Kotor: the Ultimate Tourist Guide to Europe's Hottest Destination

No visit to Montenegro is complete without a trip to Kotor old town. The town is UNESCO Heritage protected for good reason and is definitely a must-see during your stay.

Here’s the low down on what you should do and what you need to know while you're there.


Kotor is an ancient, fortified town that was first mentioned in 168 BC. It was settled by the Ancient Romans and called Acruvium. 

Emperor Justinian fortified the town in 535, but four hundred years of Venetian rule from 1420 to 1797 have really shaped the town. The architecture is distinctly Venetian and it's one of the most well-preserved medieval old towns on the Adriatic.

Today, Kotor is Montenegro's must-see destination. Cruise ships arrive daily between April and November and the cobbled streets are alive with tourists and locals alike. 

But step off the main streets and into the hidden alleyways and you'll find the ruins of an ancient prison and the laundry of families who've lived here for generations swaying in the breeze. You'll see that far from being a town where the locals left when the tourists arrive *ahem Dubrovnik*, Kotor has managed to strike the balance. Locals still live there, still do business and most importantly, still come for coffee in town every day. Kotor is a living and breathing town, with soul. And that's why I guarantee you'll fall in love with it, just like we (and every other visitor) did. 


Kotor Old Town

KotorThe old town's charm is effortless

Image: Deposit photos

The best way to experience the old town is to just get lost in its rabbit-warren of alleys. The town itself is a combination of restaurants, shops, apartments and ruins that just run into each other.

The town was actually completely ruined in an earthquake in 1979 and while most of it was rebuilt, some parts have just been left to languish which makes it rather pretty more than anything else.

Until the end of WWI, Kotor was officially called Cattaro - the Italian name for Kotor. After it became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia it was christened Kotor. 

Visiting Kotor? There are so many things to do here! Choose from dozens of  fun day excursions or find a tour of Kotor here.

While exploring, you'll find dozens of interesting nooks and crannies that showcase a photo opportunity or an interesting piece of history. Don’t worry, the old town is so small, it's impossible to get lost for long.

KotorThe old town alleys offer non-stop picture opportunities

Image: Deposit photos

And if you do get lost, you can always plop yourself down at a café and get a coffee and a slice of ‘krempita’ or cream pie.

Local's Tip: Head over to Letrika to try a unique coffee experience in Kotor. A red-hot piece of charcoal is put into a cup of Turkish coffee right in front of you. The charcoal makes the coffee smoother and purifies it. Charcoal is well-known for its purification properties and you can either leave it in while you drink your coffee or take it out.

This is the way to turn a just another coffee into an authentic experience!

To find Letrika, grab a town map at the info centre at the entrance and head over to #26, St Ana's Church. You'll find it in the corner there.

Letrika is also a funky and super-popular bar at night, especially with the hostelling crowd. 

Kotor Travel Guide - Charcoal coffee in Kotor, Montenegro. A unique coffee experience where a piece of charcoal is added to your Turkish coffee to purify it.

When you visit it, you see that locals still live there, still shop there, and most importantly in Montenegro, still have coffee there. 

Although Kotor's become very popular in the last couple of years, it's not been overrun with tourists like neighbouring Dubrovnik. Local's still come here, live here and do business here, which means you still feel that it's an authentic, Montenegrin town. 

KotorFollow narrow alleyways to discover local nooks and crannies... and get that beautiful shot!

Image: Deposit photos

A few Local's Tips

  • Stop at the information kiosk in front of the main gate/sea gate opposite the marina and get a map of the old town. Historic buildings and palaces are not always well marked, but they're marked on the map. It will also make navigating the alleyways much easier!
  • If you're staying in one of the old town's boutique hotels, do take good note of where your hotel is. We've seen many a tourist wander back and forth in search of their hotel. 
  • And a word to the ladies - I recommend forgoing heels here and wearing sensible footwear for navigating the slippery, cobbled streets.

Discover Kotor

Want to see some stunning videos of Kotor? See the best Kotor videos from around the net on my Kotor Videos page.


Things to Do in Kotor

San Giovanni Fortress Walls

Okay, this one is not going to be for everyone and if you’re planning a visit in July or August when it’s hottest over here, you’ll be forgiven for giving this a miss.

However, if you’ve got the chance (and energy!), do the old fortress wall walk above the old town.

I mean, look at that view!

