Nowhere is Herceg Novi's intriguing history as one of the most prized possession on the Adriatic sea more apparent than in its fortresses. As competing empires of Europe and beyond all left their marks over the centuries. Nowadays the diverse remnants of the mighty fortifications range from overgrown ruins to modern festival venues, and all have a unique story to tell.
The largest of Herceg Novi's fortresses, Kanli Kula (or the Bloody Tower) takes its ominous name from the fact that it was long used as a prison by the Turks soon after they built it in the middle of the 16th century. Whilst awaiting their torture and inevitable execution (it was said that the doors of Kanli Kula only opened one way for inmates, as release or escape was impossible), many prisoners bided their time by carving into the walls of their cells, with various works of amateur art surviving to the present day.
Its dark history and gory name aside, since 1960 Kanli Kula has served as one of the most picturesque amphitheatres and performance venues anywhere on the Adriatic, with seating for some 1000 visitors, who get treated to panoramic views and a cool sea breeze during the summer months. After suffering significant damage during the earthquake of 1979, the fortress complex was restored in a more Venetian style, but should still be considered one of the top historical attractions in Montenegro. Located at the northern edge of the old town, it can be entered from main gate on the north side or the small southern gate if you're coming below.
Most first time visitors to the area (ourselves included) will be surprised to learn that the Spanish were one of the many empires that came to rule over Herceg Novi. However, their occupation was also the shortest lived, capturing the settlement from the Turks in a surprise attack in 1538, only to lose it back to the Ottomans some nine months later. During that time they laid the foundations for the fortress that bears their name to this day, although it was only finished by the Turks a decade later.
Nowadays, the fortress is partially in ruins and is slowly being reclaimed by nature, offering unique photo opportunities and lots of hidden corners to explore. Then of course there are those glorious views. While it's best to visit with a guided tour, if you come on your own look for the signposted road opposite Kanli Kula on the Adriatic Highway, it's about 10-minute walk to reach the top.