More than two thousand years of history live in Kotor, Montenegro. A walled medieval city framed by massive limestone mountains and the sparkling blue Adriatic bay is one of the most scenic destinations in Southern Europe. The ancient town of Kotor may have seen an increase in tourists coming by cruise ships, but it is not hard to see why. A picture-perfect Kotor with the old fortress that overlooks the town is a cultural wonderland. The Kotor`s old squares with modern cafes, the orange terracotta rooftops, pretty churches, and museums are what make getaway here such a joy. The simplicity, beauty, and Venetian influence are deeply rooted in the city`s history and tradition.
Despite being a popular tourist destination for cruise ships, Kotor hasn`t lost its authenticity. Stari Grad attracts plenty of day time visitors exploring the city until late afternoon. However, as the sun descends and after the cruise ships raise the anchors, Kotor remains peaceful again. The busy tourists are replaced with the locals hanging out in the restaurants and local bars.
Lose yourself in the maze of the cobblestone streets and experience the best of Kotor.
UNIQUE AND COOL THINGS TO DO IN KOTOR, MONTENEGRO
Here are the top attractions Kotor has to offer:
1. Hike up to the San Giovanni Fortress
If you only have time for one activity when you get to Kotor, we`d highly recommend that you visit San Giovanni`s Castle. Magnificent fortress located high above the town offers stunning panoramic views of the entire Kotor bay.
Perched high above Stari Grad, Saint John`s Fortress, also known as San Giovanni Castle, is one of Kotor`s absolute highlights. The fortress, which withstood multiple earthquakes, has seen many battles and modifications throughout the centuries. Many centuries later, it was included in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The San Giovanni fortress is a popular attraction and a totally unique thing to do in Kotor, Montenegro.
GOOD TO KNOW: St John`s Fortress of the Fort of St Ivan are alternative names to San Giovanni Castle you might hear
Get out there
Stairs to San Giovanni Fortress, above Kotor Old Town
Once you decide to visit the fort, be prepared to face hundreds of steps. Climbing the 1350 steps to the Castle of San Giovani starts with the serpentines from the east part of the town. The walk up to the medieval castle is a challenging hike, but the views from the top are definitely worth every step.
Although some visitors might find the trail along the old walls exhausting, it is essenial to note that there are a few resting places. The beautiful viewpoint over Kotor Bay offers plenty of scenic spots. Besides the castle, there are other significant sites along the way – the Church of Our Lady of Remedy and the ruins of military buildings. However, those pretty views come at a price; there is a charge of €8 to visit the fortress.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Those who would like to save some euros can access the fort for free. It is important to remember that several different routes can take you up to the castle. Only the trail located near “the River Gate entrance” requires you to purchase the ticket. Also, an early riser can access the ruins from the River Gate without a charge. The Saint Giovanni fortress is open 24 hours; just make sure to pass the entrance before 8 am.
Tips for exploring Kotor`s San Giovanni fortress:
- Allow yourself enough time: most visitors spend 2 and a half hours, although if you are in a rush, you can hike up and down in around 2 hours
- It is best to pick a dry day to visit, as the stairs become slippery when wet
- The trail up to the fortress is rocky and has uneven parts, hence wear comfortable shoes
- Bring plenty of water and some snacks
- On a sunny day, try to avoid hiking at lunchtime (not much shade if it is hot).
- For the best sunlight, walk early in the morning: otherwise, you will be shooting pictures into the sun
2. Wander the streets of Kotor Old Town
Begin your day in Kotor`s iconic old town. One of the best-preserved medieval cities in the Adriatic is crisscrossed with the narrow streets and squares. Stari Grad filled with a seemingly chaotic street plan, and the Venetian charm has a significant number of beautiful landmarks.
Wander through the alleys of the Stari Grad and discover churches, palaces, and museums hidden in the old town`s maze. The entire old walled Kotor is filled with charm and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A labyrinth of romantic old stone lanes with brightly colored doorways and laundry hanging overhead is wholly pedestrianized.
