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Find out what to see and do, where to stay and how to visit Perast in Montenegro, one of the most picturesque towns in Europe.
Perast in Kotor Bay in Montenegro is arguably one of the most picturesque town in Europe. Just one kilometre end-to-end, Perast’s shore is lined with Baroque palaces and graceful churches. When you stroll the main street along the seaside, it’s all too easy to imagine a lord standing on one of those ornate palace balconies looking out over his fleet of ships, or a lady waiting for her husband to return from sea.
Perast was once a powerful maritime centre. It reached its height of wealth and power in the 17th and 18th centuries, when it was part of the seemingly-unconquerable Venetian Empire which ruled the Bay of Kotor from 1420 to 1797. In fact, one of the most iconic photo stops in Perast is from the balcony on Bujović Palace (now Perast museum), where proud Venetian lions still stand guard. But Perast had its own shipyard as early as 1336 and artefacts found in a cave above the town show people have lived here since prehistoric times.
Perast is unique because the town has kept its traditional appearance, meaning there’s no modern architecture and all the buildings are built in the traditional stone style. The stone palaces and church belfries are interspersed with palm trees, vivid greenery and bright purple bougainvillea flowers that climb up over terraces and shade courtyards. It’s almost like the town has been frozen in time.
Perast is made even more idyllic by the two island churches that float offshore. One, Saint George (Sveti Đorđe) is a Benedictine monastery, the other, Our Lady of the Rocks, is a Catholic church and museum that attracts thousands of visitors.
Although it’s become a busy tourist destination, Perast’s charm is undeniable and a visit to, or stay in, this historic town is a must when you visit the Bay of Kotor.
Perast Museum is housed in late 17th- to early 18th-century Bujović Palace, which was built by Venetian architect Giovanni Battista Fontana for the head of the Bujović family, Vicko Bujović.
Vicko Bujović (1660 – 1709) was a heroic captain and military commander for the Venetian Republic. Venice rewarded him with this palace for his service in the ongoing war against the Turkish Ottoman Empire and made him a duke.
Unfortunately, it seems Vicko was also a bit of a hothead. According to local stories, when the Baroque palace was finished Vicko asked architect Giovanni if he could build an even more beautiful palace. Giovanni eagerly replied that he could and Vicko promptly threw him over the balcony of the palace! But maybe Giovanni couldn’t build a more beautiful palace (or was too terrified to build one) because Bujović Palace is one of the most beautiful buildings on the Bay of Kotor’s shoreline.
Later, after eloping with the daughter of a Turkish lord, who was staying with the Zmajević family in Perast, Vicko was provoked into a street fight. He was killed in the fight and Matija Zmajević was exiled from Perast.
Today Bujović Palace is home to Perast Museum, which is an excellent introduction to local lifestyle and tradition in the Bay of Kotor. Inside you’ll find collections of furniture, weapons, traditional dress and artefacts that reflect traditional life in Perast.
The museum covers three floors and you should leave around 45 minutes to see it. Make sure you go out onto the balcony where you’ll get beautiful views and be able to take pictures of Perast with the Venetian lion statues at either end of the balcony.
Address: Obala Marka Martinovica, Perast
Phone: +382 32 373 519
Hours: 9am – 6pm daily
Entrance: Adults €4, children <12 €1 (free with Kotor hop-on hop-off bus tour)
Perast’s 16 churches are testament to the wealth and power that was concentrated in this town that’s only 1km long from end to end. Historians aren’t sure of the age of some of the churches, and they’ve been renovated and expanded over time, but most of what you see today was built when Perast was at its height in the 18th century.
While you’re strolling Perast’s idyllic waterfront, pay a visit to Saint Nicholas’ Church. The church, built in 1616, has a small, but interesting, museum of local artefacts. You can also climb the belfry for panoramic views of the bay, but beware, the staircase is narrow and low-ceilinged!
Address: Obala Marka Martinovica, Perast
Entrance: Museum €2, belfry €1
Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) is a man-made island that has been built up over 600 years and on it sits a Catholic church. Adjoining the church there’s a museum and these are a must-see while you’re in Perast. You can easily catch a boat from the shore for around €3-5 and the driver will come back to collect you whenever you like.
One of the best ways to get there is to take a scenic speed boat ride by water taxi from Kotor which will give you some stunning views of the bay along the way. These two speed boat tours have departures every two and three hours throughout the day:
Inside the church you can take a guided tour through the church and museum for €1 per person. The guide will explain to you how the island and church came to be and show you the various relics inside. The museum contains prehistoric arte+facts as well as more recent pieces from the town’s seafaring population.
There’s a small souvenir stand inside the museum and you can get an ice cream or cold drink at the shop in front of the church’s entrance.
Read More: Our Lady of the Rocks >
Next to Our Lady of the Rocks you'll see another island with a traditional-style church and large cypress trees. This is Sveti Đorđe, also known as the 'Islet of the Dead.'
There's a 7th century Benedictine monastery on the island and a cemetery, where many prominent people from Perast were buried.
