A short guide to Kotor, Montenegro

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There are two sides to Kotor. Most of the time it's a quiet little town, almost like a village. Walking around you have the maze of alleyways to yourself, just a few cats, the odd person sweeping the street outside their house.

And then the cruise ship rolls in. It happens a couple of times a week and crowds of people clamber out to explore for the day. I'm fully aware that complaining about tourists when you are a tourist is ridiculous (even if you do have your own apartment and shop at the market like everyone else). But when you're somewhere so small that it only takes five minutes to walk from one end of the old town to the other, adding hundreds of people with cameras and backpacks is a little much.

That's not to say that we didn't like Kotor. It's beautiful, on the edge of a bay, surrounded by mountains. There are lots of hiking trails nearby. The pace of life is relaxed. And it's 20°C and sunny in November.

The Bay of Kotor

Across the bay

Surrounded by mountains

Old Town

Kotor's medieval old town feels a bit like stepping back in time, with grey buildings, grey cobblestone streets and grey mountains.

The alleyways are a labyrinth that take a while to get used to. Even Colin, who can usually navigate himself around a new city within minutes of arriving, got lost a few times in our first week. But it's so small that it doesn't take long until you pop out onto a square you recognise or one of the big gates at the wall around the edge.

A grey town

One of Kotor's cat's

Quiet alleyways One of the churches

Market

The owner of our apartment warned us about the market by the lake, "I've seen them charge €50 for a kilo of cherries". But there are a few stalls with their prices written out and if you go when the cruise ship isn't in town you should be ok. The fruit and vegetables are all very fresh, and there's a good selection.

The weekly market All the fruit and veg!

Castle of San Giovanni

Nestled into one of the mountains overlooking the town is the Castle of San Giovanni. There's a steep path with 1,300 steps that lead up to it, and it takes about an hour and a half to get there and back. At the top there are great views of the triangular old town and the harbour.

Views from the path

So many steps!

A view across the bay

Hiking

There are lots of trails in the mountains surrounding Kotor and we didn't have a chance to explore as many as we wanted to.

This route starts off on the same path as the one towards the castle, but there are fewer people and the views are even better.

Just follow the red and white signs.

Red and white signs

Climbing through holes A zigzag path

The trail

Views across the bay

The walls of the city

Where to eat

Tourism is a big deal in Kotor and so most of the restaurants are set up for that. The food is fine, but we didn't love it and we mostly cooked at home. Here are a few spots to try if you want to eat out:

The best sandwiches

Grilled meats