They say the only reason to come to Bar is to use the city as a base for visiting the fascinating ruins of Stari Bar (Old Bar) in the mountains behind. For me, the real reason is the celebrated Bar to Belgrade railway, one of Europe’s most spectacular train rides.
The modern town of Bar is dominated by Montenegro’s main port and a large industrial area. We drove from Krašići to Trivat to return the rented car from Sixt at the airport (+38232683199) and took taxi to Bar. From Budva, famous for sandy beaches, nightlife and the annual Sea Dance Music Festival on Buljarica Beach, the road runs south hugging the Adriatic. We drove the 40 km from Budva to Bar in 45 mts. without stops and checked in at our small rented cottage near the railway station.
We had lunch at a little cafe across the road from our cottage in the station square. We drank local beer and ate a chunky meat soup, pastries, grilled vegetables, salads and freshly baked bread, all prepared as we waited. They were delicious.
In the early Middle Ages, the town then known as Antivari, was under the Byzantine Empire. In late 11th century it became part of the medieval Serbian state. In 1443 Bar was annexed by Venice and remained under Italian rule until the Ottoman conquest in 1571. During the Montenegrin–Ottoman War between 1876 and 1878, much of Bar was destroyed including the vital aqueduct which supplied the town with fresh water from a spring in the mountains. Bar became a part of Principality of Montenegro in 1878.
We took a taxi (Euros 5, see Taxis in Montenegro link below) to the quaint old town 4 km in to the mountains and drove up a steep hill with cobbled streets and old houses, to its fortified entrance. A smiling old man sat on the steps leading to the arched doorway, selling local wine and fruit. A small museum just inside the entrance displayed ancient clay water pipes, amphorae and a wooden wine press. A short dark passage led to a large expanse of ruins with green arrows marking the way to the major points of interest.
The remains of the 13th-century St Nicholas’ Franciscan Monastery, converted to a mosque in 1595, has a few Byzantine-style frescoes. It was destroyed in a munitions explosion in 1912.
St George’s Cathedral, built on the foundations of the church of St. Theodore in the 12th century, was converted into a mosque in the 17th century by the Turks, but was ruined after an accidental explosion in 1881.
Other Ottoman constructions of Stari Bar include a Turkish bathhouse from the 17th century, the 1752 clock tower and the 17th-century aqueduct that carried water to the town from a spring 3 km away.
On our way back to Bar, we visited the old cemetery with Ottoman graves just opposite the entrance to Stari Bar.
(Stari Bar Citadel is open in summer from 08:00 – 20:00 and from 09:00 – 17:00 in winter. The entrance fee is €2 for adults and €1 for children.)
A taxi drove us back to Bar and we joined the crowds walking along the promenade. At a cafe almost at the end of the promenade, we drank beer and ate ice cream and watched the sunset before walking back to our cottage.
Before we turned in that evening, we walked across to the railway station and reserved our seats on the train to Belgrade next morning.
Bar is not a tourist hot spot. Stari Bar is an interesting site and the promenade is a pleasant place for an evening walk and a drink watching the sunset. Bar is the ideal place to start the long and spectacular train journey to Belgrade in Serbia.
- Eating In Montenegro (Lonely Planet)
- Why Montenegro Is A Wine Lover’s Paradise (The Independent)
- Taxis In Montenegro