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One Day in Kotor – a Guide to Hiking Kotor’s Fortress

Scenic view of rolling mountains towering over Bay of Kotor's deep blue waters and red roof houses.

There are several wonderful cities and things to do in Montenegro, but the most popular city in the country that you MUST VISIT is Kotor. Kotor, Montenegro is quickly becoming one of the best travel destinations to visit in Europe. I am not surprised to hear that because it took us only one hour to fall completely in love with this charming bay city. So make sure you include Kotor in your Montenegro itinerary.

Most visitors to Kotor are coming from a cruise ship (as we did) but because of the city’s growing popularity, people are beginning to go out of their way just to visit. Why? Because the Bay of Kotor has the most stunning landscape with towering mountains surrounding the bay. It is also very easy to explore all of Kotor in one day. Moreover, the Castle of San Giovanni or Kotor’s fortress is by far one of the best castles to visit in Europe.

We LOVE both castles and hiking, so when we heard we could hike Kotor’s fortress we were ecstatic. The hike to Kotor’s fortress remains one of our favorite hikes of all time, which says a lot because we have also hiked to Machu Picchu. When you make it to the top of Kotor’s fortress, you are gifted with the most stunning views of the Bay of Kotor which is why it is truly one of the best places to hike in Europe. Hiking to the top of Kotor’s Fortress is one of the most popular things to do and can easily be accomplished with one day in Kotor.

So with the help of my post, one day in Kotor – hiking the Kotor fortress, I hope you will find all the information needed to guide you through Kotor. I guarantee you will fall in love with this city within hours!

Landscape photo looking out into Bay of Kotor with green mountains surrounding the water.

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A Brief History of The Castle of San Giovanni

The Castle of San Giovanni was first built during the Illyrian times. Then during the 6th century, it was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian I and has changed hands many times over while also withstanding severe earthquakes. With that said, it is no surprise the entire city of Kotor including the Castle of San Giovanni, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 because of its incredible history and preservation.

The Hike to Kotor’s Fortress

The hike to Kotor’s fortress (Castle of San Giovanni) is open to the public and costs 3€ in cash at the entrance of the city walls. Whether you are visiting Kotor from a cruise ship or on your own, you can hike Kotor’s fortress with either a guided tour or by yourself. To be honest, a guided tour is not necessary unless you need help hiking or want to hear historical information about the city. With that said, we do not typically go on group tours but found this particular hiking tour worth it. Our guide was very friendly and knowledgable – we not only had fun along the hike but learned a lot about Kotor’s historical facts, the castle, and other places in Montenegro we must see. Overall, the hike up to Kotor’s Fortress can take approximately two hours followed by time spent exploring the castle and then the hike back to Kotor’s Old Town.

A group of four (three girls and one guy) standing at Kotor's fortress with the Montenegro flag towering over them and the Bay of Kotor with a cruise ship in the background.

What to Expect Hiking Kotor’s Fortress

I have two very important recommendations when hiking Kotor’s fortress. One is to bring plenty of WATER!!! The second is to start early to beat the heat, especially if you are visiting in the summer. The hike alone is going to be long and strenuous, approximately 1,350 stair steps to a height of around 280 meters (919 feet). So the earlier you start, the more time you will have hiking in the shade. We started our hike in July at 8 am and found it to be a perfect time because we not only hiked in the shade but also beat the crowds.

One of the main reasons why this hike to Kotor’s fortress is one of the most popular places to visit in Montenegro is because of the views! We have traveled around the world, and the views here are some of the best we have ever seen. So as you keep hiking along the city walls to the fortress, remember to take every moment in. The higher you ascend the more beautiful the views become.

Scenic view of rolling mountains towering over Bay of Kotor's deep blue waters and red roof houses.

