Kotor, Montenegro – Byzantine walled city? yes! Adriatic fjord? hmm… not exactly 2

The locals like to call the Bay of Kotor a fjord, but in truth it isn’t. Fjords are carved out by glaciers, whereas the Bay of Kotor, in Montenegro, is simply a flooded river valley.

Disappointed? You needn’t be.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Bay of Kotor. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Kotor – the Old City

The city dates back to 168 BCE. At the time it was known as Acruvium, and was part of the Roman Empire (don’t forget Italy lies on the opposite shore of the Adriatic Sea, less than 200 kilometres away).

Kotor moat, Montenegro

The moat beyond the fortress walls. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The fortress that enclosed the Old City – the walls of which stretch for 4.5 kilometres – was built in 535 CE, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (who is affectionately known as the Last Roman due to his efforts and ambitions to revive the Roman Empire).

Walled city of Kotor, Montenegro

The fortress of Kotor. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The city saw its fair share of conflict in the ensuing millennia, being at times occupied by the First Bulgarian Empire, the Hungarian Empire, the Bosnians, the Boka, the Slovenians, the Serbians, the Venetians, and the Ottomans.

Walled city of Kotor, Montenegro

Photo credit: Benjamin White

It fell under the control of the House of Habsburgs in 1797 CE, became part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy in 1805, and then the French Empire’s Illyrian Province in 1810.

Walled city of Kotor, Montenegro

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The city was sacked by the Ostrogoths in 5th Century CE, pillaged by the Saracens in 840 CE, and attacked by the British in 1814 CE. It was an Austro-Hungarian military base in WWI, and was occupied by Italy in WWII,

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, Kotor

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, Kotor, Montenegro

Cathedral of Saint Tryphon. Photo credit: Benjamin White

This Roman Catholic Church, sitting at the rear of a small, attractive plaza, is the most photographed sight in town. The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon was built in 1166 CE, on top of an older church from 809 CE.

Walled city of Kotor, Montenegro

Photo credit: Benjamin White

These days the Old City of Kotor – and Montenegro in general – is quite the tourist destination; super yachts and cruise ships regularly line the harbour.

Viewpoint on the Kotor-Cetinje Road

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Bay of Kotor might not be a real fjord, but it’s certainly a windy, convoluted, dramatic coastline – for great views try the viewpoint on the Kotor-Cetinje Road.

Practical Information:

Kotor can be reached as an easy day trip from Dubrovnik, Croatia. But if you come on a day trip you’ll be jammed in with all the other day-trippers. Stay the night and you’ll have the place to yourself. More transport info here.

Read more on the Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor in the UNESCO World Heritage listing.

More on the Balkans:


Berat – stunning, unrestored Ottoman Architecture + untouched Illyrian ruins

Berat Castle – Illyrian fortress, rebuilt by Byzantines, becomes ‘the White City’

Bosnia and Herzegovina:

Sarajevo – Franz Ferdinand, and the Jerusalem of Europe

Mostar – 427-year old bridge, blown up 1994, rebuilt 2004


Magura Cave – Stone Age cave paintings with a focus on fertility rituals

Veliko Tarnovo – See Tsarevets Fortress. Behold Execution Rock


Pristina – capital of the newborn country complete with Bill Clinton statue

Republic of Macedonia:

Ohrid – want a meditative lake view? try St John at Kaneo

Skopje, capital of newly-named Northern Macedonia

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2 thoughts on “Kotor, Montenegro – Byzantine walled city? yes! Adriatic fjord? hmm… not exactly

  • Karen White

    How very scenic. That’s a beautiful view. Would love to see it. I’ve never really known where Montenegro was actually. I knew it was involved in the WWI though. It might have to go on the bucket list seeing it so close to Dubrovnik