GOOD TO KNOW: The tourist office located outside the Sea Gate provides much appreciated free maps of Kotor.
3. Explore Kotor City Walls
No visit to Kotor in Montenegro would be complete without exploring Kotor’s old town city walls. Visiting Kotor`s city walls offers stunning views of the terracotta roofs and a labyrinth of narrow streets.
It is essential to remember that Kotor`s city walls are crumbling in many sections. Therefore, it is not possible to walk all the way around city walls like it is possible in nearby Dubrovnik. There is no admission fee to enter the old city walls. The entry points can be found near the River Gate and the Sea Gate.
Access to the old town of Kotor is granted via historic gates:
- SEA GATE on the western site
- SOUTH GATE – also known as Gurdic gate
- RIVER GATE – located in the quieter northern corner of town
4. Clock Tower in Kotor
It is no surprise that the Clock Tower is one of the first things visitors see as they enter Stari Grad through the sea gate. The impressive Clock Tower made of grey stone is located in the main square of Kotor. A tower with a coat of arms is another must-see sight in Kotor.
TIP: Check out a small pyramid-shaped stone that can be found in front of the Clock tower. The stone was used as “a pillar of shame” – the criminal was once tied here as punishment.
5. St Tryphon`s Cathedral
Whatever you do, don`t leave without visiting St Tryphon`s Cathedral. The twin-towered Roman Catholic Cathedral is one of the most impressive sights to visit in Kotor. Named after the patron and protector of the town, the St Tryphon Cathedral is one of two Roman Catholic churches in Montenegro. Rebuilt and reconstructed after several earthquakes, the cathedral remains a symbol of Kotors` old town.
Regardless of how long you are staying in Kotor, a visit to St Tryphon`s Cathedral is a must. The Cathedral built in Roman style with precious frescoes houses the relics of St. Tryphon, Kotor`s patron saint, and protector. The gilded altar is also one of the most valuable treasures of Kotor.
GOOD TO KNOW:
There is an entrance fee of €2 to visit St Tryphon`s Cathedral. If visiting during the summer months, the visitors must dress respectfully.
If you love history, don`t forget to visit the Sacral Art Museum. The museum located on the second floor is filled with valuable relics, including painting, weapons, and other artifacts.
TIP: Make sure you visit the upstairs balcony; the balcony offers stunning views of the city.
6. Visit Saint Nicholas`s Church
Another must-see church in Kotor is Saint Nicholas`s Church. The ornate Orthodox Church with a mystical atmosphere is the second most impressive religious building in Kotor. Located in the northern part of Stari Grad, the Church of St Nicholas is an easily recognizable church with the sizeable Serbian flag.
A pseudo-Byzantine church with two bell towers is the most significant Serbian Orthodox Church in Kotor. The beautifully decorated religious structure with black domes, golden crosses, and large frescoes is a feast for the eyes. There is no admission charge to see the church of St Nicolas, although it is tradition to purchase and light a candle.
7. Saint Luke`s Church
From there, you can make your way to the nearby Saint Luke`s church, which can be found on the same square. The smaller Saint Luke`s Church with a characteristic round top is easily missed by many visitors.
Saint Luke`s church was built as the Catholic Church, although the Catholic and Orthodox did take turns to hold services for both faiths. Nowadays, one of the smallest churches in Kotor is an Orthodox religious building.
8. Cats Museum in Kotor Montenegro
If you are a cat lover, stop in one of the most popular attractions in Kotor – the Cats Museum. As the name suggests, the museum is devoted to the cats that have become the unofficial symbol of Kotor. The presence of cats lounging on ancient walls in the sun is one thing all visitors notice when exploring Kotor. The charming museum located by the Church of Saint Mary Collegiata houses a collection of paintings and souvenirs of cats. The small admission fee goes towards helping the Kotor`s famous pets.
9. Maritime Museum of Kotor Montenegro
If you would like to be informed more about rich Kotor history, consider visiting the Maritime Museum. A three-story museum can be found in one of the beautiful palaces in the Old Town. The museum houses a collection of maritime pieces as well as weapons, furniture, and traditional dress.
