Discovering the Gems of Kotor: A Guide to Montenegro’s Most Unique Seaside Town
If you are planning to visit Kotor for the first time, or you have already fallen in love with this town and decide to buy a property here, you came to the right place. In the article you can find everything, you need to know about Kotor and its real estate market. This blog is constantly updated, so do not hesitate to revisit at any time.
Table of Contents
Nestled and bordered by gray mountain massifs and a sparkling clear sea, is the unique town of Kotor, one of the largest and most important maritime towns in Montenegro and the heart of Boka Bay. Kotor Old Town is located under the slope of Lovćen cliffs and is surrounded by ramparts and bastions almost five kilometers long. These are the handworks of the old skilled Venetians artisans. Above the Old Town rises the hill of Saint Ivan with the main city fortress of San Giovanni on the top. The Bay of Kotor is often considered as the southernmost fjord in Europe.
Kotor is a more than 2000 year’s old coastal town, with rich history and cultural heritage. Its history dates from the III and II century B.C., when Illyrians occupied the town. It was first named Acruvium under the reign of Romans (168 B. C. – 476 A.D.), then Dekaderon under Byzantium (until 1885).
Many conquerors passed through Kotor afterwards, some of them were Venetians, Austrians, French under Napoleon, etc. The town was even an independent Republic at the end of XIV and beginning of the XV century. In 1918, Kotor was liberated from Austria, became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and officially became known as Kotor.
During World War II, Kotor became part of Italy, and finally after the liberation, the town became part of Montenegro, within the Yugoslavian Republic.
Today Kotor is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in the region. It is one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic, with a large number of palaces, churches and monuments protected by UNESCO.
As we mentioned, different empires and cultures, each leaving a permanent mark on the architecture, ruled Kotor. From romanticism followed by gothic and baroque – all great artistic and architectural styles are present in Kotor.
The people who lived in this area for centuries complement unique, natural beauty of the Bay of Kotor, where steep hills meet the coast. The villages, weather on the coast or on the hills, represent the true picture of life in the Bay. Maritime routes and people’s ability to find and adopt true values made it possible to build stone villages, big palaces and churches in perfect harmony with the surroundings.
Walls and bastions, with narrow streets, paved with red and white local stone, tall buildings leading to numerous town squares with churches or public buildings, are characteristic for Kotor Old Town, the biggest architectural achievement.
The oldest and one of the most important buildings in Kotor Old Town is the Cathedral of St. Tryphon. Built in VII century, the Cathedral stands not only as a cultural, and spiritual object, but also as a witness to all the architectural influences and styles present inside the town’s walls.
On the other side of the town, the church of St. Luka, with a round dome, reminds us of Byzantine architecture. Because of this, we like to say that Kotor is the place where Western and Eastern culture coexist, not only through architecture but also through art and culture.
The biggest influence on the architecture of Kotor had Venetians in the Middle Ages, and later Austro-Hungarian Empire with its enormous fortification system and infrastructure that is in use even today.
After World War II, Yugoslavia became a communist country and that had a huge impact on the architecture and life in Kotor. During this period, Kotor experienced industrialization, development of tourism and was home to one of the biggest merchandising fleets in Yugoslavia. All of this led to big migration and a need for big residential blocks to accommodate new workers and residents.
Kotor region has preserved its Mediterranean style, especially in Kotor Old Town, Perast, and coastal region.
World Art & Culture Heritage
Kotor can be proud of its contribution to world art and cultural heritage. Since the prehistoric era with the cave walls drawings at Lipci, through Roman mosaics dating back to II AD, and monumental cathedrals from the VII century.
Kotor is home to one of the oldest maritime organizations in the world, Boka Navy, founded in 809. In 2021, the Boka Navy was listed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, UNESCO.
Painting has a long tradition from the time Kotor was a Cristianity center. One of the most famous painters is Tripo Kokolja from Perast, who painted ceilings and walls of the Church of Our Lady of the Rock.
Like many different coastal towns, Kotor had a well-evolved literary life. The Golden Era of Kotor poetry was during XVI century.
“Fašinada”, the event described in one of the following articles, thanks to its long tradition and uniqueness, represents an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Bay of Kotor is definitely the most visited and authentic tourist destination in Montenegro. The visitors enjoy a beautiful contrast of colors and sublime atmosphere at this place, where, as we like to say, the mountains touch the sea.
In addition to that, Kotor is one of the most popular cruising destinations in the Adriatic, with more than 500 cruise ships visiting the port every year.
The symbols of the bay are the old town and its walls, San Giovanni castle, Saint Tryphon’s cathedral and the old churches, museums, palaces, Perast and Our Lady of the Rock island, the only artificial island in the Adriatic, with its church and the museum.
We should not forget the amazing Mediterranean food and wine that visitors can find in local restaurants and of course, very welcoming local people who are the best representatives of the culture and the tradition.
Things to do
Surrounded by mountains and sea, Kotor, like few places, offers plenty of attractions and activities, like swimming in the crystal water, cruising, fishing, exploring the hills, caves and canyons of rivers that flow into the sea, or cultural trips that show rich history and cultural heritage of the region.
- Old Town walking tour
- Hiking up to the fortress San Giovanni
- Walk the city walls
- Boat cruise in the bay
- Visit Perast and Our Lady of the Rock island
- Kayaking in the bay
- Blue Cave boat tour
- Day trip to Lovcen national park with a unique ride and scenery
- Visit fisherman villages in the bay (Muo, Prcanj, Stoliv, Dobrota, Ljuta, Orahovac, Perast, Risan, Morinj etc.)
