Kotor is a fairly small city, I would highly recommend a longer visit if you have the time, but you can still experience a lot in just one day. We decided to base ourselves in this picturesque Montenegrin town for an entire month. Some might say it is boring, and that there is not enough in this area to justify such a long stay, but I have to disagree. I am still not over the terrific views from every corner!
With that being said, I feel very comfortable crafting what I believe would be the perfect itinerary for anyone visiting for just one day.
Whether you are taking a day trip from Dubrovnik, visiting on a cruise ship or are just passing by for an overnight stay, this blog post is for you!
Some useful things to know before going to Kotor, Montenegro
- You do not need a car if you only have one day in Kotor. You can walk to all major sights. There are also taxis everywhere, and they are safe and affordable. Uber does not work in Montenegro. Red Taxi Kotor is a great alternative, very reliable and you can request a car via WhatsApp or Viber.
- No need to worry if there is something you forgot. Shopping Centre Kamelija is a small mall right outside of the city walls, just 5 minutes walking. Everything you might need can be found there, from grocery stores, to a pharmacy, a convenience store, a bank to exchange money, etc.
- Grocery stores are closed on Sundays… just something to keep in mind. But no worries, restaurants are open everyday and there are plenty to choose from!
- Kotor is very safe, and its people are warm and willing to help at all times. We walked around at different hours of the day and in different areas and never had any issues. Not everyone speaks English, but they will do their best to assist.
- If you are into seafood, this is the place to go for it! As fresh as it can get, straight from the Bay of Kotor and the open Adriatic Sea!
- Bring some cash, most places accept cards, but we have been to a few restaurants where they prefer cash. Also, although Montenegro is not part of the EU, the Euro is their local currency.
- Make sure to download the offline version of Google Maps. We were supposed to have service here, but our Internet never worked. Also, addresses are not a thing in Kotor (and all of Montenegro for the most part). Map coordinates will be your best friend.
- Yes, Kotor has more cats than people, so get ready to have visitors at every restaurant table (not a bad thing, they are super cute)! Yes, smoking is apparently a sport in the Balkans! And yes… there is a 99.9% chance that you will be climbing some stairs (and hills!) during your visit!
So you have only one day in Kotor, what to do?
Here is a summary of what I consider to be an ideal one day Kotor itinerary, designed to get ahead of the crowds!
This is assuming that (1) you are FULL of energy ? and (2) you have a full day in town. If you’re coming on a cruise ship, you might want to adjust the activities to meet your schedule. All details below!
?If reading from your phone, this summary fits in a screenshot ?
- Morning: Visit the highlights of the Bay of Kotor on a boat tour. You can get to see Perast Old Town, Our Lady of the Rocks, some of the submarine tunnels, Island Mamula & the Blue Cave in just under 3.5 hours.
- Noon/Early Afternoon: Lunch in the Dobrota Promenade & afternoon stroll along the bay.
- Mid Afternoon/Evening: Explore Kotor Old Town/Hike to St Giovanni Fortress (you gotta make it at least half way!). Dinner in Old Town.
Spend your morning sailing along the Bay of Kotor
I know… this might sound weird… I’m actually suggesting you start your day in Kotor by leaving the town, but it is all a strategy. I want you to get away and ahead of the crowds! The port is right across the street from the fairly small Kotor Old Town. Just one cruise ship is enough to inundate the area with tourists…you definitely do not want to start your day like that, specially during the summer!
Nothing you will do in Montenegro will compare to the experience of sailing along the crystal clear and calm waters of Boka Bay.
I have a full blog post with all the details from our boat tour as well as the itinerary we followed. But If you just want a quick overview, read on.
In a nutshell, we decided to go with Golden Wave Tours, a local company. I contacted them via WhatsApp and they responded quickly and were very reliable and professional.
Golden Wave Tours | +382 69 727487 | http://www.goldenwave.me
The tour we chose shows you the highlights of the bay in just 3.5 hours, but as an alternative the company also offers shorter tours that skip the last two stops.
We got to spend some time in the romantic Old Town of Perast. From there you can admire the tallest building in all of Boka Kotorska, the beautiful Church of St Nicholas (55 m tall).
We then visited Our Lady of the Rocks, an icon of Montenegro. It is a small artificial island in the middle of the bay. There you can visit a catholic church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and a small, yet very interesting museum.
During the tour you will also get a chance to visit some of the submarine tunnels used by the Yugoslav Army and sail around another small island with a very dark past, Island Mamula. Our last stop was the crystal clear and mesmerizing Blue Cave, also known as the Lustica Blue Grotto, where you can go for a swim.
