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If you’re looking for a cheap break this summer, forget the usual, overtouristed European cities and consider venturing to Montenegro’s capital.
Podgorica might not be on your ‘must-visit’ list, but there’s plenty of reasons why it should be.
Importantly, you get a lot more for your money here than in other European capitals like Paris or Rome.
But it’s also full of quirky bookshops, stylish cafés and riverside bars which you won’t find overrun with other tourists.
Podgorica: One of the cheapest destinations for a city break in Europe
Montenegro’s capital is a prime destination for a short holiday that doesn’t break the bank.
You can eat out on a shoestring, with a meal in a casual restaurant costing as little as €6.40 and a three-course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant around €25, according to global database Numbeo.
If you’re in need of refreshment, a 0.5 litre beer will set you back just €2, a cappuccino €1.49 and a bottle of water around €1.29.
Transport is also a bargain, with a one-way ticket starting at €0.90 and a monthly pass just €30.
According to Numbeo, Podgorica is 38.8 per cent less expensive than Rome and 47.9 per cent cheaper than Paris.
What to do in Podgorica: An Ottoman era centre
Stara Varoš is Podgorica’s old town, but you could easily be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into a rural village.
The city’s oldest neighbourhood is a maze of low stone houses, some painted in pastel shades, lining overgrown lanes.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries, this was the hub of a vibrant Ottoman Turkish town. Bombing in WWII damaged many structures but traces of its golden era remain.
A spartan clocktower in the central square was once used for Muslim prayer calls in the Ottoman era.
Winding through the humble streets, you can also find the 15th century Starodoganjska Mosque and the more ornate 18th-century Osmanagić Mosque with windows bearing Arabic script and floral motifs.
Along the banks of Podgorica’s Ribnica River, you can follow a secluded, leafy walkway dotted with the vestiges of ancient fortifications.
As you wander down the river, you’ll also come across the Roman-built, Ottoman-modified Adži-Paša’s Bridge.
Beautiful brutalist architecture in Podgorica
It may seem like an oxymoron, but Podgorica’s brutalist buildings showcase how the modernist architectural style can be attractive – if austere.
The Church of the Holy Heart of Jesus is a colossal, stark structure while the surprisingly playful Blok 5 housing estate looks like giant Jenga towers.
Where to eat and drink in Podgorica: Arty cafés and riverside bars
If you want to take advantage of the low-cost drinks, Podgorica is peppered with quirky establishments.
The city boasts a cheap but chic café scene, like Zrno with its industrial lighting and metal stools or steampunk style Mehanizam.
Worth hunting down is Karver, a bookstore, café and gallery housed in what was once a Turkish bathhouse.
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Venture under the graffiti-brightened modern concrete bridge and you discover a little white building of slim arched windows and Moorish doorways.
Browse the eccentric bookshop and, if you’re in need of a pick-me-up, their thick Turkish coffee is a powerful caffeine hit.
For summer drinks, meander down the Morača river to Njegošev Park near the Millenium Bridge.
Here, a small beach comes alive in the warmer months with an outdoor bar, deckchairs and umbrellas. You can cool off in the water or depart on a kayaking trip from the shore.
For evening entertainment, look no further than Bokeška, the trendiest street in town lined with colourful cocktail bars and idiosyncratic pubs.