A census in 2011 put the city's population at 150,977. The Podgorica municipality contains 10.4% of Montenegro's territory and 29.9% of its population. It is the administrative centre of Montenegro and its economic, cultural and educational focus.
The name Podgorica means "under the Gorica" in Montenegrin language. Gorica (meaning "little hill" or hillock) is the name of the cypress-covered hill that overlooks the city centre.
Podgorica's mixture of architectural styles reflects the turbulent history of the city and country: as one régime replaced another, the corresponding style was introduced.
As part of the Ottoman Empire until 1878, Podgorica has many examples of Turkish architecture. The oldest parts of the city, Stara Varoš (Old town) and Drač are typical of this, with two mosques, a Turkish clock tower and narrow, winding streets.
When the city was incorporated to Montenegro, the urban core shifted to the other bank of the Ribnica River, where the town developed in a more European style: wider streets with an orthogonal layout. This part of the city is today traditionally regarded as city centre, and is called Nova Varoš (New town)
During World War II, Podgorica was almost razed to the ground, being bombed over 70 times. After liberation, rebuilding began as in other cities of the communist-ruled SFRY. Mass residential blocks were erected, with basic design typical of Eastern bloc countries.
All that part of the city on the right bank of the Morača River was built this way. Even the empty spaces in the city centre were filled with near-brutalist structures, resulting in an unfortunate fusion of old and new. The residential and business blocks of the SFRY era provided ample housing but have been much criticized for their uninventive and grey appearance.
The main contemporary traffic arteries were laid out during this period, which extended the orthogonal street layout of city center, to the south and west. Residential and infrastructural developments in the SFRY era have mostly shaped the layout of today's Podgorica, and accommodated the unprecedented population growth that followed World War II.
However, in area surrounding residential blocks, the city expanded in a form of often chaotic urban sprawl, with densely built private lowrise dwellings leaving little space for streets and sidewalks. The trend of sprawling informal settlements was at peak during the 1990s.
Efforts have been made since to improve the infrastructure of those settlements, but many problems remain, especially in large lowrise neighbourhoods in north and northeast Podgorica.
A major advance in Podgorica architecture began in the late 1990s and, since then, the face of the city has changed rapidly. Residential and business construction are proceeding rapidly, incorporating contemporary glass-and-steel architectural trends.
In an effort to create a recognizable and modern state capital, city officials are routing significant investments in city's public spaces.
Thus, the city has gained entirely new squares, parks and monuments. New landmarks include the Hristovog Vaskrsenja orthodox temple and the Millennium Bridge, the main feature of the Podgorica skyline. Podgorica today is transforming rapidly from a featureless town to a modern European capital.
Entertainment and performing arts
Podgorica is home to many Montenegrin cultural institutions and events. It hosts the Montenegrin National Theatre and a number of museums and galleries.
The Montenegrin National Theatre is the most significant theatre not only in Podgorica but in all of Montenegro. Podgorica is also host to the City Theatre (Gradsko pozorište), which includes the Children's Theatre and the Puppet Theatre.
Although not as rich in museums and galleries as the historic royal capital Cetinje, there are several noteworthy museums:
The Podgorica City Museum (Muzej grada Podgorice) preserves Podgorica's rich heritage. Founded in 1950, it has four categories: archaeological, ethnographic, historical and cultural-historical.It houses artefacts which date back to the Roman and Illyrian eras.
The Archaeological Research Centre (Centar za arheološka istraživanja) was founded in 1961. Its mission is to gather, classify, restore and display archaeological sites.
The Museum of Marko Miljanov (Muzej Marka Miljanova) in Medun shows life in 19th century Montenegro. It is the most significant Montenegrin memorial museum of its kind.
The Natural History Museum (Prirodnjački muzej) displays specimens of Montenegrin flora and fauna. This museum has no exhibition space of its own, despite many proposals and initiatives to build one.
There is a notable art gallery in the Dvorac Petrovića (Petrović's Castle) complex in Podgorica's largest public park. King Nicholas's castle, Perjanički dom (House of the Honour Guard), castle chapel and surrounding buildings were converted to an art gallery in 1984.
Since 1995, it has been part of the Modern Arts Centre (Centar savremenih umjetnosti) and houses approximately 1,500 works of art.
The historic Cinema Culture (Kino kultura), which was founded in 1949, was closed in November 2008 due to continuous financial losses it generated.
It was the only cinema in the city for 6 decades. The building of the former cinema will be converted to host the Podgorica City Theatre. Shortly after its closure, a Ster-Kinekor (later acquired by Cineplexx) 6-screen multiplex cinema opened at Delta City shopping mall.
A significant cultural institution of over fifty years' standing is the Cultural-informational centre Budo Tomović (KIC Budo Tomović).
It is a public institution which organises various artistic events, including Podgorica's Cultural Summer (Podgoričko Kulturno Ljeto), FIAT – International Alternative Theatre Festival (Festival Internacionalnog Aletarnativnog Teatra), DEUS – December Arts Scene (Decembarska Umjetnička Scena).
'KIC budo Tomović was a host for such names as Tony Parsons or Brooklyn Funk Essentials during their visits to Podgorica.