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  • Viking-Star-and-Kotor-Bay-1 - Viking Star and the surrounding idyllic landscape of Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Montenegro-Kotor-Perast - Visit the charming centuries-old town of Perast in the Bay of Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-waterway.jpg - A centuries-old manmade waterway in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • View-of-Church-of-Our-Lady-of-Remedy-Kotor.jpg - The view from the ramparts above Kotor with the Church of Our Lady of Remedy at the right.
  • Kotor-port-closeup.jpg - A closeup look at Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town, from the Port of Kotor.
  • Kotor-church-medieval-motif-3.jpg - A church fresco dating to the 1300s AD seen in Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • kotor-marina.jpg - View of the marina in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-church-steeples.jpg - Church steeples rise in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-church.jpg - The Kotor Cathedral, built in honor of St. Tryphon, was consecrated in 1166 as a Catholic church and was restored after two earthquakes. Its frescoes date to the 1300s.
  • Kotor-cityscape.jpg - The cityscape of Old Kotor, Montenegro, with its Mediterranean-style orange-tiled houses.
  • Kotor-classic-buildings.jpg - Church spires amid a cluster of classic buildings in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-clock-tower.jpg - The historic clock tower is the first building you'll spot as you enter Kotor's main town entrance, Morska Vrata or Sea Gate.
  • Kotor-ruins-4.jpg - Ruins, part of the  Castle of San Giovanni (or the Castle of St. John) at the summit of the Ladder of Kotor.
  • Kotor-shop-window.jpg - Souvenirs and decorative items in a shop window in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-shopkeepers.jpg - JD Lasica: "We passed by these two young shopkeepers along a cobblestone street in Old Kotor, and I decided to double back and ask them to pose."
  • Kotor-square.jpg - A square in Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town, lined with elegant stone houses and thin lanes.
  • Kotor-steps-best.jpg - A steep winding trail above Old Kotor leads you up 1,350 steps to the ruins of the Castle of San Giovanni, some 4,000 feet above the bay.
  • Kotor-view-from-the-harbor.jpg - A view of Old Kotor from the harbor.
  • Kotor-trail-at-twilight.jpg - As night descends, lights cast a glow on key monuments along the centuries-old trail called the Ladder of Kotor.
  • Old-Kotor-buildings.jpg - Buildings in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-battlement.jpg - A medieval battlement, with narrow slits for weapons, along the 1,350-step trail rising above Kotor.
  • SeaDreamII-in-Kotor-Montenegro - SeaDream II sails through the harbor of historic Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-cafe-patrons.jpg - Local patrons in a cafe in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-alleyway.jpg - One of the lanes, lined with shops, along Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town.
  • Kotor-terminal - Kotor as seen right from the cruise ship terminal.
  • Kotor-landscape - The pretty landscape of Kotor seen from atop a mountain trail.
  • Ornamental-cannons.jpg - Ornamental cannons outside a museum in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Old-Kotor-building.jpg - A building in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-winding-steps.jpg - A winding trail above Old Kotor leads you up 1,350 stairs along the Ladder of Kotor to the ruins of a fortress at the summit.
  • Kotor-trail-and-church.jpg - The back side of the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, built in 1518, about a third of the way up the trail known as the Ladder of Kotor.
  • Kotor-ruins-2.jpg - Ruins, part of the  Castle of San Giovanni (or the Castle of St. John) at the summit of the Ladder of Kotor.
  • Kotor-restaurant.jpg - The brick interior of Dalmatinska Konoba Cesarica, a restaurant in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-memorial.jpg - A memorial to World War II veterans near the dock in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-emblem.jpg - A winged lion-like statue on the city walls of Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-church-sanctuary.jpg - The sanctuary of  Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-building.jpg - A historic building in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-basilica.jpg - A church basilica rises above Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town.
  • Kotor-as-seen-from-Viking-Star.jpg - Kotor, a coastal city in Montenegro, as seen from Viking Star. The World Heritage Site has 13,500 residents.
