Located on a beautiful bay on the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a city steeped in tradition and history, with remarkable scenic views. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. Bay of Kotor, also known as Boka, it was once home to one of the Mediterranean’s busiest harbors. Today, Kotor is the star of the Montenegro coast and one of the best gulet cruise destinations.
Kotor's Main Square
Step through the Sea Gate sand you’ll find yourself in the grand Arms Square, its polished stones a relic of a time when Venice ruled the waves. Take a seat on the terrace outside the elegant Hotel Vardar and order a local Nikšićko beer to sip while you watch Kotor life coming and going through this focal point of the city. You'll want to take your time, so try to ignore the ticking of the nearby clock tower, but do stop to take a photo of its Pisa-square angle - learning thanks to the numerous earthquakes that have shaken Kotor over the years.
St John’s Castle
The Bay of Kotor looks gorgeous from sea level, but it’s even better seen from the medieval citadel above, its calm blue waters reminiscent of the Norwegian Fjords, the steep mountain slopes that surround it towering to heights of well over 1000 meters. For the best view in town, begin the ascent up the stone staircase, which zigzags all the way up the old walls to the Castle of St. John, a fort dating back to the sixteenth century.
At times Kotor can feel like a tourist showpiece. Not so at the daily market, where city natives come to have a good catch-up with the neighbors, as well as shopping amongst the teetering piles of fish, fresh vegetables, local cheeses and all manner of household goods. The market runs along the city walls from the Sea Gate and is open every morning.
Feast on fresh seafood at Galion
Dinner in Kotor generally means something hauled from the sea, and the best place in town to find the fruits of Kotor Bay is Galion. It’s a short walk outside the Old Town but the reward is an unparalleled vista across the harbor from the glass-walled terrace. Ask to see the fish of the day – sea bream perhaps, or sea bass – and it will be brought out on a platter for you to select by weight (€59 per kilogram). Filleted and returned to you with delicious homemade sauce, team this most elegant of fish suppers with a bottle of local Chardonnay and finish up with the salted chocolate sable.
Party Roman-style at Maximus
Who doesn’t want to party like a Roman? Hundreds flock to Maximus nightclub, set into the walls of the Old Town near the Kampana Tower, to dance on its multitude of Roman-themed floors. The music is different in each space, so if the house music isn’t to your liking, there will be pop elsewhere or even some Montenegrin folk tunes. The nightclub is only open Friday and Saturday nights
You don't have to be a history buff to spend hours exploring the Maritime Museum, housed in the Baroque Gregorian Palace. Check out intriguing nautical maps and town plans of the area before heading upstairs to see models of landmark ships, as well as daggers and pistols dating from the sixteenth century. There is also a fascinating exhibition about Kotor Bay’s role in both World War One and Two on the second floor. The museum is open seven days a week.
Get into café culture in the Old Town
The Old Town of Kotor could be assumed to run solely on coffee given the number of cafés that line the streets, their tables pushing into every corner of every square. Small but memorable, head to Scorpion in St Luke's Square for your morning cup complete with friendly service, while later in the day the Old Winery is the place to sit, its tables spread along the narrow alleyway that runs out to the North Gate. If you've had your fill of caffeine, they also have a wide-ranging list of Montenegrin wines, including Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and Merlots.
Marvel at the Baroque beauty in Perast
One of the best things about Kotor is the abundance of equally stunning locations just around the Gulf of Kotor. Top pick for a day trip is Perast, a fairytale town that looks like the inspiration for a Disney film. Its Baroque grandeur is less surprising when you learn that it boasted four active shipyards and a fleet of 1000 or more ships by the end of the Venetian period. Today it is a relaxed affair, the waterfront now given over to restaurant terraces and boutique hotels.