Kotor, the stunning town in Montenegro, is, hands down, one of the most beautiful places you will find not only in the Balkans but in Europe. The charming old town, stunning location, and plenty of things to do in Kotor make it a great destination not only in the summertime.
I knew I will fall in love with Kotor even before visiting the place. All the Kotor pictures I’ve seen looked just too beautiful to be real yet that’s exactly how the place looks – mindblowing.
Kotor didn’t disappoint me. Quite contrary – I enjoyed the place so much that it quickly became one of my favorite destinations in the Balkans that I often return to (by now I’ve been there five or more times, I really lost count). It’s always a must in my Montenegro itinerary.
I hope this guide to Kotor with all the best Kotor attractions and travel tips will help you plan your perfect Kotor trip. I’m sure you will love the place as much as I did!
Table of contents
- 1 Best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
- 1.1 Wander around the Old Town
- 1.2 See all the beautiful churches
- 1.3 Admire beautiful palaces
- 1.4 Climb to the fortress
- 1.5 Walk along the Kotor Bay to Dobrota
- 1.6 Visit Perast
- 1.7 Go for day trips
- 1.8 Shop at the farmer’s market
- 1.9 Go on a cruise on the Kotor Bay
- 1.10 See impressive city walls
- 1.11 Try delicious local food
- 1.12 Relax at the beach
- 1.13 Visit Cat Museum
- 1.14 Go to the other side of Kotor Bay
- 1.15 Hike in the mountains
- 2 Kotor travel tips
- 3 Further reading
- 4 Travel Resources
Best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
No matter if you spend only one day in Kotor or you will be there for a longer time, you can easily enjoy these great things to do in Kotor. The central part of the town is very compact and you can see everything in a few hours.
But don’t limit yourself to Kotor Old Town only, use the rest of the time to see the surrounding area or relax on the Kotor beach. There are really more things to see in Kotor than it seems at first!
Below are the best Kotor attractions, in no particular order.
Wander around the Old Town
Kotor Old Town is the nicest part of the city and even if it’s rather small I guarantee you will spend there a big part of your time, falling in love with the place over and over again. The maze of narrow and winding lanes are perfect for wandering around and exploring the area aimlessly is the best way to enjoy the place. Leave the map behind so it won’t distract you and pay attention to the details. You might be surprised at how many charming corners or secret passages you might find.
Since Kotor was first mentioned in the 3rd century BC there is also a variety of architectural styles to admire: Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. This is the historic, cultural and religious center of Kotor and you will find many attractions all over it (more about them later).
After you got to know the Old Town on your own I recommend hiring a guide or going for the tour. You will be surprised how much history and context is in that place, how many details you most likely have missed. For me seeing the Kotor Old Town with a guide was such a great experience, I was overwhelmed with all the interesting facts and had so many questions!
The Old Town in Kotor is a very popular place, especially when the cruise ships arrive in the town (and there are days when there are a few of them at once). In the summer months, it’s better to avoid this part of Kotor between approximately 10 am and 4 pm – the place will be packed with people, and finding a free table at the restaurant might be impossible.
Visit the Old Town once the cruise tourists are gone (or outside of the season) and you will see how truly magical this place is!
And once you are tired of Kotor sightseeing head to Letrika bar – probably the best of the hidden places of Kotor Old Town, even though it is located a few steps away from one of the main squares. This is the main hangout spot in Kotor where during the day you can stop for a cup of coffee or lemonade and in the evening enjoy live music or party.
See all the beautiful churches
One of the most important landmarks of the Old Town are all the churches. There are many of them (especially considering how small the area is) and each of them is interesting.
The most impressive one is St. Tryphon Cathedral – a beautiful mix of Romanic, Byzantium, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The cathedral was built in 1166 but was destroyed by earthquakes a few times hence the mix of styles. You might notice that one of the bell towers is slightly lower than the other – after the 1667 earthquake, there were not enough funds to rebuild both towers.
This is the most important church in Kotor, as St. Tryphon Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Bishopric of Kotor. You will also find there relics of the city’s patron saint and protector – St. Tryphon.
Another important church is St. Nichola’s Church from the beginning of the 20th century. It is the main Orthodox church in Kotor and is different than the rest of the sacral buildings in the town but still really beautiful inside and worth visiting.
Other churches worth seeing are St. Luck’s Church, St. Anne’s Church or St. Michael’s Church. You will find all of them in Kotor Old Town.
Admire beautiful palaces
One of my favorite things to do in Kotor was finding all the beautiful palaces in the Old Town and learning more about their history. I think Kotor palaces don’t get as much attention as they should yet they complete the Old Town so nicely.
