Best Things to Do in Kotor, Montenegro
So, do you plan your Kotor itinerary and thus want to find out about the best things to do in Kotor? You are staying one day in Kotor or longer? Then read on and find your answers here.
I had named Montenegro the most beautiful country long before I visited. And from what I saw, it seems to be a beautiful country full of stunning scenery and cute towns that do not have the price tag of countries like Switzerland or Norway.
One of the places that contributed to my assumption of Montenegro being the most beautiful place in the world was the little coastal town of Kotor. Situated in the southeastern part of the Bay of Kotor beneath Mount Lovcen, this place looks amazing!
Surrounded by limestone cliffs, it reminds me a bit of Norway – reason enough to fall in love. Then there are the impressive stone walls of this medieval fortress town that stretch high into the mountain itself, which you can hike and that offer incredible views of the town and the surroundings.
There are even more reasons and so it is no surprise that nowadays, it is probably the most famous tourist destination in Montenegro. And since the town itself is small in size (with a population of only about 13,000 in total), it can get crowded in the busy months, from May to September.
KOTOR TRAVEL TIPS
How to Get to Kotor
Kotor can easily be reached from within Montenegro, Dubrovnik, or Bosnia-Herzegovina by car. The scenic drive makes it actually fun to get to Kotor by car, and while streets in Montenegro are small and windy (the mountains are calling), the streets are still in good condition.
Some streets might be challenging for inexperienced mountain drivers, but in general, you are okay to drive here.
The old town is car-free, but you can either park your car by the paid parking space in front of the city walls (where the cruise ships arrive/depart) for about 0.90€ an hour, or you can park farther away (about a 10-minute walk from the old town) for free.
But you can also arrive by plane to Tivat, which is just a few kilometers away from Kotor.
Also, many people arrive to Kotor via cruise ship – the port is about 100m from the entrance gates of the old town. The visitors normally just stay a few hours, and while it is enough for the main two of the best things to do in Kotor, I suggest staying a bit longer.
How to Get Around Kotor
The old town is car-free – and even if it were not, the old town is so small that you can easily walk from one end to the other within 10 minutes.
So, within the old town, you will only walk. Also, getting up the city walls is only possible on foot (no cable car). Tip: Even if it gets hot, wear comfortable shoes, especially if you hike up. But even in the old town, high heels are probably not a good choice.
Outside the old town, you could drive, but the port is small as well, so you can take a nice stroll there.
To get to other towns, like Perast, you can either take a bus, a boat, or drive.
Where to Stay in Kotor
While you can see the best of Kotor in one day, I actually suggest staying there for a night. I stayed in Kotor for three nights (because I wanted to make sure I had sunny weather so that I could enjoy it to the fullest).
For two nights, I stayed outside the city center and had a nice view of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. One night, I stayed in the old town.
Both had advantages, but if you are in Kotor for only one night, pick a hotel in the old town. This way, you can explore the area when the day visitors have left (the cruise ships arrive around 7:15 am, so from 8 am on, it gets busy in the town).
At night the fortress is lit up – so you can see the path in the dark which makes Kotor at night looks very unique.
Here is one of the best-rated hotels in Kotor – check it out.
Best Things to do in Kotor in One or Two Days – An Itinerary
St. John´s Fortress / Castle of San Giovanni
This is by far the best thing to do in Kotor. Whether you have a few hours in Kotor or longer, the must-do is to head up to St. John´s Fortress.
There are two ways to get up – none of them include a cable car or any convenient method though, and both include a lot of hiking. But it will be worth it because the views of Kotor Bay are incredible!
Like other city walls, Kotor’s fortifications were built to protect the town from invaders, and in Kotor, the construction of the walls started in the 9th century. By the 14th century, a protective loop was completed.
Despite all the wars and natural disasters, the walls are well preserved and it’s no surprise that they are one of Kotor’s highlights now.
So, there is an official hiking trail that the tourism office recommends taking and promotes. Take the 1,300+ stairs to enjoy amazing views.
The official hours for when you can go up to the St. John´s Fortress are from 8 am to 8 pm. If you start hiking between that time, you have to pay an entrance fee of 8€ (last year, it was just 3€). The entrance is in the old town (there are entry points near the River Gate and behind Trg od Salate).
Hiking to the very top should take about 45 minutes – make sure to wear comfortable and solid footwear (no flip flops for this part of the day).
As this activity is the most popular, it can get busy after 10 am, so I really recommend getting up earlier to beat the crowds. Also, if you start hiking up before 8 am, you do not have to pay the entrance fee.
There is another way to get up – known as the hiking trail of the Ladder of Kotor. You will have a different hiking path at the beginning but can later get to the main path. This path will take longer, but it includes fewer stairs – and there is no entrance fee at all.
This is the path I chose – traveling with a little dog did not leave me any other option (as dogs are not supposed to climb many stairs, which means I would have to carry him most of the time, so I figured the alternative route was the better option).
The second path starts outside of the old town and offers different views of the Bay of Kotor. It is less busy, but solid footwear might be even more important here.
After 30-40 minutes, you will see a big window (hole) that you have to climb through. I was a bit scared and I saw a middle-aged couple decide not to climb through the window, but it looked scarier than it was (however, I would feel uncomfortable doing it with little kids).
