This Kotor old town walk consists of a self guided stroll around the Stari Grad or Old Town that we created on our last trip to this mini-Dubrovnik of elegant stone houses, skinny lanes and sunny squares.
The best thing to do in Kotor is simply to wander the streets of this wonderfully preserved walled town, so here’s a route to get you started.
Kotor Old Town Walk – A Self Guided Stroll Around the Stari Grad
Begin your Kotor old town walk by saying dobro to the rosy-cheeked guy fishing from the bridge (he seems to be here everyday) when you stop to admire the solid stone ramparts that crawl spectacularly up the mountain from the UNESCO World Heritage listed Stari Grad. The ramparts, along with gates, towers, bastions, citadels, cisterns, and a hilltop fort and castle form the impressive fortifications of Kotor, which were included in the listing. If the weather is fine and water still, snap a photo of the reflection of the lower ramparts in the emerald-coloured water before you pass through the southern entrance to the Old Town, the Gurdic Gate.
Once through the Gurdic Gate, my Kotor old town walk continues along Craftsmen Street, which runs all the way from the southern gate to the northern River Gate. In the Middle Ages, the long cobblestone lane was lined with workshops organised around brotherhoods or guilds. Some 46 craftsmen, including blacksmiths, stonemasons, carpenters, goldsmiths, sword- and shield-makers and shoemakers, set up shop here. Near the end of the street, before it turns left, you’ll find a few stores selling traditional souvenirs such as embroidered blouses, model boats and bold kilims. Hang a left, then right, and continue to the River Gate.
Once at the northern River Gate, cross the bridge for fantastic views of the walls and ramparts of San Giovanni’s Fortress, also called St John’s Castle. Return into the city and cross the leafy square – home to a dozen happy cats, fed by local residents. You’ll notice lots of cats as you wander Kotor’s streets. St Mary’s church dates to 1221 and has a wonderful bronze door depicting the story of Kotor’s patron saint, the Blessed Ozana, a noblewoman turned nun with mystical visions who saved the city from Ottoman attack. You should see more cats lingering here and two or three sitting in the window or sprawled on top of the shoeboxes in the sports shop beside the church. Follow this tiny lane westward to St Nicholas’ Church.
St Lucas’ Square
Dominating St Lucas’ Square is the Orthodox Church of St Nicholas, dating to 1902, built on the site of a church and monastery destroyed by fire. Inside, fragrant with frankincense, is a huge dome and elaborate gilt iconstasis. Diagonally opposite is the diminutive St Lucas’ Church, built in 1195. This cute little Romanesque-Byzantine church has a pretty bell tower and above, more beautiful castle views. Opposite St Lucas’ is the music school – you should hear the tinkling of piano keys or a full-on orchestral practice; check the front door for posters advertising performances. Behind the café tables is the Lombardic Palace. To continue my Kotor old town walk take the little lane to the left for Museum Square.
Just before the square, you’ll see a small courtyard on your right that is home to the Karampana, Kotor’s only public well, dating to the 17th century. (The bar overlooking the well is good fun on a weekend night.) Once at the square, the elegant building with green shutters on your left is Gregorina Palace, which houses the Maritime Museum, which is worth a look considering Kotor’s rich maritime history and close connection to the sea. Continue along the lane on the other side of the square to St Tryphon’s Square.
St Tryphon’s Square
This lovely square, with more stunning views of the mountains and ramparts above, is home to, in a clockwise direction, the old Town Hall, elegant Drago Palace, the Bishop’s Palace with its pretty courtyard, and beside it, majestic St Tryphon’s Cathedral. Inside the church are relics brought to Kotor from Constantinople by Venetian traders in 809, along with a 15th century alterpiece made by Kotor’s goldsmiths. Take the lane that runs between the Town Hall and restaurant to the Square of Flour.
Square of Flour
This picturesque square is surrounded by splendid buildings and two palaces, beginning on your right with Pima Palace, which belonged to a family of noblemen and poets, and has a vaulted loggia, and above it a terrace and balcony. (Inside, sadly, is a disco and bar.) Beside it is Buča Palace, more modest than it once was, as most of its Gothic features were damaged in the 1667 earthquake. Once one of Kotor’s most powerful families, the Bučas were court officials, ambassadors, and brave soldiers. Take the lane on the other side of the square to the Square of Arms.
Square of Arms
You’re finishing our Kotor old town walk at the point where most people start. That’s because we want you to sit down and take in the surrounding sights – the splendid clock tower, Venetian Arsenal, the Town Hall, Bizanti Palace, and Prince’s Palace – from a terrace table at Café Forza. Order a cup of tea and a slice of the traditional lemon and almond Dobrotska Torta, the local specialty made, along with all their delicious cakes here, by the café owner’s wife. Once sated, exit the Old City through the main town entrance, Morska Vrata or Sea Gate, noting the pretty Gothic relief high on the wall on your left, and cross the square to where the taxis park to look back and appreciate the sturdy walls and splendid entrance. If you pass a rather distinguished-looking old gentleman in a traditional costume on the way out, say hello to Čedo Pustinjac.