10. Sample some Montenegrin Cuisine
Once you have explored the streets of Kotor, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes where you can grab a bite. No trip to Kotor would be complete without tasting some Montenegrin cuisine. Try out the traditional Montenegrin breakfast or other specialties. Make sure to visit “City Restaurant” with delicious food within the walls of Kotor`s Old Town.
If you prefer less touristy restaurants, don`t miss “Lav Gastro Bar”. The restaurant with the outside sitting area is located just a short walk from the port and the old town. With a wide range of delicious meals for a few euros, Lav Gastro Bar with a chilled vibe is a hidden gem in Kotor.
11. The Ladder of Kotor
For other views of the picturesque Bay of Kotor, hike up (or down) the Ladder of Kotor. A spectacular hiking trail follows the route connecting Kotor with Montenegro`s old Royal capital –Cetinje.
The Ladder of Kotor is among the most impressive hiking trails and one of the best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro. The hiking trail starts at the end of the Old town (at the start of the Skurda River). The unique trek offers stunning views of Montenegro`s Bay of Kotor and the surrounding peaks. However, it is worth mentioning that an epic hiking trail with more than 70 switchbacks can be strenuous at times.
Once you reach the end of the hike, you can catch a bus or taxi back to Kotor. Otherwise, hike back down to Kotor. The return hike should take you about 5 hours.
To beat the midday heat, hike the Ladder of Kotor in the morning. Hiking in the mornings allows you to take better pictures (you won`t be shooting directly into the sun). Stop for refreshment at the restaurant Nevjesta Jadrana before you head back to the town. The restaurant is located near the end of the trail.
12. Waterfront promenade in Kotor, Montenegro
If hiking isn`t really for you, take a relaxing stroll along the waterfront promenade. A pedestrian promenade overlooking docked boats in the harbor and massive cruise ships and is a must in Kotor.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The waterfront promenade can get very busy when cruise ships are in town. Instead, walk along the boardwalk in the evening after all cruise ships have gone from Kotor. The bay is gorgeous at sunset and in the evening.
13. Kotor Beaches
Visiting Kotor during the summer months? Many of the tourists would like to spend some time working on their tan during their getaway in Kotor. However, it`s vital to remember that Kotor hasn`t got any long sandy beaches. Kotor`s beaches are mostly pebbles, although some boats with a lovely atmosphere can be found here. The Kotor`s main pebble beach with sun loungers is located about 5 minutes from Stari Grad.
14. Shop at the Kotor Market
To sample some authentic Montenegrin products, head to the Kotor market just outside the Kotor city walls. Every morning (except on Saturday), the visitors can buy the local products, such as a variety of home-made Rakija, fresh honey, olives, or dried figs. The best time to visit the farmers market is early in the morning.
15. The Bay of Kotor Montenegro
Those with extra time to spare should not miss exploring the Bay of Kotor. Cruising along the bay with steep mountains with a narrow shoreline and shimmering waters is definitely a highlight when visiting Kotor in Montenegro.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The serene bay with picturesque medieval villages can be easily accessed by car, bus, or ferry from Kotor.
TIP: Use the local “Blue Line” bus service to explore the Bay of Kotor. A €1.20 bus ride from Kotor to Perast takes about 20 minutes. The Blue line bus leaves from Kotor every 30 minutes (except on Sundays when it is every 2 hours). Learn more information about the bus schedule to Perast at the tourist information center.
Alternatively, take the ferry from Kotor to the nearby village of Perast and enjoy stunning views of the bay. The ferry ride from Kotor to Perast takes about an hour.
Another option is a guided excursion where you can visit the famous Blue Cave, the island of Mamula (Montenegro`s version of Alcatraz).
For the best views of the Bay of Kotor, visit the nearby village of Perast. A small Bayfront village with a compelling naval history is one of the most beautiful places in Montenegro. The tiny town with the narrow streets, white-stone clock tower, and the Lovcen Mountains in the background was ruled by the Venetians for a few centuries.
