Towards the end of my sabbatical I ended up in the Balkans region of Europe, visiting Serbia and Montenegro. After taking the famous Belgrade to Bar train (more about that in a future blog) and a quick stop in the not so pretty capital of Podogorica I made my way to the picturesque walled city of Kotor and the nearby, but very different Budva.
Kotor and Budva are both located on the Montenegrin Riviera, both have Venetian walls in their old town and each attracts thousands of tourists each year. However that is where the similarities end.
Kotor and it’s famed UNESCO World Heritage centre reminded me of a cross between Venice and Dubrovnik. Narrow winding streets and stones so well trodden they have become slippy underfoot. Add together millennia of history from various from various occupiers and it provides for a great cultural stop in Southern Europe.
Kotor is set in the natural Gulf Of Kotor, part of the rugged Adriatic coast. It is surrounded by high sided cliffs, coupled with the historic fortified centre it makes for a spectacular and interesting place to visit. In recent years Montenegro has seen a large increase in tourism, with Kotor being the most heavily impacted by this. Many of these arrive by cruise ships, swelling the numbers especially in the middle of the day. As mentioned Kotor reminded me of Venice, with its slippery cobbled streets adorned with outside seating with ubiquitous seafood and pizza restaurants. There was a calmness to the city after dark, with only minimal noise coming a few bars, most of these shut down by midnight in line with the older clientele the city attracts.
Top things to do in Kotor:
- Wander the Old Town, soaking up the history and architecture from Ottoman, Venetian and Habsburg eras.
- Hike up to Sveti Ivan (St John) Fortress, 280 metres for great views of Kotor Harbour
- Take a boat trip or bus to Perast to visit the islet of St George and Our Lady of the Rocks
Budva on the other hand, attracts more of a party crowd, the beaches are ridiculously busy during peak season and the bars are full of drunken Europeans and Russians.
Budva does have beaches (unlike Kotor) but they are seriously full in the high season, check out the photo below for what it was like when I was there! The food scene in Budva seem to consist of burger bars and pizza takeaways. There are also casinos, bungee jumps, beach clubs and pool parties.
Top things to do in Budva:
- Party on the beach at a foam party
- Win or lose a fortune at Merit Casino in Hotel Splendid (where parts of James Bonds’ Casino Royale was filmed)
- Check out the little mermaid statue at Mogren Beach
The coastline in this part of Montenegro is spectactular but it is interesting to see the way 2 towns this close to each other have developed so differently. In summary therefore I would say if you want to party head to Budva and if you want to do some historical sightseeing and have some nice food and drink experiences head to the scenic Kotor.