As one of the top travel destinations in Montenegro, it’s no surprise that there are a number of great things to do in Kotor Old Town. This well-preserved medieval town is a beautiful place to wander thanks to the narrow cobblestone alleyways, beautiful churches and much more. Kotor Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, largely thanks to the impressive fortifications, such as St. John’s Fortress. The fortress is one of the best places to admire the wonderful scenery of the area, with the magnificent mountains surrounding the town. There’s lots to do nearby too, with boat trips around the Bay of Kotor available, as well as day trips to the nearby Lovcen National Park and the astounding Durmitor National Park. With so much to see and do, it’s definitely worth spending at least a few days here to see all it has to offer. Before you visit make sure to read this guide to the best things to do in Kotor Old Town, Montenegro!
Wondering where to stay in Kotor? Check out our guide to the best places to stay in Kotor Old Town!
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Things to do in Kotor Old Town, Montenegro
St. John’s Fortress
Visiting St. John’s Fortress is one of the essential things to do in Kotor. Also known as the Castle of San Giovanni, it stands 260 metres above the town and provides brilliant vantage points of the Bay of Kotor. Visiting the fortress allows you to see the beautiful Old Town from above as well as the imposing mountains surrounding it. If you’re lucky you may even get to see some mist rolling in over the Bay of Kotor, which is a lovely sight and makes for some great photos!
The best thing about St. John’s Fortress is its location on the hillside above Kotor. In comparison to other fortresses we’ve visited it isn’t as well-preserved and is somewhat in a state of disrepair. Thankfully the views of Kotor from the hillside more than make up for this.
Getting to St. John’s Fortress from the Old Town involves climbing 1,350 steps or hiking a trail known as the ladder of Kotor. Taking the steps means you will have to pay an entrance fee of €8, although this generally only applies between 8am and 8pm. If you’re visiting outside of these hours you may be lucky enough to use the stairs for free, although when we tried ourselves we were still charged €5. It takes around 45-60 minutes to walk up to the fortress, although you may find it ends up taking longer as there are some great spots for photos along the way.
The alternative is to hike the ladder of Kotor as part way along the trail there is a separate path that leads to the fortress. If you decide to walk this route then you are able to access the fortress for free, and you can even take the easier route down the 1,350 stairs as they do not check tickets on the way down. For more information on the ladder of Kotor check out our section on hiking later in this article.
It’s important to wear comfortable footwear that is suitable for hiking regardless of the route you take to the Kotor fortress. If you’re taking the stairs then there are sections that are like cobblestone streets, which would be particularly hard to climb in flip-flops, especially when it’s been raining. We also recommend avoiding climbing to the fortress in the middle of the day during summer as the heat makes the climb even harder. If it’s hot when you begin your climb then make sure you have plenty of water with you!
Most people refer to St. John’s fortress as the city walls of Kotor, however there are other city walls closer to the town that you can visit. As you enter through the main gate of Kotor Old Town there are some stairs to the left. These stairs are the start of the city walls, and although they aren’t as impressive as the ones in nearby Dubrovnik, they’re still well worth a visit. If you head along the walls you can get some incredible views of the mountains behind Kotor. Follow the walls around to the front of the town and you can see the harbour to your right and the Old Town to your left.
The views of the Old Town and the Bay of Kotor are undoubtedly better from St. John’s Fortress, but the city walls are still a nice place to visit. There is no fee for walking along the city walls and it only takes around 15 minutes in total, so we fully recommend making the time to visit.
The historic Old Town of Kotor is a charming place, home to narrow cobblestone streets that make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time. It’s well worth setting some time aside to simply wander the streets and explore the lovely buildings and alleyways found here. Cars are prohibited in Kotor’s Old Town so the only way around is on foot.
Some points of interest worth visiting in Kotor Old Town are the Church of St. Luka, St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Nicholas. We also recommend visiting the town’s gates, which are the only way in and out of the Old Town. There are three gates in total: the main gate, which is closest to the harbour, the Gurdich Gate, which is to the east of the Old Town, and the Northern River Gate, which is to the west by the river. If you’re a cat lover then take the chance to visit the cat museum, which helps raise money to support the cats you will inevitably see roaming the streets of Kotor.
Unsurprisingly, Kotor Old Town is home to various restaurants and bars, so it’s the perfect place to head to come dinner time. There’s plenty of choice so you’re bound to find a good spot for some food and drink! Alternatively, if you plan to cook for yourself during your stay then make sure to visit the local market just outside the Old Town. It’s open from 8am until 3pm every day and you’ll find a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables for sale there.
On top of everything else it has to offer, Kotor Old Town also has a range of hotels and accommodation options available.
One of the nicest things to do on a sunny day is to take a stroll along the promenade between Kotor and Dobrota. The pathway between the two towns stretches for around 4 kilometres and it takes around an hour to walk the whole route. If you’d prefer not to walk the whole distance then it’s still worth walking part of the way to see this lovely area of Kotor.
There are some nice spots along the promenade, including bars and restaurants on the seafront offering amazing views of the surrounding mountains. If that’s not your thing then you may prefer to spend some time at Kotor beach, although if you’re looking for nice beaches then you’re best off visiting Budva. Other than that, just take the time to wander along the waterfront and enjoy this quieter area of Kotor.
Bay of Kotor
Outside of the Old Town, one of the nicest things to do in the area is explore the stunning Bay of Kotor. Also known as Boka, the bay is home to a number of well-preserved medieval towns including Perast, Risan, Tivat, and of course Kotor itself. Surrounded by towering mountains, the beautiful Bay of Kotor is blessed with breathtaking scenery. The bay is around 28 kilometres long, and at its narrowest point, the Verige Strait, it is only 340 metres wide.
