Ulcinj is an ancient castle and neighborhood. Today mostly inhabited by Albanians, it was built by the Illyrians and Ancient Greeks on a small peninsula at the right side of the Pristan Gulf. Today, oldest remains are the Cyclopean Wall. The castle has been restored many times since it was first built although major changes were made by the Byzantinians, Serbs, Venetians, and Ottomans. The modern city of Ulcinj was built outside of this castle.

Ulcinj's Old Town is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes on the Adriatic Sea. The castle, which some believe resembles a stranded ship, and the surrounding areas have flourished for about 25 centuries. Through the centuries, a variety of cultures and civilizations melded together. The Old Town represents a cultural and historical monument of invaluable significance due to its Illyrian walls, its citadel, the network of streets, the markets and town squares. It was built 2,500 years ago under economic, military, and cultural conditions quite different from those of today. The town’s walls were often destroyed in wars, and just as quickly rebuilt by residents to keep their fortresses and residences safe. In doing so, they also preserved the beauty of this ancient town.

Old town has picturesque narrow and curved streets typical of the Middle Ages, densely packed two- and three-story stone houses decorated with elements of the Renaissance and Baroque, and finally a series of valuable edifices from the Ottoman time. The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian period.

Balšić Tower

The Tower of the Balšić, located on the upper, highest level is a citadel-fortress with a tower that dominates the old town and the surrounding countryside. It is connected to the last representatives of the Balšić dynasty, who had made Ulcinj their residence by the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th centuries. Later the Ottomans built the third floor of the Balšić Tower as well as the spherical dome on the ground floor. This magnificent edifice has a view of the sea from three sides. It is considered to be one of the most representative edifices of medieval architecture in Montenegro. These days, it is used as a gallery or a location for organizing poets' nights.

The Palace and the Court

It is believed that the castle was the residence of the Venetian administrator for Ulcinj in the Venice Palace. As a result of its beauty and convenience, subsequent rulers also used this building as their court. Not far away from the Palace of Venice, on the southern level of the Old Town, is a beautiful edifice called Dvori Balšića. Both of these edifices are used now as luxury accommodation for guests and visitors coming to Ulcinj.

The Slave Market

In front of the Church-Mosque in the Old Town is a small square, once the Slave Square, surrounded by arches. Ulcinj became a significant slave market from the middle of the 17th century. Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia and were captured by Ulcinj pirates, who robbed people in the rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, captured them, and sold them as slaves. The Ulcinj pirates treated the slaves like convicts and did not use them for any kind of work. Instead they were kept as hostages while a ransom was demanded from their relatives, friends, or countrymen. They had to make it possible for the 'slaves' to send messages to their homes or relatives so that they would come to offer the ransom. From the middle of the 18th century demand changed and the courtiers began to look for slaves from Africa. They would later have been sold again or brought to Ulcinj, where they might soon became free citizens and work in agriculture or seafaring. A small community of their descendants still live in Ulcinj.

The Water Cults

There has always been a water cult in Ulcinj. It is believed that the image of Bindus, the Illyrian God of water and the sea, was carved into the walls of the Old Town. Many fountains were built not only for people's use, but also for the souls of the dead. Legend has it that it was better to build a fountain than a sacred building, thus, at one time, Ulcinj had more than thirty fountains, only half of which remain today. The fountain in the Old Town was built in 1749-50.

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User Reviews

Gipo (5 months ago)
Albanian " Ulqini i vjetër" is well preserved because it was late captured by the Ottomans. Before the ottomans it was part of Albania Veneta. The city was given to Montenegro by the pressure of Russia to the other European and the last ones to the turks and the turks pressed to the albanian. The Albanians didn't want to hand the city( together with Tivar( Bar)) but the Big Powers Navy threatened its destruction. All this happened around 1880, there a very nice history under it. I am happy our neighbors recognize the minority in this city.
Radu Nechita (6 months ago)
Very nice inhabited old fortress. Do you konw that, since XVIII to XIX century, former black slaves, elberated for bravery, where free citizens, with equal rights among population, due to otoman low?
gabi nicola (6 months ago)
Beautiful place!
Gligor Stojkov (2 years ago)
Great view over the Ulcinj and several excellent seafood restaurants plus boutique hotels. Stari grad needs additional refurbishing, but should not be missed (the restaurants as well).
HSY KIM (2 years ago)
It was lovely walk in this small town on the cliff. I liked small allies and every corner has its charm. I was in April, so not many restaurants were open, but still interesting place with nice view.
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