The Old Town in Ulcinj is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes along the Adriatic Sea. In this enchanting dish resembling a stranded ship for 25 centuries life has been booming, civilizations have been exchanging leaving their vivid traces up to now.It is a unique opinion that the Old Town represents a cultural-historical monument of invaluable significance due to its Illyrian walls, its citadel, the street net, the markets and squares, some house blocks and some valuable architectural edifices, and especially due to its town landscape, silhouette and urban plaster.
It has been built for 2.5 millenniums and during different economical, military and cultural conditions, thus the old town has got the characteristic of an organic complex. It is an antique town with picturesque middle-aged, narrow and curving streets, densely joined two-and- three-floor stone houses decorated by elements of the Renaissance and Baroque, and finally there is a series of valuable edifices from the Ottoman time.The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian time. In the VI century the town got two gates: the lower (Eastern), which can be reached from the sea-side and the upper (Western), which can be reached from land.
The Tower of the Balshic
On the upper, highest level there is the citadel-fortress with the powerful tower, dominating not only the old town, but the whole surrounding. It is connected to the last representatives of the Balshic dynasty, a rich family from the Skadar area, who had made Ulcinj into their residence by the end of the XIV and beginning of the XV century. Later the Ottomans built the third floor of the Balshic Tower as well as the spherical dome in the ground floor. This magnificent edifice has a view to the sea from three sides. It is doubtless one of the most representative edifices of mediaeval architecture in Montenegro. Nowadays it is used as a gallery or a location for organizing poets’ nights.
The Palace and the Court
It is believed that in the “Venice Palace” there used to be the residence of the Venetian administrator for Ulcinj. Due to its beauty and the fact that it is very convenient all the following rulers used this building as their court too. Not far away from the Palace of Venice on the southern level of the Old Town, there is a beautiful edifice called “The Balshic Court”.Both these exclusive edifices are now used for comfortably accommodating guests and visitors coming to Ulcinj.
The Slave Market
In front of the church – mosque in the Old Town there is a small square, once the Slave Square. It is surrounded by arches, due to the fact that since the middle of the XVII century Ulcinj had become a significant slave market. These slaves used to be captured by Ulcinj pirates.Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia. The Ulcinj pirates mostly robbed rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, and then they would capture the owners and sell them as slaves. The people of Ulcinj kept the slaves as convicts and did not use them for any kind of work, but to get the ransom from their relatives, friends, or countrymen of the captured people.
Therefore they had to make it possible for the slaves to send messages to their homes or relatives, in order to inform the family or the municipality about their members to have been made into slaves in Ulcinj, so that they would come to offer the ransom.Since the middle of the XVIII century the tastes have changed, so that the courtiers began to look for slaves from Africa.
Later they would have been sold again or brought to Ulcinj, where they soon became free citizens and they would be involved in agriculture and seafaring.There is a small community of their descendants still living in Ulcinj.