Bar is a quiet and relaxed seaside town with wide streets, a quay, beaches, palms, small streets, a large port and a few boutiques selling with Italian (or Chinese) goods. I think most visitors to Bar would probably agree with this description. It does not compare to Kotor or Ulcinj in terms of things to do but is still well worth a visit. Bar has the largest number of Russian expats in Montenegro.
I gave some thought as to how to categorise Bar, whether it should go under city or resort. Bar is a seaside location. The coastline is straight, there are many beaches, so often it is advertised as a resort. There are many small hotels, apartments and a couple of larger hotels. However, calling Bar a resort would be an overstatement. It is a regular town, it was planned as such and has residential blocks of flats. Life does not stop here in winter. There is a port, a railway station, a sports stadium, schools, hospitals, stores, markets, essentially everything that a town of this size needs. I have marked all essential places on the map.
Although I would not call Bar a resort many people come here for weekends or holidays. The prices are lower at average compared with Budva or Bečići. Yet the quality of the facilities is on par with the most popular resorts. The shore here is flat, so you will find many wide beaches along the quay and lots of small coves nearby. Almost all the beaches have beds and umbrellas. There are numerous restaurants and cafes along the seafront. In summer, the number of tourists here increases, as it does everywhere on the coast in Montenegro. Most visitors are from Russia and Serbia. There are also visitors from Bosnia and Herzegovina which is rare in the Budvan Riviera. This is due to the mix of religions here in Bar.
Most people here are Orthodox. Yet many Muslims also live here and have done since the Turkish reign. They live alongside with Orthodox and Catholic Christians. You can spot traces of the East here and there. For example, you will see several prayer towers from one of the fortresses at the old part of Bar. The largest Orthodox temple in Montenegro is being built here.
Attractions and places of interest
The Old City
This is one of the oldest settlements in Montenegro. The Romans called it Antibari, because it is located opposite the Italian city of Bari. The Slavic people simplified and shortened the name to ‘Bar’. First settlers built their homes far from the sea in the foothill, partially elevated. The settlement subsequently walled and fortified to protect its residents from Ulcinj pirate raids and Eastern invaders.
When the Ottoman Turks came here, the town was captured. They transformed it into their Adriatic stronghold. Turkish reign continued until the end of the XIX century. When Turkey lost its power over the Balkans, the Montenegrins stormed the town. During the bombardment, powder magazines were set ablaze. Buildings lost their roofs in the subsequent explosion. The city was ruined. When the Montenegrins defeated the Turks they decided that it would be easier to build a new town. They settled on the shore and the old city was left in ruins, much like Pompeii on the Adriatic.
The entire Old City is currently an open-air museum. It is also an archaeological site. The main sightseeing paths are lit. Pay your €2 per person to the cashier at the entrance.
Do visit the Old City of Bar. It is a truly unique place. Some people are indifferent but most are amazed by it. Though I fall into the first group, this historical monument, its architecture and the fortification are definitely worth a visit. There is something truly special about lost cities and this one is more than a thousand years old.
Ancient olive tree
There are more than 100,000 olive trees near Bar. It is the main source of income for locals. There was a saying that until a man plants 10 olive trees, he cannot get married. Olives are revered here. One of the oldest trees on earth is in Montenegro. It is an olive tree which is more than 2,000 years old. It is protected and valued by the state. The tree has fencing around it and you need to buy a ticket to be able to get near it.
Even today fine olive oil is produced here. You can buy it at any grocery store in Montenegro. Just look for glass bottles with Barsko zlato on them. Please do not ask the shop assistant about virgin oils, extraction etc. In Montenegro, they are still getting used to the idea of several rounds of extraction. It is virgin oil, produced from olives from hundred year old trees.
Shopping in Bar
Even in the early days of the tourism industry in Montenegro, the shopping in Bar was somehow considered legendary. It is a port town near Italy, the idea being that this meant there must be lots of cheap Italian-made goods there. Unfortunately, the port only cleared the way for a lot of cheap Chinese goods. Still, amongst the many Chinese-made fakes you can find a few genuine boutiques with quality goods at reasonable prices. However, it cannot be compared to Italy. Shopping here is not any better than in Budva, let alone Podgorica. I have marked the main shopping areas on the map.
Currently there are only two commercial ports in Montenegro: Zelenika (near Herceg Novi) and Bar. Many private yachts and boats are docked here. This is also the Montenegrin Navy’s base. All international sea journeys start from Bar. There are only two which are both to Italy: Bar-Bari-Bar and Bar-Ankona-Bar. The line is serviced by two Yugoslav-era ferries. Ticket offices are located near the port.
There is a single railway track in Montenegro. It starts from Serbian Belgrade, goes through Kolašin and Podgorica and ends in Bar. There is an old side track between Podgorica and Nikšić which is currently under reconstruction. The only place you can get to from Bar or Montenegro by rail is Serbia. The railway was built in 1960s. It goes through the most beautiful places in Montenegro and Serbia. The route can be easily traced on a map. The railway cars were in poor condition as many of them were built many years ago. In 2013 Montenegro Railways bought two newer, comfortable, French-built trains with four cars each. The Montenegro railway can finally start to reach its full potential.
Each day approximately four trains depart to Belgrade from Bar railway station. One of them has an automobile car. The ticket office sells tickets for any date (including the same day). In the evening, you drive your vehicle into the automobile car, leave to sleep in the sleeper cabin and in the morning, you will arrive in Belgrade. This means you can travel around Belgrade and Serbia in your own car or a rental car. The car cannot be higher than 150 cm. The automobile cars are old so are not suitable for ATVs or minivans.
Railway ticket prices in Bar:
– to Podgorica – €3.60
– to Belgrade – €31.80
– car ticket to Belgrade – €42.60
The train timetable and the ticket office phone number can be found on the Montenegro Railways website. You can book the tickets by phone without having to pay upfront.
Do note that in summer there is a train from Moscow to Budapest (#015) departing from the Kievskaya railway station in Moscow. It has a car that later switches to the local train between Belgrade and Bar. Such a journey from Russia to Montenegro takes nearly 65 hours and costs about €180 per person. It requires a Schengen visa, issued by the Hungarian embassy in Russia.