Across from Italy is the mysterious land of the Balkans. Montenegro, or Crna Gora, means the Black Mountain, which is what the Romans called it during their golden age of global reign.
For expats with an eye toward the future, Montenegro is a must to consider. The question is – where to live in Montenegro to fully benefit from everything this amazing country has to offer?
Mountains are only one facet of Montenegro. Its unparalleled coastal riviera, with 117 beaches dotted up its 180 miles of coastline, creates the country’s entire western border.
The country gives you options for any lifestyle, low personal and corporate taxes, and a straightforward residency and Citizenship By Investment scheme.
1. Podgorica – an up and coming European capital
An hour inland, Podgorica is the national and commercial capital. If you need access to the main international airport, train station, and bus terminal, Podgorica is the place to be.
While the coast offers the best quality of life, Podgorica is the modernizing and growing core of the country providing a standard of living above the regional average.
Its 15 private full-service hospitals and clinics have an established medical tourism sector. There are two international schools as well: QSI International School of Montenegro (to ages 18) and United Kids International Montenegro (Montessori, to ages 15).
As you walk the city, you’re towered over by Soviet-style architecture, which is still common in the Balkans. The city has well-maintained green spaces, and a mountain adventure land, Gorica Park, complete with a restaurant and zipline.
The Hilton Podgorica Crna Gora is every bit a 4-star hotel, though its claim to fame is its fashionable scene. It houses the Terrace Fontana and Cigar Bar where during the day everyone goes to be seen. At night, the very chic Sky Bar, Podgorica’s only rooftop lounge, is THE place to be.
The Hilton has one of the finest restaurants in the city, frequented by locals and expats. With an endless selection of the best local and international wines and cocktails and expertly prepared seafood and steaks, the Hilton is more of a social network than a hotel.
Just behind the Hilton is Podgorica's social and cultural scene: Nova Varoš. Anchored by Independence Square, it’s a two-block radius of bars, restaurants, cafes, and clubs. It's a favourite spot for a younger local crowd, especially on the weekends.
Alternatively, Novi Grad (new town) is a lively area busy with traffic, pedestrians, coffee shops and restaurants. For American-style barbecue, The Meating Place is the spot to try. There’s even a Hard Rock Café if you prefer more expats and tourists than locals.
Podgorica’s food scene is still young but growing all the time and offers virtually every global cuisine. Everyone is welcomed everywhere, so follow your hunger.
2. Budva – the Miami of Montenegro
Thanks to its unparalleled vibrant and touristy nightlife, Budva is nicknamed the ‘Miami of Montenegro’.
Off-season, Budva reverts to a softer personality, a serene settlement of villages great for families. It has three private medical institutions and Adriatic College (ages 3-15) international school.
Budva has hot summers, mild winters, and at least 230 sunny days a year giving you a perfect chance to idle away your time at one of the 17 beaches which wrap around the city.
A perfect place for scuba diving, parasailing, culture, and clubs, Budva is defined by its medieval and cobble-stoned Old City, pristine beaches, and modern nightlife.
The city is a hub for cultural tourism with festivals all spring and summer long. In April, the entire place is one large masquerade party, the Spring Masked Ball. In May, the tourist season is welcomed with 7-days of Carnival and the Great Carnival Parade.
For artists, the International Folklore, Choir, and Modern Festival, as well as Theater City, transforms the entire city into an open stage.
Stari Grad (Old Town) is best described as a mini-Dubrovnik, and one of the most historic regions along the coast. Across the bay, is Hotel Mediteran, a premier wellness spa with a water park for the entire family.
Top Hill was named Best Night Club Global 2012 By Monaco International Clubbing Show. Its location allows you to look down onto the coastal oasis as if it were a sparkling gem reflecting the rays of the summer moon.
The club offers a unique combination of Balkan and Electronic music and hosts international music icons like Fatboy Slim, David Morales, and James Hype. Room for hundreds, there's an enormous dance floor, swimming pool, jacuzzi bar, vodka bar, wine bar, Cohiba bar, nargila bar, and VIP section.