  • Royal-Clipper-in-Kotor-Montenegro - Royal Clipper arrives in Kotor, Montenegro, as part of a Mediterranean itinerary.  The ship carries just 227 guests and boasts 19,000 square feet of open deck and three swimming pools.
  • Kotor-Montenegro-overlook-4.jpg - A grand overlook of Kotor and its iconic orange-roofed buildings as seen from near the top of the Ladder of Kotor trail.
  • kotor-islet.jpg - Visit a tiny island church with hidden Baroque art in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-kitty.jpg - A kitty in Kotor, Montenegro, a cat-friendly city.
  • Kotor-from-Viking-Star-infinity-pool.jpg - A view of Kotor, Montenegro, from the infinity pool on Viking Star.
  • Oceania-Kotor.jpg - View of Kotor, Montenegro, and Oceania's Riviera as seen from the Castle of San Giovanni.
  • Kotor-emblem2.jpg - A winged beast statue on the city walls of Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-door-knocker.jpg - A vintage door knocker in Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town.
  • Kotor-church-medieval-motif.jpg - A church fresco dating to the 1300s AD seen in Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-church-medieval-motif-2.jpg - A church fresco dating to the 1300s AD seen in Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Inside-Kotor-church-2-1.jpg - The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • viking-star-in-kotor.jpg - Viking Star in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Montenegro-Kotor - Kotor, a stunningly beautiful coastal town in Montenegro, has a population of about 13,500.
  • Kotor-cafe.jpg - A patron relaxes at Caffe Bar Forza in Kotor's Old Town.
  • Kotor-Montenegro-overlook-3.jpg - From this vantage point more than halfway up the Ladder of Kotor, you can see the Old Town, Kotor Bay, the steep winding trail and Viking Star.
  • Viking-Star-docked-in-Kotor-Bay.jpg - Viking Star on a day when she's the only cruise ship in Kotor Bay.
  • Inside-Kotor-church-2.jpg - Toward the front of Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Church-angel-statue.jpg - A statue of an angel above the altar of Kotor Cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-Montenegro-church.jpg - Azamara's “Private Journeys” program includes a visit to a tiny island church with hidden Baroque art in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-Dalmatinska-Konoba-Cesarica-waitress - A waitress (who had a college degree in engineering) at Dalmatinska Konoba Cesarica, a charming eatery in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Viking-Star-Old-Kotor - Viking Star docked in Old Kotor. During busy summer months there are as many as five cruise ships in port, but on this November day there was only one.
  • Montenegro-Kotor-Old-Town - The walls of Kotor surround the old town of Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Viking-Star-in-Kotor - Viking Star sits dockside, right in the heart of historic Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-overlook-3.jpg - From this vantage point more than halfway up the Ladder of Kotor, you can see the Old Town, Kotor Bay, the steep winding trail and Viking Star.
  • Kotor-overlooka.jpg - A grand overlook of Kotor and its iconic orange-roofed buildings as seen from two-thirds up the Ladder of Kotor trail.
  • Kotor-restaurant-menu.jpg - A menu at a fish restaurant in the heart of Old Kotor.
  • Kotor-ruins-3.jpg - The ruins of centuries-old fortress walls as seen from the Castle of San Giovanni in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-ruins-5.jpg - Ruins, part of the  Castle of San Giovanni (or the Castle of St. John) at the summit of the Ladder of Kotor.
  • Kotor-shopkeepers-2.jpg - JD Lasica: "We passed by these two young shopkeepers along a cobblestone street in Old Kotor, and I decided to double back and ask them to pose."
  • Kotor-shoreline.jpg - Buildings line the pretty shoreline of Kotor, Montenegro,
  • Kotor-through-window.jpg - Kotor as seen through a window in the abandoned Castle of San Giovanni (or the Castle of St. John as English-speaking tourists call it).
  • Montenegro-stek.jpg - Steak is ths specialty of the day at this restaurant in Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Viking-tour-guide-in-Kotor.jpg - A tour guide for Viking leads her group on a two-hour tour of Old Kotor in Montenegro.
  • Montenegro-Kotor-cathedral - The Saint Tryphon cathedral in Kotor, Montenegro, was built in 1166.
  • Kotor-overlook-2.jpg - Viking Star docked right at the entrance to Old Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Seadream-Kotor.jpg - Enjoy the dramatic shoreline of Kotor, Montenegro, on a SeaDream cruise.
  • Montenegro-Kotor-Perast2 - Stop and have a cool drink on the Perast coast near Kotor, Montenegro.
  • Kotor-lookout.jpg - JD Lasica: "This is my favorite photo from Kotor. You can see the Old Town, Kotor Bay, the steep winding trail and Viking Star."

