Kotor is such a charming little town that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it. With a stunning location, narrow streets that invite you to get lost, and a lovely laid back vibe, Old Town Kotor is a must-visit destination on the Balkan Peninsula. Read on to discover the best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro!
Old Town Kotor and the surrounding natural, cultural and historic region are designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, Kotor’s fortifications are part of the Venetian Works of Defense UNESCO World Heritage site.
Kotor has been settled for more than 2,000 years. From the early part of the 15th century until the end of the 18th century, Kotor was part of the Venetian Republic. It was under the Venetians that Kotor’s famous walls were expanded, to help shield the city from Ottoman invasions.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN KOTOR
Sandwiched between a wall of towering dark cliffs and the dark green waters of the Boka Kotorska, Old Town Kotor oozes charm from every pore. Kotor was our base in Montenegro for five days, and we left wishing we could stay a few more days more.
Kotor’s pretty port, historic old walls, narrow cobblestone alleys, and lively squares are all the more fun because they feel authentic. Lonely Planet calls Kotor “achingly atmospheric,” and I totally agree!
Kotor checks all the boxes: scenic beauty, history, culture, and ambiance. Here are the best things to do in Kotor:
#1 Hang out in the Piazza of Arms
Enter Old Town Kotor through the beautiful Sea Gate, and you’ll find yourself in the Trg od Oružja (the Piazza of Arms). This is Kotor’s main square, and a wonderful place to hang out.
Also called the Square of the October Revolution, the piazza has always functioned as a meeting place for the citizens of Kotor. The square got its name from the fact that it used to be an arsenal during Venetian times.
Admire the gorgeous 17th and 18th century palaces around the square. The Hotel Cattaro was once a theater. Next to it is the old Rector’s Palace.
The photogenic Clock Tower is from 1602. The three-storied edifice has just two clock faces. Look for the Pyramid of Shame at the bottom of the clock. Here’s where folks that had committed crimes were pilloried in medieval times.
Have a drink at one of the many cafes in the square. The people watching here is the best you’ll find in Old Town Kotor! Browse the shops in the square for souvenirs.
Walking around the square in the early morning or at night is extra special. You’re likely to have the square mostly to yourself, so you can really appreciate the architecture and take all the photos you want.
#2 Visit the Tryphon Cathedral
Built in honor of Sveti Tripun, the patron saint of the city, the Tryphon Cathedral is a must-visit in Old Town Kotor. With its two graceful towers and its stunning location at the base of the mountains, the cathedral is one of the most popular photo spots in Kotor.
The Kotor cathedral was consecrated in 1166. Damaged since then by a couple of earthquakes, the cathedral interior has only recently been restored. Of the two Baroque towers, the left one remains unfinished.
There’s a modest fee to be able to tour the interior, but it’s totally worth it in order to see the artifacts and frescoes inside. The Romanesque interior is a sedate pink, with beautiful columns that draw the gaze upward.
The Tryphon Cathedral is one of Kotor’s top attractions, so it’s generally crowded during the day, especially in season when cruise ships are in port. Plan your visit for later in the day, to escape the worst of the crowds.
#3 Climb to the fortress of San Giovanni
If you’re fit and love rooftop views, put the climb to the fort of St. John on your itinerary for Kotor. The 1,350+ steps are not in the best condition, so plan the hike for a bright dry day.
Kotor’s fortifications are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Construction on the walls started in the 9th century AD, and was completed by the 14th century, although additions continued to be made until the 19th century.
Look for the starting point of the climb near the River Gate. About halfway into your climb you’ll come to the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, the perfect place to rest up for a bit and enjoy the fabulous views of the Boka Bay below.
If you are short on time or energy, you can return to town. Otherwise, push on to the top: the views from the fortress are even more sensational. Watch your step when walking through the ruins.
Schedule the climb for early in the day, especially if it’s warm when you visit. Take plenty of water. If you don’t climb the walls all the way to the top, you can still view them snaking up the hill from town. And you can climb the walls in town for views as well.
#4 Visit the Cats Museum (and photograph the cats of Kotor)
Cats are everywhere in Kotor. You’ll see them snoozing on sunny windowsills, jumping down from ledges, or sneaking through the narrow alleys of the town. I have lots of cat photos from our visit to Kotor!
Sit down to have a meal outside and sooner or later you’ll have a cat come up to your table, looking up wistfully at you, hoping you’ll share. The cat population of Kotor developed from felines left behind by sailors that came to the port in centuries past.
