Last Updated December, 2020
Kotor is a special city not only in Montenegro but in entire Europe and the world. However, traveling to Kotor does not only imply seeing the old part on a quick visit. It is ideal for a weekend trip or a two-week vacation, really. If you are wondering where to go and what to do in Kotor on any visit, I would love to share a list of my favorite things. There are a lot of activities for any type of traveler!
In this post, I am sharing information only on Kotor attractions and sightseeing. If you are also looking for more tips on Montenegro travel, check my other posts or see travel resources for Montenegro at the end of the article.
During the time Mark and I lived in Montenegro, we have been to Kotor and the surrounding area many, many times. All the information I share is based on my own experiences. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment section.
What to Do in Kotor – General Tips & Ideas
Like many cities in Europe that have a long history, Kotor consists of old and new parts. When you visit, you have to go to the old part which is surrounded by the fortress walls. It has a fascinating mix of Venetian, Austrian, and Baroque architecture. Additionally, narrow cobblestone streets, marble squares, endless palaces, and churches – they make you feel like in the Middle Ages.
Along with Durmitor National Park that I wrote about in my other post, Old Kotor is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And in my opinion, it is the most beautiful old town among all the other cities in Montenegro.
So below is a list of general activities and things to see in Kotor for any occasion. I believe they are all great to experience. However, if you don’t have a lot of time, you won’t be able to cover them all. So pick what you like more and what reflects your travel lifestyle and enjoy your trip to this gorgeous city of the Balkans.
Top Things to Do in Kotor On Any Visit
1. GO ON A WALKING TOUR
The first thing I always recommend to my friends and clients, when they visit Kotor, is to go on a quick 1 or 2-hours tour around the city. It will just give you a brief introduction and help you understand the history behind its buildings.
Yes, Kotor is a pretty compact destination that you can walk around all by yourself. Yet, random walking won’t show the whole picture. Without a tour, Kotor will be just another European town that actually looks very much alike to some other towns in Italy, Northern Spain, or Croatia for instance.
If you opt to walk on your own, I guarantee that in the end, you won’t know much about Kotor. But a local guide can make it easier for you to understand history, culture, and heritage that ancient walls hide. Honestly, in my opinion, you don’t need a tour in Tivat or even Budva but Kotor is a must.
There are many interesting and reasonably priced excursions that are packed with information. Also, the selection of tours is really big, so everyone can choose something for his taste. You can go on a free, paid, or self-guided tour.
When we lived in Montenegro, we explored Kotor on our own and once on the excursion. And the excursion just helped us see this city in a totally different light. Besides that, our tour guide gave us some helpful tips on a few unique things to do in Kotor (which I talk about below).
2. VISIT A CITY MARKET
In front of the walls of the Old Town near the Port of Kotor, to the right of the main entrance, there is a city market. It is notable for the fact that people from all over Montenegro bring homemade products here. Believe it or not, but this is one of Kotor’s top attractions.
This is the place where you can find fresh meat and fish, the finest fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey, bread, cheese, and other products. Local farmers living in the mountains bring here various cheeses of their own production. Montenegro is famous for its goat cheese, as well as pork ham prosciutto (similar to Spanish Jamon).
Like any market, it’s better to come as early as possible, but the usual working hours are from 7.00 to 15.00. Some sellers may come later and leave earlier. The busiest day on the market is Saturday but it is open on other days too.
If you don’t feel like buying anything, look around, and sample a few products. They are so good that you’ll want to buy at least something to snack on it later. You can sample almost everything there.
3. SEE THE GATE TO KOTOR & CLIMB THE FORTRESS WALL
As I mentioned earlier, Kotor’s old town is surrounded by a thick fortress wall which is 4.5 km long. And that wall has three different gates. You can enter the Old town through one of those gates:
Sea gate – this is the main entrance to the town. Most people enter through this gate.
River gates – located in the northern part of the town near the river Shkurda. You can enter through a beautiful arch bridge.
Gurdich Gate – near the Gurdich River in the southern part.