Kotor, Montenegro: Top things to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Spectacularly beautiful, steeped in history and more accessible than other medieval outposts like Dubrovnik or Rhodes, Kotor sits on a gleaming jade-colored bay, wedged in by towering limestone cliffs and a steep stone stairway, straight out of a storybook, that leads to its past glories.  

JD Lasica:
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableWe passed by these two young shopkeepers along a cobblestone street in Old Kotor, and I decided to double back and ask them to pose.

Hugging the Adriatic Sea, Kotor (pronounced co-TOUR)  is the past and present of the modern nation of Montenegro. When you disembark in port (as we did on a recent Viking Star voyage), you're steps away from the Stari Grad ("old town" in the local tongue), the city's best-known landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Walk through Sea Gate, built in 1555, and you enter a maze of ancient buildings, churches dating to the 1100s, museums, townsquares and Venetian palaces with long noble lineages. To get a feel for the city's rich history, take a two-hour walking tour with a good guide, but you'll have no problem if you decide to explore the streets and alleys of Old Town on your own. It's a relatively small city with a population of about 13,500.

During your time in Kotor, be sure to leave time for a trek up the 1,350 steps of the ramparts built from the 9th century onward and improved until the 1800s. Don't try to reach the summit unless you're in pretty good shape — it's 2 hours up and an hour down. 

A small nation about the size of Connecticut, Montenegro is rife with medieval buildings, fortifications, graceful architecture from the Austro-Hungarian empire and settlements that date to 1000 BC. But there's more to this region than history. You'll also want to carve out time to stroll out along the Bay of Kotor — Southern Europe's longest and most dramatic fjord — to get a feel for modern Montenegro, with cafes, pubs, play structures, a lively marina and vibrant nightlife scene.

Cruise ships that call on Kotor

Top reasons to go

  • The fjords leading to Kotor are beautiful, surrounded by mountains and dotted with islands.
  • Stari Grad (Old Town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with lovely buildings and winding streets and alleys.
  • The view from St. John's fortress above Kotor is worth the steps up the hillside. Stop for a rest at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy and chat with your fellow hikers.
The Kotor Cathedral, built in honor of St. Tryphon, was consecrated in 1166 as a Catholic church and was restored after two earthquakes. Its frescoes date to the 1300s.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableThe Kotor Cathedral, built in honor of St. Tryphon, was consecrated in 1166 as a Catholic church and was restored after two earthquakes. Its frescoes date to the 1300s.

Top things to do & see in Kotor

If you're visiting Kotor for the first time, you simply must spend an hour or two exploring the back alleys of Old Town, filled with ancient buildings, landmarks and merchant shops.

  • St. Tryphon's Cathedral, completed in 1166 and reconstructed after earthquakes, is an example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. I loved the 14th century frescoes of saints adorning some of the lower ceilings.
  • Maritime Museum offers three floors of photos, paintings, uniforms, weapons, seafaring instruments and model ships. €4 feeSquare of Boka Marine 391, Old Town, Kotor.
A steep winding trail above Old Kotor leads you up 1,350 steps to the ruins of the Castle of San Giovanni, some 4,000 feet above the bay.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableA steep winding trail above Old Kotor leads you up 1,350 steps to the ruins of the Castle of San Giovanni — sometimes called St. Ivan Fortress — some 4,000 feet above the bay.

To the ramparts!

When you've tooled around  the cobblestone streets of Old Town for a bit and still have energy to burn off, try the ascent up the Ladder of Kotor (the Upper Town Walls), open daily from 8 am to 8 pm. Stretching some 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) above Old Town, the stone stairway offers multiple breathtaking views of the city and Kotor Bay. The ascent (90 minutes to two hours) is not for the meek, though.

The view from the ramparts above Kotor with the steeple of Church of Our Lady of Remedy at the right.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableThe view from the ramparts above Kotor with the steeple of Church of Our Lady of Remedy at the right.

Nearly halfway up is the now-abandoned Church of Our Lady of Remedy, a nice resting spot where you might want to claim a moral victory and head back. Farther up, past stone battlements with tiny windows for firing weapons, is what remains of the Castle of San Giovanni (St. John's Fortress), whose garrison once guarded the city. At the top you can freely explore the ruins and take in the stunning views.  

Visit a tiny island church with hidden Baroque art in Kotor, Montenegro.
Courtesy of SeaDream Yacht ClubVisit a tiny island church with hidden Baroque art in Kotor, Montenegro.