Once you have climbed through that window, you are on the official hiking path with all the other people.
(There were comments that the window might be closed at times, but it was open at the time of my visit, so check before deciding on one route). If you want to do more hiking, you could hike farther up and get back to the window later in the day.
From there, you have amazing views of the Bay of Kotor (much better than those from the unofficial hiking trail). For the best view, however, keep climbing up for another 10-20 minutes until you reach the St. John´s Fortress.
It just looks incredible on a clear day. The fortress itself is not well-maintained, but at least you can walk around freely there.
There are some people selling drinks; however, I suggest bringing your own snacks and drinks, and taking enough breaks to soak in the views and beauty!
So, when it is time to head back down, stop at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, which you can also visit.
With breaks, it will probably take around 2-4 hours to climb the walls and get up to the fortress.
P.S. If that sounds too strenuous: you do not have to climb up all the way for nice views. Even if you get up only halfway, you will have some amazing views!
The city walls surround the old town of Kotor and you can walk some of the walls for free – and hardly have to climb any stairs.
So, if you have finished the climb to St. John´s Fortress, look out for the rest of the city walk and just go up there to have a closer look from above at many of the sights.
Wander the Streets of the Old Town
Kotor has a lovely old town, which is also one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in the Balkans. However, I am a bit spoiled when it comes to well-preserved old towns and I was not blown away.
However, the town is small and cute, and strolling the streets is something you should not miss out on – even if you have only one day in Kotor.
For small towns, I do not have a strict itinerary, but take the words “get lost” literally and just wander aimlessly around – sitting down here and there to have a coffee or lunch (and there are many restaurants and cafes in the old town of Kotor) and photographing the pretty houses and cute corners.
There are some churches and other buildings that are worth a visit in the old town of Kotor:
Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral (Kotor Cathedral), Saint Nicholas’ Church, Saint Luke’s Church, the Maritime Museum, and also the Cat Museum.
Kotor Old Town Free City Tour
I did not do this in Kotor, which I kind of regret, as I love walking tours – and in Kotor, you have free, daily walking tours (tip based) offered by the Montenegro Hostel.
Local guides will tell you more about the history of Kotor and give you insights that you probably would not get via guidebooks (well, you might, but honestly, which of us is reading everything in our textbooks? I admit, I mostly just get overviews and then learn about a place once I am there). The tours take about an hour, but you need a make a reservation a few hours before.
Shopping in Kotor
I tend to have a more minimalist lifestyle now and hardly shop – but I love to stroll around.
Being spoiled by the pretty shops in Mostar and Sarajevo, the shopping opportunities in Kotor seemed few – but there were shops that sell souvenirs and more things that might be interesting to many visitors.
Perast is a beautiful little coastal town near Kotor and makes a wonderful (half) day trip. You can get there via boat, bus (tickets are about 1.20€ one-way), or drive there yourself.
I must say, I liked Perast much more than Kotor itself. While you cannot really compare the two places because they are completely different, I still compare them.
Sitting down and having lunch in one of the restaurants at the bay – including some amazing views – was another highlight.
Perast is much smaller than Kotor and you cannot do much – but it is so quaint and calm, yet still full of beauty, that you should come here – and not just to beat the crowds. Since there are no cruise ships, it is much quieter (and cheaper), even though there are quite a few people coming from Kotor for a few hours.
If you have two days in Kotor, Perast is a must. But to be honest, I would try to fit in Perast even with only 1 day in Kotor. However, if you do a cruise and just have a few hours in Kotor it might be difficult to visit.
Boat Trip to Our Lady of the Rocks
You can do this trip either from Kotor directly or visit Our Lady of the Rocks – a cute, man-made little island in the Bay of Kotor – from Perast, as it is situated just in front of the town of Perast. The other option is a natural island and the site of the Saint George Benedictine Monastery.
The best way to visit the island is by boat from Perast, which costs around 5€ round trip.
Drive Around the Bay of Kotor
If you have some more time, I highly recommend driving around the Bay of Kotor.
Sometimes, I hate nothing more than driving. Sometimes, I love nothing more than driving.
And driving around the Bay of Kotor is an amazing experience.
Since I road-tripped Montenegro, I got around quite a lot. One of the most impressive drives was from Kotor ( take P22 and then head to P1 towards Njegusi, and then to Cetinje – you can combine it with a trip to either Cetinje or the Lovcen National Park).
The streets are narrow, but overall, in very good condition. Just drive slowly and plan in enough time for breaks (no tolls included here).
Stroll the Port
The Port of Kotor is tiny, and if you look at Kotor from above, you will notice it if you see the huge cruise ships that – so it seems – block the entire port because it is so small.
From May onwards, there is often at least one cruise ships stopping here – sometimes, it is even more than one ship.
The port itself is cute for a nice walk. In the evening, when the Kotor walls are lit up, it is extremely charming to walk along the port and look at it from a distance.
Hopefully, this Kotor itinerary will help you plan your trip to Kotor, whether you stay one day or two days in Kotor (or even longer) – heading to Budva in Montenegro? Then check out my quick Budva guide and if you plan to visit more places in Montenegro you can check out my Montenegro guide.