You’ll see lots of cat souvenirs in shops around town. And if you love all things cats, you must pop into the town’s tiny Cats Museum. Here you’ll see cat postcards and cat prints, cat jewelry and cat coins. You’ll be doing good as well: a part of your small entrance fee goes to support the local cat population!
#5 Wander the alleys of Old Town Kotor
If you do nothing else in Kotor Old Town, wander the cobblestone streets and alleys. The town is super charming, and every little street invites exploration. And it isn’t very large, so you can cover most of it in just one hour.
I loved the stone walls and pavements in Old Town Kotor. They look gorgeous in photos too! Dotted with palaces and churches, and lined with little shops, the streets make for a fascinating stroll.
Keep an eye out for architectural elements as you walk: the green shutters of Pima Palace, for example, or the bronze doors of St. Mary’s Church with their beautiful bas reliefs.
If you wish to wander in relative solitude, wake up early. In the early morning, the streets are practically empty. And if you get up really early, or walk late in the evening, the lights are on, creating a romantic ambiance. You’ll really feel the medieval charm of Kotor at those times of day!
During the day, the town’s narrow streets fill up with visitors, especially if a cruise ship or two is docked at the port. The squares come alive and make for great people watching.
#6 Walk along the waterfront
Kotor’s port is picturesque. Strolling the waterfront is a fun thing to do, especially if you’re up early and there isn’t a cruise ship docked at the port. If you enjoy waterfront walks, you can walk the promenade all the way to Dobrota and back.
From the waterfront, you get great views of the walls of Kotor and the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. You can also get an up close look at the Sea Gate, one of Kotor’s three gates and the principal entryway into the Old Town.
If you exit the main square at the Sea Gate and walk left along the sidewalk on the same side of the street, you’ll get a really close look at Kotor’s massive walls.
Stop to admire the Kampana Tower at the corner of the north and west walls, and the blue-green waters of the Skurda River.
#7 Browse the morning green market
Want to taste some local eats? Head to the morning green market along the walls of the Old Town, where you’ll find stalls with fresh fruit and veggies, dried fruit and nuts, homemade wine and cheeses, and even fresh flowers.
There were just a few stalls when we visited in May, so it was a quick browse for us. We were told by our guide that vendors from the mountains come down to Kotor in season, with local delicacies to tempt visitors: ham from Njeguši, smoked carp from Lake Skadar, and olives and olive oil.
These days vendors likely come to Kotor in a vehicle, but our guide told us that back in the days when his grandma was a young woman, she would walk down a switchback track from Njeguši all the way down to Kotor to sell her products, and then walk back home after the market closed!
We saw big heaps of luscious red cherries in every stall when we visited. We bought a big bag to snack on as we walked, and they were so juicy and sweet that we finished the whole bag by the time we completed our walk!
#8 Shop for souvenirs
Souvenir shops are everywhere in Kotor. You’ll see lots of cat souvenirs, of course, but you’ll also see shawls and plates and magnets. You’ll also see a few high-end shops offering jewelry and leather.
The local economy depends heavily on tourism, and most young people do some kind of tourism-related activity in season to augment their earnings. Luka, our guide in Montenegro, for example, is a nurse, but he also does tours on his off days to help support his young family.
Souvenir shops on the main square have higher prices, so if you want to buy something to take back home, browse smaller shops in the tiny alleys.
#9 Get out on the beautiful Bay of Kotor
The Boka Bay is beautiful, and Kotor is a great place to do a boat tour, so you can experience it from the water. From a sedate ferry ride to a thrilling speedboat tour, you can take your pick of experiences!
If you are in Kotor on a nice weather day, you may want to try a speedboat tour that takes you to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, the Mamula Fortress, and the Blue Cave.
The tour takes you through much of the Bay of Kotor, past picturesque towns and gorgeous natural scenery. You will cross Verige Strait, the narrowest part of the bay, and have some time to swim at the Blue Cave.
Shorter speedboat tours are also available if you don’t have as much time. And for a more sedate way to enjoy the scenery, or if the weather isn’t as nice, take the ferry that runs between Kotor and Perast.
We sadly ran into rain on both days we had earmarked for our boat tour, but it’s on the list for our next visit! Although you’ll see folks hawking tours across from the Sea Gate, I suggest researching and booking in advance.
#10 Admire the Church of St. Nicholas
Kotor is small, but it has several lovely churches. The St. Nikola Church is a Serbian Orthodox church with a beautiful stone facade and twin towers. You’ll see the Serbian flag draped on the facade.
The Church of Saint Nicholas is relatively new: it was built at the start of the 20th century, on the site where an earlier church was destroyed by a fire in 1896. The interior is ornate and worth a visit.
