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Looking for exciting, cultural and beautiful things to do in Kotor? You’re in the right place. This charming town in Montenegro is one of my favourite places I’ve visited this year (and that’s high praise with destinations like Bled, Venice, Lisbon, and the Algarve for competition).
I didn’t know what to expect from Kotor, or Montenegro in general. Would it be similar to its northern neighbour, Croatia, or resemble the other Balkan countries like Albania and Bosnia & Herzegovina? Would it be full of cruise ships or an undiscovered paradise?
Saying that, Kotor isn’t super cheap or quiet compared to its neighbour Balkan countries. It’s a well-known holiday destination and one of the country’s more expensive destinations alongside Budva and Tivat.
Despite the prices being higher than I’m used to in the Balkans, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Montenegro. The many attractions in Kotor – not to mention the fantastic day trips, rich history and tantalising cuisine – kept me well occupied and keen to return one of these days.
How to get to Kotor
By air: the largest airport (from which you’ll get the cheapest flights) is Podgorica Airport, a 1.5-hour drive from Kotor. By public transport, catch a €1.20 train from Aerodrom Podgorica train station then from the Central Bus Station, board a cross-country bus (2 hours) for around €7 to Kotor Bus Station, a 5-minute walk from Kotor Old Town.
There’s also Tivat Airport, a 10-minute drive or bus ride from Kotor. However, expect flights to be pricier.
By bus: from Kotor Bus Station, you’re well connected to Tirana, Albania (6 hours), Shkoder, Albania (4 hours) and Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina (5 hours). Use busticket4me to buy tickets (these usually need to be printed) or buy them at the station the day before.
Tip – you need to pay a €2 bus station fee when departing Kotor. If you brought your ticket online, make sure to have cash left over and go inside the station to buy your token. There’s also a €1 luggage fee payable to the driver.
How long to spend in Kotor?
Although one day is enough in Kotor town, I’d urge you to spend longer exploring the surrounding region.
I spent a second day on a Boka Bay cruise, a third day visiting Perast village (although this could be condensed into a half day) and a fourth day on the Great Montenegro tour visiting locations like Skadar Lake.
You could also spend a fifth day touring the northern highlights like Durmitor National Park and Ostrog Monastery. You could also visit Budva as a day trip. So, I would suggest spending five days in Kotor because even if you don’t take all the excursions listed, it’s a lovely place to relax.
Where to stay in Kotor
There are plenty of accommodation options in Kotor and the Old Town is undoubtedly the most charming option. Waking up amidst the charming warren of golden passageways and hunting for coffee is the best way to start a day!
For backpackers – Old Town Kotor Hostel
Old Town is the best budget accommodation in Kotor and, according to the Telegraph, one of the best hostels in Europe!
I had the pleasure of staying here for 5 nights in a cosy, ensuite 6-bed dorm. Not only is it right in the heart of the Old Town but my room was up in the rafters and I bagged a single bed rather than a bunk. Backpacking win!
Other perks include security lockers, a swimming pool and daily tours and Kotor activities like boat trips and sunset barbeques. I can vouch for the latter which took us to an old hillside bunker with spectacular views.
Old Town Kotor Hostel is a fantastic place to make friends with a social vibe but not an overly hectic ‘party’ vibe: I still got a good night’s sleep. Better yet, they’re an inclusive hostel, making a point of supporting solo female travellers as well as LGBT+ travellers.
Things to do in Kotor, Montenegro
Now for the good stuff! Here are the best places in Kotor to explore, sightsee, eat, drink and more…
Climb to San Giovanni Fortress
That imposing fortress towering above Kotor? Yep, I’m about to make you climb it 😉
I promise it’s worth it! The fortress hike is probably the number one thing to do in Kotor: you soak up fantastic views of the Old Town and coastline, experiencing centuries of history along the way.
I was glad I hiked to the fortress of San Giovanni (or St John to English speakers) during my first evening in Kotor because I got the hard stuff out of the way, leaving me to relax and feel accomplished for the rest of my trip.