Walking through the gate is not really a major Kotor’s attraction. The fortress walls are interesting in that way that you can climb them and walk around the perimeter of Kotor at the level of the roofs. There are passages in several places and it’s not difficult to find them. Feel free just to walk along the wall and look for stairs. They’ll bring you to the top of the wall.
4. EXPLORE NARROW STREETS OF KOTOR OLD TOWN
If you don’t want to take any tour of Kotor Old city, here are a few tips for how you can explore it on your own.
The old town of Kotor is not big, but very picturesque. It has a long and complicated history. The Roman Empire, Byzantium, the Goths, and the Arab pirates, Serbs and Bulgarians, Napoleon, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire managed to invade this city. At some point, it was even burned by the grandson of Genghis Khan!
Also, Kotor suffered from earthquakes on a few occasions. In 1979, there was one big earthquake which partially destroyed the city. Soon after that, UNESCO took it under its protection.
All for all, you would need a few hours to take a short walk, gaze on history, wander around narrow streets, and stop for a cup of coffee in one of the cute Kotor cafes. At the same time, you would need a day or even a two if you would like to go inside of many buildings, visit museums, stay overnight in a historical place and go on one of a few stunning hikes.
Kotor in summer gets incredibly busy. But, surprisingly, almost never too hot. It’s nice to walk here in the summer in hot weather because the narrow streets get nice ventilation and lots of shade. There are also many cats walking around Kotor and living in the city.
And main churches and cathedrals to see in Kotor Old Town are:
– St. Tryphon Cathedral;
– St. Nicholas Orthodox Church;
– Ancient Orthodox Church of St. Luke;
– Church of St. Mary;
5. CLIMB ST. JOHN FORTRESS AND SEE BOCO KOTOR BAY FROM ABOVE
One of the most interesting things to do in Kotor, in my opinion, is climbing to the St. John Fortress. Kotor fortress hike is the most touristy place in Montenegro and Balkan region in general but still, it is very much worth your effort and time. From the top, you get stunning views of the old town, port, and the Bay of Kotor.
If you have a couple of hours of time and energy to overcome 1460 steps uphill, then I highly recommend doing it.
There are two options on how to get to the top of the fortress. The first one is a free one which takes more time but you walk an old road. The second option is a paid one where you climb the stairs. I have a detailed post on this climb. Check out my best hikes in Montenegro post to find out.
TIP: If hiking in the summer, you need to start the ascent in the morning before 8 am when it is still not too hot. Take 1-1.5 liters of water per person with you and a hat. Until 8 am the entrance is free. If you go late in the evening, expect to take pictures against the sun.
6. TRY THE BEST BBQ IN KOTOR
Kotor Old Town has quite a few nice restaurants and cafes where you can get a meal and enjoy your time. Yet, for meat lovers, I recommend stopping for lunch (or dinner) at BBQ TANJGA cafe.
It looks inconspicuous and like a very basic eatery but the food is absolutely delicious there. If you are up for local meat, this is the best place in Kotor so far.
How it works, you pick the food (like a burger, steak, sausage, etc.) from the showcase and the cook prepares it for you in a minute. Portions are huge and two people can easily share one plate. Mark and I ate there a few times always ordering just one dish and still had leftovers to take home.
Be prepared to wait for the table in the evening.
7. CONTEMPLATE THE BEAUTY OF KOTOR’S PALACES
If you love visiting historical places and wonder what to do in Kotor besides seeing the churches and walking the historic streets, then visit one of its beautiful palaces. They are really special.
In fact, Kotor’s palaces look like ordinary buildings and most people don’t even know that when walking around the city. Often though, they attract someone’s attention with their bas-reliefs and coats of arms.
Not knowing that the palace is in front of you, you can easily pass by it too. So here are a few ideas for you where to go:
– One of the most popular things to see in Kotor is Beskuch Palace.
– Pima Palace and Flour Square. Among the streets of old Kotor, there is one palace from the architectural ensemble of the city. The style of the palace is complemented by a stone terrace, a long balcony, and courtyard. It is located on Flour Square which has repeatedly suffered from earthquakes until the 17th century.
