Kotor in Montenegro is one of Europe’s hidden historical gems. It’s certainly not the most famous city in the continent, but it’s got a rich and illustrious past, having been inhabited for more than 2,000 years.
Although the Romans are officially credited with founding the city, the Greeks and then the Illyrians are also known to have inhabited the region before the Roman Empire rose to prominence. And that’s not all – Kotor has been ruled by no fewer than six powers, before becoming part of Yugoslavia and eventually Montenegro in more recent times.
After the Romans, it was the Byzantines who had control of Kotor, it then became a free city of Medieval Serbia, before being taken over by the Venetians and then the Hungarians. Kotor also spent a brief period as an independent republic, before once again falling back into the hands of the Venetians.
The French and then the Austrians rounded off the various powers to have held control of the city until it was incorporated into Yugoslavia.
As a result of all of these changes, the city is littered with buildings representing different architectural styles and is a real delight to explore on a stop as part of a wider Mediterranean cruise.
Sadly, many of these were damaged in an earthquake in 1979, but the majority of them have now been extensively restored, with the help of UNESCO.
So, what should you keep an eye out for when you visit Kotor for the first time? The beautiful Cathedral of Saint Tryphon is one of the most recognisable buildings in the city. It was first constructed in the 12th century, although earthquakes in centuries gone by have resulted in it being modified and altered as it was repaired.
The Church of Saint Mary and the Church of Saint Luke are other examples of the city’s early years, both dating from the 13th century. To get a taste of Kotor’s more recent history, pay a visit to the 17th-century Prince’s Palace, or Napoleon’s Theatre, which was constructed in the 19th century when the French controlled the city.
Head inland and you can discover the compelling Montenegrin landscape. With a backdrop of the rugged Balkan Mountains, Durmitor National Park is traversed by rivers and underground streams. Gaze in awe at the Tara Canyon, which is surrounded by dense pine forests and is one of the deepest gorges in the world.