When deciding where to visit in Montenegro, it can be difficult to choose between its two most popular destinations. Whether you opt for Kotor or Budva though, you really can’t go wrong!
Both are unbelievably beautiful, have adorable old towns, and are set in spellbinding spots along the country’s coast. What’s more, it only takes roughly half an hour to reach one from the other so you can always visit both if you have the time.
While Budva is best for beaches and nightlife, Kotor’s unrivalled location and views make it an absolute must when in Montenegro.
Often described as the ‘crown jewel of Montenegro’, Kotor lies along the breathtakingly blue bay of the same name, surrounded by magnificent mountains. Its atmospheric old town is lots of fun to explore with charming squares, churches, and palaces wherever you look.
Aside from climbing up to the historic fortress above Kotor and basking in its astounding views, you can also take scenic boat trips about the bay.
As Kotor is so small, you can easily amble around its whole historic centre on foot. It is a rather steep and arduous climb up to its fortress though! Its quaint old cobblestones can also get a bit slippery when it rains.
If you want to visit any of its nearby towns, beaches, and nature spots, you can always just hop on a local bus or boat or hail a taxi.
While parking is a bit of a hassle in the high season, renting a car gives you way more freedom. Driving is very safe in Montenegro so in no time at all you’ll find yourself in Herceg Novi, Cetinje, or even Budva!
On their trip to Montenegro, most visitors arrive at either Podgorica Airport or the nearer but smaller Tivat Airport just fifteen minutes’ drive away. In contrast, the capital’s airport is either an hour and a half’s drive or a two-and-a-half hour train and then public bus journey away.
When debating whether to stay in Kotor or Budva, you won’t find all that much difference between their prices. Both also get very busy in the summer with the vast crowds of holidaymakers dropping off later in the year.
As such, choosing one or the other sort of boils down to what kind of experience you’re after!
Kotor has fewer accommodation options in comparison with Budva with most clustered about its old town. If you head outside a bit, you’ll find some nice places to stay at a cheaper price. They are also usually more boutique in style than the party town’s high-rise hotels and luxury resorts.
Prices can vary depending on what kind of accommodation option you’re after – with everything from hostel dorms to luxury hotels on offer. You will be able to find something to suit your budget.
Likewise, Kotor has fewer restaurants, bars, and places to eat than Budva. While you can enjoy some simple, tasty pasta and pizza dishes for less than €10, expect to pay at least between 30 and 40 for a proper sit-down meal for two with some wine.
Things to do in Kotor
Definitely one of the most beautiful places in the Balkans, Kotor’s main appeal is its enchanting old town and all the epic landscapes around it. The small town’s setting at the end of the Bay of Kotor and its spectacular views really are unrivalled.
As such, hiking up to Saint John’s Fortress above the town is one of the main things to do. From here, you can gaze out over all its red rooftops and the breathtaking bay stretching away before you. Although its 1,350+ steps are quite steep, the phenomenal panoramas make the climb well worth the effort!
Remarkably well-preserved, its old town is home to loads of attractive squares and streets lined by pretty palaces and churches. Enclosed by sturdy Venetian walls, getting lost amidst its alleys is the highlight of most people’s time in Kotor. Consider taking a walking tour if you want to learn more about the history of the city.
Aside from checking out some of its main symbols and sights like St. Tryphon’s Cathedral and the Clock Tower, there are a couple of small museums to stop by. While the Maritime Museum gives you more of an insight into its interesting past, the Kotor Cats Museum is sure to appeal to animal lovers!
Other than enjoying its ambience, architecture, and views, you can also take some amazing boat trips about the bay. The cute town of Perast nearby is a popular stop as is the small isle and old church of Our Lady of the Rocks in front of it. You can take an organised tour or a private tour around the Bay of Kotor to visit both of these sites.
If you’re after a more active holiday, there are some more exciting hikes to do in the mountains around it. Alternatively, Kotor also has some small beaches if you want to relax in its refreshing waters while basking in yet more unbelievable views of the bay.
Where to Stay in Kotor
Hotel Monte Cristo – This is a great hotel for couples or those looking for an upmarket option. They have a central location in Kotor’s Old Town, lovely rooms and a great breakfast each morning.
HealthyStudio512 – This place has both comfortable double rooms and furnished holiday apartments. They have a great, central location and plenty of good amenities for guests.
Old Town Kotor Hostel – Those after a hostel will love this centrally-located property. They have a variety of rooms available along with great common areas and a good social atmosphere.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Kotor hotels!
As Budva is famed for its lively nightlife, it is often described as the ‘Montenegrin Miami’. It does also have a lovely old town though and lots of stunning beaches to lounge on.
The seaside resort has a very vibrant feel to it with plenty of trendy restaurants, bars, and hotels to choose from. You can also take relaxing cruises along the beautiful Budva Riviera and enjoy the gorgeous coast of Montenegro.
Most places in Budva are again within easy walking distance of one another. Budva’s old town is very compact with idyllic beaches lying to either side of it. As such, it should take no time at all to first do some sightseeing and then sunbathe and swim in the sea!
