MONTENEGRO, TRAVEL

Montenegro | A Guide to Kotor Old Town

guide-to-kotor-old-town

Kotor is a magical Montenegrin town located at the base of the Bay of Kotor. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Montenegro and for good reason. The city is full of rich history, stunning architecture and an atmospheric charm that is unmatched. The absolute best, and most famous part of Kotor is the stunning Kotor Old Town. And you really need a decent guide to Kotor Old Town to hit the hot spots.

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View over Kotor
View over Kotor

The rich Montenegrin history, culture and traditions are in Kotor Old Town. You’ll find buildings dating back hundreds of years such as medieval Churches, Palaces and Cathedrals. In addition, it also has various boutiques and trade shops, and even a museum. The Kotor Old Town is the most well preserved medieval urban entity in all of the Mediterranean! It is also important to mention that the Old Town of Kotor is a UNESCO World Cultural Site.

Heading to Kotor’s Old Town, and exploring the streets, with so many things to do, is a great way to learn about Montenegro’s rich and complicated history. With this, you leave more informed and aware than when you arrived. And a visit to Kotor should absolutely be part of your Montenegro itinerary in general.

It is important to have a thorough guide in place for exploring the Kotor Old Town to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the charm and magic it holds. Let’s get into it.

Explore the Old Town Streets

Kotor Old Town
Views over Kotor Old Town

Walking around the streets of Kotor’s Old town with no map or direction is a great way to explore this area. On this adventure through the narrow alleys, you will see the architectural richness of the old town, the cobblestone streets, and if you walk up some steps, the tops of terracotta-roofed houses. Around every corner and down every alley is a new surprise and adventure waiting for you.

Cobblestone streets in Kotor Old Town
Large stone streets in Kotor Old Town

Exploring this area could go on forever. There are so many little squares and paths to take that will bring you to a new magical area you never knew existed. I think just walking around an area and being really present in the moment is a very important skill to have while traveling. Don’t get too caught up in going to the next hot spot. Take some time to live in the moment.

Sift Through the Shops

There are a good number of shops in Kotor. There is a new shop around every corner ranging from boutiques, book shops, trade shops, souvenir shops, antique shops, photo shops and more. And occasionally you’ll find a quiet street.

quiet shopping street
Actually a quiet shopping street

Spend some time wandering into some of these shops. It’s a nice way to see some local Montenegrin offerings and maybe even make a purchase. If you want to bring home a travel souvenir from Kotor, this would be the place to find it.

Hike St Johns Fortress

Views from Kotor Fortress
Views from Kotor Fortress

The Kotor Fortress is by far the most famous attraction in Kotor. The hike has two starting points in Kotor old town, and the top of the fortress stands proudly in the Lovcen National Park Mountains, high above the old town.

This hike is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding. It takes about one hour each way and adds 1350 steps to your exercise regime. The cost to hike the fortress is $3.25.

Steps to Kotor Fortress
Steps to Kotor Fortress

Once you are at the top, you have a stunning panoramic view of the whole Bay of Kotor. The views (and difficult hike) will take your breath away, literally.

The best time to hike this fortress is either early in the morning or in the evening, because during the day it gets super busy and very hot. If you go in the evening, you can even see the sun setting over the whole bay which is an absolutely romantic sight to see.

clock tower in Kotor
The Clock Tower in the main Square of Arms Piazza

Explore a Kotor Palace

Kotor has always been an importance city in Montenegro, which is why many noble families lived there in the 15th-18thcenturies. There are numerous palaces in Kotor to explore. The can find palaces all around Kotor Old Town; some are easy to spot, and others are more difficult.

One of the more famous palaces in the old town is The Pima Palace. This is a 17th-century renaissance building, and you know it by its green shutters.

You can’t enter this palace any more, but it is a very historic building that makes your imagination run wild. It is easy to wonder about how grand and marvelous this palace was back in the day.

The Pima Palace
The Pima Palace ©Discover Montenegro – no copyright infringement intended

Some other palaces in the old town are:

  • Prince’s Palace
  • Bizanti Palace
  • Buca Palace
  • Grgurina Palace

Visit a Church in Kotor Old Town

The churches in Kotor date back to the 14thand 15thcenturies and are marvelous buildings, decked out with gold and artwork. They are nice to see from the outside as well as on the inside.

One church I suggest you check out is the Serbian Orthodox church Sveti Nikola. This church towers over St. Luke’s square and is a brilliant sight to see. Its two twin towers and Serbian flag makes it very recognizable. This church is free to enter and houses traditional Serbian Orthodox icons and evangelist portraits.

Sveti Nikola Church
Sveti Nikola Church © Discover Montenegro – no copyright infringement intended.

Near Sveti Nikola church is a very important and historic church called Sveti Luka. This church is from 1195 and you can still see some of the original fresco mural paintings. Entrance is free, but you should go because of its historic significance in Kotor. The first thing I think is that it needs a good scrub on the exterior.