– Palace of Drago Family. The building itself is made in the Gothic style of the XV century with baroque elements. After the mysterious disappearance of a noble family, ownership passed to the city. It was converted into a kindergarten and subsequently taken care of after earthquakes and severe destruction.
– Gergurin Palace. The building was erected in the XVIII century in the late Baroque style. The main accents were stone balconies and balustrades, as well as the symmetry of the main facade of the palace, where a family coat of arms – a goat – towered above the central part. Now, this building is home to the Maritime Museum. If you are visiting Kotor on a rainy day, it’s a great place to go to.
8. TAKE A CRUISE IN THE BAY OF KOTOR
This is probably the most popular Kotor excursion and rightfully so. On the boat tour around the Bay of Kotor, you will go on an unforgettable voyage where you’ll be able to get acquainted with the unique nature and rich history of Montenegro, as well as see beautiful medieval cities and small islands.
There are so many different boat tours to choose from. Some of them include a visit to the old secret naval base, one of the most beautiful beaches where tourists can relax and swim in the clear water. Others are more informative with a quick visit to the most beautiful place of the Montenegrin coast the Blue Cave.
Once in Kotor, you will notice a huge number of offers from the organizers of boat trips on yachts and boats. In the summertime, they sell pretty quickly, so I recommend booking a tour in advance online.
If I could recommend you only one Kotor Bay excursion tour, it would be this one from friends of our friends. These guys will bring you to Blue Cave, some hidden islands and cruise you all over the Boka Bay. Ivan is a very nice friendly person who knows how to turn moments into memories. If you are looking for a bit cheaper option, I’d suggest this 3-hour boat group tour instead or a discovery tour on a speed boat.
9. RENT A BIKE AND RIDE AROUND
Frankly speaking, it will take a lot of time to ride around the Bay of Kotor. But you don’t really need to go that far. What I suggest doing, if you enjoy biking, is to rent a bike and go through Dobrota to Perast or even Risan, or in opposite direction to Donji Stoliv. You’ll pass by many beaches (mainly concrete platform ones), cute cafes, beautiful villas, and gardens.
Each ride is very scenic and offers plenty of opportunities for photos. If you go to Donji Stoliv and feel hungry, stop at Bokeski Gusti restaurant to try their seafood. Portions are big, everything is very delicious and the view of the bay and mountains is spectacular.
There is an outside rental shop near the Port of Kotor where you can rent a bike for about 15 euros per day per person. In exchange, they ask you to leave a driver’s license or passport. Other options would be to rent a bike in advance through a trusted company or go on a cycling Kotor Bay adventure group tour.
TIP: The stretch of the road between Dobrota and Perast doesn’t have any biking path or shoulder. Therefore you’d need to share it with vehicles. Also, it goes uphill, so on a hot summer day, it may be better to start as early as possible and have water with you.
10. GO KAYAKING IN THE BOKA BAY
The one thing that I really regret we didn’t do in Kotor was kayaking or paddleboarding. My friends went paddleboarding and I watched other people kayaking and it looked like so much fun.
Kotor Bay is perfect for kayaking since waters in the bay are calm and sheltered from strong winds.
With the help of kayak, you can explore the coast, usually inaccessible from land, find beautiful fjords and caves, visit interesting islands, and enjoy picturesque panoramas. In the Bay of Kotor alone there are such famous sights as the islands of Gospa od Shkrpela (or Our Lady of the Rocks in English) and Mamula, the Blue Cave, and the unusually picturesque town of Perast, which you can visit during independent kayaking.
11. GO FISHING IN THE BAY OF KOTOR
Fishing in Montenegro in the open sea is a real thrill for true lovers of this type of outdoor activity. The thing is that there are more than forty species of various fish in the Adriatic Sea and you can go catch them in one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
This unusual thing to do in Kotor Bay will bring a lot of memories and unforgettable emotions. Because it’s all about the stunning views of Montenegrin nature against the backdrop of the majestic coastal cliffs that will surround you throughout the fishing.
The best way to go finishing in Kotor is through an organized tour. If you would like to go on one, get in touch and we will arrange it for you.