In addition to the most spectacular views of the Bay of Kotor, you can also expect to find so many CATS! We came across at least a dozen cats in Old Town Kotor on our way to the city wall. In fact, Kotor is so known for their cats around the city there is a dedicated cat museum along with several cat souvenirs available in some of the shops. Who knew?!?!

A calico cat with the colors white, black and orange sleeping on a stone wall in Kotor.

Going back to the hike… The hike itself follows an accessible stone stairs the entire way up, but it is strenuous because of the incline. Even if you are a pro on the Stairstepper, ascending at the high altitude can be challenging. For those on a cruise ship a day at sea before this port of call does not help either, trust us, we know.

The hike to Kotor’s fortress is truly a rewarding and amazing experience. Walking along the city walls of Kotor was not only exhausting, but it was also rewarding and an amazing experience. The winding trail along the city walls leading to Kotor’s fortress looks unreal – as if it is from a medieval movie, but being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is far from anything in Hollywood. The historic trail is comprised of stonework from the 6th century which makes this hike feel surreal to be walking on a part of history.

6th century stone walls and stair steps zig-zagging at an incline to Kotor's fortress.

Scenic Views Hiking to Kotor’s Fortress

Luckily there are several scenic stopping points, also known as catch your breath stops. While you are trying to catch your breath, make sure you take the time to enjoy the views and your surroundings. Every time we looked below the city walls and took in the Bay of Kotor view, we could not believe how beautiful it was.

The first scenic stopping point I recommend is at the Church of Our Lady of Remedy. The church was built in 1518 and still stands tall and beautiful to this day.

Church of Our Lady of Remedy tower with a small dome towering above the city and Bay of Kotor.

The second scenic stopping point is around the halfway point of the hike. It is a leveled stone platform that reaches out into the bay. You are going to be eager to take photos as we did because the views here are amazing. I remember thinking how could any view top this? I was very wrong.

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The Top of Kotor’s Fortress

Alas, when you make it to the top of Kotor’s fortress and the ruins of Castle of San Giovanni, the views are absolutely breathtaking! Standing at a height of 1,200 meters (3,937 feet), you can see everything. With that said, the scenic views of the bay and city are just the beginning…

Panorama picture from the top of Kotor's castle - the Castle of San Giovanni looking down at the Bay of Kotor and Old Town Kotor in the shape of a triangle leading into the deep blue ocean with mountains hovering over.

The ruins of Castle of San Giovanni looks like it belongs to a scene in Lord of the Rings. We seriously felt like we were in Middle Earth reenacting our fantasy roles of being knights fighting off dragons and orcs. All fun and games put aside, it’s an incredible feeling to be standing where so many had stood and fought for the city of Kotor. Moreover, we could not believe how much of the castle was still standing. Visitors can walk throughout the castle’s ruins exploring every nook and cranny.

We explored the Castle of San Giovanni for at least an hour because of the unreal experience of walking and feeling a part of its history. The architecture of the remaining castle combined with the scenic views is truly amazing. We could have stayed at the top forever, but don’t just take our word for it. Hiking to the top of Castle of San Giovanni should be on everyone’s European bucket list.

Sightseeing Kotor in One Day

As briefly stated before, since the city is so small it is very easy to explore Kotor in one day, if not less. There are quite a few amazing and quick things to do in Kotor. In addition to the Castle of San Giovanni, some of Kotor’s top attractions are walking around Old Town, visiting the Cat Museum, Tryphon’s Cathedral and the Bay of Kotor. You can easily see all of these places in one day at Kotor – even after a hike to Kotor’s fortress. If you are lucky, you might be able to come across locals doing their traditional dance in the middle of the square. As a travel-couple who loves seeing a country’s culture and lifestyle, this was a great and unique experience that I hope you get to see too.

During your one day in Kotor, you will need to eat and the BEST place to eat is at CITY Restaurant. This cute restaurant has a shaded patio with mist sprays for those hot summer days, delicious entrees, and a great bang for your buck! CITY Restaurant is known for its house special of mussels and a glass of wine for only 10 euros! With that said, some other great entrees I recommend are the sweet crepes filled with Nutella or raspberries, frittatas, sandwiches, and a meat and cheese plate.

