Situated along the iconic Bay of Kotor, Kotor is home to Montenegro’s most iconic Old Town. The historic walled city is a dizzying labyrinth of pedestrian corridors where churches, squares, restaurants and shops are connected via a maze of winding passageways. I’ve visited three times now, and I’m still blown away by the beauty, history and vibrance of the walled city. The central location of Old Town along the coast makes it an ideal base for day trips around the region. A quick 30-minute drive whisks visitors away to secluded coves, blue grottos, tiny villages and vibrant waterfronts on the Lustica Peninsula. Below is my complete guide to Kotor including the best places to visit, viewpoints, hikes, day trips, beaches, restaurants, hotels, Airbnb’s, travel tips and more.
It’s a steep climb up to the Kotor Fortress, but well worth it for the views.
FIVE DAYS. While it only takes two full days to visit Old Town Kotor and the Lustica Peninsula, most visitors use Kotor as a home base to explore the surrounding Bay of Kotor. If you too have plans to see Perast, Budva and Sveti Stefan, then five to six days is ideal.
The charming pedestrian lanes of Old Town Kotor.
They say it 1,350 steps to reach the top of the Kotor Fortress.
The steep climb up the Ladder of Kotor to St. John’s Fortress is one of the highlights of Kotor. A ticket office sits tucked away at the back of the walled city where the 1,350 step climb begins. It’s a steep hike, but there are plenty of ruins to admire and viewpoints to enjoy along the way. At the top, hikers are treated sweeping views over Old Town and the surrounding Bay of Kotor.
OLD TOWN KOTOR
The well-preserved fortified town is straight out of a fairytale with its winding stone alleys that create an utter labyrinth of orderly chaos. Old Town is a must-visit tourist attraction. Note that cruise ships dock right outside the city walls, so plan your visit around the ship schedules.
ST. LUKE’S CATHEDRAL
This charming 12th century church is my favorite in Old Town. It’s the main attraction on St. Luke’s Square, boasting both Byzantine and Roman architectural design elements including the the facade’s bell gable and the iconic dome.
ST. TRYPHON’S CATHEDRAL
St. Tryphon is a the most famous cathedral in Old Town. It’s one of two Roman Catholic cathedrals in Montenegro, and the largest church in Kotor. It was originally built in the 12th century, but rebuilt over the years after earthquake damage.
The South Gate might sit tucked away in the back of Old Town, but it’s the most picturesque entry point into the medieval walled city. Also known as the Gurdic Gate, it feels like entering a medieval castle thanks to the bastion, fortified passageway and drawbridge.
The gelato at Moritz Eis is beyond delicious.
Yup, Montenegro has a Blue Grotto. Group tours and private boats can be booked from Zanjice Beach, or as part of larger tour packages from Kotor. If you can splurge, opt for a private boat so you can visit without other tourists in the sea cave. Similar to the blue grottoes in Croatia and Greece, it’s a stunning place to swim when the water glows.
Visit Budva in high season and you’ll quickly learn it’s the party capital of Montenegro. During the summer months, it feels like all of Montenegro and Serbia flock to this beachside destination where outdoor bars, dance clubs and al fresco dining line the city’s main coastal promenade. If partying isn’t your scene, don’t worry. Old Town feels a world away from the beach bars and dance clubs that sit just outside the fortified walls. It dates back more than 2,000 years, and walking through the labyrinth of alleys, squares and corridors is like a step back in time.
PERAST & ST. GEORGE ISLAND
Perast sits a mere 10 miles north of Kotor, but feels like another world entirely. The sleepy waterfront village resembles a postcard with cobbled streets, palazzos, churches and clocktowers that face the Bay of Kotor. You’ll find a small parking lot just outside of Perast where views of St. George Island will tempt you to visit. Ferries shuttle tourists out to the island, or if you arrive early in the morning, hire a local for the five-minute boat ride and have the place to yourself. The tiny islet is home to the 12th-century Saint George Benedictine monastery.
For an off-the-beaten-path escape, follow the coast out to the charming village of Rose on the Lustica Peninsula. It takes all of 10 minutes to walk the pleasant waterfront lined with swim ladders that plunge into sparkling turquoise waters. The harbor is home to stone villas, blooming flowers and a mere handful of restaurants. Rose is only worth visiting in the summer months when you can lay out a towel for an afternoon of swimming and sunbathing.
Located just south of Sveti Stefan, Galija Beach is a lovely beach club option away from the chaos of Budva. White umbrellas and loungers are scattered across an idyllic stretch of coast where guests have access to a bar and restaurant.
If the crowds of Slovenska Beach are overwhelming, head a few miles west to Jaz Beach. You’ll find rows of umbrellas and sunbeds here too, but it doesn’t feel as cluttered thanks to the beach’s expansive size. For complete seclusion, there are quiet coves tucked away in rocks at the east end of Jaz Beach. Perfect for sunbathing.
