In recent years, Kotor cruise port has gained a lot of popularity. More and more people visit the beautiful Kotor old town with its cobblestone streets and rugged surroundings. If you are planning a trip to Kotor you may wonder, what are the best things to do in Kotor? What can you expect at a Kotor shore excursion? What to do in Kotor for a day?
When we visited Kotor as part of a cruise it proved to be one of the highlights of our trip. The rugged Mediterranean surroundings of Kotor are just stunning. The sight of the iridescent blue Kotor Bay as you arrive by ship is simply breaktaking. Add to that the charm of the unspoilt, almost intact medieval town centre and you will be easily won over. Not without reason is Kotor listed as an UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site.
If you are unsure what to expect when you spend the day in Kotor, read on. In the following, we list our top seven things to do in Kotor and our top tips for Kotor sightseeing.
1. Stroll Around the Picturesque Kotor Old Town
Kotor old town, in contrast to Venice and Dubrovnik, is still a little known gem. There are not as many people visiting Kotor on any given day, even when a cruise ship is in port. As you go sightseeing in the old town you may notice that there are just the right amount of shops and restaurants catering to the needs to visitors, but not too many. It is just enough tourism in Kotor to make you feel welcome and comfortable but there is still authenticity.
Around the traffic-free streets of Kotor’s old town there are many things to discover. It’s a delight to just lose yourself in the maze of romantic hidden back lanes and wide sunlit squares. Old buildings with wildflowers growing between the masonry and green shutters covering the windows.
Shore Excursion Tip: If you are interested in joining a one-hour guided walking tour of Kotor to get a feel of the city, have a look at this recommended Kotor walking tour. (Affiliate Link)
2. Hike the Marvellous Kotor City Walls for the Best Views
The Kotor City Wall walk to St John Fortress is one of the most exciting things to do inKotor and a great addition to your Kotor sightseeing list.
On the Kotor City Walls you will not only come close to the most outstanding medieval fortifications in South-Eastern Europe. Walking up the city walls, you see marvellous ramparts, citadels, cisterns and a fort. The panoramic views of Bay of Kotor from up here are simply outstanding.
Here’s a tip for Hiking the Kotor City Walls: If you are planning a visit in summer, start your Kotor shore excursion early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. In the morning hours the wall is in the shadow of the mountain which is a major advantage on those hot summer days. Kotor sightseeing is best done wearing sensible footwear as the walls in particular are not in the best shape. Take some loose change to buy cold drinks and beautiful handcrafted local jewellery from locals who are waiting for visitors of the City Walls.
Read here in more detail about our Kotor City Wall Hike experience.
3. Find the Hidden Ruins of the Church of St Georg and St Maria in a Kotor Paddock
This is a bit of an off-the-beaten path tip for your Kotor sightseeing adventure. As you are hiking up the Kotor City Walls, about halfway, see if you can spot a small sign indicating the direction to a church. Follow the arrow pointing to the left and climb through a gap in the city wall. This short detour on your Kotor city wall walk takes you to one of the most precious finds you will ever make on any of your trips.
Down in the valley on the other side of the city wall you will find the tiny Church of St Georg and St Maria. A tiny chapel in the country, just about a thousand years old. It is little more than a ruin today, sitting patiently in a paddock. A rural, timeless setting with cows grazing on the hardy grasses, butterflies dancing on a sea of purple wildflowers. An otherwordly experience that not many visitors will get to see.
Find more info on the Church of St Georg and St Maria and how we found it here.
4. Visit the Orthodox Church of St Nicholas
St Nicholas Church is just around one hundred years old and thus one of the younger churches in Kotor. It is built in a pseudo-Byzantine style and houses an interesting gallery of Orthodox icons.
The church is certainly one of the most recognisable buildings in town and a visit is definitely one of the best things to do in Kotor. St Nicholas has a checkerboard forecourt and a set of twin towers as well as a big central dome. Inside, you can experience what it’s like to be inside an Orthodox church which does feel quite different to the Anglican or Roman Catholic Churches most of us are used to. Right next to the church, see if you can also find a beautiful ancient fountain and an open-air staircase with pretty heart-shaped iron-wrought handrails.
5. See the Rather Weird Setup of St Luke’s Church
If you wonder what else you can do in Kotor, tiny St Luke’s Church is another interesting church to visit in Kotor. It was built about one thousand years ago and started out as a Catholic church. When it was converted to an Orthodox church, the Catholics secured the rights to retain an altar for their own use in one part of the church. This is why today you will find two separate areas inside St Luke’s, each one of them dedicated to a particular faith.
Kotor’s St Nicholas may be small and not very interesting from the outside. But on the inside, there are golden artefacts, the iconostasis and many icons. On your Kotor shore excursion, make sure you also pay attention to the church floor of St Nicholas which is entirely made of tombstones.
6. Check out the Lower Parts of the Kotor City Walls
It is possible that hiking all the way to the upper parts of the Kotor city walls may be too streneous for you. That’s ok, because another great Kotor thing to in is a walk around the lower parts of the city walls. You may want to start at the Southern Gate and then follow the city wall to the Northern Gate.
A walk along the lower parts of the Kotor city walls is rather romantic. Flowers contrast with the old grey stone of the thick walls. Water seems omnipresent, adding reflection and colour to the picture. Nearby, River Skurda sends the water down the mountain right next to the old town where it flows into the ditch surrounding the old town and the walls.
On your walk, have a closer look at the river bed of River Surda. Clearly visible, there are still some ancient remains of previous fortifications or maybe some other, more industrial purposes, their true identity maybe long forgotten today.
7. More Kotor Sightseeing as you Leave: Beautiful Kotor Bay
The natural beauty of Kotor Bay is legendary. The deeply indented bay is often compared to Norwegian fjords. The bay is framed by rugged tall limestone mountains, covered in deep green pine forests which are sprinkled with houses, chapels and monasteries.
The waters of Kotor bay are calm and blue, the shadows deep and long, the sound muffled. Boats big and small criss-cross the harbour, they seem like toy boats in front of this spectacular scenery.
If you are arriving in Kotor on board of a cruise ship don’t miss viewing arrival and departure on the top deck of the ship. It is a great way of getting into the right spirit for your Kotor shore excursion. The beauty of Kotor Bay is indeed quite unmatched and a great way to conclude your day of sightseeing in Kotor.
Visiting Kotor for one day: The Best Things to do in Kotor
These are our favourite things to do in Kotor but there are of course many more things to see. Kotor has a lot to offer, I am really just scratching the surface in this post.
What I love about this place is that even if you are less adventurous and prefer to just sit and take in the atmosphere, Kotor is still perfect for you. In the old town you will find many quaint cafes that will tempt you with local cheeses, olives and cured hams. Ideal for a relaxing afternoon in the shade of an ancient tree, surrounded by pretty old buildings and lovely people.