During the times of the biggest prosperity, between the 15th and 18th centuries, Kotor was inhabited by many noble families. The palaces they owned were built usually in Baroque or Romanesque style and are named after the families they used to belong to.
The most impressive one is the Pima Palace from the 17th century, a beautiful example of how those two architectural styles can work together. Many of the palaces don’t look pretty normal among the buildings in the Old Town but when you look closer you will notice all the details that show the real value of the place.
If you are wondering how life in such a noble palace used to look like you can stay in one of them overnight to get the taste of the old times.
I’ve stayed twice at Palazzo Drusko – a 600 years old building that used to belong to one of the great families of Montenegro. I can definitely recommend it. Staying overnight inside the Old Town is a great experience but staying in one of the old palaces makes it even better.
Climb to the fortress
Kotor fortification (or the view from them, to be exact) is on top of my Balkan highlights list. This was the reason why I visited Kotor for the first time – I saw the picture online and I knew I just have to see this stunning landscape in real life.
Now, all these trips to Kotor later, it still take my breath away (and that’s not because of all the stairs up). In fact, this is one of the most mind-blowing places I’ve ever seen!
St. John’s Fortress was built between the 9th and 15th century, to protect the town from the invaders. To get to St. John’s castle on top of the fortification you need to walk up 1350 stairs, some of them are a bit shabby so be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
On the way to the top, you will pass the Church of Our Lady of Remedy from the 16th century.
The round trip should take around 2 hours. Have plenty of water with you as all that climbing can be tiring and a bit challenging, especially in the summertime.
You don’t need to go all the way to the top to admire the incredible views (but of course the higher you get, the better panorama you will see). More or less halfway there is a small square from where you can already enjoy the beautiful landscape of Kotor Bay and surrounding mountains. When I’m too lazy and don’t have much time this is where I end my climbing as this view is already amazing enough for me.
There are two entrances to the fortifications, both located in the Old Town. Follow the signs to find them.
The entrance is 8€ but if you go early enough or in the afternoon it should be free. When I visited the Kotor fortress in March or December it was free of charge too.
In the summertime, I recommend going up the fortifications either in the morning or in the late afternoon – not only you will avoid the heat but also crowds from the cruise ships that slow down the hike.
Walk along the Kotor Bay to Dobrota
If you are tired of the crowds in the Old Town go for a walk along the Kotor Bay towards Dobrota. The town is located some 5 km away from Kotor and it makes a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle in the Old Town.
The old road goes directly next to the water and along the way you can enjoy a fresh sea breeze which is very much welcome especially on the hot days. The views are pretty amazing too and changing every few minutes, showing how truly amazing this area is. Be sure to look back every few minutes too to see Kotor behind.
Along the road you will also find a few of the old palaces, sadly some of them are in the ruins now.
You can walk as far as you like and then either walk back and go to the main road to catch the Blue Line bus to Kotor – they don’t really have the schedule so you might need to wait up to half an hour for it.
One of the biggest attractions of Kotor Bay, beside Kotor itself, is Perast – a small town located a short drive away from Kotor. Despite its size, it offers a variety of attractions – you can visit museums and churches, see even more beautiful palaces from the 17th and 18th century or wander around the place and enjoy stunning views of the Kotor Bay.
In front of the town, you can see two small islands in the middle of the Kotor Bay – visiting one of them, with Our Lady of the Rocks church, is actually the main reason why most of the travelers visit Perast.
This is the only artificial island on the Adriatic Sea, made in the place where two local fishermen found on the rocks the painting of St. Mary. The church was built there in the first half of the 17th century and is decorated with baroque paintings and silver plates from the ships – a gift after the safe return back home. There is also a small museum you can visit.
But the biggest highlight of the trip to the island is yet again the view, you can admire the spectacular Kotor Bay from another perspective and it will take your breath away for sure.
Getting to the island is very easy, most likely you will be approached by local fishermen offering the return trip, the price should be around 5€/person.
To reach Perast from Kotor you need to take the local Blue Line bus, you can catch it outside of the Old Town walls. Buses run every 30-60 minutes and the ticket should be around 1€. If you go by car there is a parking lot at the end of Perast (when arriving from the direction of Kotor).
You can also visit Perast on a tour from Kotor. Here are the recommended options:
- From Kotor: Half-Day Private Tour of Perast & Kotor
- Kotor: Perast Old Town and Our Lady of the Rocks Boat Tour
- Kotor Boat Tour: Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula and Blue Cave
- Kotor: Best Views of Kotor with Private Speedboat Tour
Go for day trips
Perast is the most popular side trip from Kotor but you can actually go to some of the most spectacular places to visit in Montenegro as a day trips from Kotor. I’ve done a few such trips (both organized and independently) and as much as I loved all of the places, I always felt an utter joy when I was returning back to Kotor (so it was a win-win situation really). Kotor is such a great base to explore Montenegro (or even surrounding countries).
