Top 5 Attractions In Kotor Old Town
City Walls Of Kotor
Maybe the most impressive structure to see in the Old Town of Kotor are its city walls. Their construction began more than 1200 years ago, in the 9th century and they were successively modified and improved until the 19th century! Their total length is approximately 4.5 kilometres and their highest point is the San Giovanni fortress that stands 260 meters above sea level. What makes our walls amazing is not only their age and length, but the place where they were built.
We can only imagine how, back in the past, locals were hauling rock by rock to make the structure that would protect their lives and their homes from the many invaders that passed through the Balkan Peninsula.
It is almost unbelievable that they are still standing there, bearing in mind all the earthquakes that have affected this area in the past; so we like to say that they are a great reminder of town’s long history and the amazing achievements of its citizens. You will get the best impression of the city walls if you climb them! Yes, climb – not walk, because from the town up to the top there are 1,530 steps and it takes approximately 1.5 hours to get to the top and back. Even though it sounds like a lot of steps, believe us, the view you get from there makes it worth it! For those who are not into going all the way to the top, there is the church of Santa Maria Della Salute half way up (about 600 steps one way) where they can stop and still enjoy the walls and the beauty of the old town and the bay they were protecting!
Cathedral Of Saint Tryphon
Another reminder on the amazing cultural achievements of people of Kotor is the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon which was constructed in 1166. With its elegant Romanesque architecture, high baroque bell towers and all the amazing artworks that it contains, it represents one of the most amazing medieval churches on the entire eastern Adriatic coastline. No, it is not just another church, it is a monument reflecting everything that makes Kotor and Montenegro interesting!
It all began even earlier than that, in the year 809, when relics of this saint arrived in Kotor. On the site of the nowadays Cathedral there was a much smaller church where the relics were stored. As the economy of Kotor flourished locals wanted something more impressive for their patron saint so the construction began!
Beautiful white limestone was shaped into blocks, piece by piece they were put together and the beauty was created! It was not just a religious object but it showed to every sailor that came to Kotor that this town may be small in size, but with achievements of its people as great as anywhere in European! Unfortunately, earthquakes damaged it few times, especially the one in 1667, when both bell towers collapsed. The most recent, in 1979, also caused some damage, but together with the old town the cathedral was completely restored and is open for all visitors who are willing to discover this extraordinary monument!
Saint Luka’s Church
The culture of Kotor and the lifestyle of its citizens can also be understood from the story of Saint Luka’s church. Among the other Romanesque monuments of our town, this charming church really deserves a special place. Being constructed in 1195 it is one of the few of such age that is still standing and even more it is still in use. Locals believe that it is miraculous since it has remained standing through earthquakes and wars.
It did suffer some damage but it looks now almost the same as it did more than 820 years ago. What makes this church a reflection of local life style is the fact that for two centuries it had two altars, where both Roman Catholics and Christian orthodox believers could pray together. This is just one of many examples of harmony in living, not only between them but all the people of Montenegro!
Kotor is not a place with a lot of museums, in fact we could say that the entire town is itself a museum bearing in mind how well preserved its architecture, culture and tradition are! But, if you are interested in learning more and discovering items and objects that will help you imagine this town in the past, visiting the Maritime Museum is the best option. It is situated in the beautiful 18th century palace of the Grgurina family so, besides the items, the building itself represents an attraction.
Once you enter this palace of history you will see not only models of ships, instruments for navigation, portraits of great local captains, but also beautiful furniture, artworks, weapons decorated in silver, gold and mother of pearl, and all of this will help you understand the unbreakable connection between our town and the sea!
Kotor Open Market
As in many towns in the world, the Kotor open market is the place to feel the local vibe, experience local charm and of course taste some delicious local products. That is why, besides visiting the old town, in our opinion, it is very important to check Kotor’s market as well. It is open every day from early morning until 3 PM, but Saturday is the main market day when farmers from the whole of Montenegro come and offer their products.
It is the place where locals would go on a daily basis for their fresh groceries and of course not only to buy them and go home, but to stay and exchange a few words about the town’s latest happenings.
Without speaking the local language you will hardly understand their gossip but, you don’t need too much skill to understand the calls of vendors from every corner inviting you to taste their products! So relax, smile and walk through this lively part of the town and one thing we guarantee – you won’t be hungry by the end.