The Fortress was built over the course of 1,000 years (beginning in the 9th century) and as a result, reflects different civilisations and architectural styles. With the initial purpose of defence, it offered a clear view of approaching enemies across the fjord (the only way in with the drastic Dinaric Alps in the other direction).
Everyone from the Illyrians to the Romans, Byzantines and Venetians left their mark on the fortress. During the latter, it survived Ottoman invasions and earthquakes, the latest in 1979.
The walk is a steep one of 120 metres or around 1,350 stairs that can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending how speedy you are, and how often you stop to take photos! I set off at 6pm and was back in the Old Town just after 8pm having completed the hike and snapped many sunset shots.
Tip – you don’t need to pay €8 at the front entrance! The not-so-secret Ladder of Kotor gets you in the back way for free. The route is easy to follow and even the starting point is marked on Google Maps.
I’d argue the views on this hike are even better than the official route, plus you pass a local house, the Cheese Shop where the owners will serve you homemade snacks with pomegranate juice or beer while you play with the friendly street cats.
Tips for the fortress climb:
- Wear comfortable shoes – hiking boots are not necessary but running shoes with good grip are recommended as it can be slippy on the way down. No flip-flops, please!
- Go early in the morning (before 8am if possible) to beat the heat or later in the day for sunset
- If going for sunset, aim to leave the summit soon after so you’re not walking down in the dark. Take your photos on the way up
- Bring enough water, and wear a hat and sunscreen.
Take the free walking tour
Y’all know I love free walking tours (and if you don’t because you just found my blog, come follow along my adventures)! They’re always so interesting and informative with local guides who know their city inside out. I’d recommend taking one on day 1 to get a broad overview of the top attractions in Kotor and work out which to return and explore in greater depth.
The Kotor free walking tour starts from the Marimite Museum and tours the most popular places in Kotor. In peak season, they recommend reserving a spot for €1 on their website. Not exactly free but also not likely to break the bank. You’re free to give a tip if you enjoy the tour (I usually give around €5).
Old Town alleyways
The alleys of the Stari Grad (Old Town) are a delight. Set aside time to meander aimlessly and see what you find. Although there are lots of lovely cafes, souvenirs and street cats to stumble upon, it’s a small city that will soon start to feel familiar. Luckily, as Google Maps is tricky to follow down the tight streets!
Browse Kotor Bazaar
Although there are beautiful stores all around town selling lanterns, chinaware and accessories, the best place in Kotor for shoppers is Kotor Bazaar. Beside St Nikolas Church, this charming market is accessed via ancient stone arches. It’s only small but will keep you busy for 15 minutes during your Kotor sightseeing.
Climb Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral
Another popular thing to do in Kotor Old Town is climb to the balcony of Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral. Explore almost a millennia of history at this Romanesque Catholic church built in 1166.
It’s worth paying the €3 to venture inside and see gold and silver relics and frescoes (religious wall paintings). The museum above the church is only small (without much explanation about the items displayed) but there are a few interesting things to see. The highlight is the view from the terrace over the ancient square.
Opening times: 9am-6pm daily.
More churches – St Nikolas & Luka
Many of the key attractions in Kotor Old Town are religious buildings. If you’re interested, tour notable examples including Saint Nicholas Church beside the Bazaar. The Serbian flag above the door indicates it’s a Serbian Orthodox cathedral (history buffs will know that Serbia and Montenegro only split into two countries in 2006). Pop your head inside and admire the intricate decor.
Meanwhile, the Church of St. Luke dating from 1195 is a curious place because it has both a Catholic and Greek Orthodox chapel inside, indicating how the two religions peacefully coexisted while sharing the mutual goal of fighting the Ottomans.
It’s free to enter both the above churches.
Kotor Cat Museum
There are only a few cat museums around the world and, luckily for feline fans, Kotor is home to one of them. From cats pictured in artwork through the ages to photographed with soldiers throughout wars, there’s plenty to browse alongside exhibits like medals and coins.
Kotor Cats Museum is a small museum with just two rooms and a corridor connecting them. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in density of exhibits: every available surface is plastered with cat imagery, memorabilia, posters and photos.
