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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrIt's almost a cliche that when someone mentions fjords, Boreal countries suddenly come to mind. Whether you forgot or you never knew that the Mediterranean hosts some of the most beautiful fjords in the world, Kotor is always there to remind you.
The medieval walled city of Kotor, with its historic monuments and picturesque setting, is one of Montenegro's oldest and most famous cities. The coastal city is located in the Bay of Kotor, bordered by towering limestone cliffs. Listed as UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site, the city has become a famous tourist destination.
Ruled by Venice for hundred of years, this lovely coastal town's architecture bears heavy Venetian influences. Stroll trough the compact Old Town, admire and explore a great number of well-preserved monuments of medieval architecture - St Tryphon's Cathedral, impressive City Walls and St John's Fortress, tiny St Luke's Church, imposing Clock Tower and beautiful Gates to the Old Town. The stunning city was also a birthplace of Petar Petrović-Njegoš, considered the most important leader in Montenegrin history.
HistoryKotor was originally a Roman colony, as part of Dalmatia, dating from 168 BCE. It wasn't fortified until 535, when Justinian battled the Ostrogoths . The city was part of both the Bulgarian and the Serbian empire during the Middle Ages, and in 1420 it passed under the suzerainty of the Venetian state. In this period, Kotor experienced a period of cultural bloom, with Renaissance literature being very popular. The most en-vogue writers were Bernardo Pima, Nicola Chierlo; Luca Bisanti, Alberto de Gliricis; Domenico and Vincenzo Burchia, Vincenzo Ceci; Antonio Zambella, and Francesco Morandi.
Except small periods of Ottoman occupation, the city has been under Venetian tutelage until the 18th century, a fact that can be observed in its architecture. In 1797, it became part of the Habsburg empire.
In 1805, it was assigned to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, actually part of the French empire, but it was still ruled by Russian authority. Following the retreat of the Russians, it was unified with Italy and after 1810, it was captured by the British in a naval attack on the coast. Despite the locals' attempt to fend off the attack, by pulling the ship with ropes out of the wind's reach, the British assault was reinforced, and the fortress was besieged. The French garrison surrendered on 5 January 1814. At the Congress of Vienna, it was given back to the Habsburg empire. During World War I, Kotor was an important base of operations for the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and the coast saw dire battles between the locals and the empire. When the war ended, Kotor became part of Yugoslavia and had its name formalized. During World War II, it briefly passed under Italian occupation, and in 1945 it became a Yugoslavian province again.
The fortress of Kotor is known to be among the sturdiest structures of its kind, having survived many calamities, including the earthquakes of 1563 and 1667, which nearly destroyed it, numerous sieges, and the plague in 1572. The last earthquake that left an impact was in 1979, when part of the chapel was destroyed, only to be restored in 2003.
VisitingIf you have been to Venice, you will no doubt recognize the similarities. While it is not brindled with canals, the fjord makes for a more exotic landscape, and the narrow maze-like cobblestone streets, the ice cream shops, and the churches recreate the Renaissance feeling as a testimony of the old Venetian influence.
The main attraction of Kotor is the medieval fortress located 1,200 meters on top of the coast, hosting the chapel of St. John, where the entire fjord can be admired from. A UNESCO heritage, the fortress is among the best preserved old towns on the Adriatic.
Almost 1,350 steps and 5 kilometers above the old town, the fortress walls stretch upwards and double back on themselves several times, giving the impression at every serpentine that the current view upon the fjord is the best, making you photo-trigger-happy, until you get to the next one, but the most fabulous panorama is at the top, so make sure you save space for pictures.
The climbing time is about 2 hours at a normal pace. It is best to start the trek in the afternoon and be at the top at sunset. Morning views are fine too, when it is not foggy. The entrance fee is €2 ($2.30) per person.
What to See
St Tryphon's CathedralThe Catholic St Tryphon's Chatedral is one of the most recognizable sights in Kotor. It was originally built in the 12th century. However, due to damage caused by earthquakes, the Romanesque style cathedral has been rebuilt several times. The cathedral has two recognizable bell towers and dominates St Tryphon's Square in the center of the Old Town.
