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Cetinje – Royal Capital Of Montenegro

As the old royal capital of Montenegro, Cetinje has an elegance to it that makes the city worth a visit to explore the heritage

Cetinje was founded in the 15th century and became the centre of Montenegrin culture. Its fortunes rose and fell for hundreds of years, but from the 1800s a lot of effort was put into the architecture and grandeur of the city.

It officially became the capital of an independent Montenegro in 1878. It was after the Second World War, in 1946, that the capital was moved from Cetinje to Podgorica (then known as Titograd) and placed under communist rule. The old royal capital was left with just 9,000 residents.

Visiting it today, it feels like not much has changed since then. The population has grown slightly, to about 14,000 residents, but the buildings and streets don’t look too different.

The political capital may have moved, but culture and history are harder to migrate. Cetinje has been preserved almost in the exact state in which it was left.

CETINJE TOWN

The city is not very big and you can walk the streets yourself and explore the various things to do in Cetinje, though if you’d like to learn more about it there is a city tour led by a local guide. Alternatively, you can combine a visit to Cetinje and Lovcen National Park with this tour from the coast.

As you might expect from the old capital of Montenegro, there are lots of things to do in Cetinje.

CETINJE TOWN

CETINJE MONASTERY

The most important sight in Cetinje is the Cetinje Monastery, also known as the Monastery of Saint Peter.

Cetinje Monastery was built in 1484 by Ivan Crnojevic, a duke who moved his capital to Cetinje because it was easier to defend (effectively founding the city), but the buildings have nonetheless been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the centuries.

CETINJE MONASTERY

One of Montenegro’s most significant sights, viewed as a symbol of the country’s spirituality, it holds the relics of one of Montenegro’s great historical rulers: St Peter of Cetinje, whose name is now associated with the monastery.

You can visit Cetinje Monastery and see the modest church at its centre, as well as the various artworks throughout the complex. The tombs and other graves of Montenegrin leaders are also here.

And you’ll find a little museum that gives you some more information about the monastery’s significance.

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MONTENEGRO

The National Museum of Montenegro encompasses four different locations, some of which have more than one institution within them.

Although this building situated opposite the monastery is usually just called the National Museum of Montenegro, it actually houses several different parts of the institution, including art galleries.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MONTENEGRO

You’ll get to see an interesting collection of artworks and learn a bit more about the cultural heritage of the country if you visit all the different parts of the building.

NJEGOŠ MUSEUM BILJARDA (BILLIARD PALACE)

Although in a separate building, the Njegoš Museum Biljarda is also part of the National Museum of Montenegro.

The building was the residence of famous Montenegrin poet, bishop and leader Peter II Petrović Njegoš. The museum displays his personal belongings and furniture, which is probably more of interest to locals.

BILLIARD PALACE

What is rather cool, though, is the enormous map relief of Montenegro created in 1917 that is now housed here.

MUSEUM OF KING NIKOLA

Across the street from the Billiard Palace is another part of the National Museum of Montenegro – the Museum of King Nikola. This palace was home to the last royal ruler of Montenegro, King Nikola, after whom it is now named.

KING NIKOLA’S PALACE IN CETINJE

Construction of the palace was completed in 1867 and it gives you a good impression of how the country’s elite lived in the 19th century. You’ll need to do a guided tour of the palace, which is a combination of museum exhibitions and recreated rooms.

ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM OF MONTENEGRO

This final part of the National Museum of Montenegro is just across the road from the Museum of King Nikola. It’s called the Ethnographic Museum and has a collection of items related to the folk history of the country.

ETHNOGRAPHIC MUSEUM

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN CETINJE

Aside from the monastery and the museums, there are quite a few other things to do in Cetinje. The city is full of small attractions that you can visit to easily fill much of the day.

As you walk the streets, you’ll see old embassies with their faded elegance, as well as other grand houses. But be sure to be on the look out for these particular landmarks: Blue Palace, The Castle Church, Monument to Ivan Crnojević, Royal Theatre Zetski Dom, Vlaška Church and, of course, you can just spend some time enjoying Cetinje’s main street, Njegoseva ulica [Njegoš’s Street]. Much of it is pedestrianised and there are lovely little cafes and restaurants where you can take a break and watch life in Cetinje pass you by.

ROYAL THEATER

Although Cetinje is not too far from the country’s coastal tourist centres, it seems that not many people bother to leave the water and make the journey inland to see this veritable time capsule of history.

It’s not that surprising, I suppose. After all, most of the people on the beach are from Montenegro or nearby countries and they’ve seen enough examples of power shifting between cities, countries and leaders in their lifetimes.

But for a foreigner, it’s an interesting glimpse of what Balkan life was like before the outbreak of World War I and the game of thrones that lasted in this region for almost a hundred years. The architecture is the most striking thing about Cetinje, and it doesn’t take too long to walk through the city and see it all for yourself. By Michael Turtle.

By Michael Turtle

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