As soon as I entered the walled Old Town of Kotor and saw the beautiful narrow streets with mysterious cobble stoned alleyways, staircases leading to nowhere and hundreds of friendly cats, I knew that I’d find it hard to leave.
In Kotor Old Town, violinists and painters set up shop on the street and get to work on making Kotor even more beautiful than it already is. Restaurants selling fresh seafood and hearty Balkan cuisine sit alongside tiny shops selling handmade jewellery, Turkish silk rugs and bottles of local fruit brandy, and the mountains surrounding the ancient town make Kotor a truly picture perfect destination.
As I settled into life in Kotor, securing a volunteer position at my hostel in exchange for free food and accommodation, I found that what I most liked about Kotor, as well as its obvious beauty, was the slow pace of life there. While there are certainly lots of things to do in Kotor, its real charm is in the simple things. Locals in Kotor rise late and meander to their favourite bar to enjoy an espresso and watch the world go by, maybe stopping at the bakery for a tasty burek on the way before whiling away the afternoon smoking cigarettes and drinking more espresso.
With that being said, if the slow-paced lifestyle of a small Balkan town doesn’t immediately appeal to you, don’t be so ready to dismiss Kotor. There is something in Kotor for everyone, and even the rowdiest Australian backpacker will find themselves falling in love with Kotor (trust me, I’ve seen it happen enough times!).
With this in mind, I decided to put together this guide to Kotor and list of all the best things to do in Kotor so that whether your idea of a fun trip is simply sitting and watching the world go by, drinking copious amounts of local brandy or hiking up a mountain, you will be able to make the most of Kotor and fall in love with it just like I did.
The 15 Best Things to Do in Kotor, Montenegro
Getting to Kotor
Getting to Kotor is easy. The closest airport is Tivat, which is just a 15 minute drive from Kotor. I asked my hostel to book me a taxi from the airport to Kotor in advance for 10 euros (half the price of an airport taxi).
If you’re coming by bus, you can come from almost anywhere including Uncinj (MN), Podgorica (MN), Skoder (AL), Tirana (AL), Mostar (BIH) and more. The Old Town of Kotor is a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.
Budget Accommodation in Kotor
The best hostel in Kotor is without a doubt Old Town Hostel. As the name would suggest, Old Town Hostel is right in the Old Town, close to all the bars and restaurants while still only being a 10 minute walk away from the beach.
Old Town Hostel also has beautiful rooms with thick stone walls, wooden beams and a higher ratio of bathrooms to beds than other hostels in Kotor (not to mention a swimming pool!!!), and after staying in hostels for almost 4 years, Old Town Hostel is definitely one of the nicest I’ve stayed in when it comes to comfort and facilities.
However, what makes Old Town Hostel so special are the events that the hostel staff put on for guests. From simple things like movie days with shisha and cocktail parties by the pool to sunset BBQs on top of mountains, booze cruises, dinner cruises and nightly pub crawls.
There’s also a tonne of free beer and rakija around every night for whoever wants to get involved in beer pong tournaments or other drinking games, plus a cheap homemade dinner for those on a budget!
I promise you that Old Town Hostel is the place that you want to be staying if you want to make friends and have a great time.
15 Things to Do in Kotor
1. Hike up to Kotor Fortress
Top of any list of things to do in Kotor should be this. If you’ve ever seen a photograph of Kotor before, chances are it’s been taken from that viewpoint up at Kotor Fortress. If there’s one thing that everybody does in Kotor, it is to hike up to the fortress and take in the breathtaking views of Boka Bay, or the Bay of Kotor.
The ‘official’ way to go is up a steep staircase of more than 1500 steps, which costs 8 euros*. However, there is also a lesser known route that you can take which is actually free and far lovelier. Both routes will take you around 45 minutes and are not too strenuous. I actually wrote an entire guide to the Kotor Fortress here which includes instructions on how to hike up for free if you’re interested!
Once you reach the fortress, just take in the views and relax! It’s very common to take a few beers up to Kotor Fortress and just hang (in the summer months, there’s actually a man who sells cans of beer and soft drinks, but it’s three times more expensive than if you just buy your own from a store in the Old Town)! Kotor Fortress is really fun to walk around, and it’s almost untouched so it’s super cool to explore. There are also a couple of cute fortress kitties who are really friendly!
Once you’re done, feel free to head back down via the stairs – you won’t be checked for a ticket so don’t freak out when you see the turnstile!
Pro Tip #1 – right where the abandoned church is on the way up, you can turn left and go and visit the old man who lives up the mountain and makes his own cheese and rakija for thirsty explorers. Sit and have a chat with him, sample some of his goods and enjoy the authentic Balkan experience while helping a local man feed his family!