Inside, you will find a number of interesting features, from Corinthian columns, to the beautiful altar and the 14th century frescoes. Be sure to walk upstairs to see the interesting museum exhibiting paintings, sculptures and religious articles dating back to 12th century.
Sea GateThe Sea Gate, the main entrance to the walled Old Town of Kotor, is the largest and the most beautiful of the city's three gates. Built in 1555 comprises both; Renaissance and Baroque details. With cannons just in front of the entrance, two sturdy columns frame the main entrance, the one of the right was used to moor ships.
The date 21 November 1944 just above the gate, commemorates the liberation of the city from the Nazis at the end of World War II. There is also a quotation from Tito "We do not need other people's things, and we do not give our own." Passing trough the gate leads to Square of Arms, the town's largest square. Be sure to check out all three gates to the Old Town.
Square of ArmsThe Kotor's main square, situated on west side of the city, is know as the Square of Arms, where high quality weapons were sold by merchants in the Middle Ages. The square is surrounded with interesting artifacts of the city's complex history - the splendid stone Clock Tower, the Venetian arsenal, the 19th century Napoleon Theater and the 18th century Rector's Palace. The charming square, lined with stunning Venetian buildings, also boasts plenty of pleasant cafes, restaurants and shops.
Clock TowerThe imposing stone 17th century Clock Tower stands directly opposite the Sea Gate. A symbol of Kotor with two clock faces, one running slightly behind the other, combines elements of Baroque and Ghotic style. In front of the Clock Tower, the triangular "Pillar of Shame" was used for public humiliation of criminals by placing them in front of the Pillar. After that, the criminals were inevitably outcasts and they had to leave town to survive.
St Luke's ChurchThe tiny St Luke's Church, built in the late 12th century, is the only building in the Old Town to have withstood all earthquakes that affected Kotor. The well-preserved Romanesque church is also interesting for having two altars, a Catholic one and an Orthodox one, showing the religious tolerance of the area.
St Nicholas's ChurchDominating St Lucas's Square is Kotor's most important Orthodox Church of St Nicholas with its black domes topped by golden crosses that were a gift from Russia. While most of other churches in Kotor date back to several centuries, the St Nicholas's Church was built at the very beginning of the 20th century. The church possesses a rich collection of icons and also houses a tiny museum which details the community's cultural history.
Maritime Museum of MontenegroThe Maritime Museum, which is housed in the early 18th century Grgurina Place, chronicles Kotor's glory days as one of the Adriatic's major naval forces. The interesting exhibition extends over three floors. An audio-guide will help you explain the collection of paintings showing important sea-battles, wooden models of the boats and ships, navigation equipment, uniforms and exquisitely decorated weapons.
City WallsKotor is surrounded by massive well-preserved walls that served as city's last defense system. The impressive city walls, measuring almost 5 kilometers in length, were built between 9th and 18th centuries. The walls begin along the waterfront forming a triangular defense system around the Old Town and then zigzag up the sheer cliffs behind the Old Town to St John's Fortress. If you do walk the city walls, make sure you wear a good pair of shoes to protect you from loose rocks and uneven steps. In the summer avoid the heat of the day and make sure you bring plenty of water.
How to Get ThereThe coast resort is fully walkable, and the most popular way of getting there is probably from Budva, the most popular resort on the Montenegrin seaside. The only way is by bus or by car. The Vrmac tunnel connects Kotor with the rest of the mainland, and on the other side it can also be reached through the Adriatic motorway. The Tivat airport is 5 kilometers away, and the Podgorica (capital) airport is 65 kilometers away.
Other AttractionsSveti Đorđe and Gospa od Škrpijela islets off the coast of Perast are also among the more popular destinations in the vicinity of Kotor. A historical road goes to Cetinje, which offers breathtaking views of Kotor Bay. Located very close to the border with Croatia, Kotor is a good place to find a private taxi, and group with several friends for an escapade to Dubrovnik, the world-renown medieval town on the Croatian coast. There are no buses to Croatia, so the only way is to negotiate with the locals, but usually €100 ($115) both ways is a good price.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Apr 17, 2015