During one of my trips to Kotor, I used the local agency 360Monte and went for two day trips with them: Great Montenegro Tour and North Montenegro. I could finally see some of the best places to visit in Montenegro that have been on my bucket list for ages but that are not accessible by public transport, such as Rijeka Crnojevica, Ostrog Monastery, Mausoleum in Lovćen National Park or Đurđevića Tara Bridge
Another time, together with a friend we rented a car, based ourselves in Kotor and traveled around. We’ve managed to see a big part of Montenegro as well as visited Croatia (Kupari and we drove through Dubrovnik as we missed the turn to the Bosnian border) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (Trebinje). We almost made it to Albania too but the diversions due to the road maintenance took too long and we’ve stayed in southern Montenegro after all.
The list of possible day trips from Kotor is pretty long but here are the best organized tours:
- Durmitor, Tara & Ostrog Monastery Day Trip
- Full-Day Tour to Lovcen National Park & More
- Tara River Whitewater Rafting
Shop at the farmer’s market
Just outside the Old Town walls, near the Sea Gate, you will find the local farmer’s market. It is such a treat to shop there!
You can find there a wide selection of fruits, vegetables, olives, cheese, honey, meat or fish. Everything is locally made, fresh, and very delicious. This is the best place to try all the best Montenegrin delicacies.
The Kotor farmer’s market is open daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the earlier you go, the better selection of the products is (and obviously it’s less crowded then). On Saturday you can expect more sellers and the market is a bit more festive.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures from the farmer market in Kotor, I always forget to take pictures when there is food involved.
Go on a cruise on the Kotor Bay
One of the best ways to admire the splendid beauty of Kotor Bay is from the water. And you can easily do it by going for the Kotor Bay cruise. It is especially recommended on a warm and sunny day when you can enjoy the fresh breeze from the sea or even go for a swim.
Some of the cruises include more attractions, such as Blue Cave, the famous former prison “Mamula” or old Yugoslavian military tunnels that were used to hide ships and submarines. You might also stop at the fancy Porto Montenegro marina to get a glimpse of the luxurious life.
The cruises vary in length but no matter which one you choose, you will have a wonderful time for sure.
Here are some of the cruises you can take:
- Boka Bay Day Cruise
- Blue Cave Private Boat Tour
- Kotor Boat Tour: Our Lady of the Rocks, Mamula and Blue Cave
See impressive city walls
When visiting Kotor Old Town don’t miss its impressive city walls as they don’t get as much attention as they should (except for the fortress, of course). Originally they were built in the Byzantine times but the current walls date back to the Venetian rule in the 16th-18th centuries.
You can access the Old Town through three gates – the Sea gate (the main, from the side of the waterfront), the Northern Gate (over the river Scurda), and the Southern Gate (known also as Gurdic Gate).
The Sea Gate, the most impressive of them all, was built in the Renaissance and Baroque styles although above the entrance you can notice the date, 21st November 1944 – the day when Kotor was liberated from German occupation by the Partizan army led by Tito (hence there is also a star, the symbol of Yugoslav partisans). When walking through the Sea Gate stop in the passage for a second to see the 15th-century Gothic relief showing Our Lady with Christ, St. Tryphon with the model of the city, and St. Bernard holding Host.
Not many tourists know that you can actually walk on part of the Old Town Wall, along Scurda river. You can find the entrance to the walls at Trg od Oruzja, next to the Hotel Cattaro. This is yet another great place that will give you a different look to the Old Town and surrounding.
Try delicious local food
Kotor is a great place to try the local Montenegrin cuisine. It is based mostly on the seafood and meat and vegetarian options are rather limited, unfortunately (that’s why during one of my stays in Kotor I ate fish for the first time in ages and it was actually really good).
There are plenty of restaurants in the Old Town so you shouldn’t have a problem with finding a place for lunch or dinner (although it can be backed during the day, when the cruise ships arrive).
A local colleague recommended me Konoba Scala Santa, located at Trg od Salate, and I can definitely pass on this recommendation – the food was very good and the prices were fine (in Kotor Old Town standards). Other recommended places are Cesarica, Konoba Trpeza, BBQ Tanjga, and Restaurant Galion (the last two are outside the City Walls). If you would like to have a pizza, Pizzeria Pronto is the best option.