Regular buses again whisk you up and down the coast to Kotor, Bar, or Sveti Stefan or inland to Podgorica. If you want a bit more flexibility though or would like to visit a few off-the-beaten-path destinations then renting a car can be a good idea.
More built-up and modern, the bustling coastal town is slightly better connected to the rest of the country than Kotor. It only takes an hour’s drive to reach Podgorica and its international airport; the main point of entry for most visitors.
The tiny Tivat Airport is the other main place people land, just half an hour’s drive to the west.
As aforementioned, there isn’t much of a price difference at all when it comes to Budva vs Kotor. While you may save a bit on accommodation and food as there are more options, entertainment, and nightlife might set you back a bit more!
You may find you spend a bit more on taxis than planned though as you’ll be itching to get to its nearby beaches as soon as possible!
Budva has a huge number of accommodation options that cater to every traveller. While hotels in and around the old town tend to be more expensive, many around its more modern centre are more affordable.
Like Kotor, rooms options range from hostel dorm beds to luxury hotels so there is definitely something that suits everyone’s budget. In general, you may find that Budva is slightly more affordable for the same quality of room.
The same goes for dining with the seaside town having some really nice seafood restaurants. If you’re on a bit of a budget, there are loads of fast food options and some fantastic local eateries with €9 menus. Budva’s famous nightlife may just persuade you to buy a drink or two though in one of its lively cafes!
Aside from accommodation, entertainment, eating out, and transport, your other main cost will be its attractions. These prices are about on par with those in Kotor, but it really depends on what you end up doing.
In addition, expect to pay between €15-30 for two sun loungers and a parasol when you go to the beach. Or just simply lounge on the sands/pebbles and top up your tan for free!
In the end, whether you choose Budva or Kotor, Montenegro is a very affordable country on the whole. Both can be visited relatively cheaply or luxuriously depending on how you like to travel.
Things to do in Budva
Backed by lush, green mountains with pristine beaches lying on either side of it, Budva also lies in a very scenic spot.
Although not quite as dramatic as Kotor, the seaside resort town is still a delightful place to spend a few days. While it also boasts an atmospheric old town and seaside promenade, most people come for its beaches, nightlife, and party vibe.
Bordering its Venetian walls, you can already find several stretches of sandy pebble beaches to lounge on. These can get very crowded in summer but do offer up lovely views over the Adriatic and old town.
One of the nicest nearby is Mogren Beach which is towered over by steep sea cliffs. Slovenska Beach on the other side of town is also very popular with lots more beaches scattered all along the surrounding coastline.
While there is a lively yet laidback vibe about Budva at all times of day, in the evening an excited buzz takes over everywhere. You’ll find loads of cool restaurants, bars, and cafes to try out with even some casinos and nightclubs also dotted about.
Budva does have its fair share of things to see and do though with its fifteenth-century citadel of course being its standout sight.
From its ramparts, you can get some great photos of the sea and the soaring bell tower of the Church of Sveti Ivan. Just wandering about its old town is also a very pleasant way to spend the day.
To top it all off, you can get on the water by taking a kayaking tour or snorkel excursions along the Budva Riviera.
Where to Stay in Budva
Garni Hotel Arka – This mid-range hotel is perfect for visitors to Budva. They offer a central location, air-conditioned rooms, breakfast, a lovely terrace and private parking for guests with a car.
Fontana Hotel & Gastronomy – This hotel is great for those looking for an upmarket stay in Budva. Well-located for exploring the town, they have free parking, breakfast and an on-site restaurant and bar.
Freedom Hostel – This highly-rated hostel is a great budget option. They have plenty of room choices. a great terrace, a well-equipped kitchen, a central location and fantastic common areas.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Budva hotels!
Kotor or Budva: The Verdict
So Kotor vs Budva which one is it going to be?!
Well, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a holiday. Both are definitely amazing places to visit with a lot going for them. While there are some similarities between them, just as much separates the two popular Montenegrin towns apart.
If you’re after a more relaxed atmosphere, a more authentic old town, and absolutely epic scenery, nature, and views, then Kotor is probably the place for you!
While lots of cruise passengers fill up its centre during the day, by 4 PM a quiet calm has fallen over all its romantic streets. With some brilliant hiking and boat trips also on offer, the historic seaport really has so much going for it.
While Kotor might ‘win’ when it comes to its history, nature, and location, Budva’s lovely beaches and fun nightlife attract just as many holidaymakers. With more accommodation and tasty dining options on offer, the town is also probably better suited for families.
Although a bit more touristy and over-developed, it still has a nice old town to explore. Its beaches, bars, and nightclubs are what most people come for though!
Two of the country’s top tourist destinations, Kotor and Budva are the best of what Montenegro has to offer up. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed a great time in the sun alongside the sparkling Adriatic Sea!
Are you planning to visit Montenegro? Have any questions about Budva and Kotor? Let us know in the comments!