The majestic Boka Kotorska Bay marks Croatia’s border with Montenegro. Nestled in this breathtaking scenery is picturesque Kotor, Montenegro’s third largest city and an ideal destination for a day trip from Dubrovnik.
Still little known to tourists, the traces left by Venetian rule are evident in Kotor and it is not uncommon to find inscriptions in Italian.
The old town is a triangle jutting out towards the sea, bordered by mighty walls that have stood for hundreds of years. Strolling through its narrow streets and squares lined with elegant stone palaces is an enchantment, and the views of the sea with the sheer cliffs of the Dinaric Alps are nothing short of marvellous.
Many tourists visit Kotor in a few hours, but we suggest staying overnight at least. When the sun goes down and the cruise passengers and day-trippers leave, Kotor reveals an unsuspected vibrancy: squares, streets and monuments light up and bars and restaurants come alive with people, giving the town a magical atmosphere that would be a shame to miss!
This pearl of Montenegro is also the location of important events such as the Refresh Festival, the Sea Rock Festival and Kotor Art, proving that this is not a cookie-cutter town tailor-made for tourists but a vibrant city, full of cultural ferment.
It really is worth abandoning Croatia’s sunny beaches for a day or more to visit Kotor and its bay, a surprising and magical place where nature, history and human ingenuity seem to have come together to create an open-air masterpiece.
The old town of Kotor is small and can be easily walked around in a few hours, yet it is incredibly rich in things to see. Cars are not allowed to circulate, which makes walking around the centre not only safe but also very relaxing… apart from the climbs!
Here are the must-see attractions in Kotor.
Kotor’s top attraction is undoubtedly the natural setting in which this enchanting town is set, namely the Boka Kotorska Bay (also known as the Bride of the Adriatic). This is a complex of basins created by deep inlets whose shape from above looks like three triangles with irregular sides.
Narrow and long, with a jagged profile, these basins often compared to a Norwegian fjord are the largest natural harbour in the Adriatic and one of the most enchanting places in the entire Mediterranean. They are surrounded by spectacular mountains reaching up to 1800 metres in height.
Despite the rugged coastline, small settlements have sprung up along the Boka Kotorska Bay since ancient times, forming the nuclei of the pretty villages that can be visited today.
The best way to admire the beauty of this very special place is a boat trip; alternatively, you can admire them by taking the coastal road from Kotor to Herceg Novi (43 km). It is a very winding road and requires careful driving, but you will be rewarded with breathtaking views.
The defensive walls of Kotor are a sight both impressive and impressive: a serpentine stone wall visible from almost every point of the town, squeezed within them. The original core dates back to the 9th century B.C.; in the 14th century, the first complete circle was completed, which was modified several times until the 19th century.
In some sections, the walls almost seem to be a natural extension of the mountain – a very fascinating effect; along the walls are the entrance gates to the city and several imposing bastions stand.
If you are feeling energetic, you can climb the 1350 steps up the hill of St John to a height of 260 metres and enjoy a breathtaking view of the red roofs of the old town and the Boka Kotorska Bay. There are two entrances leading to the steps, near the South Gate and the North Gate.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel up to it: even for those who stay to admire the walls from below, the view is something incredible.
The main entrance to the city is the 16th century Sea Gate2, built during the period of Venetian rule. The winged lion of St Mark bears witness to the monument’s Venetian origins, while a quote from Tito and a communist star commemorate the day of liberation from the Nazis.
As you walk through the gate, take a look at the stone bas-relief depicting a Our Lady and Child with Saints Tryphon and Bernard.
River Gate3 is located to the north, near Trg od Drva square, a quiet and very green corner. The gate overlooks a moat of fresh mountain water from the Skurda River; it was built in 1540 to commemorate the Ottoman attack the previous year.
On the other hand, Gurdić Gate4 is located at the southern end of the city, an area little visited by tourists where one can wander quietly through simple lanes in an atmosphere of genuine peace.
Passing through the Sea Gate, you will find yourself in the characteristic Square of Arms, overlooked by elegant historical buildings and cafés with outdoor tables.
The square’s landmark monument is the massive, squat Clock Tower, decidedly simpler than other clock towers in Eastern Europe but not devoid of charm.
The Cathedral of St Tryphon is the most majestic building in Kotor. It is a 12th century Catholic church that houses the relics of the city’s patron saint.
The church was damaged several times by earthquakes and rebuilt; its soaring Baroque bell towers were added in 1667.