Honestly, the Cats Museum of Kotor won’t win any awards as the best museum in the world, but it’s a cute and quirky place to visit in Kotor. You’ll be given an info sheet about the numbered exhibits.
Opening times: 10am-8pm daily. Entry is just €1!
Since there are no cats there (prompting several negative reviews and a sarky notice at the museum’s entrance defining what a museum is!), cat lovers will think the following is one of the top things to do in Kotor…
Meet street cats
When you wander the streets of Kotor, any surprise about the existence of a cat museum will disappear. The streets are teeming with furry friends, all well-fed and notably plump.
Legend has it that rats arrived on boats and became a nuisance in the city. Cats were brought to catch them which worked for a while. But with the arrival of tourists came sympathetic snacks and morsels of restaurant dinners dropped on the ground.
Now that the cats have become a Kotor tourist attraction, they’re too pampered to catch mice!
Wander through the Sea Gate
Connecting the famed fortress, the Walls of Kotor flank the Old Town. There are a few entrance points including the well-preserved Sea Gate, built in 1555 under Venetian rule. Spot the classic Venetian lion carving above the gate.
The gate is inscribed with a star commemorating liberation from the Nazis and a quote from ex-Yugoslavian leader, Tito, reading ‘Tuđe nećemo – svoje ne damo’ (what belongs to others we don’t want, what is ours we will never surrender).
Shop at the Kotor Farmer’s Market
This fresh market close to the Sea Gate is the belly of the city, selling locally-produced meat, cheese, fish and veggies. If your accommodation has a kitchen and you plan to reduce your travel budget by cooking, why not ditch the supermarket and swing by?
Another perk of visiting is to meet the locals and see how people would have shopped in days gone by.
Note – although the market takes place in the day, there are a few crepe stands here on the street at night. They’re nothing gourmet but if you fancy a Nutella crepe for €2, you know where to go!
Learn about the history at the Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum is one of the best places in Kotor to learn about the city’s history, largely tied to nautical events. You’ll find artefacts, traditional dress, paintings, detailed models of famous ships, bottles built for sailor’s messages, seamen’s dairies and the famous ‘Pulena’ head from Giurko ship (Dobrota, 1870-1895).
Entry is €5 including an audio guide (if you’re staying at Old Town Hostel, get a stamp from reception for €2 entry although the audio guide isn’t included).
Opening times: from 8am daily until 11pm in July and August and 6pm the rest of the year. On Sundays on public holidays, it’s open from 9am-1pm.
Bask at Kotor Beach (and take the bay walk to Dobrota)
This small beach a few minutes’ walk from the Old Town is your best bet for a dip in the ocean without having to drive or take a boat trip across the bay. Despite the painful rocks when walking barefoot into the sea, it’s a decent beach with facilities like loungers should you need them.
The beach is on the cusp of the Dobrota neighbourhood, a chilled part of Kotor with fewer crowds. For a leisurely afternoon activity, take a walk along the oceanfront to St. Matthias Church, a bright orange Catholic church with beautiful views out to sea.
Note: Kotor Beach gets crowded in peak season so you might want to avoid the middle of the day. Sunset could be your best bet: the crowds leave early as the mountain opposite causes the sun to set early.
Take a city walk at night
If you’re looking for things to do in Kotor once the sun goes down, there are of course restaurants and bars. Between the two, you might enjoy taking a walk along the old City Walls.
By this, I DON’T mean the mountainous section! That would be extremely dangerous. I refer to the section near the Sea Gate, separating the Old Town from the market area and the water. With the various ramparts and bastions lit up at night, it’s an atmospheric sight to behold.
Further afield things to do in Kotor
The Stari Grad (Old Town) is very small and can be seen in a day. As you might remember, I earlier suggested staying up to five days. So what to do in Kotor with that time?
Well, the charm of Kotor, in my opinion, is not just the charming city but the incredible surroundings. With ocean, caves, mountains and other natural and manmade points of interest, there’s plenty to keep you busy. Montenegro is small enough that you can use Kotor as a base to explore the country.
