Cultural heritage of Montenegro is unique, and represents the outcome of development under various influences, of both western and eastern civilization, throughout the history. The culture in Montenegro developed as a harmony of different traditions. Archive materials, library funds, literacy monuments, archeological artifacts and works of art, as well as variety of architectural styles, are evidence of this tradition. The largest number of preserved cultural and historical monuments is located in the Bay of Kotor. City of Kotor is part of the world cultural heritage under protection of UNESCO. The Old City of Kotor is characterized by a myriad of narrow streets, squares , piazzaetas, but what makes it particularly unique is the large number of gates that are stylishly built, palaces of wealthy Kotor families, as well as many staircases or skaladina. Certainly, the most specific feature of Kotor is a large number of churches and monasteries in a relatively small area. Kotor , at the time of its most intensive development, had 30 churches and six monasteries. The Cathedral of St. Tryphon, the symbol of Kotor, is of particular importance.
The rich architectural heritage represents the consequence of the fact that Kotor survived various government and armies throughout its history: Illyrians (III - II century BC) , the Romans (168 BC - 476 AD), the Byzantines (476 - 1185), Docleans, House of Nemanjići, Hungarian and Bosnian rulers, Venetians, Turks, pirates, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, French, Austrians . Along the Bay of Kotor there are series of religious buildings, at the high level of architectural art. In the area of Skadar Lake there is a complex of monasteries that were built during the reign of the dynasty Balšići on small islands - Beška , Moračnik, Starčevo, Kom, Vranjina and fortresses Žabljak Crnojevića and Lesendro. Starčevo, the monastery consisted of the church of the Assumption of the Virgin, monastery, ancillary facilities and wall with a gate and several terraces, was an important copying center. Many manuscripts were copied here, and the books were also decorated. In this monastery there is the tomb of the printer Božidar Vuković of Podgorica.
The monasteries in the interior of Montenegro, which are also important cultural and historical monuments witnessed the turbulent history of Montenegro, distinctive Byzantine influence in architecture and painting, as well as in the painting of the frescoes are recognizable. For example, the famous fresco from the Life of Saint Elias, in the Monastery Morača, is one of the most beautiful examples of fine art of the Balkans in XIII century. Monastery Piva is famous for its iconostasis of exquisite value, from 1638. It is characterized by its proportion, luxury engraving, with wonderfully painted icons. Treasury of the monastery is one of the richest in Montenegro, consisting valuable collections of old manuscripts and the first book printed in the Balkans (the only surviving Psalter from Obod printing) . With its beauty and its history, the isolated monastery perched high in the mountains of Ostrog, is one of the cultural and spiritual centers of Montenegro.
The arrival of the Turks in the Balkans was followed by Islamic culture, leaving its mark in Montenegro, mixing with the existing culture and local customs. Architecture is the most striking example here, in sacral objects, such as The Husein Paša Mosque in Pljevlja, as well as in the style of construction of residential buildings. The most important buildings of the Islamic culture are the mosques, the clock towers, madrasa, hamam, fountains, water bridges, caravansaries etc. The mosques are distinguished for their cultural and spiritual value, and were built mainly in established urban areas. The expansion of the town outside the city walls and resettlement of the population resulted in the cities acquiring an oriental style: narrow cobblestone alleys, courtyards, houses and verandas. The mosque and the clock tower complete picture of an oriental town. This is particular for Pljevlja, Podgorica, Bijelo Polje, Old Town of Bar and Ulcinj. The unique monuments of literacy, such as the Chronicle of the Priest of Duklja and the Gospel of Miroslav, date back to the second half of the XII century. Gorica’s Almanac, which contains correspondence between Jelena Balšić and her confessor Nikon of Jerusalem, is another important evidence of the development of literary tradition.
The development of literature can also be traced back to the XII century. The texts are first copied mostly in the monasteries. After the invention of printing, this tradition changed and, thanks to the ruler of Montenegro, Đurađ Crnojević, and master of printing, monk Makarije, the printing came to Montenegro. Đurađ bought a printing press in Venice, and printed the first book in the southeast of Europe, "Oktoih", in 1493, only thirty- eight years after the appearance of famous Johann Gutenberg’s Bible. From the typography of Crnojević's printing five works came out. Printing tradition in Montenegro was continued by Božidar Vuković of Podgorica, and his son, Vicenzi Vuković, whose work is related to Venice, which was a major cultural center in Europe at the time, thus having a strong influence on the culture of Montenegro between XVI and XVII century. Literary work of Petar I and Petar II Petrović Njegoš represent priceless cultural mark in Montenegro. Work of Petar II is recognized in the world literature and respected for its literary and spiritual achievements. During the period of the Petrović dynasty, the city of Cetinje became the spiritual and cultural center of Montenegro. Today, the old capital of Montenegro, Cetinje, is truly the museum-city.
Montenegrin culture experienced new impetus in the twentieth century, especially through the development of literature. Poets Risto Ratković and Radovan Zogović, prose writer Mihailo Lalić, are some of the greatest literary names of the time, both in Montenegro and in the region of former Yugoslavia. Painting has also developed in accordance with international art stage, avanguard in this field being the work of inestimable beauty - Petar Lubarda , Milo Milunović, Dado Đurić, Branka Filipović - Filo, Vojo Stanić are some of the great names. Faculty of Fine Arts , which operates within the University of Montenegro, was established in Cetinje in 1988. Until recently, the Faculty of Fine Arts worked at the premises of the former Russian Embassy. Theatrical life in Montenegro began with the construction of Zeta House theater in Cetinje in 1884. The first theater performance in this theater was played in 1888, and the first acting troupe was formed in 1910. On May 18th of this year, the "Balkan Empress" was played, a play written by King Nikola I Petrović and directed by Mašo Petrović. The main characters were played by professors of Cetinje Gymnasium. Further development of theater life took place under the patronage of the state. An interesting fact is that in Montenegro there were five professional theaters in the 1950s, in Cetinje, Podgorica, Nikšić, Kotor and Pljevlja. At that time, Montenegro was the first place in Europe in the number of theaters per capita. Faculty of Dramatic Arts, as a new unit of the University of Montenegro, was founded in 1994. It is located in the former building of the Turkish Embassy in Cetinje.
After the World War II, cinematic art was developing in Montenegro. Intense musical life in Montenegro also developed after the World War II, especially through the opening of music schools in several towns in Montenegro. Primary Music School in Cetinje (1946/47) soon became the middle school (as of 1958. located in Titograd) out which, after finishing the studies at the Music Academy in the country and abroad, a significant number of important musicians came. Music Academy in Cetinje is the oldest art school in Montenegro. It was founded in 1980, and until 1996. it was located in Podgorica. Today, it is located in the building of the former British Embassy in Cetinje.