Pro Tip #2 – legend has it that the best time to hike up to Kotor Fortress is before sunrise, as it is free to climb the stairs before around 7am and the sunrise is supposed to be beautiful. I can’t personally vouch for that, as the only time I see sunrise is when I’m still up drinking, but many people have told me it’s worth it.
*prices correct as of November 2018.
2. Explore Montenegro on a tour with 360 Monte
I have written before about my experience taking the Great Montenegro Tour with 360 Monte, and I cannot recommend a tour with them enough! I got to see so many things that I never would have been able to see otherwise, including the highest mausoleum in the world in Lovćen National Park, the old royal capital of Cetinje and Crnojević River, where we enjoyed a boat trip, some swimming and a wonderful meal!
Tour prices are 44 EUR for guests at Old Town Hostel Kotor and 49 EUR for everyone else. Prices correct as of January 2019.
3. Visit Cat Square
Kotor is a cat lover’s dream as there are hundreds of kitties that live on the streets of Kotor’s Old Town that are taken care of by the residents of Kotor. Just before the North Gate in Kotor’s Old Town is a tiny park with a couple of benches, trees and – you’ve guessed it – cats. So many of Kotor’s cats congregate in this little square, and if you’re a cat lady like me then you’ll be in your element as Kotor’s kitties clamber all over you! I’ve spent way too many afternoons on Cat Square, and whiling away an afternoon here was definitely one of my favourite things to do in Kotor.
4. Stroll around the city walls
Reason 579 why Kotor is better than Dubrovnik – you don’t have to pay a fee to walk around the city walls! It only takes around 20 minutes to stroll around the city walls of Kotor but it’s definitely worth doing as you find some really cute photo spots and lovely views down into the Old Town.
5. Visit Perast
Just a short bus ride from Kotor is Perast, a beautiful little town that is definitely worth visiting. Whilst there, you can take a boat out to visit ‘Our Lady on the Rocks,’ a tiny church on an island, or you can just wander around Perast taking in the gorgeous views of the bay. My friends and I went to Perast for lunch and it was such a nice little place to sit and just breathe, especially as we went in shoulder season when it was very quiet.
The bus from Kotor to Perast takes 20 minutes and leaves every 30 minutes from the main bus station. It cost €1.50 when I was in Kotor.
6. Explore the Old Town
By far one of the best things to do in Kotor is simply to wander around and get lost in the Old Town! Kotor is one of those places where you can spend hours just wandering from place to place drinking coffee and watching the world go by. One of my favourite days in Kotor was when my friend Meg came to visit and we literally ate our way around the Old Town! We simply wandered around and stopped at anywhere that took our fancy to enjoy plates of cold meats, cheeses, coffees and beer! Everywhere in Kotor Old Town has outdoor seating where you can just soak up the sunshine and take in the beauty of the place.
A worthwhile stop on your tour of Kotor Old Town should be Kotor Bazaar. While it is nothing more than a handful of stalls selling souvenirs and trinkets, you can find some really nice gifts there, and it has a lovely picturesque setting in a quiet courtyard.
7. Visit Budva
Most people choose to actually stay in Budva, but if you’re strapped for time then don’t worry – you can easily visit Budva on a day trip from Kotor to save you missing out! Budva is only a 40 minute bus ride from Kotor and buses run frequently from Kotor’s main bus station.
When I went to Budva, it was November so it was very quiet but it was still a lovely place to explore. The Old Town is beautiful, and Budva has the advantage of having lots of lovely sand beaches (Kotor’s beaches aren’t as nice as those in Budva) so if you want a day of sunbathing then head down to Budva!
8. Go to the Beach!
I won’t lie – the main beach of Kotor isn’t an endless strip of white sand that will take your breath away. It’s a pebble beach, so it isn’t all that comfortable (and the sun loungers are kind of expensive to rent). HOWEVER. It’s a beach, it’s clean, you can enjoy the stunning views of Boka Bay and there are a couple of lovely little restaurants where you can enjoy an octopus salad or an iced coffee with the stunning mountain views.
What’s more, the beach is just a 5-10 minute walk from the Old Town (depending on which gate you exit from), and so it’s extremely easy to get to.
9. Discover Kotor’s restaurants
Kotor’s restaurants are definitely more geared towards tourists, but when you’re eating grilled octopus, sipping delicious Montenegrin wine and listening to a woman play a violin in the piazza, touristy doesn’t seem so bad.
Seafood is the order of the day here, and for the most part, restaurants in Kotor are of a high standard. I wrote a full guide to restaurants in Kotor here if you’re interested!
