The Venetian-era walled city of Kotor is a must-see on any Montenegro road trip. Here are 10 wonderful things to do in Kotor, including the UNESCO-Listed Old Town and the best Kotor day trips.
This guest post comes courtesy of Samantha Karen, Sam Sees World, a millennial traveller on a mission to seek out the new and unknown. Her objective is to provide valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while getting some good Instagram photos along the way.
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Welcome to Kotor
Kotor is a stunning medieval city located right at the base of Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor.
Montenegro may not be everyone’s top choice for a European holiday, yet it’s full of extremely charming cities and towns. Kotor is by far the country’s most popular attraction and one of the best places to visit in the Balkans.
Kotor is characterised by its authentic Old Town: A maze of cobbled streets, stone churches and orange-roofed houses encased in a fortification wall and set against a backdrop of towering mountains.
It has a similar vibe to nearby Dubrovnik in Croatia, otherwise known as Kings Landing from Game of Thrones. Happily, Kotor is usually much quieter than Dubrovnik, especially in shoulder season.
Stunning mountainscapes, crystal blue waters, and a deep history – be prepared to fall in love with Kotor’s beauty.
Best time to visit Kotor
Due to Kotor’s increase in popularity, the best time to visit the city has changed in recent years. During the summer months, from June to August, cruise ships dock in Kotor’s harbour every single day, unloading hundreds of people into the Old City. The influx of people can make the small area feel very packed.
This is why the best time to visit Kotor is in the shoulder seasons, April and May or September and October. These months are still warm enough to swim, however, you’ll see far fewer tourists.
How to get to Kotor: Hire a car and drive from Podgorica; join an organised day tour from Dubrovnik; or book a private transfer from Dubrovnik airport.
Hiring a car in Montenegro: The Bay of Kotor is the perfect place for a road trip. Use Discover Cars to find the best price on a rental car in Sveti Stefan, Tivat or Podgorica. Check out my tips for driving in Montenegro and see this post about road tripping in the Balkans for more itinerary inspiration.
Where to stay in Kotor: Historic Hotel Cattaro (boutique) – luxurious rooms with balconies and terraces overlooking the Bay. Apartment Ivan (mid-range) – self-contained apartments near the Old Town. Hostel Old Town (budget) – basic accommodation in the heart of the city.
Top 5 Kotor tours & experiences
- Small group walking tour of Kotor Old Town (from $11)
- Boat tour to Our Lady of the Rocks & the Blue Cave (from $33)
- Kayaking on the Bay of Kotor (from $38)
- Full-day tour from Kotor to Lovcen National Park (from $54)
- Full-day tour from Kotor to Perast (from $22)
10 wonderful things to do in Kotor
1. Explore Kotor Old Town
As mentioned, the Old Town in Kotor is a beautiful sight and the city’s main attraction. The area is made up of white stone walls, laneways and staircases that create a maze of passages and hidden courtyards.
Built by the Venetians, the Old Town is so impressive and historically important that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Getting lost here is a great way to transport yourself back in time.
Guided option: This small group tour of Kotor’s Old Town runs for 1 hour and visits all the highlights of the UNESCO zone.
2. Hike up to Kotor Fortress for a view
One of the highlights of visiting Kotor is the Kotor Fortress hike.
The walk is extremely popular among visitors thanks to the incredible views you get from the top. The hike takes you from the base of the Old Town, up 1,300 steep steps to an old fortification that is positioned high in the mountains overlooking the city.
The hike takes around 35 minutes and is not easy in the slightest. The rocks are slippery, and if you go when the sun is at its peak, the heat will exhaust you. However, the views are worth every second of pain!
There are ways you can mitigate your suffering. To make the hike easier, be sure to wear shoes with a good grip, pack water, and go in the morning before the sun passes over the mountain.
3. Visit Kotor’s old churches
If you’re a fan of historic churches, then you’ll love the architecture in Kotor. There are serveral churches within the Old Town that date back to the 14th century and are open to the public to explore.
The best churches to visit in Kotor are the Serbian Orthodox church Sveti Nikola, Sveti Luka Church, and St. Ana Church. The best part is that most are free to enter.
4. Enjoy a delicious meal
Kotor is packed with amazing restaurants that you will be more than happy to indulge in after a long day in the Montenegrin sun. Seafood is a specialty for obvious reasons, but Italian and Turkish cuisine are also very popular.
One of the best restaurants for all-round great food in Kotor is Bocalibre. if you like pizza or fresh salad at a good price this is the place for you!
Guided option: This private walking tour of Kotor includes a local meal and wine tasting.
5. Take a day trip to Herceg Novi
Just a 30-minute drive or bus ride from Kotor you’ll find the city of Herceg Novi. Bigger than Kotor but still small enough to explore on foot, its location near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina gives Herceg Novi a different vibe. It’s perfect for a short-day trip if you want to add another authentic and interesting place to your Montenegro itinerary.
There are a tonne of things to do in Herceg Novi, from beaches to old streets, and another stunning fortress.
6. Escape the crowds in Perast
Perast is a small town located a very short distance from Kotor in the opposite direction from Herceg Novi. It is reachable by car, bus or boat, and is the perfect place to escape when Kotor gets crowded.
Here, you can walk around the quaint streets, eat at a local restaurant, or go swimming.
Guided option: This day tour to Perast Old Town is an affordable and efficient option.
7. Take a boat out on the Bay
Kotor’s location on the water makes it easy to access one of the most beautiful bay areas in the world directly from the city. Hopping on a boat tour to cruise around the turquoise waters is highly recommended.
This is the best way to see the surrounding towns while taking in Kotor’s beauty from a distance. Plus, tours are well-priced and guides can give you some interesting information about the area’s history.
8. Go on an adventure to Our Lady of the Rocks
One of the best places to visit on a boat tour from Kotor is Our Lady of the Rocks, a historic island off the coast of Perast, just 10 minutes from Kotor.
The tiny islet is the only artificial island in the Adriatic. As the story goes, locals made the island by sinking ships and throwing rocks into the water.
On the island, there is a single church which you can visit on a short guided tour. The interior frescoes are stunning, and there’s a small museum dedicated to curios unearthed from shipwrecks in the bay.
Our Lady of the Rocks is a popular tourist attraction so you won’t have any trouble finding a boat to take you there from Kotor.
Guided option: This boat tour to Our Lady of the Rocks also includes a visit to the Blue Cave.
9. Relax on a nearby beach
Since Montenegro is located on the Adriatic Sea, there are ample opportunities to spend time on the beach. There are no sandy beaches in Kotor, but there are plenty nearby that are lovely for swimming.
If you find yourself visiting in Kotor in the warmer months, you will really be yearning for a swim to cool down from the hot sun. There are beaches in Perast and Tivat that are perfect for a dip.
10. Go Shopping
Kotor’s old town is full of cute shops that are packed with handmade souvenirs and interesting items. This is the perfect place to buy some mementos or an interesting piece of art to remember your travels in Montenegro.
You can find lots of hidden stores in the side streets and alleys around the Old Town.
More Balkans travel ideas
- Explore guide to Novi Sad, Serbia’s second city
- More beautiful old towns: photo guide to Sarajevo and walking tour of Skopje Old Bazaar
- Albania guides: What to do in Tirana, Berat, Gjirokaster, Korca, and Valbona
- Kosovo guides: Things to do in Prishtina and Prizren
- The perfect Albania itinerary for culture, nature and history
Planning a trip? Check out my Balkans travel guide.