Overall this tour is a fantastic way to appreciate not only the history of the area, but also the breathtaking views of the fjord-like Boka Bay.
Second half of the day: Stroll along the Dobrota Promenade and enjoy lunch with a view!
I can guarantee you that after your boat tour you will be starving!
The Dobrota Promenade is the best area to find some of Kotor’s best restaurants, all which offer great views of the scenic waterfront. This is also a great place to meet locals, drink a coffee, seat back, admire the view and just relax. If you are following my itinerary, you will need the energy later! ?
It’s basically a sea front pedestrian walkway lined with restaurants, small businesses, apartment buildings & lots of boats. The area is pretty modern and from there you get uninterrupted and up-close views of the Bay and the mountains.
I would say it takes approximately 10 minutes to walk from the Dobrota Promenade entrance to the Kotor marina and the Old Town (this is where the boat will drop you off). This area is my favorite in all of Kotor! I did some research and could not find it on TripAdvisor or any other popular website, which makes it even more attractive! Use this address to make sure you walk towards the right area.
The “Kotor Beach” can also be found along the way. We visited in April and it was cold, but locals said they indeed swim there during the summer months.
One of the restaurants we frequented the most was Che Nova, which is one of the first restaurants you will find when walking to the pier. They have a diverse and affordable menu with lots of fresh foods ranging from seafood to meat and pasta dishes. Other popular restaurant options along the promenade are Konoba Portun and Platanus Bar & Food.
Final Stop from your one day in Kotor: Exploring the magical Kotor Old Town (…and maybe hiking to the St. Giovanni Fortress?)
Your next and final stop for the day should be Kotor Old Town. By now most tourists are probably leaving and you can explore the narrow cobblestone alleys at your leisure. Congrats, you have made it to the most famous part of town!
The Kotor Old town is as magnificent as any old medieval city can get. It is one of the best preserved towns in south-east Europe, and you will be in awe the whole time!
You should enter the city through the main gate, which is located right across from the marina, the Sea Gate. As soon as soon as you go inside you will find the main square, The Arms Square. From there, the most popular and eye catching buildings are the St Tryphon’s Cathedral, the Church of St. Luka and the Church of St. Nicholas.
A nice view of the old (and new) town and the main churches can be seen from above the Kampana Tower. To get there, make a left when you enter the main square and follow the signs towards the Citadela Restaurant.
I could give you a list of many other picturesque spots to check off in the Kotor Old Town, but that would be spoiling it for you! If you are interested in learning about its history, consider hiring a guide.
However, my best advice is to get blissfully lost and wander around!
Aside from charming buildings, the little town is also full of small restaurants and shops, and if you are a cat lover, you will be in heaven. There are so many cats that they even have a cats museum!
Up for another mini adventure? Then hike to the top of Kotor!
If you still have energy after all the walking, consider hiking to Castle Of San Giovanni (also known as the St. John’s Fortress or Kotor Castle) for the absolute best views of the city and the bay. The fort is almost 4,000 feet (1200 m) above the Kotor Bay. If you can make it to the top for sunset the trek will be even more rewarding!
Getting to the top of Kotor Castle is not that difficult (I mean I did it after months of sitting down in an office and zero exercise!), but it can get quite exhausting, especially after such a long day.
In total, there are 1355 steps and over 70 switchbacks! You gotta earn the view, but I promise it will be worth it. Entrance fee is 10 Euros per person, and it is open from 8 am to 8 pm. Some say you can hike up for free if you get there before 8 am… but I can’t confirm that. The hike took us a good 45 minutes one way, but we stopped several times to enjoy the view and take pictures.
If you feel like it would be too much for you, I would highly recommend you make it at least halfway to the Church of Our Lady of the Remedy. The views from this point are already spectacular. Just make sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring enough water.
Dinner in Old Town
If you are up for a good meal in Old Town once you come down, check out Restaurant Pub AS in the Historic Boutique Hotel Cattaro. Their Montenegrin Steak, also known as Njegusk Steak, (pork schnitzel filled with Njegusi prosciutto and cheese!) was delicious, and so was their Tres Leche!
Astoria & Scala Santa are both great restaurant options in Kotor Old Town too. Another popular one is Cesarica. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited, but it is highly rated and best known for their fresh seafood.
You made it all the way down here! You see, even if you have only one day in Kotor, it is totally worth it! Enjoy!