The easiest way to see more of the Bay of Kotor is to take a boat trip, but it’s also possible to get around by bus or renting a car. Some of the best spots to visit include the Blue Cave, Mamula Island, Our Lady of the Rocks Island and Perast. In particular, the chance to swim in the wonderfully blue water at the blue cave is an unforgettable experience.
Boat trips around the Bay of Kotor can be arranged in the town itself or by booking online in advance. If you’re visiting during peak season it’s worth booking in advance for your chosen date as these boat trips are one of the most popular things to do in Kotor! We recommend booking the 3-hour boat tour of the Bay of Kotor available through Get Your Guide, which takes you to the Blue Cave, Mamula Island and Our Lady of the Rocks Island. This tour costs just €30 ($35 USD) per person, which is great value for the chance to enjoy more of the bay’s incredible scenery.
One of the best things to do while in Kotor is take a day trip to the quaint town of Perast. Located just a 20-30 minute bus ride away from Kotor, Perast is a lovely waterfront Old Town with a number of restaurants conveniently located along the seafront.
Although there aren’t many things to do in the town, the beautiful setting make it well worth visiting. The most popular thing to do in Perast is to take a boat to the nearby Our Lady of the Rocks island, which is home to a church of the same name. Boat rides are easy to arrange and cost just €5 for a return trip. Other things to do include strolling along the waterfront promenade, swimming in the Adriatic sea and enjoying the views from the bell tower of the St. Nikola Church. If you’re visiting at lunch or dinner time then it’s also well worth grabbing some food at one of the town’s waterfront restaurants.
Getting to Perast from Kotor Old Town is extremely easy, with the bus costing just €1.50 one-way. Alternatively you may visit the town as part of a day trip around the Bay of Kotor, but even if you do it’s worth visiting again so that you have more time to explore at your own pace.
On top of all the other things to see and do in the area, Kotor is also a great place to do some hiking. Climbing the steps to St. John’s Fortress may be enough of a hike for some, but if you’re looking to push yourself a bit further then there are a few other hikes possible from the town.
One option is to hike to Vrmac Fort, which is around an hour and a half walk from Kotor. The walking doesn’t have to stop there though as there are various trails around the Vrmac ridge. These routes allow you to enjoy the incredible scenery in the Bay of Kotor, making them perfect for hiking.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge then the Ladder of Kotor is one of the hardest hikes in the area. Many tourists opt to only complete part of the route in order to access St. John’s Fortress for free, but if you walk the full length of the trail it should take around 3-4 hours. The route has an elevation gain of 940 metres, and involves 70 switchbacks along the way. Although it’s an exhausting hike, it’s definitely worth it for the incredible views – just make sure to pack plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated!
While there are plenty of great things to do in and around Kotor itself, the town is perfectly located for some amazing day trips around Montenegro. Popular day trip destinations include the nearby Lovcen National Park, the coastal Old Town of Budva, the stunning Durmitor National Park, Perast and even the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. In particular we recommend visiting Durmitor National Park, which is home to towering mountains, beautiful lakes, the immense Tara River Canyon and more.
If you’re looking for more detail on nearby excursions then click here to find out about the amazing day trips from Kotor! Or if you already know where you want to go and are ready to book your trips then click here to see the great tours available through Get Your Guide.
How to get to Kotor
As one of the most popular travel destinations in Montenegro, Kotor is easy to get to via public transport. Buses regularly run to Kotor from nearby places such as Budva and Podgorica, but it’s also possible to get buses from further afield, including the Croatian city of Dubrovnik. If you plan to come from the latter then click here to read our guide of how to get from Dubrovnik to Kotor! Alternatively, if you’re already in Montenegro then click here to find up-to-date bus timetables and book tickets to Kotor!
Although Kotor doesn’t have it’s own airport, Tivat airport is conveniently located just 8 kilometres away and so flying to the area is a viable option. Direct flights to Tivat airport are available from a number of airports, including London, Manchester and Paris. It’s often the case that direct flights are only available during the peak summer season in Kotor, and so if you’re travelling in winter you may need to fly elsewhere and travel to Kotor by public transport.
The final option is to rent a car to get to Kotor. It’s easy to arrange renting a car online for pretty much any major town or city in Montenegro and the nearby countries. Costs vary depending on where you’re renting from and returning the car to, but still the prices tend to be quite reasonable. If you do rent a car from another country to drive to Kotor then make sure you have been given a ‘green card’ (sometimes referred to as a ‘cross border card’) as this proves that the car is insured to be driven outside of the country of rental. Some companies may try to charge for this, but it should be included in the cost of renting the car so make sure to confirm it’s included before booking a rental car.
Best time to visit Kotor
The weather in Kotor can be unpredictable at times due to the surrounding mountains. We visited in May and it rained every day throughout our stay, but we were still treated to some lovely sunny periods with clear skies. Due to the nature of the weather in the area it’s not uncommon to have both sunny and stormy weather in the same day.
During the summer months (June-August), the weather is more predictable with a lower chance of rain. Average high temperatures during these months are between 28 and 31 degrees Celsius. The town is busiest during these months as it’s the best time to visit Kotor in terms of weather. As it’s a relatively small place it doesn’t take a lot for the streets to get busy, so it’s not the best time to visit if you want to avoid other tourists.
If you want to avoid the crowds but still have a good chance of some nice weather then the best time to visit Kotor is during the shoulder seasons of May-June or September-October. It’s still possible that the town can get busy during these months though as normally at least one cruise ship visits Kotor each day. The best way to avoid the crowds is to explore the town before 9am and after 6pm, as most tourists visiting on a day trip have left by then.
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