I’d suggest choosing some (or all) of the following activities around Kotor…
Take a Boka Bay cruise
I can enthusiastically vouch for a boat trip as one of the best things to do around Kotor. Since there aren’t a whole load of swimming spots in walking distance of the Old Town, it’s a must for wannabe mermaids like myself. We had at least 5 opportunities to jump off the boat into the glimmering ocean!
I took my tour with 360 Monte or you can browse all Kotor boat tours on GetYourGuide.
Another reason to take a boat trip is to visit the following points of interest near Kotor…
Our Lady of the Rocks
A quaint church with terracotta tiles, a blue domed roof and a backdrop of the Montenegrian mountains, appearing to float upon the ocean. Can you imagine anything more picturesque?
This island is made from rocks and sunken ships created when – according to legend – a group of fishermen found an image of the Virgin Mary floating upon the location. Taking it as a sign, they began the 500-year mission of building the island and church in her honour.
If you happen to visit on July 22, you’ll witness locals throwing stones into the water to celebrate this important date.
The only way to access the island is by boat; either a quick journey from Perast village just across the bay, or as part of a Boka Bay cruise from Kotor.
Swim through the Blue Cave
One of the most famous places to visit from Kotor is the Blue Cave named, not especially adventurously, after the spectacular colour of the water. It’s crystal clear and a brilliant shade of blue.
Similar to the one near Croatian island, Vis, that many people discover as a day trip from Split, the sun reflecting into the cave at certain times of day makes the sea seem even brighter than normal. Visit on a sunny day, if you can, as the effect will be even more striking.
My only complaint is that smaller boats drive right into the cave as you swim through, often shouting at you to move over. Not so relaxing!
During our Boka Bay cruise, we also had the chance to peek inside the abandoned Submarine Tunnel built by the Yugoslav army. When fake rocks were placed at their entrance, the cave was invisible to enemy planes and satellites.
The tunnel is around 100m long and, if your boat trip allows, you can swing to the end and back.
This luxurious town on the banks of Kotor Bay was a stop on my boat tour, however you could also visit as a day trip by car, bus or taxi from Kotor or even stay overnight (it’s close to Tivat Airport).
If you’re expecting a quaint town, think again: Tivat has a reputation for superyachts and designer stores! It’s not my scene but it might be yours. It’s an opportunity to treat yourself, eat delicious seafood for lunch and browse the fancy stores.
Venture along the coast to Perast
When you’ve finished sightseeing in Kotor Old Town, there are few better excursions than a trip to Perast, a coastal village almost too tranquil to be real. It only takes 20 minutes to drive from Kotor to Perast making it an easy half-day trip.
Around an hour is enough to wander the sublime village spotting attractions like the Church of St Nicholas with its 55m bell tower and Bujovic Palace, and there are plenty of restaurants serving fresh seafood and Perast cake, although expect prices to be set with tourism in mind. A budget option is to pack a picnic or wait to eat back in Kotor.
Since Kotor is just across from Our Lady of the Rocks, it’s possible to board a small boat (€5) taking just a few minutes to arrive there. Look across to Boka Bay’s second floating island: St George’s (Sveti Đorđe) which sadly can’t be visited.
Getting to Perast: Plenty of day tours stop in Perast or, alternatively, you can drive or take the public bus for €1.50 each way (what I did). It departs at 15 minutes past the hour from the bus stop beside Kamelija shopping centre and returns at 25 past the hour from the parking area by Perast beach, although don’t be surprised if it’s on ‘Balkans time’ AKA slightly late.
If you’re looking for fun and active things to do in Kotor, why not try river rafting? I didn’t do this myself but I spoke to several people of all ages who’d had a great time. A 12-hour return day trip including equipment, guides, lunch and a full day of adventures at Tara River Canyon will cost around €90.