The interior is Romanesque in style, with Corinthian columns alternating with pink stone pillars. During your visit, stop to admire the magnificent gilded bas-relief decorating the altar dossal: it is considered Kotor’s greatest artistic masterpiece.
The upper floor houses a museum of sacred art displaying paintings, sacred clothing and a rather sinister-looking wooden cross from the late 13th century.
Another religious building worth visiting in Kotor is the Collegiate Church of St Mary, a 13th century church built over an earlier early Christian basilica; the impressive bronze door covered in bas-reliefs is a recent addition.
Inside you can see a huge, somewhat macabre-looking crucifix and a glass shrine containing the body of Blessed Hosanna of Kotor.
Thanks to its unique location, Kotor has been a port of strategic importance for centuries. The naval power of this city is celebrated in the Maritime Museum of Montenegro, housed in an elegant 19th century palace. Spread over three floors, the museum displays a collection of model ships, uniforms, paintings, photographs and weapons.
Outside the museum, you can admire the Karampana well that once supplied the entire city with drinking water.
A very original attraction in Kotor is the delightful Cat Museum, recommended for lovers of cute felines and vintage objects.
The original core of the collection was donated by the Countess of Montereale Mantica; other material was donated by the Badoer International Cat Adoption Centre in Venice.
On display are prints, postcards, illustrations, posters, lithographs, commercial labels, books, magazines, medals, coins, notebooks and other vintage memorabilia with tender pictures of cats in vintage style. The museum organises themed temporary exhibitions, for example ‘The Cat in World War I’ or ‘A Cat for Europe’.
If you wonder why a museum dedicated to cats in Kotor, the answer is simple: this town simply adores them. You will easily realise this as you stroll through the streets of the centre.
If you move a little further away from Kotor, you can discover a colourful corner of the sea that will remind you for a moment of Sardinia. It is hidden inside the Blue Cave (Plava špilja), a cavity that opens up along the coast just outside the Boka Kotorska Bay.
You can dive into a natural pool of sorts, bordered by high cliffs and sheltered from the open sea, or stay on the boat and admire the beautiful play of light created by the sun’s rays seeping into the cavity.
The Blue Cave can be visited as a stop on a boat tour of the Boka Kotorska Bay; it can also be reached by boats departing from Zanjice beach, some 25 km from Kotor.
Along the Boka Kotorska Bay there are several pretty villages that can be easily reached from Kotor, one of the most beautiful being Perast.
Water taxis depart from Perast to the island of Our Lady of the Chisel (also known as Our Lady of the Rocks), an artificial islet built on top of a small rock. On the island stands a sanctuary built at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries: seen from afar, it seems almost suspended over the sea.
It is a tiny island and apart from the sanctuary there is only a small museum of local history and a small shop, but you will find quite a few romantic views and peaceful corners from which to admire the landscape and the nearby island of San Giorgio (which cannot be visited). The entire island can be visited comfortably in half an hour.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Although little known, Kotor is already a tourist destination with international appeal. In just a few years, a large number of accommodations have opened to accommodate tourists with the most diverse needs.
Young people and low-cost travellers will find a good number of clean and functional hostels, couples can choose from romantic guesthouses and small hotels in pretty stone houses, while for families the best option are the flats, almost all of which have been recently renovated, adapting an elegant contemporary décor to the structural characteristics of the historic houses. There are also more luxurious solutions such as charming boutique hotels and 4- or 5-star hotels.
Prices are very low compared to a medium-large European city, so you can treat yourself to a hotel more luxurious than your standard without spending more.
The best area to stay in Kotor is the old town (Old Town), a favourite with tourists because it is convenient to attractions and services and because it is the most charming.
We would like to remind you that Montenegro is not currently part of the European Union, however the currency in use is the euro so it is not necessary to change money.
To enter Montenegro an identity card is sufficient for stays of 30 days; with a passport it is possible to stay longer. In both cases no entry visa is required.
To use your mobile phone you will have to activate international roaming: rates are generally high, if you plan to use it often ask your telephone operator for information before departure.
Getting to Kotor from Dubrovnik is easy: by car it only takes two hours to get there by driving along the D8 road and then taking the E65. You can also get there by public transport because the two towns are connected by a direct bus, but in this case the journey time is at least three hours; it is advisable to find out the timetable well before departure.
Another way to reach Kotor is to join a day tour from Dubrovnik or a cruise on the Adriatic.
What's the weather at Kotor? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Kotor for the next few days.
Kotor is located along the Adriatic coast of Montenegro, about a hundred kilometres from the city of Dubrovnik (to the north) and the capital Podgorica (to the southeast).