WHAT TO DO IN KOTOR – THINGS TO DO AND SEE
So, do you plan your Kotor itinerary and thus want to find out about the best things to do in Kotor in one day? Or do you plan on staying longer? Read on and find out how to spend one day in Kotor or two days.
Situated in the southeastern part of the Bay of Kotor beneath Mount Lovcen, Kotor 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 offer incredible views of the town and the surroundings.
It is no surprise that 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, especially from May to September. It is still worth a visit and here is why!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR KOTOR ITINERARY
Before talking about the best things to do in Kotor, here are some quick travel tips for your itinerary.
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 you are okay to drive here in general.
- The old town is car-free. 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 1€ an hour, or you can park farther away (about a 10-minute walk from the old town) for free.
- You can also arrive by plane at Tivat Airport, which is just a few kilometers away from Kotor. From there, you can take a bus to Kotor.
- Also, many people arrive at Kotor via cruise ship – the port is about 100m from the old town’s entrance gates.
- The visitors normally 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 For One Day +
- 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).
- 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.
- Driving is actually the best way to get around outside the old town. But in Kotor itself, you will not need any car/taxi, etc.
BY BOAT/PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION/TOURS:
- If you visit beautiful Perast, you can either take a bus, a boat, or drive to get there. More on that, later.
1 Day in Kotor – Where to Stay
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).
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.
- I stayed at this hotel in Kotor. It offered good value for money and was perfectly located in the heart of Kotor.
- Here is one of the best-rated hotels in Kotor – check it out.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN KOTOR IN 1 DAY
Let´s start with the main attractions in Kotor.
Hike Up St. John´s Fortress / Castle of San Giovanni
Hiking up St. John´s Fortress is by far the best thing to do in Kotor. Whether you have a few hours or stay one day in Kotor – should seriously consider hiking up.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. There are two ways to get up – none of them include a cable car or any convenient method, though, and both include uphill hiking.
TRAIL 1: So, there is an official hiking trail that the tourism office recommends taking. Take the 1,300+ stairs to enjoy amazing views.
- When you can go up to the St. John´s Fortress, the official hours are from 8 am to 8 pm. If you start hiking between that time, you have to pay an entrance fee of 8€.
- If you start hiking up before 8 am, you do not have to pay the entrance fee.
- 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.
- The route is very easy to follow and you will not get lost – even with bad orientation.
TRAIL 2: 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. It is not illegal to use this way – but it isn’t the official hiking trail either.
- 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 of uphill hiking, 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 climb 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.
Once you are at the “main route”, 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.
Some people sell drinks. 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.
This hike will probably take around 2-4 hours (including breaks).
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!
Walk the City Walls
The city walls surround Kotor’s old town, and you can walk some of the walls for free. You hardly have to climb any stairs for those views.So, after coming back from St. John´s Fortress, look out for the rest of the city walk and go up there to have a closer look from above at many of the sights.
Then it is time to explore the old town.
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. I just liked Dubrovnik, Piran, or Mostar a bit better.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 wander around. I enjoy 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:
Places to visit within the old town of Kotor
- Saint Tryphon’s Cathedral (Kotor Cathedral)
- Saint Nicholas’ Church
- Saint Luke’s Church
- the Maritime Museum
- and the Cat Museum
Do a Kotor Old Town Free City Tour
I did not do a (free) city tour in Kotor, which I kind of regret, as I love walking tours. And in Kotor, you have (almost 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 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.
- Check out dates here – in the shoulder season one tour is offered, in the busy months, there are around 2 or 3 tours a day.
Shop in Kotor
Being spoiled by the pretty shops in Mostar and Sarajevo, the shopping opportunities in Kotor seemed few. But some shops sell souvenirs and more things that might be interesting to many visitors. I tend to have a more minimalist lifestyle now and hardly shop – but I love to stroll around.
So, whether you window-shop or actually shop – Kotor is a good place for buying gifts and bits and bobs.
Perast is a beautiful little coastal town and makes a wonderful (half) day trip from Kotor. 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 quite a few people come from Kotor for a few hours.
To be honest, I would try to fit in Perast even with only 1 day in Kotor. However, if you do a cruise and have only a few hours in Kotor, it might be difficult to visit.
Go on a Boat Trip to Our Lady of the Rocks
You can do this trip either from Kotor directly or from Perast. Our Lady of the Rocks s a cute, man-made little island in the Bay of Kotor. It is situated just in front of the village of Perast.
There is another island next to Our Lady of the Rocks – which 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.
- The boats are just at the harbor of Perast and you can just book the ticket on the spot.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN KOTOR (2 DAYS)
If you stay in 2 days in Kotor, you should add the following beautiful places to your Kotor itinerary.
Drive Around the Bay of Kotor
If you have some more time and have your own car, 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 and actually one of the best things to do in Kotor. Since I road-tripped Montenegro, I got around quite a lot. One of the most impressive drives was from Kotor. The streets are narrow, but overall, in excellent condition. Just drive slowly and plan in enough time for breaks.
- 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.
- There are no tolls included here.
Stroll the Port
Back in Kotor, you can also visit The Port of Kotor which seems tiny. If you look at Kotor from St. John´s Fortress, you will notice the port with huge cruise ships. It seems that one ship blocks the entire port because it is so small.From May onwards, there is often at least one cruise ship 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.
CONCLUSION: BEST THINGS TO DO IN KOTOR IN ONE DAY
Kotor is a beautiful small town. And though it has not been my favorite place in Montenegro, it is still amazing after all. You should definitely plan one day in Kotor or longer.
I hope the pictures have convinced you to visit for more than just a few hours. While you could stay for much longer – and do many day trips – one day in Kotor will allow you to see the main sights and enjoy the stunning scenery.
- Heading to Budva in Montenegro? Then check out my quick Budva guide.
- If you plan to visit more places in Montenegro, you can check out my Montenegro guide.