Of Montenegro’s seemingly never-ending chain of picturesque coastal towns, Budva is by far the most popular. Filled to the brim with bars, restaurants and limestone houses, its Old Town is almost as pretty as the one in nearby Kotor, and there’s plenty of fun to be had on the beaches, as well as at the seafront bars which pop up in the summer.
Budva’s focal point is the Old Town – more of a place to stroll and sip coffee than sightsee – though most travellers are here for the beaches, and there are plenty to choose from.
If you’re not met at the bus station – you almost certainly will be in summer – your best option for private rooms is to head to Ata (t 033/452000, w www.adria.travel) in the Old Town who can make bookings for €15–35/room.
The main beach, Slovenska Plaža, curls a few pebbly kilometres east from the Old Town, but far nicer are the sandy Mogren beaches, west of the Old Town, which attract a more youthful crowd. Better still is the beach on uninhabited Sveti Nikola Island, which you’ll see jutting up offshore. In summer, regular water taxis will shuttle you across, though you’ll have to haggle – prices start at €5 for the boat.
You’ll be able to fill up on €1 slices of pizza around the Old Town. On summer evenings Budva can be quite wild, especially the open-air bars dotting the harbour road – pole-dancers, rakija and Russian tourists are a potent mix.
The highlight of the Old Town is the area around the Church of the Holy Trinity, itself home to frescoes that, while far from ancient, are rather beautiful. Looming over this is the fifteenth-century citadel, which offers splendid views of the Adriatic waves pummelling in. Still, you’re best advised to save your money and try to hunt down the entrances to the Old City wall, which boasts even better views. There are only two of these, meaning that almost no tourists ever get up there – one is just to the left when you enter through the Terra Ferita gate, and the other is an alley off Hong Kong restaurant. Also in the Old Town are the Town Museum, which houses Greek and Roman booty from the ruins being unearthed beneath the citadel, and a Museum of Modern Art.
A few kilometres south of Budva (most easily accessed by taxi), and visible from the road if you’re heading to or from Bar, is the incredibly picturesque island of Sveti Stefan, an old fishing village fishscaled with orange roofs. It’s now cordoned off as luxury accommodation, but never mind – all the tourist brochure shots are taken from the road anyway, and you can do the same for free.
The Watersports Centre on Slovenska Plaža, the main beach, is the place to head for all kinds of watery fun. Jetskis and parasailing are on offer for the adventurous (€60/hr), while kayaks and pedaloes are a calmer option (€3–5/hr).