The 10 Best Things to Do in Kotor

The walled city of Kotor is the most popular destination in Montenegro. With an idyllic location at the foot of a mountain range along the Bay of Kotor, you will find this attraction in the middle of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. The atmospheric old town still looks exactly like it did in the Middle Ages and it will therefore not surprise you that it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Read more about the sights of Kotor in Montenegro in this blog.

Read more: Don’t miss our guide to the ultimate Montenegro road trip, complete with insider tips and a meticulously planned itinerary.

Kotor Montenegro

How to Get to Kotor in Montenegro?

Kotor is nestled along the Bay of Kotor in the southwest of Montenegro. Although the bay touches the sea, Kotor itself is positioned quite far inland. This bay is essentially a series of three interconnected bays, with Kotor located at the very end of the innermost bay.

Often referred to as the southernmost fjord in Europe, the Bay of Kotor isn’t a true fjord like those carved by ice in Scandinavia. Nonetheless, this designation highlights the breathtaking landscape surrounding Kotor. The city is framed by a mountain range that almost completely encircles the bay, and on the other side, the ancient city walls are a prominent feature. The views from atop these mountain walls are particularly striking.

Kotor is also conveniently close to the Croatian border, making it a popular day-trip destination for visitors from Dubrovnik. Additionally, its location on the sea makes Kotor accessible for cruise ships, which frequently visit and contribute to the bustling atmosphere in the old town when in port.

City Gate Kotor

Where to Stay in Kotor

Ideally, you’ll want to stay within the old town of Kotor, close to all the major attractions, restaurants, and terraces. Fortunately, Stari Grad, the old town, offers a wide range of accommodations, including a notable selection of hostels that provide a budget-friendly option.

However, for a different experience, consider staying at one of the top hotels on the edge of the Bay of Kotor. These hotels boast phenomenal water views, and you’re just a short trip away from the old town.

The best hotels and hostels in Kotor:

#1 Boutique Hotel Astoria offers a prime location within the walled old town, housed in the historic Buca Palace. The hotel beautifully marries a luxurious interior with the historic charm of its surroundings.

#2 Boutique Hotel Hippocampus is set in a 17th-century building within the old town, making Kotor’s attractions easily accessible. It features a rooftop terrace restaurant offering stunning views over the San Giovanni walls.

#3 Old Town Youth Hostel is a favorite among travelers, celebrated for its vibrant atmosphere and excellent location near the southern gate alongside lively bars. It offers both dormitory and private room options.

#4 Center Hostel enjoys a central spot in the heart of the old town. It blends historic charm with modern amenities in both its private and shared accommodations, including a communal area.

#5 Hotel Monte Cristo is situated in a picturesque square within Stari Grad, in a building that once served as the residence of Kotor’s bishop. This 13th-century building now offers luxuriously themed rooms and convenient parking for guests.

#6 Hotel Forza Terra is located just north of Kotor’s main city area, offering a serene setting on the bay. The hotel features indoor and outdoor pools, a sun terrace, spa, and a restaurant-bar with bay views.

#7 Boutique Hotel Casa del Mare provides a charming stay outside Kotor but still on the Bay of Kotor. The hotel is modernly decorated with amenities including a seasonal outdoor pool, bar, and garden, perfect for a relaxing retreat.

Kotor Montenegro

The 10 Best Things to Do in Kotor

#1 Stari Grad, the Old Town

The centerpiece of Kotor’s attractions is the atmospheric Stari Grad, or the historic city center. Its well-preserved historic character has secured Kotor a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List for decades.

The old town features a network of narrow streets, staircases, squares, churches, fountains, and grand city palaces. It’s a captivating maze where nearly every corner is photogenic. Instead of following a structured city tour, we recommend simply wandering through the streets. This way, you’ll organically discover all the enchanting spots, from quaint squares to hidden churches. Since Kotor is relatively small, you won’t get lost; you’ll find yourself circling back to familiar places, making it easy to navigate.

Kotor Montenegro

#2 The San Giovanni Fortress

Climbing to the San Giovanni Fortress is one of Kotor’s most popular activities. The fortress sits on the mountainside adjacent to Kotor, and reaching the top involves a steep ascent. There are various paths to choose from, ranging in difficulty and risk. A map available in Kotor shows the different routes—the blue ones are safest, while the red ones are notably more perilous.