Surprisingly, a Baroque village with impressive 16 churches and numerous palaces is a less touristy location than Kotor. Despite its close proximity to Kotor, hordes of day-trippers don`t spoil peaceful Perast. With no cars in the center and no cruise ships dropping anchors in the nearby waters, visitors can enjoy the relaxing ambiance in one of the seaside restaurants.
If you are looking for a relaxing escape from Kotor, visiting sleepy Perast is an excellent option.
17. Our Lady of the Rocks
After exploring the streets of Perast, take a local boat across the bay to the nearby island. A quick boat ride to Our Lady of the Rock will bring you an artificial island with a photogenic church. A Catholic church with an impressive marble altar was built to honor the Virgin Mary. A blue-domed church with an impressive art collection can be visited by boat just for €5 a person. Visiting Our Lady of the Rocks is one of the best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Two small islands are off Perast`s shores. However, only Our Lady of the Rocks (the Island Gospa od Skrpjela) can be visited by a boat. The smaller Sveti Đorđe Island (Saint George Island) is a home a Benedictine monastery, and therefore, it cannot be visited.
18. See Kotor at night
Once you have explored the Kotor`s streets during the day, make sure you see the town in the evening. At night, Kotor has a different atmosphere – it is very peaceful. As the temperature drops and the day-trippers leave the city, Kotor becomes quiet again.
The old town walls with San Giovanni castle lit up in the background, and the lights twinkling around the bay add to a mystical feeling – make sure you don`t miss that.
Don`t forget to explore the quiet streets of Stari Grad at night: the massive restaurant umbrellas and stalls that dominate the alleys come down, and you can finally observe Kotor`s stunning architecture. Now you will understand why this fairy tale town is a worthy winner and a must-see destination for many of us.
Getting to Kotor Montenegro
Fly directly to Podgorica (the Montenegro`s capital), which is located about an hour and a half from Kotor. Alternatively, fly to Tivat Airport, which is situated only about 15 minutes from Kotor, the flights may not be as affordable though. Regardless of which airport in Montenegro you choose to fly to, it must be noted that direct flights to Montenegro are always more expensive than flying to the neighboring countries.
Another option is flying to Dubrovnik in Croatia. With more affordable flights and the Adriatic Highway along the coast, Kotor can be reached in about 2 hours. Dubrovnik has an excellent bus service with Kotor; hence consider visiting Kotor after exploring the streets of Dubrovnik.
Although Montenegro is not part of the European Union, the official currency in the country is euro.
GOOD TO KNOW:
When traveling from Dubrovnik to Kotor by bus, allow yourself enough time due to the long wait at the border between the countries.
Kotor`s bus station can be found 5 minutes away from the town center. With several buses connecting Kotor with other Montenegrin cities and the neighboring countries, Kotor is well connected and easy to access.
Where to stay in Kotor Montenegro
Although Kotor is relatively small, there are many various types of affordable accommodations to choose from. If you decide to stay a few nights in Kotor and you don`t mind staying through Airbnb, consider renting out a Gracija`s apartment. Kotor has plenty of well-equipped flats, but this one comes with chic décor.
A fully refurbished spotlessly clean apartment makes an excellent base for exploring the romantic streets of Kotor. Located just behind the city walls in the quieter part of Kotor, the apartment is close to restaurants and shops.
With the fully equipped kitchen and minimalistic design, you are always only a few steps away from adventures in Kotor. Although the flat does not come with a parking space, Gracija will give you tips where to park locally without a charge. What`s more, he can recommend a friend who runs a private car rental business, and you can rent a nice car for a perfect price.
And the best of all? You would never believe this luxurios stay has some of the most affordable rates in Kotor. Besides, Gracija is a super host who provides a great stay with exceptional customer service as well or better than 5* hotels.
DISCLAIMER: We were not hosted by Gracija, all opinions are our own. We came across his apartment while searching for accommodation in Kotor through Airbnb. #noad
Have you been to Kotor in Montenegro? What was your favorite thing to do there? Let us know in the comments below 🙂
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