Kotor

Image: Deposit photos

The old fortress walls lead up from the north side of town to the fortress that overlooks the town. You can walk the steps that people and soldiers have walked for hundreds of years.

KotorThe entrance to the fortress walk is marked by this arch near Pjaca od Drva

Image: Deposit photos

You’ll need good shoes for this as the steps are slippery and broken in places. It’s about 45 minutes to the top and the views over the old town are really magnificent all the way up.

KotorThis is the walking path up the fortress wall

Image: Deposit photos

Local's Tip: Take water. There’s also no shade on the path, so don’t forget your sunscreen.

Entrance: €3 per person


Take the Local's Path

Do you like to get off the beaten track and explore? 

Good, you're going to love this next tip!

You can skip the main entrance in town where all the tourists go and take the local's secret route. This is the original route the Austro-Hungarian soldiers would take. 

To get there, you'll head to the north gate and cross the two bridges. Turn right at the end and follow road until you get to the start of the path.

This route is more shaded in the mornings and you'll most likely have it to yourself rather than squeezing past other tourists on the single lane steps on the main walkway from the old town. 

As a bonus, half way up you can stop to explore a tiny old church that's looked after by one of the few residents here.

Speaking of residents, don't miss the signs for cheese, ham and rakija - the fiery local spirit that will knock your socks off. Stopping here, you can try the ultimate in local Montenegrin produce and enjoy it with stunning and unique views of Kotor Bay. If you're not up for a shot of rakija to see you through the rest of the hike, try the pomegranate juice, also a local specialty. 

Before you shoot through a hole in the fortress wall back onto the main path, keep an eye out for fresh figs in August. There are lots of wild figs around here and they're amazing fresh off the tree. 

If you haven't picked figs before, look for the ones with a drop of honeydew at the end. That means they're ripe.


Kotor Excursions

KotorThere are lots of tours departing from town every day throughout from April to November

Image: Deposit photos

There are lots of excursions you can take from the town centre. These are perfect for cruise ship guests, but they're also great for people staying in Kotor. 

The most popular tours are the boat tours and sightseeing tours. There's also a great choice of activity tours that include hiking, biking, wakboarding or waterskiing, canyoning and jeep safaris.

There's something for everyone!

Read More: Kotor Excursions

Read More: Find a Tour of Kotor


Maritime Museum

Inside the old town, the former Grgurina Palace is home to the maritime museum which is well worth a visit.

The collection was started by the Boka Marine Fraternity in 1880 and the museum was opened to the public in 1900.

It’s three floors are filled with beautiful examples of the area's maritime history including clothing, weapons and furniture.

You'll be able to see reconstructed drawing rooms from local noble families, learn about local legends who circumnavigated the globe and learn about the history of the bay's most important industry - shipping.

KotorMaritime Museum entrance

Opening hours:

  • 15th April - 1st July: 8am - 6pm Monday - Saturday, 9am - 1pm Sundays and public holidays.
  • 1st July - 31st August: 8am - 11pm Monday - Saturday, 10am - 4pm Sundays and public holidays.
  • 1st September - 15th October: 8am - 6pm Monday - Saturday, 9am - 1pm Sundays and public holidays.
  • 15th October - 14th April: 9am - 5pm Monday - Saturday, 9am - 12pm Sundays and public holidays.

Entrance: €4 per person with audio guide.


Farmers Market

Hands down the best place shop for your fresh produce is at the farmers market located in front of the old town. Every morning you’ll find a dazzling array of local fresh produce, flowers, fish, and locally produced cured meats and cheeses.

The friendly farmers will be only too happy to let you try before you buy and this is where you can get authentic Montenegrin prosciutto, local cheeses, Montenegrin olives and local produce like fresh figs in high summer.


Churches

Kotor wouldn’t be an old town without a church around every other corner. The most notable and worth visiting are:

St Tryphon’s Cathedral  (1166)– For €2.50 you can visit the cathedral and their small historical exhibit on the first floor.

Sveti  Luka (1195) – Spent the first part of its life as a Catholic church and then was turned into an Orthodox church and served both faiths.

Sveti Nikola (1909) –A large Serbian Orthodox church. It’s customary in these churches to buy candles, kiss each one before lighting and leave them in the basins - one for the living and one for the dead.

KotorSt Tryphon's Cathedral

For a unique souvenir of Kotor, head to the art gallery next to St Tryphon's Cathedral and choose a piece made by a local artist. 


Walking Tours

I highly recommend taking a walking tour of Kotor if you can. In just a couple of hours you can get to know the town like a local!