5 Classic Foods To Try In Kotor
Mussels In Buzara Sauce
Mussels were always very popular on the coast of Montenegro and they are one of the most desirable local specialties. Thanks to the clear water of the Bay of Kotor, small bays sheltered from the storms and a few springs of fresh water nearby, this is one of few places in the area where they can be farmed.
Of course, there are many ways to prepare them but what locals love is cooking them in so called “buzara” sauce. This is a simple traditional recipe, and basically all we do is cook the mussels with some olive oil, garlic, parsley, fresh tomatoes and a little bit of white wine.
At the end we add some lemon and the delicious specialty is ready! Beside the fabulous taste, the reason why we recommend them in “buzara” sauce is because they must be fresh for this kind of preparation, so you don’t need to worry! All you need to do is to find the restaurant that you like, choose some good local white wine and of course learn how to pronounce the word “buzara”!
Grilled Fresh Fish
Beside the mussels, another thing to taste in Kotor is fresh fish under the grill! There is not much philosophy about that when you have fish caught daily from the Adriatic and of course the most famous Mediterranean ingredients such as lemon, olive oil, garlic and parsley.
Here, first we grill the fish and after it is done you can if you like pour over it a “marinada” sauce made of these items. As a side dish boiled mangel leaves and potatoes are the favorites. There are different sorts of fish that we grill but for sure the most popular are Brancin (Adriatic sea bass), Orada (guilt-head bream), Rombun (snapper), Zubatac (dentex) etc. If you are not a fish lover you won’t go far wrong if you opt for octopus, calamari or shrimps – they all swim in the waters of the pristine Adriatic.
Smoked Ham & Cheese
Even though fish is delicious and popular, for Montenegrins we could say that they are meat lovers. If you would visit a local home, the first thing they would put on the table is a plate of local smoked ham and cheese (“pršut i sir”). In Kotor we are especially lucky to be very close to the mountain village Njeguši where the most famous local smoked ham is produced.
The tradition of making it goes back for hundreds of years, as all over Mediterranean, but in this village they developed their own way of doing it. There are no additives in the meat but a good old recipe: salting, smoking and drying.
The main or secret ingredient as they like to say is the micro climate or geographical position that provides perfect conditions for the production of this Montenegrin specialty. The cheese we like with the ham is dry cow cheese. A few olives on the top and, if you don’t drink too much red wine with it, you will remember these Montenegrin flavours for a long time.
Red Wine “Vranac”
Another thing you should taste for sure while you are visiting Kotor and Montenegro is our famous red wine “Vranac”. It is made from a variety of grapes that originated in this region so the tradition of making this wine is centuries old! There are many small family producers, but there is also a state-owned company called “Plantaže”, with one of the largest one-piece vineyards in Europe, that supplies Montenegro with this traditional type of red wine.
Also, this wine has won many medals and awards around the world so, of course, it is exported worldwide! If there is one product that every Montenegrin would, with the greatest pride, offer to each guest it would for sure be the red wine Vranac!
Krempita & Moscow Cake
Besides great food we could say that Kotor is very well known in the region for one great pastry shop called “Forza”. It is located on the main square of Kotor and it offers many different delights, but Krempita and Moscow cake are the most famous. Krempita sounds simple when we describe the ingredients, but is definitely a favourite cake of local citizens. It is made of a few layers of thin pastry and a lot of white cream! It is very popular in this entire region but in Kotor we have our own way of preparing it.
Besides Krempita, Moscow cake is the second favourite delicacy of this pastry shop. Almonds, pineapple, cherries, delicious white cream between thin pastry is what Moscow is made of, but a real impression you will get only when you taste it. That is why we always recommend it after every walking tour of Kotor!
Top 5 Places To Visit Nearby Kotor
Perast & Our Lady Of The Rocks
No matter if you are spending a few days in Kotor or you are coming by cruise ship and you are looking for a Kotor shore excursion, Perast and Our Lady of the Rocks are the places you must visit! Only 20 minutes’ drive from the Port of Kotor you will see this charming, baroque village where almost every building is from the period of 15th – 18th century.
As if frozen in time, Perast still evokes the times when the Republic of Venice was dominating this area and when great local captains where sailing the World. The marvellous stone palaces and beautiful churches that were built for the village are a testimony to their fame and success. Besides the architecture and stories about its sailors, what makes Perast so special are the two small Islands in front of it.
