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Kotor, Montenegro: the underrated city you must visit


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Montenegro is so often side-lined by its popular neighbour, Croatia, that its natural beauty and bowers of culture still remain relatively unexplored. Lord Byron once doted on the Montenegrin coast as ‘the most beautiful encounter between land and sea’, which, in our opinion, sums up Kotor Bay perfectly.

The medieval coastal city of Kotor, tucked neatly away in Kotor Bay, surrounded by towering mountains which slope into a pristine blue bay, is Montenegro’s secret treasure.

With only a small population of around 13,500, Kotor is relatively unexplored in contrast with its equivalents Croatia, where tourist cities such as Dubrovnik and Split attract throngs of tourists year-round. Yet, Kotor is brimming history and authenticity, boasting World heritage status, and accommodating medieval churches, fortifications, and St. Tryphon’s Cathedral, built in 1166, which stands proudly in the centre of the city.

Charmingly authentic, the walled town is a medieval web of culture, featuring winding cobbled paths adorned with wrought-iron balconies, vast Venetian palaces and old churches, and bustling town squares. The main square, Piazza of the Arms, is home to a historic stone clock tower, as well as cafes, shops, and restaurants to keep you busy.

Its blend of the past and the present creates a unique atmosphere where every day Montenegrins go about their daily routines amid a city packed with culture and history.

Equally as intriguing as its history is the natural beauty of Kotor’s surroundings. Startlingly blue in the day and dark and rippling at night, the bay of Kotor rests peacefully beside the medieval city, conveying boats to land. The vast mountains and limestone cliffs shelter the bay from the sun, bright in the summer months, and create a sense of grandeur that would never exist otherwise. Hidden behind the mountains lies Durmitor National Park, another opportunity for exploration, providing unparalleled views of the bay from the highest peaks: raw, natural beauty at its finest.

When the sun sets, the opportunity to hike St John’s Hill is irresistible. The stairs ascending the mountain are lit up, appearing like a string of fairy lights around the mountain. The climb takes you high above the Old Town, with a spectacular view of the sunset over the bay. Looking down on the city, packed streets seem lit up in a golden ambience and the buzz of live music can be heard even there.

With so many sites to explore and authentic and affordable Montenegrin cafes to visit, there seems to be no downside to visiting Kotor. I only one warning for anyone planning on visiting the maze-like medieval town: try not to get too lost.

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