12. GET A MASSAGE
What can you do at the end of the day after biking around Kotor Old town or boating in the Bay? Of course, you have to come and get a massage. Kotor is not Chiang Mai and Montenegro is not Thailand, but one spa in Kotor’s city center gives pretty good Thai massages. Kamalaya Spa offers services of professional certified Thai masseuses.
Their prices are reasonable, the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable, there are various types of massages to choose from and afterward, you can even have some tea overlooking the harbor.
We thought it was a really good center to relax and release tension. If you feel you need a massage, this is a place to go to.
13. SAMPLE LOCAL WINES
After you went on a walking tour, biked, and even got a massage, the next must-do thing in Kotor should be the local wine tasting. Wine not?
Since Montenegro produces its own wine, it is very easy to try it in many establishments around the country, including Kotor. Besides Montenegrin wine, you can be also offered wines from other countries of the Balkan region. So, Montenegrin red wine is called Vranac and white wine Krstac. And you can find them under different brands.
Honestly, Kotor is not the best place for wine tastings but a few restaurants have a very wide selection. Old Winery Wine Bar, Galion, Restoran Ellas, Che Nova, and Cesarica are some of those restaurants.
Also, it is easy to buy homemade wines at the farmers market I mentioned above. Wines there are called Vranac or Krstac as well.
If time and money permitting, you can go on a 6-hours wine tasting tour from Kotor.
14. WALK ALONG THE KOTOR SEAFRONT
Kotor’s seafront starts on a one-side street near the Burger Factory cafe and stretches from Kotor to a small adjoining town Dobrota.
This is one of my favorite areas in Kotor because of the beautiful walking path, stunning views, seagulls, and many cafes where you can stop for a drink. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.
It’s very pleasant to stroll here looking at villas, houses, and hotels facing the bay and listening to the sound of the sea. The northern part of the seafront near the Palazzo Radomiri is a spot where you can watch the sunset. The colors of the sunset are amazing.
15. VISIT KOTOR AT NIGHT
Kotor city at night is amazing. This is the time for soft and warm lighting of buildings and streets, the luster of polished stones of the road, and candles on the tables of numerous restaurants. All shops and restaurants work until late at night, so the city feels pretty busy even though it’s half-empty than during the day.
The main thing is that tourists from huge cruise liners are already on the ships as they depart Kotor in the evening. If you arrive at 18.30-19.00, it will be much easier to find parking.
Nightlife in Kotor is usually about live music and romantic dinners in one of the bars or restaurants. You can literally walk through Old town and pop into any restaurant you like. Our favorite places though were cafe Cesarica and restaurant Galion. The second restaurant had a large selection of wine, traditional Montenegrin food, and a beautiful setting by the water.
By the way, speaking of places by the water. There are quite a few of them in the bay of Kotor. And another restaurant that I highly recommend is Konoba Portun. It’s actually located in Dobrota but you can easily walk there (in half an hour) or take a taxi from Kotor. See all the amazing reviews and photos to understand why this place is great.
Kotor also has one of the most famous disco clubs in Montenegro which is called ‘Maximus’ if you feel like hitting the floor.
Things to Do in Kotor on a Rainy Day or If You Enjoy Museums
If you are wondering what else to see in Kotor if you’ve done already everything from this list, why not check Kotor’s museums. Two unique and really cool museums are always great for a rainy day or if you have more time in the city.
16. VISIT CAT’S MUSEUM
The idea of creating an unusual cats’ museum, the second in Europe after Amsterdam, came to mind after the donation of thousands of cards with cats, medals, magazines, and books from the 17th century.
The Museum is really small and costs only €1 but it offers some weird facts about cats. If you are visiting Kotor with kids, they’ll enjoy this place.
17. VISIT MARITIME MUSEUM
There is a reason why I put this Kotor sight at the end of my list.
Maritime museum is the pride of Kotor with a few collections from different eras. It presents the rich marine history of the Adriatic Sea coast and the Bay of Kotor. The museum is located in an old building, that used to be the Gergurin Palace (the one I mentioned above).
