Montenegro is a beautiful country…and for so many reasons. I recently spent 3 months in this beautiful place and I can tell you first-hand that some of the spots I visited were were truly breathtaking, with no photo captured ever doing this place the justice it deserves.
Take the Bay Of Kotor for example, and its picturesque medieval villages that seem to have been plucked out of a fairytale.
This town is home to some of the most stunning sweeping vistas I’ve ever seen. The Bay of Kotor will delight you and surprise you at the same time, and I can really see why this place has experienced such a boom in tourism over the past 8 years or so.
I still bang on to my travel friends to this day about Montenegro and Kotor, with all its quirks and all its beauties. And today, I am going to get into all of the best things to do in Kotor Montenegro and around the bay – the best places to see, the best time of year to go, and the best best places to stay in Kotor. And after you have finished reading this guide you will be able to experience everything that is worth seeing, doing and photographing during your trip here. Sound good?
But first things first, it’s always good to learn a little history so you can really understand the places you’re visiting first…
The Rich History Of Kotor, Montenegro
The Bay of Kotor is truly one of the most special places in Montenegro. It’s a fjord-like body of water that extends around 20km inland from the Adriatic Sea.
The Bay is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs that are dotted with medieval villages perched atop them, and it’s easy to spend days exploring all the little nooks and crannies that make up this area.
The first settlers in the Bay of Kotor were Illyrian tribes, and you can still see some remnants of their culture throughout the region.
Later on, the Romans came and made their mark here too, with many ruins and artefacts from that era still remaining in the area.
But it’s the Venetians who really left their mark on the Bay of Kotor, and you can see this most prominently in the architecture of the old towns that dot the region and, in particular, the Old Town of Kotor.
The Venetians ruled over Montenegro for centuries, from the 14th century until the 18th century, and during this time they built fortresses, castles and walls to protect the Bay from invaders.
A lot of these defensive structures are still standing today and add an extra layer of history and intrigue to the region.
If you’re interested in learning more about the rich history of the Bay of Kotor, I recommend taking a walking tour or hiring a local guide when you visit…but we’ll get into that next!
When To Visit Kotor, Montenegro
As I mentioned before, Montenegro is no stranger to tourism. And with over 2.5 million tourists visiting in 2019 alone, you can expect the place to get a little crowded in the high seasons, that much is for sure.
So, if you are anything like me, and prefer to have a little more space during your stay without the need to book everything days, and sometimes weeks, in advance, then I would strongly recommend coming here during the shoulder seasons.
Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you’ll also have more manageable weather to contend with. Summer in Montenegro can get really hot, with temperatures over 32 degrees. This also makes for sweaty and uncomfortable day trips and activities unless you plan to sit beside a pool of water for the duration of your time here.
Again, the shoulder months are a much more manageable temperature, around the mid-20s, so you’ll be able to better enjoy the sights and attractions without gasping for water and hunting out shade during the afternoon heat of the sun.
Where To Stay In Kotor
Kotor isn’t a bustling city, but you’ll still find accommodation to suit all types of travellers and budgets.
If you appreciate a good night’s sleep in a more quiet area of town, then I would recommend you stay outside of the Old Town of Kotor. The old town can get quite loud and lively through the night with the narrow streets echoing and reverberating the sounds from just about every restaurant and bar in the square, so consider this before making a booking anywhere.
I stayed in a couple of fantastic places during my time here, and I would recommend the following places to get your head down for a night (or longer)
- Guesthouse BiT Accommodation – Cheap but with everything you need for a pleasant stay. Located in the heart of the Old Town next to all of the sights, and an 8-minute walk to Kotor Beach.
- Hostel Pupa – Dorms and private rooms available, located a 2minute walk south of the old town in a quieter location but still central to everything else.
- Hotel Splendido – This 4* beachfront hotel is a steal for its price. The rooms are fantastic and the pool overlooking the sea is also dreamy. This one is located around 5 km west of Kotor Old Town just across the other side of the bay
- HUMA Kotor Bay Hotel & Villas – Around 3 km from the Old Town of Kotor, this hotel has its own private beach and incredible decor throughout. Oh, and the 2 swimming pools are to die for.
- Boutique Hotel Astoria – This fantastic 5* boutique hotel comes with tastefully decorated rooms that are generously sized with little touches of finesse such as exposed stone walls and leather loungers. It is located right in the Old Town of Kotor.
The Best Things to do in Kotor, Montenegro (And Around The Bay)
1. Old Town of Kotor
The Old Town of Kotor in Montenegro is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s not hard to see why. This is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the entire Adriatic region.
Wandering through the Old Town, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time with its winding cobblestone streets, ancient churches and beautiful Venetian architecture.
The old town isn’t huge, tucked within the fortified walls, but there are a lot of interesting things to see so slow the pace down and go and get lost down all of the narrow streets. if you want to be sure not to miss anything, then I would recommend a guided walking tour so you can learn all about everything you see as well
2. St. Tryphon Cathedral
One of the most iconic landmarks in the Old Town of Kotor is St. Tryphon Cathedral. This beautiful Romanesque cathedral was built in 1166 and dedicated to Saint Tryphon, the patron saint of Kotor. The exterior of the cathedral is quite plain but the inside is decorated with lavish Baroque-style frescoes.