But the island is most famous for the tragic story of Ante and Katica.
During the Napoleonic invasion in October 1813, the men of Perast had holed up in the Tower of Sveti Križ above Perast. The French retreated to Sveti Đorđe (St George), the natural island that lies adjacent to Our Lady of the Rocks. One of the soldiers in the French army, Ante Slovic, was from Cres, an island in northern Croatia. And he was betrothed to a girl called Katica from Perast.
Under orders, the French soldiers set up their canons and opened fire on Sveti Križ, the fortress above the town that’s now a ruin. But one of the cannonballs fell short and and hit Katica's house instead. She was killed and buried on the island of Sveti Đorđe.
Poor Ante was devastated. When the French left the Bay of Kotor he became a hermit. He stayed on Sveti Đorđe and became a monk in the monastery, where he rang the church bell. He died in 1821 and was buried next to Katica.
Sveti Đorđe is a still a Benedictine monastery today. It's not open to visitors but you'll get good views of it if you take a boat trip to Our Lady of the Rocks from Kotor.
Perast has just one beach, Pirate Beach Bar, at the north end of town. The beach bar has drinks and music throughout summer. You can also swim from the promenade, however it’s not very relaxing or private with lots of people and cars passing throughout summer. If you stay at the Iberostar Grand Perast (which used to be Smekija Palace, the biggest palace in Perast) the hotel has a seaside pool and free boat transfers to a nearby beach club.
It’s easy to take a tour to Perast in Montenegro, with several tours making stops in town. Most of the local tours start in Kotor, but you’ll find ones from as far away as Dubrovnik in Croatia.
If you want to have ample time to visit the town, the Kotor hop-on hop-off bus tour gives you as much time as you like to explore the museum (entrance to the museum is included with the ticket) and the other attractions.
You can book a private guide to take you on a guided tour of Perast and any other places you’d like to see in Montenegro. Private tours can start from anywhere and are tailored to your tastes and how much time you have.
This day tour drives across the border then takes you through the Bay of Kotor to Perast and Kotor. Seeing the bay by boat is definitely even more beautiful than by road!
Perast’s beautiful stone buildings and twin island churches make it an idyllic spot for your stay in Montenegro. And you’ll find lots of accommodation options, from luxury hotels to simple rooms. Perast is also close to Kotor, around 15 minutes by car, and it’s right in the centre of the Bay of Kotor, making it a convenient place to base yourself. Unlike Kotor, Perast gets lots of sun in the winter, so if you’re planning an early spring, autumn or winter visit, this a great place to stay.
But there are also a couple of drawbacks to staying in Perast. Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks are major tourist attractions. From May to October Perast’s main street is full of tourists on day tours and from cruise ships docked in Kotor.
Parking is also an issue in Perast. The town is pedestrian-only, with just a few cars and the local bus allowed to drive along the main street through town. There are car parks either side of town, but they’re too small to handle peak-season traffic from June to September. If you stay here and want to hire a car look for a place that has parking or you’ll have to pay for parking and have to walk to your accommodation.
Heritage Grand Perast is the largest and most luxurious hotel in Perast. Set right on the waterfront in former Smekija Palace, this hotel has a seaside pool, private seaside guest area, and indoor pool and offers unrivalled luxury in Perast.
Hotel Per Astra is set above Perast’s main seaside street so when you stay here you have a quieter, more relaxing experience away from the day tourists. The boutique hotel is surrounded by gardens and traditional stone homes and the views from the pool are second-to-none. This is a great place to relax and recharge!
Another great place to recharge your batteries is Monte Bay Retreat. Everything about this hotel is calming and restorative. From the exposed stone walls and neutral palette to the infinity pool overlooking the bay, this is one of the most idyllic spots in the Bay of Kotor.
In addition to hotels you’ll also find lots of beautiful and atmospheric self-catering accommodation options in Perast.
Top places to stay in Perast in Montenegro:
Jet2 Holidays has holidays packages staying in the luxurious, waterfront hotel Iberostar Grand Perast. The hotel has an outdoor pool, indoor pool and private seaside area for hotel guests. You can book a holiday here from several airports around the UK and you holiday includes flights, transfers and accommodation, making it an easy and reliable way to book your stay in this historic town.
This week-long holiday takes you to all of Montenegro’s must-see destinations and off-the-beaten-track gems. You’re accompanied by a fun and knowledgeable Montenegrin guide who’ll make sure you have the time of your life. There’s a ready-made itinerary for the tour, but it’s completely customisable.
This 8-day gulet cruise explores the towns and bays of the Montenegrin coast. The cruise takes you to Kotor, Perast, Budva, Herceg Novi, Bar, Sveti Stefan and Lustica Peninsula. It includes guided tours, lots of swimming in the gorgeous bays and visits to top attractions, like the Blue Cave and Our Lady of the Rocks. This is a really relaxing way to experience the Montenegrin coast and it starts in Tivat, so if you fly into Tivat airport you can be onboard and enjoying a drink on deck within an hour of landing!
