Montenegro with Kids: The Best Things to Do
A 3-week road trip through the Balkan countries Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro was our favorite trip of 2017. We absolutely loved exploring these destinations! We had been to Croatia before, so we knew we would love it but the biggest surprise for us was how much we loved Montenegro!
Montenegro is Croatia's tiny neighbor to the south continuing down the Adriatic coastline. We drove to Montenegro from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Montenegro, meaning "Black Mountain," has large mountains that back right up to the coast. It is a dramatic scene with beautiful walled coastal towns and towering mountains right behind them.
We visited three cities Kotor, Budva, and Sveti Stefan. Here’s a breakdown of each city, what we did, what we loved, and practical tips!
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We spent our first afternoon wandering the town, popping in and out of shops, stopping for gelato...you know, the perfect European afternoon! If you are a photographer, you will love Kotor's white stone buildings and green shutters. There is something beautiful and charming to photograph around every corner. We enjoyed meandering, exploring, and looking at all the city's most famous residents...the cats!
Kotor is a popular cruise port and when there's a ship (or 2) in port, you will definitely feel the crowds. To get a better experience, try to stay at least one night so you can see the town after the cruise crowds have all left.
WHERE WE STAYED:
This charming family apartment inside the city walls. The owner was so helpful and accommodating. He also spoiled us with wine and chocolate from Montenegro. He was also a huge help in finding parking for our car and bringing our luggage up.
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**Sidenote: Kotor is car-free inside the city walls! We didn’t realize this when we showed up and it caused some momentary frustration.**
KOTOR CITY WALLS
The next day we knew we wanted to hike the city's walls or fortifications that wind up the mountain directly behind the town. The weather had been a bit overcast and raining on and off. So once there was a little window of sun, we decided to head up and see how far we could get with the kids and the weather cooperating.
There is a small fee to enter the trail, and at the church midway up there are people selling waters, some snacks, and trinkets so bring some cash. My daughter really appreciated the shopping stop to break up the hike. She smiled and chatted with a lady selling stuff and the lady ended up gifting her a little princess hair clip. This happened to us multiple times in Kotor. People were so kind to the kids and kept gifting them sweets or little trinkets.
The views from the walls are phenomenal. We had some cloud cover restricting the full view of the Bay of Kotor, so I can only imagine how wonderful the view must be on a clear day. Next time, I would try to get up the trail early in the morning for two reasons: fewer people and cooler temperatures.
While not overcrowded, the trail did have quite a few people on it and there was some waiting and jockeying for certain photo ops. It also was a little hot and sticky. The hike is all stairs and uphill. Add in a toddler who doesn't want to walk and now you're carrying extra weight.
Also, I totally get that you want to look cute in your photos with the amazing view, but be warned it's a little tricky with loose rocks and hiking up a mountain. Decent shoes are recommended for this one!
From Kotor we drove south to Budva. Our original plan was to stay here a few nights but upon the recommendation of someone who had lived in the Balkans for years, we opted to change our reservation to stay in Sveti Stefan instead. However, we still wanted to see Budva, so we just stopped there for the day. Budva is also a walled city right on the ocean. Unlike Kotor, it also had a couple of beaches for sunbathing and swimming.
The best thing we did in Budva was walking a path along the rocky coast to the right of the main beach. It gave us great views of the old city and led to a more secluded Mogren beach. If we had more time to spend, we definitely would've camped on that beach all day!
Our final stop on the trip was possibly our favorite. Although it is hard for me to pick between Sveti Stefan and Kotor. Sveti Stefan has a tiny little peninsula that juts out from the mainland. This little patch of land is completely private and can only be accessed if you are staying at the resort or one of the rentals on it. It is very exclusive and very expensive. But not to worry, if that's not quite in your budget, there are plenty of other hotels and apartments you can stay at where you can enjoy the dreamy view of the peninsula.
The beach in Sveti Stefan was rocky (like most other European beaches) but the water was warm and clear. There's plenty of chairs to rent, and also paddle boats if you wanted to paddle out on the ocean for a bit.
There is a restaurant called Olive not far from the beach, and there is a playground outside. It is always nice for the kids to get some playtime before asking them to sit nicely at a restaurant for dinner. Our first night in Sveti Stefan also happened to be our son's 2nd birthday. The waiters were very sweet and brought him a chocolate cake and sang to him. It was unexpected but very appreciated!
Sveti Stefan was a nice relaxing oasis. We didn't tour around, no hiking, no sightseeing. We just hung out on the beach and enjoyed relaxing and the beautiful views! It is a welcome respite after enduring the crowds of Dubrovnik and Kotor.
Tip: Bring water shoes. The beaches along the Adriatic coast are rocky and will hurt your feet! Our kids wear Native Shoes and I have a pair of Crocs.
WHERE WE STAYED:
This hotel where our room had a nice balcony overlooking the water and the peninsula. Once again the host was extremely kind and welcoming to our small children. The hotel has a small pool (perfectly sized for our little swimmers) and a beautiful sun deck. Across the street are a few restaurants that are good for breakfast.
Find Accomodations in Montenegro:
I'm the first one to say that I absolutely love Croatia. I love the gorgeous blue water, the warm summer air, the beautiful architecture of the old cities. Montenegro also has all those features but is still a little bit under the radar (though I'm sure it will quickly catch up). So go there quickly, before everyone else figures out how wonderful it is! We found it to be less crowded and less expensive than Croatia but equally as beautiful and charming.
Kotor is an easy day trip from Dubrovnik, but Montenegro is really deserving of its own dedicated vacation. Besides the three coastal towns we visited, there are many more. There are also some expansive national parks inland that have great hiking and kayaking opportunities.
We had a rental car and found the driving to be relatively easy, but there are winding mountain roads. Be sure to check with your car rental agency if you will be driving from another country because sometimes there are country restrictions on where they will allow you to take the car, or you may need special documentation.
If you've been to Montenegro, I'd love to hear your experiences! Or if you have questions please feel free to reach out!