Two crepes shaped in triangles with fresh raspberries and orange slices from CITY Restaurant in Kotor.

Lastly, one day in Kotor is not complete without drinking their local beer, Niksicko Pivo, and enjoying their traditional dessert, krempita. The beer is wonderful, but the krempita is to die for! A krempita “cream pie” also known as cremeschnitte, is a popular dessert in several Central European countries including Montenegro. Each country and region have their different variations but they all include a puff pastry base and custard cream. The krempita has three layers of puff pastry dough with a delicious, creamy, thick custard in between each layer of dough, then covered in powder sugar for additional sweetness. The result is heavenly and you cannot miss this “sweet adventure” during your one day in Kotor.

A square piece of krempita with sweet cream filled between layers of flaky puff pastry dough and covered in powdered sugar.

We completely fell in love with Kotor’s history, landscapes, cuisine, and culture so much that we could have easily stayed longer than one day. However, one day in Kotor is more than enough to hike the Castle of San Giovanni and explore the rest of the city’s sites. Spending two days in this UNESCO Heritage Site would just be the cherry on top.




  • Megan

    Wow. This looks beautiful, so much fun… and the cats!! Must love on all the cats. <3 That would even get my girls all excited about this. Thanks for sharing!

    • oursweetadventures

      I know the cats were so cute! We loved everything about Kotor.

  • Halley Wright

    I love these photos! Montenegro looks so beautiful, I really want to visit. Looks like you had so much fun!!

    • oursweetadventures

      We definitely recommend that you visit! So much beauty and culture to see and explore.

  • Shaun

    Loved Kotor! I made the mistake of carbing up on fettachini before my climb. Still, the views were worth the stomach cramps!


    • oursweetadventures

      Hahaha YES! I am sure it was a struggle, but at least you burned the calories going up 🙂

  • Neha

    well the visit looks amazing, good to hear that trek is not so tiring. Hope you had enjoyed, though the dessert you wrote above wre mouth watering.

    • oursweetadventures

      The krempita was amazing! A perfect finish to our perfect day in Kotor.

  • Amrita Sen

    The place looks so inviting. It looks that you had a great time there. And the photographs are really lovely.

    • oursweetadventures

      Thank you so much. We did have a great day here.

  • Medha Verma

    I have a new-found interest in Montenegro, especially after reading this post and looking at the beautiful pictures! Very inspiring, thanks for sharing.

    • oursweetadventures

      Our pleasure. We are so pleased to hear that you are interested in visiting. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us!

  • Justine

    Stairs when hiking is my enemy! haha but if I’ll get to be rewarded with yummy food just like in those pictures then sign me up! Plus the view is amazing!!!!

    • oursweetadventures

      Signing you up now! 🙂 The hike is more than worth the food and the views 🙂

  • Stephanie Liao

    Awww the cats look adorable! Great pics 🙂

    • oursweetadventures

      They sure were! We love cats 🙂

  • Becca Talbot

    Montenegro was never on my list before, until I saw an article about it in Lonely Planet. Now I’ve just read your post, I want to visit the cat museum in Kotor!!! <3 x

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww yay! We are so happy to hear that! You will have to let us know how the cat museum is 🙂

  • Claire

    This hike looks amazing and I just love how you came across cats. I would have been tempted to stay and play with them too!

    • oursweetadventures

      Adam was worried we were going to take one of the cute cats on the cruise with us haha.

  • Audrey

    I normally am not big on hiking, but I will hike if I get a good view. And this hike, the view looks amazing! Plus coming across cats, is a plus. It would help me get through the hike 🙂

    • oursweetadventures

      The views were absolutely stunning!!!! The whole way up and down, the views never got old.