Relax at the beach
If you are tired of all the Kotor sightseeing and would like to relax at the beach, there are a few fine places not far from the center where you can do that. Just don’t expect long and sandy beaches, the ones in Kotor are small, intimate, and often with stones on the ground.
The nearest one is right after the Scurda river flows into the Kotor Bay but it can be packed and busy. If you go for a walk to Dobrota you can find a few pleasant beaches along the way. There are more places further down the Kotor Bay.
Visit Cat Museum
If you are a cat person Kotor will be like heaven for you. Cats are everywhere, hanging around the town, lounging lazily on the restaurant chairs, or seeking the attention from visitors. There are so many of them and all the animals look really taken care of and healthy, not a typical view of stray cats you can expect.
You will also notice that the local cats are of various breeds, that’s because for centuries Kotor has been a busy harbor, bringing ships (and therefore also cats) from all over the world.
Kotor cats became the unofficial symbol of the city and have their own souvenirs and even a museum! You can find it not far from the Sea Gate. This is a must-visit place for all cat lovers. Even if the museum is rather small, you will find there a vast collection of cat-related artifacts, some of them even from the First World War.
Go to the other side of Kotor Bay
Another wonderful place to escape the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the area is on the other side of Kotor Bay. There are a few pleasant villages there and each of them offers not only an amazing view but also a calm atmosphere that is so different from busy Kotor.
The two nearest villages are Muo and Prčanj and both are nice places to spend some relaxing time. You can reach both by the local Blue Line buses, they run once an hour.
Hike in the mountains
If you are looking for a more active way to spend your Kotor holidays you should go hiking in the area around. The surrounding Lovćen mountains are amazing and offer some splendid views.
There are plenty of hikes starting in Kotor that will take you to the upper parts of the mountains. They have different lengths and difficulty levels and you will easily find the one that is fine for your condition.
One of the most impressive hiking trails is the so-called Ladder of Kotor – it’s a bit challenging, with over 70 switchbacks, and should take you around 5-6 hours/return but the views from the top are simply mindblowing. You will have the whole Bay of Kotor at your foot.
Kotor travel tips
How to get to Kotor
Getting to Kotor is actually rather easy as the town has numerous bus connections with plenty of cities and towns around. There are a few direct buses per day from Podgorica, Budva, Herceg Novi, Tivat or Bar, as well as international destinations such as from Dubrovnik (Croatia), Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), or Belgrade (Serbia). There are also direct transfers from Mostar and Tirana (Albania) that are much more comfortable and faster than the buses – click here for details.
Best time to visit Kotor
Kotor is interesting all year long really but I would avoid the summer months as the city is simply packed with tourists, especially when the cruise ships arrive. May or September still offer great weather but there are fewer people around (but still many).
When I visited Kotor in December and March it was blissfully empty and I could see how the town looks like without tourists, with locals hanging around in the Old Town and the life goinng by slowly. If you don’t mind a bit chilly weather and shorter days this is a great time to visit Kotor.
How many days for visiting Kotor
While many of the tourists spend only one day in Kotor (or visit it as a day trip from Dubrovnik) I believe you should give the town at least two days (but preferably more). This way you will be able to see the town properly, go up to the fortress (or maybe for a small hike around), and visit Perast or more places along the Bay of Kotor.
If you can, add even more time to your Kotor itinerary for day trips from Kotor.
How to get around Kotor
The Old Town is really small and compact and you can walk it in a few minutes really. If you would like to go to the places a bit further away like Perast or Prčanj there are local buses (Blue Line) that can take you there for a small fee.
Where to stay in Kotor
There are so many accommodation options to choose from, both in the Old Town and beyond. I personally prefer to stay inside the city walls as I’m close to all the attractions and I simply adore the place.
Here are some of the recommended places to stay in Kotor:
- Budget: Old Town Youth Hostel (9,2/10)
- Mid-range: Palazzo Drusko Deluxe Rooms (9,5/10)
- Luxury: Historic Boutique Hotel Cattaro (9,4/10)
- and more!
The Balkans is one of my very favorite places to visit and I can’t count how many times I’ve been there, I use every opportunity to travel to this beautiful and fascinating corner of Europe. You will also find many articles from my Balkan trips that you might find useful or interesting when planning your own holidays there.
Here are some of the articles:
- Your ultimate Balkan travel guide
- 22 Amazing Places to Visit in Montenegro
- Solo female travel in the Balkans
- Belgrade to Bar by train – one of the most beautiful railway journeys
- 23 Amazing Things to Do in Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 23 Great Day Trips from Dubrovnik, Croatia
- 17 best places to visit in Bosnia and Herzegovina
- 25 Amazing Things to Do in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Best Places to Visit in Serbia
- and more!
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