One of the most beautiful bays along the Adriatic coast, Boka Kotorska, or the Bay of Kotor, has a rich and illustrious history stretching all the way back to ancient Greece, when it was a province of Illyria.
You really feel how ancient it is as you walk through the winding stone streets of the cities and towns scattered along it.
Kotor is the biggest city in this area. Its architecture and urban layout is similar in lots of ways to Split and Hvar, other popular tourist destinations along the Adriatic. I have to say I absolutely love these Dalmatian cities. I love their white stone houses, the wooden shuttered windows, the salty smell of the sea and the many fantastic cafés, bars and restaurants all over.
Kotor has recently been voted one of Europe’s best destinations for a weekend break. It’s easy to see why – a charming Medieval town a stone’s throw from nature, with plenty to see and do, and lots of great hotels and B&Bs available. To be honest, we didn’t do much apart from eating our way around the city, but since eating is a really big part of Dalmatian culture, I dare say we ticked off the most important box on the list.
We took a walking tour here with Raian, one of the guides who are part of a small collective tour agency called Miro and Sons. We highly recommend this guy. He was engaging and knew how to tell a great story. He also knows the history of Kotor like the back of his hand and can tell you the story behind things as prominent as the clock tower to things as small as some random relic in a church.
The cities of Kotor Bay, and Kotor in particular, exhibit a wide variety of architectural influences, although the most prominent are the styles and customs that stem from the Orthodox and Catholic churches, and also from the time Venice was a big power in the region.
The influence of Venice is everywhere in Perast, with its Baroque palaces and Catholic churches. I enjoyed our afternoon here in this quiet town across the bay from Kotor. You can of course visit some of the churches – there are plenty, Catholic and Orthodox alike – but we chose to spend our time sipping wine and eating seafood in one of the many restaurants along the shore.
The buildings here are full of character and authentically preserved, and like Kotor, filled with varied architecture of great quality. As you stroll along the bay, you’ll notice how each building differs slightly from the other, yet how all their styles come together quite harmoniously.
I absolutely adore all the little details that stand out – a decorated awning, a doorway carved with floral motifs, a balcony over-hanging with creepers – such touches make the place truly alive.
Both Kotor and Perast can become a little overwhelming if there are large cruise ships in the harbour. During such time, these small cities can become overrun with tourists, which I feel they do not have the capacity to handle adequately.
Nevertheless, despite their small size, there is always a secret spot to be found somewhere among their winding streets, where one can enjoy a glass of wine, or three, in peace.
Once a mill, this wonderful property has now been converted into one of Montenegro’s finest – if not the finest – restaurant. The menu at Ćatovića Mlini focuses primarily on fish, and it would be a pity to go for anything else… although they do serve the famous cheese and pršut from Njeguši, which you absolutely should try.
The property itself is stunning. A private estate with a huge garden and a large outdoor seating area, perfect for the many months of lovely weather in this part of Montenegro.
Everything in this restaurant is perfect. From the freshly baked bread served with local olive oil to the perfectly prepared seafood and wine pairings. Ćatovića Mlini is a restaurant that will hold its own on the global stage – naturally, as Dalmatia is one of the best places in the world for fine dining, and this restaurant is one of the best in the region.
The seafood we had was divine and wonderfully prepared, accompanied by creative sides. Between the amazing food, wine and wonderful setting, we had a truly amazing experience here, and would not hesitate to return for a second meal.