From Johnny Walker Blue to Dom Perignon Magnum, this is how Budva got its nickname.
Forty-five minutes inland is Lake Skadar National Park. Stretching down to Albania, it’s the largest lake in the Balkans. Its freshwater offers a different seafood cuisine than that of the Adriatic.
Skader is home to one of Europe’s largest bird reserves, including pelicans. It also has a well-preserved World War 2 shipwreck.
The national park protects nearly 30 species of rare flora but is open (in designated areas) for swimming, fishing, hunting, birdwatching, boating, and sunbathing.
Everyone will find something to love about Budva, especially the cosmopolitan young professionals looking to live big in real life and on social media.
3. Kotor – the family friendly option
Kotor sits back from the Adriatic, but its large bay provides its coastal ambience. Nearly the entire region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you love history, Kotor will feel like home.
Kotor is Montenegro’s family friendliest coastal location. Dobrato, 10 minutes from the city centre, is the preferred suburb for wealthier families. Its picturesque landscape and modern housing construction make it Kotor’s residential hub.
About 20 minutes farther is Perast, one of the oldest towns in Kotor. The only thing that’s changed over the centuries, is its real estate value. Currently, one of Kotor’s wealthiest suburban enclaves, Perast has all modern luxuries hidden within its historic charm. Think 21st-century living in Game of Thrones.
Floating in the Bay is Our Lady of the Rocks, an iconic Catholic site easily visited by ferry.
Head the other direction from Kotor’s centre and you will find Muo and Prcanj. Best described as the food and drink towns of Kotor, they provide more affordable family living without sacrificing the panoramas.
An hour inland is Cetinje, on the other side of Lovcen National Park. Cetinje is the former royal capital city of Montenegro. The city is littered with the old majestic embassies of the world's powers and is still home to the Blue Palace, the official residence of the President.
Lovcen National Park in the Dinara Alps runs back down to Budva. This is the ‘Black Mountain' from which the nation is named. The park spans over 6000 acres with two distinct climate zones. From the peak, you can see three countries: Italy, Albania, and Serbia.
The entire region is considered sacred, as local lore calls it a “Holy altar”. Within its hallowed reaches is the Njegos Mausoleum interring Montenegrin Prince-Bishop Petar II.
Kotor’s central element is the UNESCO-protected bay. The Bay of Kotor and its stunning cobalt waters are world-renowned, giving Kotor a Venetian feel. The Bay is very large, it consists of four distinct areas, each dotted with towns and villages, and numerous Roman remains and villas.
The tourist season is primarily cruise ships, so you’ll interact with locals more regularly than tourists.
4. Tivat – the crown jewel
Saving the best for last, Tivat is Montenegro’s crown jewel. Only 20-minutes from Kotor, and still on the Bay, Tivat is a different world.
Regarding luxury and high-end living, Tivat is an Adriatic version of Monaco. Thus, it should not be surprising that Tivat is also the country’s epicentre for luxury real-estate development and foreign investment. Houses and villas reach into the millions.
Tivat especially appeals to a very select type, those with superyachts.
Tivat’s platinum-certified marina, Porto Montenegro, was listed in the top 15 luxury yacht marinas in the world (2020) amongst Monaco, Ibiza, Abu Dhabi, and Capri.
Porto Montenegro, developed by billionaire Canadian Frank Stronach, is also a luxury resort complex. Amongst the options is Boka Place, one of the port’s newest developments.
Boka Place offers residences, dining, shopping, an elite yacht club.
Tivat has IHG’s 5-star Regent Hotel, in which world-class chefs at Murano prepare the best seafood the Adriatic offers.
Tivat has the only other international airport in Montenegro as well.
Tivat has two of the region’s most prestigious academies for ages 3-18, Arcadia Academy and Knightsbridge Schools International.
