Podgorica is located in central Montenegro. The area is crossed with rivers and the city itself is only 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north of Lake Skadar. The Morača and Ribnica rivers flow through the city, while the Zeta, Cijevna, Sitnica and Mareza flow nearby. Morača is the largest river in the city, being 70 m or 230 ft wide near downtown, and having carved a 20 m or 66 ft deep canyon for the length of its course through the city.Except for the Morača and Zeta, other rivers have an appearance of small creeks. The richness in bodies of water is a major feature of the city.
In contrast to most of Montenegro, Podgorica lies in a mainly flat area at the northern end of the Zeta plain, at an elevation of 40 m (130 ft). The only exceptions are hills which overlook the city. The most significant is 130.3 m (427 ft) high Gorica Hill, city's namesake, which rises above the city centre. The other hills include Malo brdo (“little hill”, 205.4 m or 674 ft), Velje brdo (“big hill”, 283 m or 928 ft), Ljubović (101 m or 331 ft) and Dajbapska gora (172 m or 564 ft). For the most part, these are too steep for development and thus limit the city's expansion, especially to the north. However, urbanization has been encroaching on the lower slopes of the hills since the 1990s. Podgorica city proper has an area of 108 square kilometres (42 sq mi), while actual urbanized area is much smaller.
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 some examples of Ottoman architecture. The oldest parts of the city, Stara Varoš (Old town) and Drač is 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 the city center 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.
The main contemporary traffic arteries were laid out during this period, which extended the orthogonal street layout of the 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.
In an effort to create a recognizable and modern state capital, city officials are routing significant investments in the city's public spaces. Thus, the city has gained entirely new squares and some monuments. New landmarks include the Hristovog Vaskrsenja orthodox temple and the Millennium Bridge, the main feature of the Podgorica skyline.