If you visit during the day, make sure to go up the bell tower for some stunning views of the Old Town and beyond. It’s definitely one of my favourite things to see in Kotor, so don’t miss it whilst your in the Old Town.
3. The Kotor Maritime Museum
The Kotor Maritime Museum is one of the best museums in Montenegro and it’s housed inside a beautiful Venetian palazzo right on the waterfront.
The museum traces the maritime history of the Bay of Kotor from ancient times to the present day, and it’s really interesting to see how this place has changed over the centuries.
Even if you’re not a huge history buff, the museum is worth a visit for the beautiful building and views alone and is definitely worthy as a top place to see in Kotor, Montenegro.
4. The churches of St. Luke and Our Lady of Health
There are two beautiful churches located side-by-side in the old town of Kotor that are definitely worth a visit.
The first is St. Luke’s Church, which was built in the 13th century and is known for its stunning Gothic portal.
Next door is Our Lady of Health, a much smaller church that dates back to the 18th century.
Both churches are worth a visit when you’re in the Old Town and both are very photogenic (as is much of the Old Town of Kotor).
5. The Palaces of Grgurina and Bizanti families
Whilst inside the fortified walls of the Old Town, make sure you don’t miss these two beautiful palaces that belonged to prominent families in Kotor’s history.
The Palazzo Grgurina is a beautiful Venetian-style palazzo that was built in the 14th century and now houses the town’s cultural centre.
Next door is the Palazzo Bizanti, which was once the home of a wealthy merchant family and is now a hotel.
Both palaces are beautiful examples of Venetian architecture and look fantastic with the Montenegrin sun relentlessly beating down on the commanding stone and brick walls.
6. Kotor Fortress
Also known as St John’s Fortress or the Castle of San Giovanni, this is a massive medieval fortress that sits high above the Old Town of Kotor.
The fortress was built by the Republic of Venice in the 14th century to protect the town from invaders, and it’s one of the best-preserved fortresses in all of Montenegro. Its one of my favourite view across the whole of bay, and definitely worth of its top spot in this best things to do in Kotor Montenegro guide.
To get there, you must first climb around 1,400 steps to reach the fortress, around 300m above you. No, it’s not the easiest of climbs, particularly in the heat of the summer sun, but you are rewarded with some of the best views overlooking the Old Town of Kotor and the Bay. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
7. Kotor Beach, Montenegro
Just a few minute’s walk north of the Old Town is Kotor Beach, which is one of the busiest beaches on the bay thanks to its close proximity to the old town of Kotor. It’s a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters and it is the perfect cooling spot for a little respite from the Montenegrin sun in the afternoon.
The beach is just just north of the old town, across the two rivers that run into the bay, and it’s a great place to relax for a few hours. It’s also one of the best places to see in Kotor Montenegro, especially when things get a little too hot during the day.
There are also a few restaurants and cafes located right on the beach, so you can easily spend an afternoon here if you want to, and if time allows. Although if you do have more time in Kotor and Montenegro, there are better beaches to find around the bay and along the Adriatic Coast!
Check out my “Best Things To Do In Budva, Montenegro” if you’re looking for more beach fun along the coast.
8. Visit the Kotor Cats Museum
Ok, so this one is a bit of a curve ball, but since there are so many cats to be found in and around Kotor, it only seemed fitting then that they have a whole museum dedicated to them here.
It’s mostly filled with paintings and artwork of cats, but they also have real cats and kittens inside which you can sometimes play with. Well, they did when was there anyway.
A portion of the small entrance fee is also used to feed the cats in the city, which I thought was a lovely touch, and makes the whole experience feel a little more wholesome and ‘feel good’.
The museum isn’t going to leave you speechless, but its definitely something different to do whilst you’re in Kotor
9. Bay of Kotor Boat Trip
Now, this is definitely one of the highlights of any trip to Kotor, Montenegro. A boat trip around the Bay of Kotor is the perfect way to see the stunning coastline and all of the small towns that dot the shore.
There are a few different boat companies that operate in Kotor, so you can easily find one that offers a day trip or even an overnight cruise for some of the best views across Kotor Bay in Montenegro.
You will find different boat trips of varying lengths, but I would recommend one of the many half-day tours on the Bay of Kotor which will have a lot of extra sights and stops along the bay and out in the open sea where you will get the chance to explore the Blue Cave and old prison that’s located on an island just off the coast in the Adriatic.
The old submarine base is another great little stop on the bay and is included in most of the half-day tours. With a little research, you’ll be able to find the best boat trip that serves up all of the best stops.
As a point of difference though, the shorter trips usually include just a stop at Our Lady of the Rocks just off the coast from Perast, with fantastic views looking down the narrow channel between the mountains and out into the bay. The longer, half-day trips will take you right out into the open sea to explore the Beautiful Blue Cave and other spots as well as Perast and Our Lady of the Rock. Good to know!
