrant religious frescoes of Orthodox saints covering every inch of the walls.
Relax on Bar’s Beaches
Bar offers travelers who prefer to take it easy the option to recline on a sun lounger and enjoy gentle swims in the sun-warmed sea.
Topolica City Beach, a wide pebbly stretch, is in the center of Bar in front of King Nikola’s Palace. Enjoy a walk on the palm-lined promenade before unwinding on a lounger.
Šušanj is another great option and is arguably even more photogenic than Bar’s main beach, lying on the northern fringes of Bar. Both options provide beach bars and restaurants.
Alternatively, head to Murići Beach. One of the most beautiful beaches in Montenegro, Murići is on the banks of the vast Lake Skadar, where you could easily idle away an afternoon swimming and sunbathing.
Food & Drink
Visitors to Bar will find plenty of traditional Montenegrin cuisine, including homemade bread, fresh seafood, meaty stews, and a plethora of local produce, such as herbs, olive oil, honey, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and wines.
Spoils from the Adriatic Sea feature on most restaurant menus. Another local specialty is carp, fresh from Skadar Lake.
Break bread at one of Stari Bar’s best restaurants, Konoba Bedem. Take a table outside in the shade of the ancient walls, where platters of octopus, squid, shrimp, and whole fried or baked fish, such as carp and sea bass, are served. Zesty salads, eggplant in tomato sauce, and boiled potatoes are popular side dishes.
Also in the old town, Kaldrma is divine. Enjoy a freshly made lemonade before tasting the toothsome Turkish-Montenegrin menu.
While Italy has limoncello and Greece has ouzo, Montenegro has rakija, a fruity brandy that’s available just about everywhere in Bar.
Sip it in the serene surroundings of Knjaževa Bašta, a restaurant in the grounds of King Nikola’s Palace. This spot, close to Bar’s waterfront, is also known for its fantastic wines.
Best Time to Visit Bar, Montenegro
Bar experiences a gloriously long summer with glowing tangerine skies as the sun goes down, thanks to its location in the southeastern Mediterranean. The best time to visit Bar is during this time, between May and October.
In the shoulder season—May, September, and October—the weather is typically warm with temperatures hovering around 71°F. In July and August, the climate is usually hot, with temperatures around 85°F, which is ideal for lazing on the beaches, splashing in the water, and relaxing at shaded restaurants in Stari Bar.
June is perfect if you enjoy long warm days that aren’t too hot, with temperatures perfect for outdoor activities.
Montenegro is a breathtaking country offering the perfect blend of culture, history, nature, and gastronomy. Discover Celebrity’s cruises to Bar and find your next luxury getaway.