The last time I visited the old town of Stari Bar was about five years ago. Although it was already clear that reconstruction works had started, most buildings still lied in ruins and it took a lot of imagination to understand why this town had been so important in the past.
But things have changed in the meantime. Stari Bar is on its way to become a real tourist attraction. Reconstruction is going on and the place looks clean and well-maintained. I was really surprised to see the beautiful Lapidarium, restored mosaics and reconstructed churches and palaces!
How to get there?
Stari Bar (translated: Old Bar) is situated at the foot of Mount Rumija, about 4 km from the center of Bar. It can easily be reached from Bar (follow the signposts to Ulcinj). Park your car on the big parking lot (€ 2.00 for a whole day) at the foot of the steep cobbled street leading to the fortress and wander uphill to the gate: you will pass picturesque pubs with open-air terraces, traditional restaurants and attractive souvenir shops.
Stari Bar was founded as a Roman settlement in the 6th century. Over the centuries it has been conquered by the Venetians and later by the Ottomans. The town was finally reclaimed by the Montenegrins in 1877 after a long siege, as the aqueduct was destroyed by the local inhabitants and the water supply was cut off. A heavy explosion in the beginning of the 20th century devastated a big part of the old town and what remained was destroyed by a major earthquake in 1979. Although Stari Bar had been an important fortified settlement in this part of Montenegro for 1000 years, it was left to the ravages of time. Fortunately, the remains of this city are now being reconstructed.
Stari Bar today
Today, Stari Bar has around 2,000 inhabitants. During the last few years, many houses, shops and restaurants have appeared around the fortification. There are several vegetarian and traditional restaurants. Most of them are specialized in slow food. An insider tip if you want to eat a snack: order the delicious “priganice” with cheese and/or honey at the popular restaurant “Kaldrma”!
The market of Stari Bar is quite attractive, also for tourists. This is the place where local women, often dressed in national costumes, sell their olives, olive oil, mandarins and lemons, cheese, prosciutto and other home-made products under shady trees.
Visiting the fortress of Stari Bar is a fascinating historical adventure (entrance fee € 2.00). We needed an hour or two to explore the complete site, which once consisted of about 240 stone buildings. It was great that we were not obliged to follow the (hardly visible) arrows, we could just walk around. We climbed the city walls and admired the reconstructed aqueduct, we visited several well-restored medieval churches, a beautiful Lapidarium and a 17th-century Turkish hammam. The clock tower, the landmark of Stari Bar, was also nicely restored. Ruins of old stone houses, wells, arches and passages were surrounded by flowering trees and other green vegetation. How nice to see such a combination of nature and culture!
The fortified settlement is surrounded by magnificent mountains. City walls and panorama terraces also offer a magnificent view of the port city of Bar, the surrounding plain with old olive groves, and far away the shimmering Adriatic Sea.
A last tip: the old olive tree
In the vicinity of Stari Bar, in the village of Mirovica, there is an olive tree that is said to be more than 2,000 years old. It was protected by the state in 1963, as it is believed to be the oldest tree in Europe (entrance fee € 1.00).
Finally, I must say that I had very positive feelings about our visit of Stari Bar. The fortified town is being reconstructed in a responsible way, respecting history, nature and culture. The cobbled street along the walls is attractive for tourists and offers several possibilities for a good lunch or a cup of coffee, and you can also buy souvenirs.
Although the reconstruction is still going on, I am sure that Stari Bar is on its way to become an outstanding tourist attraction. It is a certainly a must-see for those who spend their holidays on the Montenegrin Coast!