Perast is a beautiful little town located just along the bay from Kotor, and it’s definitely worth a visit, even if it’s just from the boat during one of the boat trips
If time allows though, it’s best to spend a little longer here, with over 16 churches and 16 palaces to see in this one little fishing village alone.
The best way to get there is by boat, and as I mentioned before, some of the Bay of Kotor boat tours will include a stop in Perast.
If not, then there are plenty of water taxis that run between Kotor and Perast throughout the day, so you can easily get there on your own.
Perast is a great place to walk around and explore, with plenty of little cafes and restaurants to stop in for a break along the way. It’s a quiet town but can feel busy with tourists during the high season.
Best Day Trips From Kotor
If you’re lucky enough to have a little more time and use Kotor as a base for your trip, then you’ll be pleased to know there are some incredible day trips you can make from here.
Whilst everything on this list so far has been close to Kotor and easily reached, there are plenty of incredible sights to see a little further afield, from the Adriatic coast and Budva to the mountains and national parks further inland.
11. Budva Day Trip from Kotor
Continuing on from our list of best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro, is a day trip to Budva.
Budva is the most popular tourist destination in Montenegro and for good reason.
With its beautiful Old Town, sandy beaches, clear water and lively nightlife, Budva is the perfect place to spend a day or two (or more!) if you’re looking for a little more action than what Kotor has to offer.
It’s easy to reach Kotor by bus, taxi or by renting a car, or there are plenty of day tours available if you don’t want to make the journey on your own.
Budva is definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re looking for some beach time whilst in Montenegro!
12. Sveti Stefan Day Trip from Kotor
Next on our list of the best day trips from Kotor is a visit to Sveti Stefan.
Sveti Stefan is a small island off the coast of Montenegro that’s connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway.
This little island is absolutely beautiful, with its sandy beaches, clear water and picture-perfect views. The terracotta roofs on the island date back to the 15th-century and make for some fantastic photo opportunities that simply ooze with character, history and charm.
13. Lake Skadar Day Trip
National Park Day Trip from Kotor
For something a little different, why not head to Lake Skadar National Park for the day?
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in Southern Europe and it takes just under 1 hour and a half to drive there from Kotor. The national park offers plenty of hiking and cycling trails as well as boat tours of the lake itself.
It’s a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kotor and enjoy some time in nature. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some of the park’s resident wildlife including eagles, otters, owls and more.
If you didn’t fancy making the trip on your own, then there are also plenty of organised tours from Kotor so you can kick back and relax and let someone else take care of everything for you.
14. Dubrovnik Day Trip From Kotor
Last but not least on our list of the best day trips from Kotor is a visit to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Believe it or not, it’s a super popular day drip from Montenegro, and less than 100 km, or a 2-hour drive, to reach Dubrovnic from Kotor.
Dubrovnik is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe and it’s easy to see why with its rich history and incredible architecture.
The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is absolutely stunning, with its red-tiled roofs, medieval buildings and city walls that you can walk around.
There are plenty of day tours available from Kotor that will take you to Dubrovnik for the day, or you can make your own way there by bus or taxi.
Whichever way you choose to get there, Dubrovnik is definitely worth a visit if you have the time, and haven’t had the chance to make a trip to Croatia yet.
Summing Things Up
Montenegro isn’t just a pretty face, it’s got a lot of history and culture too. For such a small country, Montenegro has a rich and complex history dating back centuries and brimming with interesting ‘finds’.
And the Montenegrin people here are pretty fricking awesome too, with some of the most hospitable I’ve ever encountered. They truly make you feel like family and go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.
Kotor is a truly beautiful and unique place, and I would highly recommend adding it to your Montenegro itinerary, and I hope this “best things to do in Kotor, Montenegro” ultimate guide has given you some inspiration for your next trip!
How long should I spend in Kotor, Montenegro?
Although you can whiz around all of the main sites of Kotor in just one day, I would recommend slowing things down a little so you can appreciate these beautiful places more and make sure you have enough time to get everything in. I think an overnight stay in Kotor would be best, but even better would be 3+ days or even a week so you can really slow things down and enjoy some of the awesome day trips from here.
What is Kotor best known for?
Kotor is most famous for its Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and incredibly well-preserved. It’s often compared to Dubrovnik in Croatia, but in my opinion, it’s even more beautiful.
Is Kotor Montenegro safe?
Yes! Kotor is a very safe place to visit and I never felt unsafe at any point during my stay here. Of course, you should always take precautions when travelling to any new place and keep your belongings close to you, but I never felt like I needed to watch my back or be on high alert in Kotor.
What is the best time of year to visit Kotor?
The peak tourist season in Kotor is from June to August when the weather is at its hottest and there are more people around. However, I think the best time to visit Kotor is actually in May or September/October when the temperatures are still warm but there are fewer crowds. This also means that accommodation and tours will be cheaper as well.