While Tivat has one private hospital, there are four more on the Bay’s northwest corner in Herceg Novi near the opening to the Adriatic. As with the schools, these serve both Kotor and Tivat.
Tivat has its share of regional history. In Porto Montenegro, the Naval Heritage Museum houses the submarine Hero. Once a top-secret intelligence asset of communist Yugoslavia, it now reveals its secrets on display to visit and walkthrough.
Tivat can be reduced to a single word, opulence. However, it’s not simply for those who love the lifestyle of luxury, but for those who can afford it.
5. Kolasin – the Alpine alternative
Of course, there’s the option to live amongst the clouds. If you prefer a location where you can also ‘winter’, that’s Kolasin. An epic alpine retreat with ski slopes, crisp air, and snow-capped peaks crowning all around you, its wealth is the outdoors.
More tranquil and very seasonal, Kolasin is an hour inland from Podgorica and about 1000 meters higher. The climate ranges from below freezing winters to blistering hot summers. The downside is the present lack of any international schools and private medical options.
Lying next to Biogradska Gora National Park and on the Bjelasica and Komovi Mountain ranges, in summer Kolasin is all about mountaineering. Hiking, mountain biking, camping, horse riding, rafting, trout fishing, and climbing; if you do it in the mountains, you do it here.
Known as the Pearl of European Heritage, Biogradska Gora has one of Europe’s only rainforests and one of only three preserved untouched wildernesses.
Another magical jewel is the Botanicka Basta Dulovine Botanical Park. Home to one of Europe’s rarest pines and countless medicinal herbs, remnants of Montenegro’s oriental influences.
Winter is what Kolasin is famous for, offering some of the best skiing in Eastern Europe. As the snow is natural, skiing is more reliable in nearby Durmitor, but Kolasin is more modern, chic, and developed. The Marriott’s stylish Four Points by Sheraton anchors the city's urban district.
The slopes are generally considered intermediate level, but if you love a challenge you can find more difficult options. There are ample long-runs, trails, lifts, and cable cars. If you’re not a skier snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and four-wheeling are also options.
The culinary scene is dominated by traditional Eastern European cuisines, though Italian and International fare can be found. Restaurant Dobre Vode provides a rustic mountain setting along a sleepy river offering incredible barbeque.
Kolasin is a year-round Balkan gem for nature-lovers who spend more time outside than in.
6. Sveti Stefan – notable mention
Having docked your yacht at Tivat, head south for about 40 minutes (10 minutes from Budva) to Sveti Stefan.
On a private islet, connected to the mainland by a narrow cobbled-stone bridge is Aman Sveti Stefan. A Golden Apple retreat, this island nirvana is for the elite.
This small island’s accommodations, dining, and three private beaches are a secret sanctuary for A-listers, literally. Unless you have a reservation (room or dining), you can’t even step foot on the island.
Aman's clandestine isle has adult-only areas, as well as kid-friendly zones. By kids, we think they mean princes and princesses.
The island has some of Europe's best sushi. Nobu Montenegro, by world-renowned Japanese chef and restaurateur Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, offers the finest Wagyu, caviar, and one of the most exclusive gastronomical experiences in Eastern Europe.
Final thoughts on the best places to ive in Montenegro
There’s a reason Montenegro made NatGeo UK’s 2021 Best of the World list. Actually, there are several, and now you know them.
The country’s well-maintained transportation infrastructure means that by car, bus, or rail, all of Montenegro can be reached within hours.
Access to Europe couldn’t be easier. The ferry port in Bar (an hour south of Budva) connects to Italy and Croatia. There are two international airports and an international rail system.
In the CET time zone like most of Europe, Montenegro is 1 hour ahead of the UK and 6 hours ahead of the US-East Coast. The nation’s modern internet infrastructure means keeping in touch with family, friends, and associates is no problem.
Montenegro was claimed and cherished by every European empire throughout history. Now it can be yours to brag about as you live your best life – Montenegro style.
You might find useful:
- Living In Montenegro As An Expat
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