National Museum of Montenegro
National Museum of Montenegro information
Lonely Planet review
The National Museum is actually a collection of four museums and two galleries housed in a clump of important buildings. A joint ticket will get you into all of them or you can buy individual tickets.
Two are housed in the former parliament (1910), Cetinje’s most imposing building. The fascinating History Museum is very well laid out, following a timeline from the Stone Age to 1955. There are few English signs but the enthusiastic staff will walk you around and give you an overview before leaving you to your own devices. Bullet holes are a theme of some of the museum’s most interesting relics: there are three in the back of the tunic that Prince Danilo was wearing when assassinated; Prince Nikola’s standard from the battle of Vučji Do has 396; while, in the communist section, there’s a big gaping one in the skull of a fallen comrade.
Upstairs you’ll find the equally excellent Montenegrin Art Gallery . There’s a small collection of icons, the most important being the precious 9th-century Our Lady of Philermos, traditionally believed to be painted by St Luke himself. It’s spectacularly presented in its own blue-lit ‘chapel’, but the Madonna’s darkened face is only just visible behind its spectacular golden casing mounted with diamonds, rubies and sapphires. Elsewhere in the gallery all of Montenegro’s great artists are represented, with the most famous (Milunović, Lubarda, Ðurić etc) having their own separate spaces. Expect a museum staff member to be hovering as you wander around.
In 2012, an offshoot of the national gallery opened in a striking building on Cetinje's main street. Dedicated to one of Montenegro's most important artists, who died in 2010, the edgy Miodrag Dado Ðurić Gallery is devoted to 20th-century and contemporary Montenegrin art. The same ticket covers both galleries.
Entry to the King Nikola Museum is by guided tour, which the staff will only give to a group, even if you’ve prepaid a ticket. Still, this 1871 palace of Nikola I, last sovereign of Montenegro, is worth the frustration. Although looted during WWII, enough plush furnishings, stern portraits and taxidermied animals remain to capture the spirit of the court.
Opposite the History Museum, the castle-like Njegoš Museum was the residence of Montenegro’s favourite son, prince-bishop and poet Petar II Petrović Njegoš. The palace was built and financed by the Russians in 1838 and housed the nation’s first billiard table, hence the museum’s alternative name, Biljarda. The bottom floor is devoted to military costumes, photos of soldiers with outlandish moustaches and exquisitely decorated weapons – these people clearly loved their guns. Upstairs are Njegoš’ personal effects, including his bishop’s cross and garments, documents, fabulous furniture and, of course, the billiard table.
When you leave the Njegoš Museum turn right and follow the walls to the glass pavilion housing a fascinating large-scale Relief Map of Montenegro created by the Austrians in 1917. If it’s closed you can peer through the windows.
Occupying the former Serbian Embassy, the Ethnographic Museum is the least interesting of the seven but if you’ve bought a joint ticket you may as well check it out. The collection of costumes and tools is well presented and has English notations.