Keys to the City: Kotor, Montenegro

Keys to the City: Kotor, Montenegro

Our city guide gives you a run down on Kotor in Montenegro. We will let you know the best things to do, the best places to eat and a few tricks we picked up during our time there. Enjoy!

Why Visit?

We’ll cut to the chase here: Kotor is a stunning little town!

Located at the end of the bay from which it takes it’s name, Kotor is most famous for its beautiful Old Town and the fortress perched just above it. Kotor is the perfect place for both the active traveller and someone just looking for a place to relax for a few days. Whether you spend your time trekking up the cliffs or sitting in the main square sipping on a coffee, Kotor needs to be on your list of places to visit.

What To Do?

You can see pretty much everything in Kotor in 2 or 3 days but we ended up staying a week! It is one of those charming little towns where sometimes the best thing to do is grab a coffee in the main square and then go for a lazy stroll along the waterfront. But if you’re tight on time, the following things were our favourites.

Hike up to the Castle of San Giovanni

As soon as your arrive in Kotor you will see the Castle and its walls perched high above the Kotor Old Town. It is a must-do during your time there.

Kotor Fort
The Castle perched high above the Old Town

You have 2 routes to the Castle to choose from:

  • From the Old Town (30 to 40 minutes one way):

There are 2 points in which you can start your journey from the Old Town. The first is in the southern end of the Old Town in Placa Od Salate. There is a group of seats on the stepped section of the square and just behind those is a small alley way to lead you to the top.

The second route departs from the northern part of the Old Town right near the North Gate. Head to the small square with the Church of St. Mary Collegiate, where you will find a small alley with signposts signalling the way.

Travelator Tip: In summer, you have to pay 3 euro per person to climb the stairs near the North Gate. But in winter it’s free!

  • The Ladder of Cattaro (60 minutes one way):

This option can not only take you to the Castle but also up to the top of the cliffs just behind Kotor for some incredible views of the bay.

Walk out of the Old Town through the North Gate, cross 2 small bridges then turn right just after the second bridge. Walk to the end of this road towards some shabby looking buildings. It looks like you can’t go any further but just to the right of a chain linked fence is the beginning of the trail.

The Ladder of Cattaro is a series of switchbacks snaking up the valley. To access the Castle, you can turn right off of the path at either of the two houses you encounter on the trail. You will find a small church, and a small hole in the Castle wall nearby where you can enter. Aside from marking your way, these houses also sell beer, juices, local cheese and fresh fruit, so if you have a few minutes pull up a chair and enjoy the view.

Travelator Tip: If you enter the Castle via the Ladder of Cattaro trail, you don’t have to pay the 3 euro fee like when you climb the stairs from the Old Town. Entrance to the Castle is free!

If you choose not to peel off the path, it will take you all the way to the top of the cliff above Kotor and give you a panoramic view over the bay and the Castle. It is absolutely worth the effort but we would recommend allowing at around 3 hours to get up and back.

Bay of Kotor
Looking down from the Castle above Kotor.

Catch the bus to Perast

Perast is a beautiful little fishing village located about a 30 minute drive around the bay from Kotor. The tiny village is well worth the visit to catch a water taxi out to the small islands of St George and Our Lady Of the Rocks, which house a small monastery and a Roman Catholic church respectively.

To get to Perast, head to the bus station on the main road just outside of the southern end of Kotor Old Town (see map below). Wait for the Bluelines bus that arrives at 10 minutes past the hour. The fare is 1.10 euro, and you buy your ticket on the bus. To get home, simply wait in the same place that the bus drops you off.

Bus stop to Perast
The bus stop for the bus to Perast.

Once you arrive in Perast you won’t be able to miss the small marina where the water taxis are located. A water taxi ride to both islands should cost 5 euro per person but during peak season this can increase. Shop around!