A great lunchtime spot in Kotor is BBQ Tanjga, a no frills family run affair that specialises in meat, meat, and more meat. Whether you want a HUGE sandwich for just €3, or the 1/2 roast chicken with potatoes and your pick of anything from the salad counter, you will not be disappointed at Tanjga.
10. Drink Rakija
No Kotor guide or list of things to do in Kotor (or anywhere in the Balkans, for that matter) would be complete without a point dedicated to local homemade brandy, rakija (also known as rakia and raki in neighbouring countries).
Traditionally made with fruit (but I have also tried honey rakija) and prepared at home, rakija is the kind of drink to knock your socks off and put hairs on your chest. Locals swear by the stuff, and during the time I spent living in the Balkans, I became very fond of it.
My favourite flavour of rakija is the apricot version, but by far the most popular (and potent!) is the plum.
I actually wrote an entire post dedicated to rakija if you’d like to read it!
11. Explore Boka Bay on a boat cruise
One of the nicest things to do in Kotor is to take part in a cruise around Boka Bay. Old Town Hostel offers daytime booze cruises and evening dinner cruises (with BBQ’d cevapi), or you can book a full day excursion around Boka Bay such as this one.
12. Visit Kotor Market
The best place to stock up on groceries (and buy homemade rakija!) is the local farmer’s market, or ‘Kotor Market.’ Open every day from 7am until 2pm, the market sits just outside the city walls (turn left as you come out of the Sea Gate), and there is so much more to this market than just fresh fruits and veggies. From prosciutto to dried figs, bags of olives, homemade fruit wines (I recommend the pomegranate), and a dazzling array of cheeses, you’ll be hard pressed not to leave this place with armfuls of goods.
13. Visit the Maritime Museum of Montenegro
This small museum in Kotor’s Old Town covers the maritime history of Kotor and also features a weapons exhibition. While it is not in my personal area of interest, people with a keen interest in history and maritime trade will surely find this museum enjoyable. There are also a large number of model ships on display with an intricate attention to detail.
14. Eat burek!
Nothing says ‘Balkan’ like a generous slice of burek, a staple of the Balkan diet and hearty comfort food at its finest. Burek is a kind of pie made from flakey filo pastry and stuffed with anything from meat and potatoes to ricotta cheese and spinach.
Balkan people love to eat burek for breakfast (or at any time of day for that matter!), and the best burek in Kotor can be found at the small bakery close to the main bus station, or at the one just outside the North Gate. A large slice of burek usually costs just over one euro.
15. Visit Kotor’s churches
No guide to Kotor (or any European city really) would be complete without a mention of its churches. There are around a dozen churches in the Old Town of Kotor, but the biggest and most impressive is the Cathedral of St. Tryphon (named after the patron saint of Kotor). Built in 1166, it is one of the main Kotor attractions and is one of only two Roman Catholic cathedrals in the whole country.
The Cathedral of St. Tryphon has a Romanesque interior and two Baroque bell towers. There is a €2 entrance fee, but this also includes entry to the Sacral Art Museum on the second floor, which includes precious silver items, 14th century frescoes and other artworks.
The second most famous church in Kotor is the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, which is much newer, being built in 1909. With a huge Serbian flag hanging down in front of this church, and two imposing bell towers, this church is a force to be reckoned with. What is interesting to note about this church is that the two domes on top of the bell towers are black, rather than the usual gold that we see on Orthodox churches (the gold is supposedly so that God can see the churches from Heaven). As this is an Orthodox church, women must cover their hair if they wish to enter.
In the same square there is also St. Luke’s Church (1195), which is absolutely tiny and just so cute! Entrance to both this and the Church of St. Nicholas are free.
Prices in Kotor
Kotor is definitely more expensive than I was anticipating, and far more expensive than other places that I’ve been in the Balkans (with the exception of Croatia).
However, it’s still cheaper than the UK!
Expect to pay 8-15 EU for a meal in a restaurant, 2.5-3 EU for a beer, 1.50 EU for a coffee and 8-20 EU for a dorm bed in a hostel (prices in high season are always higher).
Final thoughts on Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor is an absolutely magical place that won me over immediately. Its beauty goes way deeper than surface level, and it truly is the perfect place to unwind and escape from reality for a little while. That said, if you do want to party then fear not – you’re in the home of rakija and Balkan people, and they never say no to a good knees up!
Something that I always tell people is that Kotor is a less touristy (and less expensive!) version of Dubrovnik, Croatia. However, it won’t stay that way for long. Cruise ships have discovered Kotor’s undeniable charm, and within a few years, Kotor will be just as crowded and expensive as Dubrovnik, so I feel that now is the time to visit.
Have you ever been to Kotor? What did you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!