Budva is Montenegro's oldest coastal town and the most famous beach resort town in the country. The beaches around Budva are lovely, and the area is often called the "Budva Riviera". Montenegro only became a separate nation in 2006, so it's relatively new. However, many travelers have found Montenegro and flock to the country to see its fascinating old towns, mountains, beaches, and coastal river valleys.
Budva sits directly on the sea, with towering mountains on one side of the town and the sparkling Adriatic on the other. It's a beautiful setting, but not as spectacular as Montenegro's other popular coastal town, Kotor.
Those traveling the Balkan region by car might want to spend a few days in Montenegro, with two or three days in Kotor and at least a day in Budva. Those who love the beach or love to hike might want to extend their stay in Budva. Both towns are part of the "Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor" UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you've arrived in Montenegro on a cruise ship, you might want to spend a few hours exploring Kotor and then take a half-day bus tour to Budva. The 45-minute drive from Kotor to Budva is very scenic and even includes a drive right through one of the mountains on a mile-long tunnel. The tunnel is more than just a little creepy, especially since it is in earthquake territory. The drive from the coastline at Kotor climbs up the mountains surrounding the ria (sunken river valley), with the tunnel the last bit of the road before you enter a surprising valley. Passing through the tunnel, you'll ride across this agricultural valley and eventually look down on some spectacular sandy beaches.
Here are five things to see and experience on the Budva Riviera.
See Modern Budva
Before doing a walking tour of old town Budva, you might want to stop at a pull off from the narrow road that overlooks the famous Aman Resort named Sveti Stefan. It's one of those $1000+ euros per night resorts, and everything is a la carte. But, it's a favorite of celebrities looking for privacy and luxury. Popular tennis professional Novak Djokovic married his high school sweetheart at Sveti Stefan in 2014.
The area around Budva is often called the Budva Riviera, and the mountains overlooking the Adriatic Sea look much like those in Monte Carlo or along the French or Italian Rivieras. Most of the town is very modern and touristy, with many hotels and a few luxury oceanfront condo complexes. Actor Steven Seagal owns a luxury apartment at the Dukley Gardens overlooking the sea. From the outside, most of the other hotels/resorts/condos look like mid-range ones in the United States--nothing really elegant, trendy, or unique.
Walk the Narrow Streets of Old Town Budva
A walking tour of the walled section of old town Budva is a fun way to see the old city. This walled area is surrounded by modern buildings, but once you walk inside the walls, it's like going back into the past and is filled with narrow streets and alleyways. Old town Budva is pedestrian-only, and souvenir and a variety of tiny retail shops line the narrow lanes.
Several restaurants and bars are found inside or just outside the walls. All feature outdoor seating when the weather is good. One of the best restaurants inside the walls of the old town is Konoba Portun, a tiny family-owned spot featuring seafood and Mediterranean dishes. Another popular restaurant inside the walls is the Green Caffee and Pizzeria, which also serves seafood, but has a wood-fired oven for those seeking a pizza fix.
The old town is not large, so it's impossible to get lost since a beach and bay is on one side. If you get lost, walk towards the water, go out to the beach and stroll the beach until you get back to more modern Budva.
Sit on the Beach or Go Swimming in Budva
The Budva Riviera has at least 17 named beaches spread along 14 miles of coastline, stretching from Jaz, which is about a mile north of Budva, to Buljarica, which is about 13 miles south. Each beach has its own attractions, and although some are very large and filled with families, others are tiny and quiet.
Mogren Beach is the closest beach to old town Budva. It is actually two small beaches (Mogren I and Mogren II) connected by a tunnel. The sand is lovely, and the beach has changing rooms and beach chairs for rent.
Jaz Beach also has two parts but is covered with pebbles rather than sand. Today, this beach is protected as a natural historic site and is popular with campers.
Becici Beach is one of Budva's best-known beaches and is the largest in the area, stretching for over a mile. Way back in 1935, this sandy beach won the Grand Prix Golden Palm award in Paris as "the most beautiful beach on the Mediterranean".
Explore the Walking Trails Around Budva
The area around Budva features at least a dozen interesting walking trails, but most would take a half day or more, so might not be an option for those visiting for the day from a cruise ship. However, travelers staying in Budva who love exploring on foot will love the many trails along the coast and up into the mountains.
One of the most popular hiking trails is the Seven Bay Trail that links the town of Budva with the Sveti Stefan luxury resort hotel. This 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) trail features several spectacular Budva Riviera beaches and great views of the sea. Since these beaches all have their own beach bars, hikers will find plenty of refreshment opportunities along the way. The Seven Bay Trail takes about two hours to complete (unless you linger in the beach bars).
A fairly easy 7.2-km (4.5-mile) trail without much total change in elevation links the village of Brajici (about 2500 feet above Budva) with Viskovici and the Monastery of Stanjevici (elevation about 2700 feet). Brajici features the Kosmac fortress built in the 19th century, and the village has several restaurants with good local cuisine. The hike passes across the sides of Mount Lovcen and the Siroka strana cliff and provides magnificent views of the sea and the coastal villages.
Fit travelers who want to hike in the mountains and enjoy views of Budva, tiny villages and beaches from on high might want to tackle the 6.6-km (4.1-mile) trail that climbs over 3000 feet up from the village of Lastva Grbaljska on the western side of Budva to the village of Majstori. Along the route, hikers will pass by a monastery, churches, small villages, and even a fish pond. They will also have great views of Jaz Beach.
Visit One of Budva's Museums
Sometimes it rains when you visit a beach town, you get sunburned, or just want to do something inside rather than out of doors. Although Budva is best known for its beautiful beaches, outdoor activities, and historic old town area, the city has three small museums that visitors will find interesting.
The City Museum of Budva is located in the old town and is spread over three floors of a small building. This ethnographic museum covers the town's history from prehistoric times to the 20th century. Many of the archaeological artifacts in the museum were uncovered after a large earthquake hit the town in 1979.
The Maritime Museum in Budva is actually more of a library since it is filled with books. However, the museum also has an exhibit of maps and ship models. Many who love old forts will enjoy the location of this museum — it's inside a citadel.
Modern art lovers will appreciate the small Modern Gallery in Old Town Budva, which was founded in 1972. Much of the artwork, which consists of paintings, drawings, engravings, and sculptures, are from Montenegro or from artists of the former Yugoslavia.