The beauty of Saint George Island with its Benedictine monastery and cyprus trees was an inspiration for many poets and painters that visited this place. While it is a natural Island, the other one – Our Lady of the Rocks – is man-made. For centuries, locals where throwing rocks in the water, and sinking old ships in order to build the base for an amazing church that still stands there. That is just one part of the story, the other is the story of the votive gifts that people where leaving for Our Lady of the Rocks after their prayers where heard! The doors of the church are still open not only for those who arrive to put one more gift, but for every one that comes to learn and admire this outstanding place!
Boat Cruise In The Bay Of Kotor
There are many ways to describe the beauty and charm of the Bay of Kotor. Some would say it is the southern-most European fjord, or the only Mediterranean fjord, some would say that it is one of the most beautiful places where steep mountains meet the sea. However we describe it, it really represents something different from all other gulfs and bays that you can find in this part of the world.
Its shape and stunning landscapes, well preserved medieval villages and towns, the pristine water of the Adriatic that acts like a mirror on sunny days, two different climates on mountain tops and on the water, are also the reason why UNESCO decided to include the Bay of Kotor as a member of the Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the world.
The best way to feel it, and to understand the words we are using to describe, is from a boat. So, if you are thinking about things to do in Kotor, getting away from the busy roads and crowds, enjoying a glass of wine and learning everything about this special and amazing part of Montenegrin coastline, a boat is definitely the option we recommend!
Mountain Lovcen & Cetinje
Even though the coastline is the most visited part of our country, without seeing the mountains and interior your impression of Montenegro wouldn’t be complete. Only 45 minutes away from Kotor, by a road that offers a breath-taking view of the entire bay, there is Lovćen Mountain, one of five National Parks of Montenegro.
It is hard to believe that so close to the sea you can enjoy a wilderness and feel as if you were somewhere in the Alps! Not only that it represents a shelter for the park’s wildlife, but it was the place where for five hundred years Montenegrins struggled to survive and to save their culture and tradition from all the conquerors that passed through the Balkans.
Visiting Cetinje, our old royal capital you will see the monuments and buildings that are still reminding visitors that they, God knows how, succeeded in this and that the story of the Kingdom of Montenegro was well known all over the world. What is also very well-known is the smoked ham and cheese from Njegusi village, so we could say that touring this part you will truly learn about every aspect of outstanding Montenegrin story!
Lustica & Countryside
Another thing to do while you are in Kotor is to visit its interesting countryside. There are many villages in its surrounding, but the village of Tići on the Luštica peninsula is one of few where tradition and lifestyle are still well preserved.
As throughout the Mediterranean, this area is known for the production of olive oil, and in the past almost every household would have their own olive grove and mill. Unfortunately today this tradition would be almost forgotten if there weren’t a few families that decided to stay here and to save it!
Among them, the family Morić became famous for the production of the first organic-certified olive oil in Montenegro that won many prizes as the best we have!! They have opened their home for visitors, so in our opinion, spending time with these great people, listening to their stories while sitting next to a few hundred years old olive mill and tasting different home-prepared delicacies is an excellent way to spend a few hours outside the charming but sometimes busy Kotor.
Budva & St. Stefan
Kotor is visited by many tourists, especially from cruise ships, but the title of the most popular place in Montenegro goes to Budva and its lovely Riviera. The many pebble and sandy beaches that are a feature of this part of our country are one reason for this. But the extremely clear water of the Adriatic and the pleasant temperatures from May to October are not the only thing that this town offers.
Budva is also one of the oldest settlement in this area, as shown by traces dating back to the 5th century B.C. Ilyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Venetians, French and Austrians are just some of the cultures that left their mark on Budva, so this town, we could say, truly reflects the history of the entire Balkans.
Its walls are still standing, surrounding narrow streets and small squares where besides historical buildings we see modern life as well. Being so popular, Budva is a place with many shops, cafés, restaurants and an excellent night life. Beside the old town, only 15 minutes’ drive from it, there is the famous Saint Stephan (Sveti Stefan) Island – hotel. In fact it is a 15th century village constructed on a small rocky island that in the middle of the 20th century was converted into a unique luxurious hotel. The charm of the old fishermen’s houses converted now into accommodation, has attracted celebrities from all over the world in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Claudia Schiffer, Elisabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and many others spent their holidays in this famous Montenegrin hotel. Today it is part of the world-famous Aman Resort so it still hosts guests from all over the world. Even if you are not planning to stay here, or maybe have lunch on the Island, a photo from the view point above will be a very nice memory of this picturesque part of our lovely coastline!