What to Do in Kotor From a Cruise Ship
I know that cruise ships usually stop in Kotor for 6-12 hours. This is enough time to have a quick tour of the city and see the main attractions.
Among all the sightseeing spots I mentioned in this post, I would love to highlight only a few for those who are visiting Kotor from a cruise ship.
So, my number one recommendation, if you are in good shape and enjoy extensive walking and hiking, is to climb St. John fortress and see Kotor from above. The very next thing I recommend doing is to walk the pedestrian road along the seafront towards Dobrota, making a stop in one of the lovely waterfront cafes.
For the climb, if you have more time in the city, start near the hidden free entrance to the fort. Yes, it will take you longer (around 1.5 hours) but chances are you will be among only a few people from your cruise ship on that path. If you have only a few hours and don’t have time to go to the top, I recommend climbing the stairs at least to the first viewing platform. It will not take much time but you will be able to get this view:
The standard route for all tourists who leave the cruise ship lays through the Sea Gate into the old town. Almost no one ever goes in another direction. If you choose to go straight on a hike to the fort, taking the path I recommend, you’ll be able to see Old Town on the way back when taking the stairs down.
For the seafront walk, stop at Kotor beach, St. Elijah Church from where you get a mesmerizing view of the Kotor Bay and also stop for a drink or snack at one of the multiple restaurants. All of them are very nice. Besides those that I mentioned above, other cool restaurants in Kotor are Palazzo (a pizzeria with the best pizza in Montenegro!) and Ponta Caffe.
If you are not in a good shape or don’t feel like walking a lot, start your exploration of the Old Town from the south. The best way to enter it is through the Gurdich gate (the one I mentioned above). In this way, you won’t be walking the same streets twice.
Even if you don’t plan to climb the fortress, I still advise walking towards the gate where the staircase begins. It will provide an opportunity to stroll through some cute back streets, see how people live, and even get some views of the sea in a distance.
Where to Stay in Kotor Tips – Historical Charming Accommodation
Depending on the type of vacation and your budget, you can find any option your heart desires. Rent a villa on the coast with a pool or private beach, an apartment, a hotel room, a room in a guest house or a bed in a hostel. We loved Kotor accommodation options, especially beachfront hotels that offer views of fjords.
Thus below, I am sharing a few of our favorite picks:
VARDAR HOTEL: A very beautiful hotel in the heart of Kotor in the main square. Grab a bite to eat at Galion Fish Restaurant. It has good food and a very nice view of the bay. Another win-win option is the restaurant at the Astoria hotel with an unusual interior (a huge tree grows inside) and a panoramic terrace.
PALAZZO RADOMIRI: A stunning 18th-century palace full of history and luxury has an amazing location and absolutely unbeatable views. The hotel features spacious rooms, gym, outdoor pool, sauna, private beach, and offers yoga classes. If you are looking for quality time and full relaxation, take a look at this hotel.
APARTMENTS OLIVE: One of the most budget-friendly options in Dobrota. In this place, you get clean rooms and everything you may need for a comfortable stay. Even though the apartment is located a bit farther from Kotor’s old town, you can still easily reach it on foot. Each room features a balcony and the hotel has a garden.
APARTMENT PALATA BIZANTI: Fresh and clean one-bedroom apartment in a historical place in the city center. It comes with a kitchenette, washing machine, air conditioner, and is close to a grocery store, restaurants, and all main activities.
More Montenegro Travel Resources
If this will be your first time in Montenegro, I have some resources to help you get the best of your trip. First of all, start with my guide to where to stay in Montenegro. Then check out my very detailed posts with Montenegro travel tips and winter travel in Montenegro. They will give you an idea of what to expect from the country. If thinking to rent a car, here is my car hire in the Montenegro guide.
If you would love to go off the beaten path and see less-visited but no less beautiful places, read my post to hidden places in Montenegro.
Since I lived in Montenegro and plan to return there soon, I have a lot to share with you guys. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter to know what Mark and I are up to and when the next post on Montenegro travel is up. And happy travels!
Did you find this post helpful? Then please, share it on social media!