The island Gospa od Skrpjela

Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rock) is a pretty little manmade issland sitting in the bay across from Perast in the Kotor municipality. Locals built a church there in 1630 that's worth a visit if you have the time. 

Other activities

Rafting, hiking and paragliding are some of the other activities you can do in or around Kotor.

A waitress in Kotor
JD Lasica / Special to Cruiseable A waitress, who had a college degree in engineering, at Dalmatinska Konoba Cesarica in Old Town Kotor.

Best bets for dining

There are plenty of spots to grab a quick bite on the squares in Old Town, but if you want a more memorable, better-quality lunch or early dinner, try one of the smaller restaurants in the alleyways of Kotor. Here are a few suggestions we tried or read about.

Old Town dining

  • Dalmatinska Konoba Cesarica is known for its fish, so we started with a plate of fried sardines (think fish french fries), a beef soup and a cheese plate — good food that goes great with a cold local beer, Nikšićko. Stari grad 375, Old Town, near Hotel Marja.
  • A lunch of wine, local cheese and salami is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing. Stop by the Old Winery, sample some Serbian and Montenegran wines and relax. In Stari grad near the Church of St. Luke.

Bayfront dining

  • Galion, a 5-minute walk from the main gate of Old Town, features good seafood such as octopus salad, gnocchi, steaks and small dishes. Enjoy fresh grilled fish and a local wine while taking in terrific views of the bay. Šuranj bb, Kotor, near St. Mary's Church.
  • Walk in the other direction from Old Town and you'll find Konoba Akustik. Outside on the terrace, try the mussels and shrimp and enjoy a quiet time. For a livelier experience, dine inside where local musicians may be performing. Donji put BB, Kotor, Dobrota.
One of the lanes, lined with shops, along Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableOne of the lanes, lined with shops, along Kotor's Stari Grad, or Old Town.

Best time to go

Summer is the high time to visit Kotor, but even late fall can be a great time to visit. In summer, you can enjoy watersports and dining al fresco. You may get a sprinkling of rain in early spring or late fall, but the hike up to the fortress is much cooler.

Fun facts

  • Montenegro formally declared its independence from Serbia in 2006 and won its first medal (silver) in the 2012 Olympics for women's handball.
  • Montenegro has always posed a problem for mapmakers because its name is longer than the tiny area the country takes up on a map.
  • Kotor's Old Town is considered to be the best preserved medieval urban entity in the Mediterranean.
  • Kotor was ruled by an ancient tribe, the Illyrians, in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, but the Romans are considered to be the founders of the city of Kotor.
A centuries-old manmade waterway in Old Kotor, Montenegro.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableA centuries-old manmade waterway in Old Kotor, Montenegro.

When you arrive

Docking information

Depending upon the number of ships in port, you may arrive at the dock by tender. From there, it is a short walk (2 blocks) to Sea Gate, the main entrance to Old Town. We were lucky in that Viking Star was the only ship in port, so we docked at the pier. 

Getting around

The Old Town is not big and perfect for walking; cars are not allowed within the walls. However, if you want to visit some of the neighboring towns along the Bay of Kotor, you can use the public bus services operated by Blue Line. The main bus station is a 15-minute walk from the pier.

Taxis are available, too. It's 1 euro to start and an average of 1.29 euros per mile. If traveling far, it's best to agree on the price of the ride before you enter the taxi.

Need to know

Local patrons in a cafe in Kotor, Montenegro.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseableLocal patrons in a cafe in Kotor, Montenegro.

Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens will need a valid passport. No visa is required for stays less than 90 days.

Store hours: Opening hours can vary drastically. General stores are open from 9 am and may close at 6 pm. Tourist shops and convenience stores are open longer, especially in high tourist season in the European summer.

Tipping: Check the bill first for any service charges. In small restaurants, round up the bill to make it simpler for everyone. For more formal dining, a 10% tip is average.

Safety: Kotor is considered a safe town overall. As always, be aware of your surroundings and lock up your valuables. Especially in tourist areas, keep your wallets and purses close and beware of pickpockets.

ShoreFox and Wikitravel contributed to this guide.

Your take

Have you been to Kotor? I'd love to know about your own experience. Leave a comment below!

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JD Lasica
I'm co-founder, Editor and chief cat herder at Cruiseable. Follow your cruise bliss to any land where it may lead. Let's connect! I'm @jdlasica on Twitter.

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