Climb up the stairs near the Hotel Cattaro in Kotor’s main square for a beautiful view of the dome and towers of the Sveti Nikola Church.
#11 Step inside Saint Luke’s Church
St. Luke’s is a tiny church with a beautiful history and a gorgeous interior. It sits in the square of the same name, and you will come across it as you walk around the town.
The Romanesque structure with Byzantine elements was built towards the end of the 12th century. It surprisingly wasn’t hit by the earthquakes that damaged much of Kotor.
Although it was built as a Catholic church, for several generations, it was shared by Orthodox Christians and Catholics. Ultimately the church was gifted to the Orthodox church.
Inside you’ll see beautiful iconostases, and fragments of the frescoes that once decorated the walls.
#12 Visit the Maritime Museum
Other than the quirky Cats Museum, the other visit-worthy museum in Kotor is the Maritime Museum. Housed in a beautiful old palace, the museum celebrates Kotor’s seafaring history.
In medieval times, ships from Kotor contributed to the Boka Navy. Under Venetian rule, the Boka Navy fought against the Ottomans, but Kotor’s ships were utilized in maritime trade as well.
The museum contains an impressive collection that includes models of ships, seafaring maps, jewelry, weapons, and other artifacts. Displayed over three floors, the museum is compact and easily doable even if you’re visiting Kotor just for the day. There is a small entrance fee.
#13 Tour Perast and the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks
The pretty little town of Perast is just a little over 7 miles from Kotor. Easily accessed by car, bus, boat, or ferry (in season), Perast warrants a visit even if you are in Kotor for just one day.
Perast’s Venetian campanile and old palaces are a joy to view and photograph. Walk the main street along the waterfront, then duck into one of the alleys to stroll through the Old Town. If you love churches, the town has 16 from which to choose!
The main draw here is the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. Built on an artficial island put together rock by rock by local fisherfolk, the little church with its pretty teal dome is one of the most popular destinations in all of Boka Bay.
The island is a quick 15-minute boat ride from the pier at Perast, and you’ll find boats waiting to take you over and back. Of course, you can also opt for a guided tour from Kotor that combines a visit to the island with a stop in Perast.
#14 Discover Old Town Budva on the Adriatic Coast
A 30-minute drive south from Kotor is the resort town of Budva. While Budva in general is very overdeveloped, the Old Town is beautiful. You’ll also find several beautiful beaches in Budva.
Budva’s Stari Grad is right on the Adriatic Sea. You can walk the picturesque streets, linger in the pretty squares, and visit the churches in the old town.
But the best thing to do in Old Town Budva is definitely a visit to the Citadela, a 15th century structure that offers stunning views out to the Adriatic Sea and over the rooftops of the Old Town. There’s a small entrance fee.
If you plan to visit in the summer, Budva has many beautiful beaches where you can catch some rays. Mogren Beach is right next to the Old Town, and is really two beaches connected by a tunnel. We visited too early in the year for the beach, but it looks super inviting!
If you do not have a car, you can take the bus to Budva. The ride takes about 45 minutes each way. You can also take a taxi for about 20 Euros each way. Or opt for a guided tour from Kotor to Budva: this tour combines Perast and Budva, along with a walking tour of Old Town Kotor.
#15 Drive the Kotor Serpentine
Definitely one of the most thrilling things to do in Kotor is to experience the switchback road from Kotor to Njegusi. If you have a car and you are an experienced mountain driver, you can drive the road, but if you really want to enjoy the views, I suggest a tour or hiring a car and driver for the day.
With 25 numbered hairpin bends, it’s no wonder that a stretch of the road is called the Kotor Serpentine. It’s a narrow road, so narrow that there’s not enough room for two cars at some places. Our driver reversed to a wider stretch of the road more than once to let oncoming traffic through.
But the views are insane. You can see not just all of Boka Bay spread out below you, but also the Adriatic Sea and Croatia beyond. On a clear day, this drive is one of the most exciting things to do in all of Montenegro!
While you can make a day of it and visit Lovcen National Park and Lake Skadar, you can also just go up to the village of Njegusi and then return. While in Njegusi, taste the famous smoked ham, Njeguški pršut, and local cheese, Njeguški sir.
Getting into Kotor
Kotor is served by Tivat International Airport, just 5 miles from the Kotor center. In season, you can fly into Tivat from a large number of cities in Europe, as well as from other places like Dubai and Israel.
