Set at the end of a ‘fjord like’ inlet of the Adriatic Sea, is the stunning old town of Kotor. Surrounded by ancient city walls, which cling impossibly to the mountains behind, the old town is a maze of narrow marbled streets and squares that are crammed with churches, shops and restaurants – all seemingly at one with the ancient architecture, as if they really have been here forever. The city walls are lit at night adding a touch of mystery to this stunningly preserved medieval town. Stepping inside the city walls (mainly built between the 9th and 14th centuries) is like stepping into the distant past, into a town that is begging to be explored and a town that seems to hold a secret around every corner.
However you arrive – by car, bus or boat – you’ll leave your transport behind you as you enter the car free old town. After making your way through the Main Gate (or Sea Gate), the first place you’ll see is the town’s main square. Piazza of the Arms is the largest square in the city and a good place to start you tour of old town. Complete with clock tower, Ducal Palace building, restaurants and cafes it’s a great place for a photo stop with the stunning mountain backdrop behind. There’s plenty of tables to grab a drink at and people watch – let’s face it, you are going to need to save your energy for the climb later…
Next, get lost!! Actually, it’s pretty hard to do in Kotor, as the town itself is not that big. You can easily spend an hour or two wandering the narrow streets, stumbling across small squares, churches, galleries, cafes and boutique shops. Sure, you may end up somewhere you’ve already been, but it’s a fantastic place to just stumble around – you never know what’s around the next corner. Worth a visit is St Tryphon Cathedral situated on its namesake square (around €3 to go inside) and then, while your there, make sure you carry on as far as the South Gate, its a quieter area that few tourists seem to venture to. You can also walk part of the walls between the North Gate and the waterfront, just head for the steps that lead up from narrow street at the north end of Piazza of the Arms.
And now for the energetic bit. We are off to explore the Castle of San Giovanni which sits on top of the hill overlooking the town. There’s only one real reason for going to the top – the view is outstanding. It’s almost feels as if you are hovering over the town, with amazing views north towards the Bay of Kotor. The entrance to the route can be found at the back of the old town, near the River or North Gate, and costs €3 per person – just follow the signs around town and you shouldn’t miss it. A few things to keep in mind – the walk up is steep and there are quite a few steps (over 1300 but it’s worth it), take plenty of water, plan your walk to avoid the heat of midday and don’t forget your camera. It’ll take you around an hour to get to the top, and there are plenty of places to stop and just admire the ever improving view. About half way up there’s a small church (Our Lady of Health) and some stone seats where you can stop for a moment, refuel and catch your breath. All in all the entire round trip will take you between 2 to 3 hours, and a word of warning – if it’s wet the route can be pretty slippery!!
Having pretty much explored the town and all its nooks and crannies, it’s time to experience a different side of Kotor. At night the town has a really unique character as the light fades and a large number of tourists (mainly off cruise ships or tours) leave the town for the day. As the city walls lights glow, the streets empty, the bars and restaurants fill up, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into some medieval themed movie set. It’s a much more serene Kotor, that perfectly contrasts the daytime. For a few recommendations on eating and drinking take a look at our posts coming soon.
Where to sleep – Sleep.Kotor.Montenegro.
Take a look at our other posts:
For a few great restaurants go to Eat. Kotor. Montenegro
A great place to stay go to Sleep. Kotor. Montenegro
Fancy a chill out day take a look at Chill. Kotor. Montenegro
Time for a cool beer? Drink. Kotor. Montenegro