Visiting Ulcinj, Montenegro: What to Expect

Planning on visiting Ulcinj, Montenegro? Here’s what to expect.

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Mala Plaza (“Little Beach”) in Ulcinj. The triangular statue on the hillside is the Ulcinj War Memorial, dedicated to the Yugoslav Air Force.

A majority residents of Ulcinj consider themselves ethnically Albanian, and much of the signage in town uses both Montenegrin and Albanian. (When you enter the city limits, for example, you’ll see signs that say both Ulcinj and Ulqin, the Albanian spelling).

We came from Dürres, on Albania’s northern coast, and though the trip was only about 150 kilometers, we weren’t able to find a bus or coach servicing that route. Our hotel connected us with a private driver willing to make the trip for 130 euros. It took about three hours, including a bathroom stop in Lezhë. The roads turn to one-lane highways north of there. At the border we did show our passports, but we did not have to fill out any forms, and we did not receive any stamps.

The little city of Ulcinj packs a lot to see in a very small area, concentrated mostly around the Mala Plaza and the Old Town. We stayed at the Hotel Mala Plaza, which was beautifully situated, clean, and had a decent breakfast; however, I do not recommend it for other reasons mainly to do with noise and disorganization.

Much of the activity in Ulcinj happens on the Korzo, the strip of bars and restaurants on the Mala Plaza. This area teems with people–families, groups of friends, couples–at night once the sun goes down. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, getting a drink here after dinner is well worth the people watching. Since this is a tourist destination, you can expect to be able to eat and drink at any time of day, with restaurants and bars populated throughout the afternoon. Pizza seemed to be the most common cuisine available.

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The parking lot next to the Mala Plaza and the Old Town in Ulcinj.

The main attraction in Ulcinj is the Old Town, including the castle (Kalaja) which dates back to Illyrian times over two millenia ago. Visitors interested in the historical significance of various elements of the castle will appreciate that the ruins are well-maintained, but anyone who just likes beautiful views will also have a great time here. The castle isn’t overly developed (in contrast to Kotor and Budva’s old towns, which are mainly full of tourist restaurants and shops), and the 2 bars and 1 restaurant we went to over the course of the evening felt both understated and special.

We went for a glass of wine at Antigona on the far western edge of Ulcinj (eight euros each, followed by more wine at Sunset Beach (around 20 euros), then dinner at Taphana (Mediterranean salad, a large bowl of salty olives, grilled fish, fries and beer for about 50 euros). All of these are highly recommended, particularly Sunset Beach for it’s incredibly unique setting and good wine list.

We only spent 24 hours visiting Ulcinj, and that felt like plenty of time. Another day or two there could have included visits to larger nearby beaches (a roundup from Discover Montenegro might help you plan your itinerary).

Departing Ulcinj was easier than getting there. Montenegro has a much better bus system than Albania does. From hotels near the Mala Plaza it is about a 30 minute walk to Ulcinj’s bus station.

Our next destination was Budva. We looked up bus times on busticket4.me and bought tickets at the station. There is a large Franca grocery store near the bus station, and there is also a cafe and a convenience store on site. There are plenty of places to sit and a clean bathroom that costs .50 euro cents to use.

Ulcinj was one of the highlights of our visit to the Balkans–don’t miss it.

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