Boka Kotorska (Bay of Kotor) is a natural phenomenon, comparable with the Norwegian fiords, that is located at the southeastern end of the Adriatic Sea. The bay is unique in many ways, but medieval town of Kotor is where each exploration starts and ends. Located at the base of the Lovcen, where the bay penetrates the mountain, Kotor occupies a narrow space between the sea and the rocky hillside. Besides its unique position, another lure for tourists is its long and interesting history, which left numerous monuments and imprints throughout this likable settlement.
Historical background of Kotor
Kotor used to be a vital point of various empires throughout its history, as its strategic position enabled it to develop through extensive trade. Kotor was part of the Roman Empire, the Venetian Republic, Austria, Austro-Hungary, even of Napoleonic France on two brief occasions. It also developed as an independent city-republic. Besides trade, Kotor also used to be famous for the craftsmanship of its shipbuilders, blacksmiths, goldsmiths and gunsmiths.
The “City of the Saints”, which is Kotor’s unofficial name, boasts numerous Catholic and Orthodox religious structures in the fortified Old Town. Its patron saint, however, is St. Tryphon; in the above photo, St. Tryphon is accompanied by the Venetian winged lion, symbolizing the Venetian protection of Kotor against the centuries long Turkish threat.
Kotor’s main points of interest
The majority of tourist attractions are concentrated inside the fortified Old Town, which is edged by the slope of the mountain, two rivers and the sea. Within, you can discover medieval palaces of Kotor’s prominent families throughout centuries, churches and cathedrals, a Maritime Museum and several main squares. Numerous eateries, souvenir shops and department stores are also to be found.
From the Old Town, you can set out to the conquest of the St. Ivan’s Stronghold (260 meters / 853 feet altitude) through a network of fortifications. As you progress toward the top, more and more splendid panoramic views open in front of you.
Kamelija Shopping Centre, to the west of the Old Town, cannot be compared with those you may have seen in larger city destinations, but it will certainly enable shopaholics to breathe easier.
A walk along the seaside from Kotor centre toward Dobrota (a settlement that merged with Kotor) is going to reveal to you pleasant spots for relaxation, beautiful mansions and occasional religious structures.
Kotor Old Town
The Old Town can easily be toured in half an hour, though you are recommended to explore at a leisurely pace to discover the beauty of the place. The Old Town can be accessed through three main gates, and its charming narrow streets and passageways will take you easily to its main squares.
A harmonious coexistence between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians is shown by the existence of religious structures that originated in times when these Christian factions clashed elsewhere. Some of them are recognizable on sight, while others are “camouflaged”. The principal Catholic structure is St. Tryphon’s Cathedral, while St. Nicolas is the most significant Orthodox Church. Other more attention worthy churches are St. Luka (Luke) Church, next to St. Nicolas, St. Clare Church and Blessed Osanna Church.
The greatest square is the Arms Square, with its Clock Tower from the 17th century and palaces approximately from the same period. The Arms Square is located behind the main gate of Old Kotor. Other main squares are St. Luke, St. Tryphon and Fluor Squares.
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Hillside fortifications and St. Ivan’s Fortress
Behind the Blessed Osanna Church, an alleyway leads you to the 1350 step long stairway, which ultimately takes you to the St. Ivan’s Fortress. Before you decide, however, to take this excursion, read carefully on what you should pay attention to on the info panel. These 4 kilometers (2.48 mi) long fortifications were created throughout the Middle Ages, and were ingeniously conceived to make a potential attacker’s life miserable at every step. Since we, ordinary tourists, aren’t considered a threat, we have the privilege to peacefully observe the nested town under our feet and the grandiose beauty and diversity of the Boka Bay.
Kotor can be completely explored within a few days. Hotels, hostels and private apartments can be found everywhere. You can explore Kotor on foot, and if you travel on a budget, you can find an affordable and decent accommodation within 15 minutes walk from Old Kotor, which is considered a periphery. Prices in bars and restaurants are reasonable, in most cases.
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