  • Wanderlust Vegans

    I would like to go to the castle. What a view of the city. Seeing all the cats would be fun too.

    • oursweetadventures

      Y’all would love it here! 🙂

  • I have heard a lot of great things about Montenegro and wouldn’t mind visiting there myself. The castle looks like a great place to visit and the views are beautiful. The story of cats is so cute, we live next to a city called Los Gatos (cats) as well.

    • oursweetadventures

      Aww that sounds like a city we need to visit! While you visit Kotor we will visit Los Gatos 🙂

  • Kellyn

    Thanks for sharing as an admirer of historical locations and architecture, you certainly caught my attention with these photos. Definitely adding this to my list of World Heritage Site I’d like to explore.

    • oursweetadventures

      We are glad to hear that! You will enjoy Kotor and the fortress a lot!

  • Ling Ge

    I almost did not make it past the cats. SOOO CUUUUUTE! But the architecture Castle of San Giovanni does look very impressive and the views are amazing. Haven’t considered Montenegro in our future travel plans yet but there’s obviously a lot to enjoy.

    • oursweetadventures

      Haha I know the cats were both cute and friendly! After enjoying Kotor, Montenegro we would like to explore more of their neighboring countries – y’all should too!

  • This looks absolutely stunning. I am hoping to do a backpacking trip through the Balkans next year, and Montenegro is definitely on my list!

    • oursweetadventures

      That sounds like an awesome trip. You will love this hike!

  • Bruce Schinkel

    Kotor looks like a lot of fun to visit! I love seeing places steeped in history and that Castle definitely appears to fit the bill.

    • oursweetadventures

      The castle is amazing and a lot of fun!

  • Iza Abao

    Kotor looks really nice and one of the best hiking places in the world. The cats make it more interesting and fun. The view is breathtaking. It was good that you were able to find a restaurant after your hike. The crepes look delicious. This shore excursion must be the highlight of your cruise. = )

    • oursweetadventures

      It was definitely an unexpected highlight of our cruise for sure! The view, the cats, the hike it was a wonderful trip!

  • Natalie

    What an incredibly gorgeous place! It looks like the hike was worth it to get those awe-inspiring views! I’ve never been to Kotor, but whenever I do get there, this will be on the itinerary for sure!

    • oursweetadventures

      It is definitely the number one thing to do in Kotor! The hike to see the view and castle was breathtaking.

  • Jenni

    I can not hike due to mobility issues so I love seeing other peoples photos of what they do and see so thank you for sharing. Those Nutella pancakes look amazing though and I bet you built up a really big appetite after your hike and enjoyed them!!

    • oursweetadventures

      My parents took a bus tour up the mountains and the saw amazing views from there too! If you find yourself in Kotor you should look into the bus tour 🙂

  • Renee Hahnel

    Oh my – I need to do this hike! I am obsessed with castles… oh and those crepes looked amazing!

    • oursweetadventures

      Then this is a city you must visit! You will love it all!

  • Agness of aTukTuk

    Kotor seems like a magical town which is just perfect for hiking! I would love to visit it soon!

    • oursweetadventures

      It really was magical – it had a lot of great energy. If you ever get the chance to visit you know what to see and do 🙂

  • Brittany

    Hi! Came across your page via Pinterest and am so glad I did! We are really hoping to work this hike in with our port ar Kotor. In your opinion, without a group how long do you think this would take? We’re planning to go private so we can see as much as possible

    • oursweetadventures

      You can definitely do this by yourself. I recommend getting off the ship and doing it right away. One, because of the heat. Two, the cruise group leaves early as well. As far as estimated time, depends on your own pace. I would say two hours round trip, give or take. Also make sure you have cash because going by yourself does not include a ticket. Right before you start hiking the fortress, you will see someone sitting down in the shade with a small sign.

    • oursweetadventures

      We are also delighted to hear you found our post and found it helpful 🙂 let us know if you have any further questions!

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