Great Montenegro tour
I had a spectacular day with 360 Monte on their Great Montenegro tour exploring some of the most majestic parts of this spectacular country. A few highlights include:
- Coastal views over Boka Bay
- Panoramic views from Lovćen Mountain beside the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš, the Montenegrin leader and poet
- Local cheese and smoked prosciutto in the village of Njeguši (€5 for a personal platter and drink; not included in the tour price)
- A historical walking tour in Cetinje, the former royal capital
- Cruising and swimming at Skadar Lake, the biggest lake in the Balkans
- Fresh seafood for lunch (€15 for three courses; not included in the tour price)
- Sunset over the Budva Riviera and photo-worthy Sveti Stefan islet.
This tour is a great option if you don’t have loads of time and want to see a lot of Montenegro in one day. We left at 9am and got back around 8pm.
Tour North Montenegro: Ostrog Monastery, Tara Canyon & Durmitor Nat Park
The other popular tour for those looking to explore Montenegro from their base of Kotor is the North Tour visiting three particularly special places: 17th-century Ostrog Monastery, 4,300-metre Tara Canyon & UNESCO Heritage Durmitor National Park.
This tour departs Kotor early, around 7am. It’s not when anyone likes to wake up on holiday but it’s worth it for these spectacular sights!
Where to eat in Kotor
So, to the important stuff! As a self-confessed foodie, it’s no surprise my Kotor sightseeing was choc-a-bloc with restaurant and cafe breaks. Some of the best places in Kotor to go eat include:
Since Kotor isn’t the cheapest of cities, I was thrilled to find a cheese and meat platter with a glass of wine for €10.99. It wasn’t the best wine but you can’t quibble at these prices! Everything else was very tasty.
Marinaio have just a few outdoor tables close to the famous umbrella street. It was surprisingly empty when I visited in early September so perhaps this hidden gem is going under most tourists’ radars.
After enjoying my food on a Sunday evening, a live Cuban band started playing, turning the area into a spontaneous street party. So fun!
For tasty food on a budget, it’s all about €3 slices from Pizza Pronto. If you have good luck, a fresh batch will be waiting… Sadly I got the last piece from a batch which was cold!
You can also order whole pizzas, either sit-in or to-go. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with both the pizza quality and price here.
I ate at Cafe Mone three times in five days although you won’t believe it because I forgot to take any photos. They serve coffee, cakes, salads, healthy wraps and breakfast dishes like avocado and poached eggs on toast. Prices aren’t bad; I paid €12 for breakfast, coffee and juice.
True story: I was on my way to a vegetarian restaurant when a fellow travel blogger invited me to BBQ Tanjga. What a 360 – it was the meatiest of meat feasts! Although tourists do visit, this no-frills grill house feels off-the-beaten-track due to its location outside the city walls.
Meat platters for one person start at €10 although my friend and I got the €15 platter pictured to share (it was definitely enough although we could have done with extra fries). There are also €38 ones that feed up to four.
With over 2,000 reviews and 4.8 stars on Google, it’s a must-visit in Kotor for meat lovers!
If I had to summarise Marshall’s Gelato in one word, it’s ‘pistachio’. I’ve never had such delicious, creamy pistachio ice cream anywhere. They also do a bunch of other flavours including vegan ones.
With a huge range of tasty desserts and ice creams (and options for vegans), Cattarissimo is easily one of the top places in Kotor for dessert. We visited for an after-dinner dessert of local cream cake that reminded me of Bled cream cake in Slovenia.
This restaurant just outside of the Old Town makes a change from the local cuisine and is probably the best place for veggies and vegans in Kotor. They have lots of Asian options like Vietnamese spring rolls, teriyaki dishes and coconut curries as well as general comfort foods like veggie burgers and fries.
Prices at Restobar Taraca are affordable and there’s a lovely terrace area overlooking the river (book in advance to get a seat in peak season).
Headed to Croatia next? Check out my many Croatia blog posts!
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of what to do in Kotor, where to eat and which day trips to take. It’s a beautiful place with even more beautiful surroundings. Enjoy!
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TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING MONTENEGRO
Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.
Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide.
Need travel insurance? I use World Nomads. They cover 150 countries and have 24-hour emergency assistance.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!