Boka Night was brought to Kotor from Venice in the XVIII century, but soon it became a unique event of Kotor, because of its natural surroundings and people who live here. This event gathers participants from the whole Boka Bay, who decorate their boats expressing daily life and problems in a satirical way. The decorated boats make three circles inside the aquatorium, located in front of Riva where among many spectators sit a three-member jury. After the jury announces the three best boats by judging the message, attraction and craftsmanship, there is a big firework display and afterwards, the festivities are transferred inside the city walls.
Kotor has been recognized for decades on a carnival cities map. Summer carnival has international character and brings groups from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Brazil, Cuba etc. The carnival is usually opened by the group from AECC — the Association of European Carnival Cities. The carnival takes place on the main street in front of the Old Town. After the carnival parade, all participants and spectators are visiting clubs, bars and concerts in the open, to continue the festivities until early morning hours.
Fašinada is a unique event tightly related to the origins of the island of Our Lady of the Rock.
As we mentioned above, this is the only artificial island in the Adriatic Sea. According to the legend, the island was created after 2 brothers from Perast on 22 July 1452 had found a rock with the icon of the Mother of God holding baby Jesus.
Since the island was too small to accommodate a bigger church, people of Perast came to an idea to sink ships full of stones so they could create a bigger island.
From 1938. To commemorate the origin of the Island, a parade of decorated boats filled with stones depart from one end of Perast, and a priest who sings special songs called “bugarštica” leads them. When they reach the other part of Perast, the boats are directed towards the island. In the immediate vicinity of the island, boats forming a circle are dumping the stones, as a symbol of the origin of the island, but also with the purpose of its consolidation.
The Fairy Alkima
With the unique beauty and position of Kotor, that are so unusual and timeless, people simply believed that divine forces and actions must have influenced its creation.
One of the legends about the origin of the town of Kotor is about the fairy Alkima. Namely, it is said that the fairy Alkima lived above Kotor on the hills called Pestingrad and that she advised mariners to build a town by the sea because ‘’without the sea, there is no life for them’’. As they took her advice, in gratitude, using her powers, she made a bridge connecting Pestingrad with the neighborhood hill. The bridge appeared like a town’s gate, so it was named Fairy’s Gate. It is believed that at a certain time at night, people from Kotor can see Alkima sitting on the Fairy’s Gate.
The Legend about Our Lady of the Rocks
Throughout history, there have always been legends about sailors and their wives who faithfully waited for them after months of sailing. One of the unique legends is the one about Jacinta Kunić-Mijović, who waited 25 years for her beloved captain to return home. In order to pass the time she began to embroider a tapestry. Every day, for two and a half decades, she did not stop creating her work of art, which she called “The Virgin and Christ”. With her exceptional talent, the painting was done on a Japanese silk base, while she used silk, gold and silver threads, damask and pearls and her own strands of hair for embroidery. Although this way of making tapestries has already been applied in the world, Jacinta’s work has a special, value because it is one of the few preserved. Jacinta’s handiwork was later given a new name – “Our Lady of Škrpjela”; it can now be seen in the church of the same name.
The treasure of Queen Teuta
Risan was the center of Illyria’s maritime trade and ruled by Queen Teuta who inherited the throne after the death of her husband king Agron. She built a castle on the Gradina Mountain above Risan, the remains of which can still be seen today.
Teuta lost her throne in the battle with the Romans and according to legend, the wise queen, who did not want to surrender to the Romans alive, committed suicide by jumping into the sea from a cliff above Risan.
It is said that, before committing suicide, queen Teuta hid all Illyrian treasures deep in the in the hill in Risan. Archaeologists are still looking for these treasures even today. During one of these treasure hunts”, they discovered an underground lake in Risan along with Illyrian coins, precisely 4650 King Ballaios’s metal coins, a gold ring and the remains of Hellenistic houses.
Today, the symbol of Risan – Amphoras, which Illyrians used to transport oil from, can be found underwater either in front of Risan or in museums all over Montenegro.
Lovers of history can pay a visit to one of several museums on the territory of Kotor – The Maritime Museum of Montenegro, Lapidarium in The Church of St. Michael, Museum of the town of Perast. For all cat lovers, there is a Museum with various different objects dedicated to these furry creatures, considered unofficial symbol of Kotor Old Town.
The Maritime Museum of Montenegro, founded in 1952, is located in the Baroque Palace of the noble family Grgurina. The rich cultural and historical collection, which developed from the “Boka Marine” Fraternity, witnesses the growth of maritime and lives of the inhabitants of the Montenegrin coast and Boka Kotorska.
Kotor Lapidarium, located in The Church of St. Michael, has a collection of stone fragments from the Classical and Late-Classical period, early Christianity, pre-Romanesque, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque period. The collection contains stone fragments discovered when remediation works were carried out at St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and stone fragments from various parts of the Town of Kotor. These stone objects can be seen on several locations in Kotor Old Town as well as on several other locations outside the town of Kotor.
Museum of the town of Perast is located in one of the most beautiful palaces on the Adriatic Sea – Palace Bujovic, built in 1694, which was once a home of the noble family Bujovic. The well-known families from Perast participated in the creation of the museum collection, donating various items of exceptional cultural value. On the display in the museum are the historical-artistic collection, the ethnographic collection and the maritime collection.
Kotor Real Estate Market
Because of the geographical position of Kotor’s Municipality, Kotor has to offer a wide range of property types and can meet everyone’s needs. Whether you are looking to buy a stone house, modern villa or apartment, as a second home or rental investment, be sure that, in Kotor, you can find your dream property.
If you are thinking about buying a property in Kotor, feel free to visit our website and make an inquiry. Below are links for Kotor properties for sale:
Tourism organisation of Kotor
Monograph of Kotor, Graphic Institute of Croatia
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