The majority of people who visit Kotor go there just for a day, having in mind the picture of Kotor Bay taken from the fortress up high above the old town. And while this is one of the most stunning sceneries I’ve ever seen, the one that makes my jaw drop every single time and an absolute Balkan highlight, Kotor is so much more than this breathtaking view! When planning your Balkan travels give yourself at least 1-2 days to visit Kotor properly and to enjoy the place to the fullest – you won’t regret it!
By now I’ve been to Kotor three times. Even before visiting for the first time in 2012 I knew I’m gonna love it there, and I was so right! Now, if you ask me if I want to visit Kotor I will run to pack my backpack, no questions asked. That’s how much I adore this place and I keep falling for it more and more every single time I’m there. For my Kotor, Montenegro is among top 3 most incredible places I’ve ever seen during my travels but I’m just playing it safe here and if you ask me about two other destinations I honestly can’t recall any right away…
I was lucky that during one of my visits Kotor Tourism Organization offered me a tour guide to my disposal (one of my favorite things about being a blogger). Tomo was amazing, he had a huge knowledge, told me so much about the town and surroundings and these few hours have opened my eyes to how much actually Kotor has to offer! Almost every building in the old town has an interesting history – I really had no idea!
But Kotor old town isn’t the only area worth visiting! There’s the part at the end of the bay, with (in)famous Hotel Fjord, there is Dobrota with even more palaces and finally there’s Perast with the Lady of the Rocks church on the island or Risan with Roman mosaics! So much to see beyond Kotor Old Town, really!
When you visit Kotor, Montenegro here are some places you might want to check out. They were all my favorites but at the same time I don’t think there was something I didn’t like about Kotor.
Just one friendly advice: if you can – visit Kotor in the low season. When I was there in December there were hardly any people around and it was perfect, in the Old Town there were mostly locals hanging around, doing their business or enjoying coffee with friends. The downside – the day is so much shorter, the sunset was around 4-5pm. During my visits in May and September it was quite the opposite , with at least few huge cruise ships moored at the Kotor Bay.
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Kotor Old Town
If you arrive to Kotor Old Town in the middle of the day you might be overwhelmed with how busy it is. The place is literally jammed with people, all the restaurant tables are busy and sometimes you need to wait in a queue to get through a narrow lane (true story). But at around 4pm everything changes, the cruise ships sail away and the Kotor Old Town gets pleasantly spacious. Of course there are still people around but enough for you to enjoy the place and actually see something.
For the place that can be walked through in 5 minutes Kotor Old Town has so many attractions that it will keep you busy for quite a while. Kotor itself was first mentioned in 3rd century BC and across the old town you can find the overview of roman, gothic, renaissance and baroque architecture. It is one of the best preserved towns in south-east Europe!
The buildings that should definitely catch your attention are the churches (especially St Tryphon’s Cathedral, Church of St. Luka and Church of St. Nicholas), palaces (more on them later) and three city gates. But the best thing you can do is to get blissfully lost and wander around narrow lanes – this is probably my favorite thing to do in Kotor Old Town (even though by now I can’t get lost there anymore)! Just have a map with you and check every now and then what gem you’re passing by!
If you are a curious traveler you should also consider getting a guide – you’d learn so much that way! I loved discovering Kotor Old Town with a person who knew all about it, I saw the place from another perspective then! The sightseeing with the guide would take you 1-2 hours and then you can continue just wandering around on your own. Click here to check the prices and details!
For all the cat lovers Kotor Old Town will be a heaven. Cats invaded the place, there are so many of them and they don’t mind tourists at all! They walk lazily around, sleep at the restaurant’s chair or just lie down in the shadow. There’s even a cats museum but as a dog person I didn’t visit it.
Now that’s something that surprised me in Kotor the most – a really big number of incredible palaces dating back to 15th-18th centuries, the time of the town’s biggest prosperity. As Kotor has always been a place of big importance numerous noble families has lived here. When you wander around Kotor Old Town you can spot lots of palaces. Some of them don’t look all that impressive, only when you look closer you can see details that disclose the real value of the place. Others, like Pima Palace, catches the eye as soon as you leave the narrow lane leading to the square it’s located at.
With so many palaces around I just keep wondering how the life in Kotor looked like all those centuries ago. Fortunately I figured I can get a feel of the Kotor palaces when sleeping in one of them! I stayed at Palazzo Drusko – the building is some 600 years old and used to belong to one of the noble families of Montenegro.
I loved my time there! The interior was carefully designed using 150-years old antique furniture, here and there the original stone walls peak through. It was really beautiful and made me transfer back in time to the grand period of Kotor. Even though Palazzo Drusko is located in the very heart of Kotor old town, some 20 seconds away from Church of St. Luka, it was super peaceful and quiet. I’ve spent three nights there but I wish I could have stayed longer really, it felt so good!
The biggest highlight of Kotor, surely famous for a reason! The fortification stand proudly above the old town, glued to the steep Lovcen Mountains. It’s pretty tiring to get all the way to the top, climbing up 1350 steps (some sources say even about 1500!) but the view is so rewarding you will forget about all the effort right away! On one side you can see the Kotor Bay and once you move around you have the foretaste of Lovcen Mountains. This view will take your breath away for sure, and not only because of all the stairs!