You can also fly into Podgorica Airport, about 55 miles away. Podgorica Airport has flights year round to and from several cities, including London, Zurich, and Frankfurt. From Podgorica, drive to Kotor, or take the bus. There are several departures in both directions every day, and the bus journey takes about 2 hours.
You can also fly into Dubrovnik Airport and drive (or take the bus or a private transfer) to Kotor from Dubrovnik in Croatia. The distance is about 56 miles, and the drive will take you about 2 hours in normal traffic and without an undue wait at the border crossing. The drive around the Boka Bay is incredibly scenic, and you’ll probably stop to take photos, so build in some time for stops!
Buses connect Kotor with other cities in the region as well; for example, Mostar or Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Split in Croatia, or Belgrade in Serbia.
Getting around in Kotor
Old Town Kotor is a pedestrian area. Your bus or car or taxi will drop you off at the Sea Gate, which is the main entrance into the walled town, and you just walk in.
The Tourist Information Center is located just outside the Sea Gate, and you can stop to pick up a map. The town is very compact, and you can walk everywhere.
Where to stay in Kotor
If you like being in the center of the action, then choose a hotel within the Old Town. Be warned though: you might be kept up by music at night, particularly in season. We stayed in the heart of the Old Town in mid May and had no problems, even though my husband is a very light sleeper. Check about noise levels in advance if it’s a concern.
Another great option is to stay along the Bay of Kotor, near the Old Town but not in it. And book way in advance if you plan to visit Kotor during the summer months: it gets extremely busy from mid June until mid September.
In the Old Town, consider Hotel Villa Duomo. This is where we stayed. Just a 5-minute walk from the Sea Gate, Hotel Villa Duomo features exposed stone walls and solid traditional furnishings. Our bed was extremely comfortable, and we had plenty of space in our studio.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here
Another wonderful choice in the Old Town is the Boutique Hotel Astoria, also just a few minutes walk from the Sea Gate. Housed in a 13th century palace, the hotel features fabulous traditional furnishings. Rooms are spacious, with super comfortable beds.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here
If you are looking for a luxury stay just outside Kotor, the Regent Porto Montenegro in nearby Tivat might fit the bill, with a gorgeous outdoor pool and a location overlooking the harbor. Rooms and bathrooms are spacious and elegantly appointed.
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book a room here
Where to eat in Kotor
Meat lovers should head to Tanjga, about a 5-minute walk along the waterfront from the Sea Gate. Their barbecue is highly rated and the portions are huge! My husband did takeout from here since they didn’t have vegetarian options for me.
We had dinner twice at Ladovina Kitchen and Wine Bar, about an 8-minute walk from the Sea Gate along the waterfront. They have vegetarian options, and they made a pasta with vegetables for me that was not on their regular menu. My husband loved the seafood dishes he tried.
The best time to visit Kotor
June, July, and August are peak season months in Kotor. While you’ll have great weather and the bay looks stunning in the summer, you’ll be dealing with crowds. Kotor is a cruise ship port and can get very congested during the day when one (or more!) cruise ships is in port. Accommodations will be pricier in these months as well.
May and September are great months to visit, because accommodations will be cheaper than in the summer and crowds less (although cruise ships are in port in these months as well). But you’re more likely to run into rain. We had rain 2 out of the 5 days we were based in Kotor in mid May.
How long should you spend in Kotor?
Old Town Kotor is small and doesn’t really take a long time to explore. Many visitors to Dubrovnik, for example, visit Kotor as a day trip. But Kotor makes a great base from which to explore Montenegro. And staying overnight, or for a few nights, affords you the opportunity to savor Kotor’s charming ambiance.
If you have one day in Kotor, you can see and do quite a bit. Start your day by climbing the walls to the San Giovanni fortress. Back in town, pop into the museums or churches you want to see, or do a guided walking tour. In the afternoon, do a boat tour that includes Perast and the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. In the evening, wander the streets of the Old Town.
With a couple of days or more, you can enjoy the town in the early morning and late evening, when it’s less crowded and more atmospheric. Plan one or two Kotor activities for each day.
We made Kotor our base in Montenegro for five nights, and spent some of those days exploring other parts of Montenegro, while enjoying Old Town Kotor at less crowded times. I found it the perfect way to experience Old Town Kotor!
So there you have it: my suggestions for the very best things to do in the UNESCO protected town of Kotor, Montenegro! Have you visited? I’d love to hear your thoughts: comment below to respond.
If you haven’t yet visited, plan a trip soon…you will love Kotor! And if you are considering a trip to Montenegro, check out my suggestions for 25 awesome things to do in this spectacularly beautiful country.
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