You can explore the town on your own, but since there aren't any info boards about the historical sites you'll miss out on the most interesting stories about the town... like how St Tryphon's remains ended up in Kotor even though they were originally on their way to Dubrovnik, resulting in St Tryphon's cathedral in Kotor.  

Click here to see our list of the best Kotor tours


Kotor's Cats

Kotor

Cats of Kotor Souvenirs

The old town is also well known for its cat population which hangs around shop fronts and the Pijaca od Drva (Wood Square).

If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, perhaps for a cat lover you know, the Cats of Kotor shop is a great place to stop for handmade, cat-centred art and crafts. The owner supports the local cats and you can make a donation to help feed them.

Cat Museum

There’s also a little cat museum in the old town that you can visit for a €1 entrance fee. Inside you'll see postcards, photos and examples of cats in local print materials from the 20's and 30's. It's an eclectic and unique museum that's supports a good cause. Again, proceeds go to help take care of the town cats.

If you’d like to read more about animal welfare in Montenegro and how you can help click here. You can even help out without it costing you any money!


Beaches and Boats

The marina is right in front of the old town so there’s no swimming right in the town. The closest beaches are about 500m to the right of town (when looking out to sea) in Dobrota.

To get to Dobrota you'll go past the city park, over the bridge and take the seafront road. You'll find cafes and beaches all along this seafront.

If you really want to see some of the best beaches, you'll have to head out in a boat.

KotorBoat tours depart from City Park, opposite the old town

You really, really should get out in a boat in the bay. It's stunning!

You can hire a boat or join a boat tour from Kotor.  Top sights to see are:

You can find private and group tours that start from €15 per person.

Read More: Montenegro Boat Tours



Where to Stay in Kotor

There are some lovely hotels in the old town and the Kotor Old Town Hostel was named among the top 10 in the world for adrenaline junkies.

Kotor

But staying in the town isn't for everyone and you should read my Kotor hotel guide to help you decide.

There are some beautiful hotels outside the town too that I'd highly recommend.

Read More: Kotor Old Town Hotels

Read More: Kotor Bay Hotels


Restaurants

KotorGalion is just a short walk from town and is a great place for a special meal

Kotor has literally dozens of eateries and restaurants within its walls. From pizza slices to bakeries, cafes to restaurants.

There's nothing more 'Montenegrin' than sitting in one of the squares, surrounded by ancient palaces, perhaps with a cat at your feet, sipping on an espresso while you watch the people go past from behind your sunglasses. This is the way the locals do Kotor. 

While visiting, I recommend trying at least one seafood dish like calamari, brancin or orada (first class local fish), buzara (shellfish in red or white wine sauce). 

If you're not a seafood fan, there are plenty of other great options like cevapi and pljeskavica (Balkan sausages and meat patties) and fresh salads. 

Read More: Best Kotor Restaurants

Read More: Montenegrin Food

KotorAstoria Restaurant

Nightlife

So you've been out for a sumptuous seafood dinner, enjoyed a few local drinks... where to next? To party of course! Kotor has a number of clubs and bars open all year around.

If you head into the old town, you’ll find numerous places with djs and live music, especially during the summer.

The biggest club is Maximus, in the north of the town. They usually have an area for local-style contemporary Serbian-language music and another area playing global hits. People tend to head out quite late, so expect things to kick-off after midnight.

Numb Crawl

Want to mingle and make some new friends? You can't beat Old Town Hostel Kotor's legendary Numb Crawl. Led every night by the hostel's self-professed 'not bad-looking' staff,  you'll visit the best bars in Kotor, get free shots, make new friends and have a LOT of fun. Get your ticket at Old Town Hostel Kotor


Shopping

Aside from the boutiques in the old town, there's also has a small shopping centre just five minutes’ walk north of the old town called Kamelia. Here you’ll find a supermarket, chemist, bank and various boutiques and cafes. 

The top floor has an indoor playground that's suitable for kids up to about 8. It's a good place to head if you need a break from the heat or if it's raining. There's a cafe on the floor below where you can get coffee or bite to eat. And on the top floor there's a Kid's Land which sells kids' clothing, toys, strollers... basically everything you need for kids and babies.


Parking

There are three parking lots for the old town – one directly in front by the marina, one at the north end and one a little further north on the sea side. Parking is pretty cheap at about €0.80 an hour and you’ll always find a park in one of these lots.


Kotor
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