Visiting Montenegro with kids is a must. Montenegro was one of my top spots of 2015 and its family friendly attitude was one of the main reasons.
When I mention Montenegro to most family’s they look at me blankly. Maybe it’s me but I thought this place was sort of done. It got voted a “top new destination” so many times I expected it to be crawling with tours and impossible to travel in. Not so. The beaches were crowded in places like Budva and Ulcinj when we visited in August but no more than anywhere else in Europe at this time of year. Mainly the most astonishing part of visiting Montenegro was its incredible nature. We explored the mountains and coastline for a few weeks but still didn’t get to see all the top “attractions”. What made Montenegro extra special for me was its people. They are super proud of their incredibly beautiful country. They are warm and generous both with their time and humor and best of all they love kids! We felt welcome everywhere from restaurants to cafe’s to our accommodation, busses and beaches. Someone was always offering Oscar a biscuit a smile or a helping hand up a tree!
KOTOR MONTENEGRO WITH KIDS
Kotor is really a breathtaking destination. Just the journey to reach it is so scenic but the first glimpse certainly doesn’t disappoint. The town is incredible lets not forget its a Unesco world heritage site. Its like stepping on to a movie set. Tiny cobbled streets filled with treasure. Restaurants, antique shops and some fantastic local arts and crafts.
We spent several days just walking around the maze and getting lost. There was a ton of stuff happening in this tiny medieval town too. Live music, street theater, concerts and even just the general hustle bustle of daily life was fascinating. Oscar loved exploring all the tiny alleways and he also loved meeting all the cats. Kotor has a lot of cats and with that also come the Cattaro of Kotor. Yep a cat museum. If nothing else just visit it so you can add it to your “weird list of museums I have visited”. Along with the Kaleidoscope museum its up there in my top 5!
When you visit a town one of the most important things for me is always where you stay. We stayed in at another incredible airbnb. Marijana and Victor are a couple who run a local clothing store and have great local knowledge. They sent us to some neighborhood restaurants and cafes and generally were just interesting people to meet. I’m drawing up my top 2015 airbnb spots as we speak and these guys will feature heavily 🙂 A sample of a wonderful fresh 5Euro meal they recommended to us.
Kotor also has a fantastic childrens park near the marina that we spent a few late afternoons in. Me with icecream in hand less not forget this wonderful seaside tradition.
While we were in town the park also hosted a small fair with bouncy castles and little cars you could rent and drive around. This was excellent fun if a little nerve racking so close to the pier 😉 Looming over the city of Kotor is its famous fortification built during Ilirian times and added to through the century’s by Romans and many more. It was used all the way up to WWII which is pretty crazy. I cant recommend this hike enough.
The view is just astounding and you can see the entire bay of Kotor which is often names the biggest inland Fjord in Europe. You can also see the unusual triangular shape of The old Town of Kotor which is locally called Stari Grad incase you are taking an interest in the local lingo. Back to the hike. How hard is it with kids. Well its not easy but I made it with Oscar on my back all 1200m. I did start early around 8am in order to beat the heat and this made the view really incredible as the sun crept over the city. If you have older kids they will really enjoy counting all the steps and clambering over the fortifications. Oscar managed to walk the whole way down and he was around 22 months old at the time. We met some pretty interesting people too and of course gained another stick!
Food in the centre is expensive. Visit local markets or restaurants outside the old city walls to spend almost half as much money. We had a kitchen in our place which was very useful. I find evening meals with kids grueling at times and just cant wait to be home alone.
I HATED all the cruise ships. Kotor make it stop. As you can see above I really did try and see beyond.
Kotor has a small local beach which is great but a short trip to my next suggestion Perast is well worth it.
PERAST MONTENEGRO WITH KIDS
Although Kotor had a really nice shingle beach with a small bar and restaurant we didn’t ever go there in the day. Maybe its the proximity to the city sort of didn’t make sense as a beach I’m not really sure or the cruise ships, not my favorite topic sorry. Anyway what we did do was take a bus about 15 minutes down the road to the picturesque village of Perast. The reason most people will know or here of Perast is its proximity to two islands homes to the beautiful Benedictine Abbey of Saint George (built 1166) and Our lady of the Rock.
Perast as a settlement is over 600 years old but its beautiful Baroque palaces almost 20 in total were mainly built by rich merchant and pirate fighting families in the 17th and 18th century. The city museum is fascinating but for us the nicest part was the tiny beach. You do have to pay for sun loungers here but in my opinion this was worth the money, the view, the ocean and a few ice cold drinks need to be snuck into a budget from time to time.