Kotor Map Castle Hike

Despite its popularity, the hike to the fortress may not meet everyone’s expectations. There’s an €8 fee per person to start the climb, but be aware that the old walls and the fortress itself are somewhat dilapidated and resemble ruins more than a well-maintained historical site. As an alternative, consider the “Ladder of Kotor,” a steep path that starts just outside the city and joins the usual route partway. We suggest paying the fee in hopes that it will contribute to the preservation and restoration of this historic site.

The true reward of this climb is the breathtaking view over Kotor. From above, you can see the city’s unique layout—mountains on one side, city walls on the other—and enjoy stunning views of the bay.

Kotor Montenegro

#3 The Bay of Kotor

Kotor’s location on the Bay of Kotor is simply stunning. Often described as the southernmost fjord in Europe, the bay is not a true fjord but was formed by river erosion, now consisting of three connected sea bays, with Kotor nestled at the deepest point.

The bay is lined with picturesque villages, but the main allure is the panoramic views it offers. For the best experience, we recommend driving the scenic route around the bay. You can also drive up the Kotor Serpentine, a narrow road with hairpin turns that leads to fantastic viewpoints, especially mesmerizing at sunset.

Key stops along the Bay of Kotor include Herceg Novi, Perast, and Tivat. Closest to Croatia, Herceg Novi features coastal charm, while Perast and Tivat are nearer to Kotor. Tivat has earned a reputation as the “new Monaco of Montenegro” due to its luxury yacht harbor. Perast is a quaint and historic town, famous mainly for the small island off its coast with a picturesque church, accessible by a short boat trip for a modest fee.

Kotor Bay Montenegro

#4 A walk on the Ramparts

One of the most captivating sights in Kotor are the city ramparts. The city remains completely enclosed by walls where it does not merge into the mountainside. During your visit to Kotor, you can embark on a tour of these ramparts. There are several access points to ascend the city walls, but we suggest starting at one of the far corners. Begin your walk at one corner of Kotor and traverse the walls all the way to the opposite corner. This journey offers a unique perspective of the city and is a delightful way to see Kotor from different vantage points.

The broadest section of the city walls is located in the west, resembling a city park with benches and trees. From here, you also get a beautiful view of the church towers of several churches adjacent to the city walls. This segment is arguably the most picturesque part of Kotor’s ramparts. However, walking the full length of the walls is highly recommended. From this wide section, you can stroll over to the Sea Gate via a narrow gallery. Beyond that, you will find yourself in a part of Kotor that reveals slices of daily local life. It’s like meandering through the backyards of residents, where we even saw laundry hanging out to dry.

Also, make sure to visit the city gates at street level. The Sea Gate is a stunning monumental gate, and the southernmost gate resembles a small fortress.

Kotor City Walls

#5 The Churches of Kotor

For a small city, Kotor’s historic center boasts a surprising number of churches. The most prominent is undoubtedly the Kotor Cathedral – or Katedrala Svetog Tripuna – positioned in a square at the heart of the old town. You will likely notice that the cathedral is asymmetrical; one of the towers is significantly taller than the other. This was explained to us as a matter of budget constraints. The years 1166 and 2016 are inscribed on the towers, marking the cathedral’s original consecration in 1166 and its last thorough restoration in 2016. In the intervening centuries, the cathedral has also undergone numerous repairs following earthquakes. During one of these reconstruction phases, it was decided to only completely finish one of the towers.

While many of Montenegro’s churches are Orthodox, Kotor Cathedral is Roman Catholic, giving it a distinctly different ambiance from other local churches. Entry is not free; there is a €3 per person admission fee.

Scattered throughout Kotor, you will also discover many other churches. Nearly every square houses one or two churches. While not all are equally grand, the intimate atmosphere within these smaller churches is notably profound. The Orthodox tradition of these churches, somewhat unfamiliar to us in Western Europe, adds to their allure. The scent of incense and the unique icons lend a special character to Kotor’s Orthodox churches.