Hop in the car for a day trip down to see the remains of ancient Stari Bar. With no traffic, it’s about an hour drive to reach the settlement that sits in ruins, just a couple miles inland from Bar. Explore the remains of the fortified town that is quite literally a set of crumbling ruins.
Once a 15th-century fishing village, this fortified islet is perhaps the most iconic sight in all of Montenegro. Sveti Stefan was converted into a luxury hotel more than a decade ago, and only resort guests and paid tour groups have access to the island. Visitors can still soak in the spectacular views from the surrounding beaches. Sveti Stefan Beach is a free beach that sits to the left of the tombolo, while the Aman Sveti Stefan beach sits to the right for hotel guests, as well as non-guests willing to pay a beach club fee.
Also located on the Lustica Peninsula, Zanjice Beach can be paired with Rose as a full day trip from Kotor. The calm water of this sheltered cove makes it a particularly inviting destination, so arrive early to claim one of the beach’s coveted parking spots.
Church of St. Luke’s is tiny, but beautiful.
Hive Luxury Suites Collection are two apartments located in the heart of Old Town Kotor. This property is brand-new, just opened in summer 2023. The beautiful space includes high ceilings, wood floors, fireplace, detailed wood moulding and bright spacious restrooms. It’s situated on the main square in town, a convenient location, but a bit noisy at night.
Formerly a 13th-century palace, Hotel Astoria‘s restored building sits within Old Town, just steps away from restaurants, churches and shops. There are nine unique rooms for guests to choose from. Amenities are modern, but spaces have a medieval ambiance thanks to beautiful exposed stone walls.
If Hotel Asotia is fully booked, Hotel Vardar is an alternative with a prime slice of real estate near the North Gate overlooking one of the city’s main squares. Rooms are a bit dated, but prices are reasonable and location is ideal.
This two bedroom rental is a 10-minute drive or 45-minute walk to Kotor, so location isn’t ideal if you’re looking to be close to Old Town. But the location on the bay is lovely. The apartment is light, airy, clean and spacious. There’s a dreamy private pool, as well as parking on premises.
Small loft style apartment located in Old Town that brims with medieval character. The space boasts wood beam ceilings, exposed white brick walls, skylights and brown color decor. Very good value for the location.
Fresh sea bream from Konoba Scala Santa, one of the best restaurants in Old Town.
If you’re looking for energy at night, the crowds and cocktails of Havana spill onto the medieval square where music videos are projected onto a neighboring building.
Trendy restaurant located on the water, north of Old Town. Food is delicious with seafood specialities that include sea bass with ratatouille vegetables, prawn risotto, fresh mussels, sea bream, fish chowder, grilled squid and more.
This seaside restaurant sits across the bay from Old Town, an easy 10-minute walk and a refreshing escape from the confines of the city walls. The menu boast a variety of fresh seafood dishes including calamari, mussels, sea bream, fish fillets and more. Reservations are recommended for Konoba Galerija during summer season.
KONOBA SCALA SANTA
Cozy restaurant with al fresco dining in Old Town that prepares tasty dishes from a typical Montenegro menu of seafood, pastas and risottos. Reservation recommended.
Mortiz Eis is a small gelato chain with a handful of locations in eastern Europe. It is absolutely delicious. There are two locations in Kotor that serve up the tastiest selection of flavors that include blood orange, cassis, blackberry, hazelnut, dark chocolate, pistachio, onyx and more.
OLD TOWN PUB
This two-story bar is housed in one of the cutest medieval buildings in Kotor. Great spot to stop for a drink at night, and to listen to live music.
Waterfront hangs in the charming village of Rose.
Podgorica is Montenegro’s capital city, but for a coastal road trip, it’s easier to fly in and out of Dubrovnik. It’s a 20-minute drive from the airport to reach the Croatia – Montenegro border, and then another 90-minutes onward to Kotor. Crossing into Montenegro is straightforward and painless, but leave plenty of time on the return (especially if you are catching a flight). The wait can be hit and miss – I’ve experienced both a five minute and a two hours delays at the border.
Most major car brands have rental kiosks at the Dubrovnik Airport, but let them know you plan to cross the border into Montenegro (you might need to pay a small fee for a green card).
The corridor to Old Town’s soaring South Gate.
A car isn’t necessary when exploring Old Town Kotor. The walled city is a pedestrian zone with no vehicle access. But for day trips around the Bay of Kotor, a car is pretty clutch. If you do rent a car for the duration of your stay in Montenegro, note that all immediate parking around Old Town is in paid lots that are pretty expensive. However, there is free street parking near the soccer field using this Google Maps location. From here, it’s an easy 10-minute walk along the water to Old Town (we parked our car here every day).
Who knew laundry could be so cute?