Sveti Luka church in Kotor
Sveti Luka church in Kotor

If you love historic churches and ancient architecture, then here are some additional ones:

  • Ana Church (XII century)
  • Church of Sveta Marija (XII century)
  • Mihovil Gothic Church (XV century)
  • Clara’s Church(XVIII century)
  • Church of Lady of Health (XV century) 

Check out St. Tryphon’s Cathedral

St. Tryphon’s Cathedral is a very impressive building located in the heart of Kotor old town, and is very recognizable by its two bell towers. It is extremely well preserved, and is one of two Roman Catholic cathedrals that remain in Montenegro. A front view of the structure showcases some amazing Roman architecture with the mountains and Kotor Fortress in the background.

St. Tryphon’s Cathedral
St. Tryphon’s Cathedral

This cathedral is originally from 1166, and then they rebuilt twice due to earthquakes in 1667 and 1979. They never refinished the second tower after the 1667 earthquake, because they ran out of money, and it stands 6.5ft  shorter than the right bell tower.

Earthquakes demolished a lot of the original murals inside the church, but some are still visible. To see this church from the inside and view it from the outside is quite a juxtaposition. Entrance costs $2.75.

Visit a Museum in Kotor Old Town

Guide to Old Town Kotor Montenegro
Kotor Mill

Going to a museum is a great way to further educate yourself on your surroundings.

In Kotor’s Old Town there is a Maritime Museum located on Museum Square in the Grgurin Palace and near Karampana Fountain. This museum focuses on the history and evolution of the maritime industry and trading in Kotor. You can see historical exhibits, model shops, furniture, artifacts and paintings. It’s really lovely.

Check out Napoleon’s Theater

Napoleon’s theater in Kotor’s old town is one of the first theaters built in the Balkans, back in the 1600s. This theater is located right at the entrance of the old town in the main square, and today it is a part of Hotel Cattaro. The building itself is not remarkable but it does have a small terrace that offers a great view of the city.

Grab a Bite to eat

Dining in Kotor delicious pizza
Pizza’s in Kotor

Kotor is full of delicious restaurants with all different types of cuisines. Due to Montenegro’s history and it’s melted past with other countries, the food has strong influences from its neighboring counties. Some great options are:

  • Bocalibre– You find this delicious restaurant in one of Kotor’s old town squares. The location is great for soaking in the historic surrounds and relaxing in the magical atmosphere. The menu is Italian-based and offers stone baked pizza, home-made tiramisu, and fresh coffee.
  • Galion– This is a very romantic restaurant in Kotor that is great for couples. It is located right along the water and you have stunning views of the city. Galion specializes in dishes made with local seafood but also has various other meat and vegetarian dishes.
  • Hippocampus– This restaurant is located in the heart of the old town and has a very hip interior inspired by Asian and middle-eastern styles. The menu offers various seafood options as well as some vegetarian options. The rooftop terrace of this restaurant is a great place to sit back and admire the beauty of Kotor.

How to get to Kotor

Kotor does have an international airport in neighboring Tivat, and there are direct flights from London, Brussels, Belgrade, Moscow, Eindhoven, Oslo, Dubai and others. Otherwise you can take a connecting flight to get to Kotor. Airport code is TIV and it’s just a few miles out of Kotor.

There is also international ferry service to go from Ancona Italy to Kotor during the summer. Check the ferry schedule here. Otherwise, you can go from Bari, Italy to Bar, Montenegro just south of Kotor. Check that ferry schedule here.

Kotor has international bus service and you can arrive from Germany, Austria, Serbia, Slovakia and many destinations in Croatia. So if you are visiting Split, you could also visit Kotor. It will take 6-8 hours, but it’s will be an inexpensive way to visit both cities.

Accommodation in Kotor Old Town

Kotor’s beauty and the plethora of activities make it a great place to stay in for a day or two. There are some great  hotels near Kotor old town to experience the city day and night. Some great places to stay are:

Activities you can do while in Kotor

There are a variety of fun activities in Kotor to see more of the city and surrounding area. Some I suggest are:

Kotor Boat Tour – to see the Blue Cave and Lady of the Rocks

Hop-on/Hop-off Bus tour – to see the surrounding areas.

Private Walking tour – to get more in depth information on Kotor Old Town and her history.

Full Day Tour of Lovcen National Park – to see the magnificent park and includes a boat ride.

Day Trip to Dubrovnik – to see another important and beautiful city on the Mediterranean.

 

If you are planning on visiting Kotor, make sure you do not miss out on the stunning Old Town. I hope this guide to Kotor Old Town will help you navigate this beautiful city. There is so much history and culture to see and appreciate, it really is a town like no other. Let me know what you think. I enjoyed visiting and hope you will as well.

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Life On The Mediterranean

US expat living the life on the Mediterranean in the South of France. I regularly travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and other intriguing locations around the Mediterranean. Former Hyatt Corp Marketing Manager, student accommodation director and hotel photoshoot art director.

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