To get to the top of the fortifications you need at least one hour – more if you step every few minutes to take a picture as the view is getting better and better (but you really just stop to catch the breath and use picture as an excuse). But you don’t need to go all the way up – there is a small square a little bit up from the Church of Our Lady of Health, just before the fortress starts and the view from there is already good enough!
The fortifications can be enter from Kotor Old Town – there are two points of access, I always used the one close to the Northern Gate. I strongly suggest you going in the late afternoon – it’s not so hot anymore, it’s not crowded (imagine half of the people from cruise ships trying to climb the crumbling, narrow stairs…) and if you’re there before the sunset you might witness the whole area turning pink! The entrance to the fortifications costs 3€ (but in December it was for free).
During my last visit in Kotor I didn’t plan to go up there, after all I’ve already hiked the fortifications twice. But of course I went anyway, I just couldn’t resist seeing this stunning view one more time as I honestly can’t recall a more beautiful scenery! And even if I was a little bit sore on the next day I didn’t regret it for a second!
Walk along the Kotor Bay to Dobrota
If you’re looking for a pleasant escape from the Kotor Old Town crowds the walk along the Bay might be your answer. I’ve discovered this place during my visit in December but then I went only for a short stroll in the evening. Recently I walked all the way to Dobrota, some 5 kms maybe, and it was a perfect way to spend the afternoon. In contrary to the old town this place was pleasantly empty, I’ve passed maybe 5 other tourists along the way. Even if the day was pretty warm it was really bearable here as you walk along the water all the way here.
The scenery is amazing all the time and it’s changing along the way. You should also look back every now and then to see Kotor behind. But it’s worth going here to see more amazing palaces, sadly some in ruins now. That’s also where you can find quiet, secluded beaches to relax. Dobrota really feels like the best getaway from hustle and bustle of Kotor Old Town!
Once you’re tired with walking you just need to get up to the main road and catch the local Blue Line bus for less than 1€ to take you back to Kotor Old Town. There is no schedule for buses so you might wait a while, for me it was around half an hour.
Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks
A short bus ride away, further into the Bay, you will find a real gem – Perast. A small maritime town has been a very important point on the Adriatic costs for centuries. Even today it looks insanely beautiful with the stunning palaces and churches dating back to 17th and 18th century. Perast is like a smaller sibling of Kotor that deserves a proper visit and a slow walk around too!
But the main reason why you should visit Perast are two islands located directly in front of the town: St. George and Our Lady of the Rocks. The second one is the only artificial island at the Adriatic Sea. In 1452 two local fishermen found the painting of St. Mary on the rock in that place. Even if the painting was moved to St. Nicolas Church in Perast it returned to the rock, three times. Eventually it was decided the church needs to be built in that very place. Only until 1603 over 100 ships were sunk for that purpose!
The church was built here in the first part of 17th century. It is beautiful inside, decorated with baroque painting and silver plates from the ships – a gift after the safe return back home. But it’s worth to go to the island not only for the church itself but also for the stunning views of the Bay – together with fortifications this might be the most stunning landscape you will see when you visit Kotor! It’s very easy to get to the island – once you arrive to Perast you will be approached by local sailors willing to take you there for 5€/return.
Roman mosaics in Risan
A little bit further along the road from Perast you will arrive to Risan, home to the Roman mosaics from the 2nd century. You can visit a complex of seven rooms with a mosaic floor in a surprisingly good shape considering the age. There are different geometrical and floral patterns as well as the mosaic of the God of Dreams – Hypnos.
I’ve already written the whole article about alternative Kotor sights (click here!) but it’s worth to mention here again that there is so much to see around that only Kotor Old Town and the more time you spend there, the more you will fall in love with the town and all it has to offer! You just need to give Kotor more than just a brief look!
Kotor can be also used as a perfect base for day trips around Montenegro. That’s what I did during my last visit! I took two tours with the local 360Monte agency: Great Montenegro Tour (click here to read my review) and Northern Montenegro Tour (review coming soon). Both were really amazing and I believe they are the best option for everyone who wants to see more of stunning Montenegro but is short on time or doesn’t have the car. Returning to Kotor in the evening is always a bonus!
Kotor – practical information
How to get to Kotor
During my both recent trips to Montenegro I flew from Berlin to Podgorica with Ryanair. You can find tickets as cheap as 20-30€/return. As always I look for the best deals at Skyscanner as I’m a huge fan of their “anywhere” and “anytime” options – it has helped me to find so many great deals, including those to Montenegro. From Podgorica airport you need to take the taxi to the bus station (don’t believe when they quote 15€ or more, you can get there for 10€) and then take the bus to Kotor. Buses run frequently and the ticket is around 7€/one way, the journey takes around 2 hours. In Kotor the bus station is within walking distance from the Old Town.
How to get from Kotor to Perast and Risan?
There are Blue Line Buses connecting the towns, they run around once per hour and the ticket costs around 1€. The bus stop in Kotor is near the Main Gate.
Kotor tourist information
You will find a tourist info point in front of the Main Gate, outside the Walls. It’s worth stopping by even if to get a map!
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Disclaimer: My trips to Kotor were in collaboration with TO Kotor and Palazzo Drusko but all opinions are, as always, my own.
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