Parast
An amazing view of Perast

Get lost in the Old Town

Think Dubrovnik, but smaller, less tourists and MUCH cheaper. The Kotor Old Town is a winding maze of alleyways full of boutique restaurants, shops and cafes. Aside from the restaurants and cafes, there are some beautiful cathedrals scattered around, great bars and even a museum dedicated to the many friendly stray cats that live within the old city walls.

Stray cats Kotor Montengro
KG with two of the many friendly stray cats in Kotor.

Stroll around the Bay of Kotor

Walk out the front of Old Town and pick a direction. Left or right, it doesn’t matter as the walk will be a beautiful one. Neither direction has dedicated walking paths but strolling along the side of the road is perfectly safe. There are numerous villages along the way that will have restaurants and cafes to keep you going. They may even be able to arrange you a taxi if you’re feeling too lazy to make the walk home.

Kotor Marina
The view across the marina of Kotor Old Town

Where To Eat?

There is a ridiculous number of bars, restaurants and cafes jammed into Kotor Old Town and it’s surrounds. Here’s a few of our favourites that we had to visit more than once!

Pronto Pizza

The sign inside the restaurant stating that they have the best pizza in town is no lie. I think in the week we spent in Kotor we ate here at least five times (we love pizza). There is nothing too fancy at Pronto, just delicious pizzas at great prices.

Bokun Wine Bar

In a town full of up-market eateries, Bokun stands out for the quality of their food and the size of the servings. Bokun specialises in sharing plates, which include everything from fresh fish to cured meats and local cheeses. The wine list is fantastic, the atmosphere is cosy and the service was great.

Kotor Montengro
Working off all that pizza on our climb up the Cattaro Ladder.

Tanjga

Balkan cuisine revolves around grilled meat. Even if you are sick of meat already, you need to give Tanjga a try. It is by far one of the best grill places we tried throughout all of the Balkans. The food is delicious, the servings are huge and it is dirt cheap! Tanjga whip up all of the Balkan staples but the real highlight for us was the plate of roast pork – plus the surly banter from the waitstaff! Tanjga is located just outside the southern gate of the Old Town.

The Old Winery

As you could probably guess, The Old Winery prides itself on its wine list but the food is fantastic as well. It’s definitely not the cheapest restaurant in town but the quality makes up for it. Dishing up some tasty share platters, local seafood and a surprisingly authentic array of pastas, The Old Winery is a great spot for a casual drink or a proper meal.

Fishing Kotor Montengro
Time for some fresh fish?

Where To Stay?

We stayed at the excellent Hostel Old Town Kotor. Set in a superbly restored building in the heart of Old Town, Hostel Old Town offers dorm rooms as well as private rooms for excellent prices given it’s location. The staff are fantastic. They will help you organise anything from a spot to grab coffee to helping you out with any day tours throughout Montenegro. There is also a nightly pub crawl which is a good time to meet other travellers.

Bay of Kotor
Views of the Bay of Kotor during a stroll.

How To Get There?

Buses are your best option for transport throughout the Balkans. Getting to and from Kotor is no exception. The best place to find out information about departure times and prices is at the local bus station. If you are trying to plan ahead however Bulkan Viator can be very useful. Here is some info on the most common routes:

Getting from Podgorica to Kotor

Make your way to the main bus station in Podgorica. Buses will depart to Kotor around every half hour from 5:30am until 10pm. The journey takes 1.5 to 2 hours.

Getting from Dubrovnik (Croatia) to Kotor

Buses depart from the Dubrovnik main bus station for Kotor. Buses usually depart at 7am, 11am and 3pm, but check BusCroatia for up-to-date schedules and prices. Expect the trip to last around 2 hours.

Getting from Shkoder (Albania) to Kotor

This bus will take you from Shkoder to Podgorica and then to Kotor. The bus departs from the main road next to Xhamia e Madhe mosque (map here). It is a tourist bus with Kotor on a sign in the window. It departs around 10:30am. The journey should take about 4 hours.

Have you visited Kotor? What did you do during your stay? Tell us in the comments below!

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