Very family friendly with shallow water along the shore to paddle, wade swim or even fish in. Perast has lots of lovely restaurants too and a lovely promenade to watch the sunset from. My favorite basketball court is also located here. I mean what a view.
CETINJE MONTENEGRO WITH KIDS
The most underrated town. Cetinje is the perfect place to visit in Montenegro with kids. No one really talks about this place and maybe they are all just trying to keep it a secret, who knows? We loved our time in Cetinje so much so that we stayed an extra 2 nights. Initially we visited just to reach the famous Lovcen national park and the mausoleum of Montenegro’s famous poet Njegos but like I said a few days revealed there was a lot more to the this town.
Cetinje used to be Montenegros capital city and now is a mix of colorful cafe filled streets and leafy parks. Below is a typical cafe playground set up. Why cant more places have these please?
There is a number of museums to visit and weirdly a large number of embassy’s. Cetinje has a rich history of arts and culture and was ruled by some very progressive leaders making it once a modern and cosmopolitan capital on a par with other European cities. Many famous scientists, poets and painters came to spend time in its atmospheric backdrops of the national park and the dolomite mountains or “black mountains” giving the country its Latin name Montenegro.
Most notable the British Poet Lord Tennyson both visited and wrote about it. We also loved all the parks and child friendly cafes and spent an incredible day visiting Njegos’s mausoleum. It’s a very unique place. Again we truck Airnbn gold staying in La Vecchia Casa a home build in 1892. The hosts Petar and his mother were people I only wish I had more time to spend with. There enchanting historical family home had a very special atmosphere much like Cetinje itself. The apple orchard garden complete with outdoor shower andmost importantly a Oscar safe fence all around meant I could truly relax.
BUDVA MONTENEGRO WITH KIDS
We didnt spend any time in Budva mainly as it was August and everything was very very crowded and busy. This isnt my scene at all. It is worth mentioning though that Budva has the most child friendly bus station I have ever visited in the entire world. It has a sort of rainforest cafe complete with peacocks and great cakes. The crowning glory of this bus station ( I know this is so weird but stick with me here) is its indoor play area. Slides, merry go rounds, ball pools and a lovely lady looking out for all the kids. If you need to stop to change buses here you will be pleasently surprised. Oh and did I mention the cake?
ULCINJ MONTENEGRO WITH KIDS
Ah Ulcinj the scene of my most recent travel disaster. Im not going to go into too much detail here but lets just say some hotel owners at the end of August are really really rude and think that just because they earned a bunch of cash over the summer they can now behave like the inner assholes they really are. Kicker was I had food poisoning. You can read more here.. Just don’t stay at Casa Susanna the guys just need to retire and get it over with. Like a number of city’s on the Adriatiac coast Ulcinj is also divided into the old town and new town. The old town here is a little less developed then say Dubrovnik. Its streets are a little rickety and cobbled and not ideal for a buggy so I would avoid one if you can. There are however lots of quaint little vistas with amazing seafood restaurants.
The beach and harbor are very child friendly with ice cream parlors, sandwich and pizza stops and a shallow long curving beach with sun loungers for rent. The city has more of a Turkish feel to is then a Dalmatian vibe but is worth a visit. Max 2 nights in my opinion is enough.
A few things I wanted to add about our particular journey.
We traveled everywhere by bus. Dubrovnik to Kotor, Kotor to Cetinje, Cetinje Budva and changed to go from Budva to Ulcinj then Ulcinj to Dubrovnik. The roads are good but narrow and winding something I just don’t enjoy driving in August so I leave it to the experts. I wouldnt say the buses were anything to write home about but they are on time, frequent and we never had any issues. The food on Montenegro is great and affordable with exception to Kotor old town which in my opinion was pricey. Saying that I don’t travel on a huge budget and Im always keenly aware of what the value of things are. I am still sad i missed the monastery at Ostrog and Skadar lake as well as Tivat but I honestly think Montenegro is one of the few places in the world I can say ” I will be back”! What is really nice about Montenegro is that it still feels unique, the world of mass market chains and western ways still hasn’t infiltrated the local mom and pop shops, ok they have an Aman resort though 🙂 local boutiques and DIY styles and that makes it even more special. Visit soon before this is no longer true.
Montenegro with kids. What to do and where to go?