Montenegro may be a small country, but it definitely packs a punch. As the seventh country in the world with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you can already tell that it’s something special. And with things to do from the beach to the mountain tops - there are plenty of gems here to discover.
One of those UNESCO sites in question is Kotor. Boasting a stunning medieval old town, glistening bay, and fortress, it is often considered the most beautiful coastal town in Montenegro. Kotor is absolutely a destination in its own right, with incredible panoramas, interesting history, and charming cobblestone streets. But if you’re lucky enough to travel here and are basing yourselves here for your trip, you may be looking for things to do both in and around the town.
Having spent some time in Kotor myself, I have put together a list of the best things to do in and around the area that are easily accessible from Kotor itself and will give you an all-rounded experience of what this awesome destination has to offer.
1. Explore Kotor Old Town
Well, this had to be first on the list as it wouldn’t be a trip to Kotor without a visit (or many) to its beautiful Old Town. Kotor Old Town is surrounded by fortified walls and inside you’ll find a remarkably well-preserved medieval town, with narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful buildings in every nook and cranny. There’s an abundance of cute shops, lively bars, and restaurants serving up fresh fish from the sea just a stone’s throw from the walls themselves.
One thing you must do in the Old Town is walk along the town walls for a taste of the history of Kotor. The first time we did this we found that on top of the entrance to the old town there is a large terrace restaurant serving up very reasonably priced food with lovely views over the marina that we never would have seen from below!
2. Climb up Kotor Fortress
The Kotor Fortress (you may see it referred to as San Giovanni Fortress or St. John’s Fortress) sits on a hill behind Kotor and is part of the medieval fortification system that encircles the Old Town with gates, towers, and defensive walls.
You can venture to the top of the fortress via the hiking trail featuring 1350 steps known as the ladder of Kotor. It will cost you €8 to enter and the trail will probably take you about 45 minutes to an hour. Along the way you’ll also see the Church of our Lady of Remedy, but you’re heading for the top which sits at 260m above sea level with views over the Old Town and Bay of Kotor which are well worth the climb!
Tip: Don’t go attempting the steps in the middle of the day, wait until the evening when the temperature has cooled down. And don’t forget to take some water!
3. Check out the views from Njegoš Mausoleum
About an hour’s drive from Kotor (up the famous Serpentine road filled with hairpin bends and amazing views) you’ll find Njegoš Mausoleum. This impressive destination is located on the top of Mount Lovćen and is home to Petar II Petrović-Njegoš; a Prince-Bishop of Montenegro, poet, and philosopher in the 1800s whose works are widely considered some of the most important in Montenegrin and Serbian literature.
Njegoš represented the highest mausoleum in the world at the time it opened in 1974, and at 1657m above altitude, the trip is definitely worth the stunning views of the surrounding Lovcen National Park. You can park right up to the bottom of the 400 steps that will take you to the mausoleum, for an entrance fee of €8. If you don’t have a car, there are several tours that will take you to Lovcen from Kotor.
4. Watch the sunset from Horizont Bar & Restaurant
If you’re making the drive to Lovcen National Park, then a stop at this bar is mandatory - you will drive right past it after all. Horizont is perched precariously on the side of the hill overlooking the Bay of Kotor and beyond, with tables to enjoy a drink as you take in the incredible views.
If you want the best seat in the house with uninterrupted views, it will cost you €25 per person to reserve it, but you do get a drink and sharing platter of local meats and cheese included! And if you can time it right, make sure you’re there to catch the sunset - it’s a doozy.
5. Go on a boat trip to the Blue Cave, Submarine Tunnels, and Our Lady of the Rocks
A boat trip is an absolute must in Montenegro, not only to feel the wind in your hair as you speed through the Bay of Kotor and see the unique landscapes from the water but to visit some gems close to Kotor that are only accessible by boat.
You can easily book a boat tour from Kotor that will take you to three must-see spots. First up is the Blue Cave, a large natural cave filled with rugged yet stunning rock formations and crystal-clear water. When the light hits the water it turns a shimmering blue, hence the name, and this cave is now a popular spot to visit on the Montenegrin coast.