This holiday combines staying and travelling on a gulet ship with exploring Montenegro by bike. The tour covers a good combination of top destinations, like Kotor and Budva, with quieter, authentic locations, like Lustica Peninsula and Skadar Lake. The tour also includes some special experiences, like wine tasting and swimming around Sveti Stefan.
You can also easily book your own self-drive itinerary around Montenegro. When you drive yourself you’re in control of where you go and how long you stay. You can stop wherever you like to take a picture of stunning views or take a dip in a lake. But it helps to have some guidance, which is where this itinerary can help you. This round-Montenegro tour takes you to all the top spots. You customise it to suit you!
Perast’s seaside restaurants are excellent places to try local cuisine, especially seafood. You can stop for lunch if you’re just visiting for the day, or stay for a candlelit dinner if you’re staying in the town or nearby. Prices here tend to be a little higher because it’s such a popular tourist spot, but the view from your table and the location are worth it.
Hotel Conte’s seaside restaurant has delicious, traditional seafood dishes with a modern twist in an idyllic position with a view of the two island churches, Our Lady of the Rocks and St George.
Address: Kapetana Marka Martinovića, Perast
Phone: +382 67 257 387
Hours: 8am - 11pm
Konoba Školji serves traditional Montenegrin seafood and meat dishes (and vegetarian too, although Montenegrins don’t really think that a meal without meat is a meal). Try the sač, which is traditional, slow-roasted lamb ‘under the bell’ (steel dome). The restaurant’s tables are in a leafy courtyard just across the road from the seaside and it has a restful ambiance.
Address: Kapetana Marka Martinovića, Perast
Phone: +382 69 419 745
Hours: 11am - 11pm
At the higher end, hotel Heritage Grand Perast’s Piazza and Riva restaurants serve modern, Balkan-inspired dishes in an impeccable setting in the centre of Perast.
Address: Kapetana Marka Martinovića, Perast
Phone: +382 32 311 400
Hours: 8am - 11pm
Ćatovića Mlini is in Morinj, about 15 minutes’ drive from Perast, and it’s well worth the visit if you have the time. The restaurant is a converted watermill and the tables are laid out around a freshwater stream where mallards and white ducks float along and fluff their feathers. You can walk around the manicured grounds and there’s a playground for kids.
Address: E65, Morinj
Phone: +382 32 373 030
Hours: 12pm - 10:30pm
22nd July: Every year the town holds a festival on 22nd July to celebrate Our Lady of the Rocks.
Boats leave the shore and the townspeople throw rocks into the sea at the base of the island. The island and church were built after a painting of the Virgin Mary was found washed up a lone rock at this location after a shipwreck by throwing rocks and boulders into sea there.
The event kicks off at 6:30pm but there's also a regatta during the day.
End of June to start of July: This music festival celebrates Dalmatian klapa music which is traditional choir music from the Montenegrin and Croatian coasts. There are free, open-air concerts in the square in front of Saint Nicholas Church.
Never heard klapa? Here are the winners of the 2019 competition, Klapa Contra, performing in Perast.
15th May: You'll be forgiven if you want to give this event a miss. It celebrates a 1654 victory over invading Turks. A poor rooster is chained to a float at sea in front of the town and towns folk compete to see who can shoot it. The winner gets a towel and has to provide the whole town with wine.
There's also traditional music and dancing, so if you can stomach the main event the rest is quite nice.
2022 update: This event has been cancelled for the foreseeable future due to complaints of animal cruelty.
Perast is easy to get to by car. It lies on the E80/E65 which goes all around the Bay of Kotor. You can hire a car at any airport and drive yourself to Perast.
Distances from airports:
You can get a taxi from Kotor, or any other town, to Perast. I recommend booking airport transfers from the airport to Perast if you’re not hiring a car for your stay. Booking your transfers in advance makes your arrival much more relaxing and you avoid getting ripped off by unlicensed drivers at the airport.
Read More: Transfers to Montenegro
Blue Line runs a bus service between Kotor and Kostanjica, stopping in Perast. Buses depart Kotor every hour at 15 minutes past the hour. You can catch the bus from Kotor bus station or in front of Kamelija Shopping Centre. Buses to Kotor leave Perast at 30 minutes past the hour. Bus fare is €1 per person and the bus stop is in front of the square by Saint Nicholas’ Church.
There are also intercity buses that will drop you in Perast, but they don’t go through Perast town. These buses stay on the main road above the town and you have to walk down to the seaside. You can find timetables on Balkan Viator (also has a useful app if you’re doing a lot of bus travel in the Balkans), on Busticket4.me and at Kotor bus station.
BellaBoka runs a solar-powered and hybrid ferry service that connects the main towns in the Bay of Kotor (Herceg Novi, Kumbor (Portonovi), Tivat, Perast, Prčanj, Donji Stoliv and Kotor).
One ferry line runs Kotor – Prčanj – Donji Stoliv – Perast and return. The other ferry line runs Tivat – Herceg Novi – Tivat – Perast – Tivat. More ferry routes are planned in future.
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