Kotor Montenegro

#6 The Bazaar

The Bazaar is another must-see attraction in Kotor, although its entrance is somewhat concealed, so you might easily pass by without realizing there’s a charming bazaar to be explored here. Located in the north of the city near Saint Nicholas Church, the Bazaar of Kotor is not an authentic bazaar but rather a tourist haven offering souvenirs and knick-knacks. Nevertheless, the setting is delightful, situated within the ruins of an old monastery against the city wall. While the bazaar isn’t particularly large, it’s certainly worth a leisurely stroll through.

Kotor Bazar

#7 The Local Market

Just outside the Sea Gate, almost every morning, the Farmer’s Market of Kotor springs to life. Featuring a variety of fruit and vegetable stalls outside and an expansive covered area, it’s well worth a visit.

If you’re looking to take home a souvenir from your travels, this is the place to find something unique and local. Skip the typical magnets and linen bags, and opt for a local specialty instead. The market offers a range of local delicacies, from regional cheeses and fruit wines to dried meats and pickled vegetables. Take your time to explore the stalls and engage with the vendors who are always happy to share insights into Montenegro’s culinary traditions.

Kotor Farmers Market
Kotor Farmers Market

#8 The Cats of Kotor

Even if you haven’t heard of Kotor as the “cat town”, you’ll quickly notice the abundance of cats lounging around every corner. The locals embrace these feline friends, providing food and water throughout the old city, recognizing the cats as an integral part of Kotor’s charm.

The cat population originated back when Kotor was a bustling seaport; ships often left behind a few cats who were excellent at controlling pests. Over time, these cats have become beloved residents, representing a colorful variety of breeds brought from around the world.

The cats of Kotor are so celebrated that the city even hosts a Cat Museum. Numerous souvenir shops around town sell cat-themed items, from figurines to magnets, with part of the proceeds going towards feeding the cats.

If you want to contribute more meaningfully, consider visiting the shop of local Danijela. She not only feeds the cats but also provides essential medical care and helps with spaying and neutering. Danijela is always eager to discuss her efforts, so stopping by her shop is a great way to learn more about Kotor’s cats and support her work.

Kotor Cats

#9 The Cruise Ships and Sailboats in the Harbor

During your visit, venture beyond the Sea Gate to explore the old harbor. While the view from the ramparts is impressive, a stroll along the waterfront offers a closer look at the maritime life. Here, you can see beautiful sailing ships taking a break from their voyages. The sight of massive cruise ships is particularly striking.

Kotor’s location deep inland along the Bay of Kotor might make you forget it’s connected to the sea. Even large cruise ships navigate their way to the city via the bay. During our visit, there was always at least one cruise ship in the harbor, sometimes as many as four. The influx of visitors from these ships adds a lively buzz to the old city. Walking past these towering sea giants, which seem more like floating apartment buildings, offers a stark contrast to the smaller sailboats and pleasure crafts moored further in the harbor.

Kotor Harbour
Cruise ship in Kotor Montenegro

#10 The Mausoleum in Lovćen National Park

Near Kotor, one of Montenegro’s most remarkable sights awaits in Lovćen National Park, one of the country’s most stunning natural areas. From Kotor, a drive up the famous Kotor Serpentine—a long, winding road filled with hairpin turns—leads you into the mountains to the national park. Despite the road’s steep and narrow layout, it is well-maintained and even suitable for coaches, much to our surprise.

The park’s main attraction is the Njegoš Mausoleum, perched atop one of Lovćen’s highest peaks. To reach it, you ascend more than 450 steps through a cool tunnel, arriving at a monument dedicated to Montenegro’s national hero, Petar II Petrović-Njegoš. A courtyard flanked by two stone figures leads to a chapel housing an imposing statue of Njegoš, set against the backdrop of a golden mosaic ceiling.

Just behind the mausoleum, you’ll find one of the most spectacular viewpoints in Lovćen National Park. This spot is a major draw for many visitors, offering breathtaking views over the park. On clear days, you can see as far as Italy, but even on less clear days, the stunning vistas of the Bay of Kotor’s blue waters are guaranteed to impress.

Njegos Mausoleum in Lovcen National Park