Next up are the old submarine tunnels which are definitely one of the best hidden attractions in Kotor Bay. There are three in total that were built in the 1970s by the Yugoslav army to hide submarines and small ships in the hillside and camouflage them using a door-like construction covered with fake rocks. The tunnels themselves are 100m long and are a great place to soak up some military history.
Last but not least, your boat should dock up at Our Lady of the Rocks for you to explore this small, man-made island. This artificial island was created by seamen over centuries since the 1400s by depositing rocks and sinking old ships filled with rocks. Now the island is a stunning location with a church that was built in 1630. You can pay a small fee to go into the church (make sure you’re wearing respectable clothing - my friend got told off for being in her bikini top after a swim) but it is just as lovely to simply walk around the island and look at the views towards Perast and around the bay.
6. Spend some time in Perast
Perast is another old town in the Bay of Kotor, just a few kilometers away from Kotor itself. You can access it easily by boat or, if you have a car, it is less than a 20-minute drive from Kotor. This small town is one of the most charming in all of Montenegro, stretching just 1.5km along the waterfront but packed with history and legend with 17 Baroque palaces and 19 churches.
Thanks to its small size, cruise ships are unable to dock near Perast, so it is a lot quieter here than its more popular neighbour Kotor. While you can walk the length of the town in mere minutes, it’s definitely worth perusing this magical destination for a morning or afternoon and stopping for lunch or dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants to take in the picture-perfect views over Our Lady of the Rocks and beyond.
7. Enjoy local dining at Stari Mlini
Between Kotor and Perast, less than a 15-minute drive from the former, is a hidden gem of a restaurant that you have to visit if you are interested in a fresh, local dining experience. Stari Mlini is a 16th-century flour mill turned 5-star restaurant, offering sea and farm-to-table dishes full of the natural flavours of Kotor Bay.
And if the food wasn’t reason enough to go here, the setting is what will win your heart. With tables set amongst the trees, next to the water, and hidden between old remnants of the mill with an impressive backdrop of Montenegro's signature mountain views, Stari Mlini will take your breath away. After eating you can wander over the wooden bridge and take in views over the bay from the swings on the waterfront. All while checking out the yachts that have just pulled in for lunch in their private marina!
8. Visit an Oyster farm
If you’re driving around Kotor Bay, you’ll likely notice the many oyster farms lining the coast along the way. But they’re not just there to supply locals and restaurants - you can stop off and pay them a visit for some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever get your hands on! There are many farms to choose from and they probably all have very similar offerings, but we visited Boka Seafood and tried oysters, mussels, and prawns. They were all delicious and washed down with some local white wine as we watched the farm hard at work preparing all their fresh produce and taking in the stunning sea views.
If you don’t have a car, you can also visit the oyster farms by boat if you’re planning on renting one for the day or booking a private tour.
9. Take a day trip to Budva and its beaches
Budva is a town on the coast about 30 minutes from Kotor, known for its sandy beaches and nightlife. While it does have a historical district and medieval old town of its own - complete with a seaside Citadel and charming cobblestone streets - Budva has been built up with more modern amenities and resorts, making it much larger and livelier than Kotor.
Budva is a great beach destination, with sandy strips to sunbathe, beautiful sea to swim in, and lots of water activities like parasailing and jetskiing for the more adventurous types.
10. Spend the day at a beach club
There’s nothing better than spending at least one vacation day relaxing on a day bed at a beach club, cocktail in hand, looking out to sea. So that’s why I had to include it in the list. While Kotor itself doesn’t have any beach clubs, there are a few great ones nearby that are perfect for enjoying a bougie day by the water.
If you want a day filled with great views, awesome service, and both a pool AND the sea to swim in - Nikki Beach is the go-to. Nikki Beach Montenegro has only been open for a couple of years, and the stunning decor and location in the bay opposite Tivat is ideal for spending the day in the sun with friends.
You’ll also find some great beach clubs in Budva - we recommend Dukely and Escape Beach (which are part of the same complex just a few minutes walk from each other), but if you’re looking for something cheaper and more lively - Torch Beach could be the one for you.