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Perast is a tiny, idyllic village on the breathtaking Bay of Kotor (Boka Bay) in Montenegro. Despite a mere population of 247, Perast’s rich history, ancient architecture, jaw-dropping views, and romantic waterfront restaurant patios make it a captivating destination.
The village occupies a thin, sloping strip of land between Mrčevac road (E80), the main roadway around the Bay of Kotor, and Obala Marka Martinovića a low-traffic lane running along the waterfront. 400 meters off the coast, the islets of St. George (Sveti Đorđe) and Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) are occupied by majestic churches that seem to float on the bay.
Most people visit Perast as a half-day trip from Kotor, which is a 20-minute drive away. While you can’t miss Kotor (see why in my detailed guide to Kotor and visiting Kotor with kids), we actually liked Perast more, and wished we could have stayed for even longer than two nights.
Note that Kotor and Perast are only a few hours’ drive south of popular Dubrovnik in Croatia (read about our family trip to Croatia and how we avoided the crowds in Dubrovnik and our next stops after that, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Skradin (the gateway to Croatia’s Krka National Park), Lake Bled, Slovenia, which we visited in the November low season, and our trip to Salzburg, Austria with kids.
Compared to Kotor, Perast is much smaller, far more laid back, and in the evening it becomes dead quiet. It’s the kind of place many tourists add a quick side trip and wish they’d devoted more space in their itinerary to. Without a doubt, it is one of the most photogenic places in Montenegro!
Below I’ll introduce everything you need to know for planning a trip to Perast, whether you are stopping for a few hours or spending several nights. I’ll cover how to get to Perast, things to do in Perast, where to stay in Perast, and where to eat in Perast.
A Brief History of Perast
The area around Perast has been settled going as far back as the Neolithic period. Perast was originally founded by the Illyrians, an Indo-European tribe, and has records as an important fishing village dating to 1336.
The village occupies a strategic position facing the narrow entrance to the Bay of Kotor. With time, it developed into a great naval force in the region.
The tiny natural islet of St. Geroge (Sveti Đorđe), which consists mostly of the 12th century Saint George Benedictine monastery, is right in front of Perast, while the neighboring artificial islet of Our Lady of the Rocks was constructed by sinking and piling up captured ships with rocks, and now has a church on it as well.
Perast prospered in the Venetian period, when its defensive towers and the Fortress of St. Cross were built above town. The city grew to include over 20 baroque palazzi (palaces), 18 churches, and an important maritime school. This explains why the village has a distinctly Venetian feel to it even today, and an unusually high concentration of churches for what is now a much smaller village than it used to be.
After Venice fell to Napoleon, Perast (like most of Montenegro) was taken over by Austrians, Italians, and the French before becoming part of Yugoslavia. Finally Montenegro achieved independence in 2006.
Like nearby Kotor, Perast’s popularity has spiked in recent years, in part as the tourists spill over from Dubrovnik in Croatia, and in part because the word is out about how beautiful Montenegro is.
While some of Perast’s ancient edifices remain in various states of ruin, others are being carefully renovated, adding new life to this compelling destination.
Things to Do in Perast
For such a tiny village, there are plenty of things to do in Perast. You can cover the main Perast attractions detailed below in half a day or less, but add to that some time spent at the beach or reading a book in a sun chair on the dock in front of your hotel, and you may want to stay for a week.
Visit St. Nicholas’ (St. Nikola) Church
St Nicholas’ Catholic Church (Rimokatolička crkva Svetog Nikole) is the heart of Perast. The church was built in 1616, but replaced a church dating to 1564. A newer church was later built behind it but was never completed, and the name “St. Nikola Church” refers to both.
Officially the church is open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (10:30 to 6 on Sundays), but we found that it was sometimes closed at random during our stay. The main entrance will bring you into a small side chapel which is free to visit, while for a fee of 1€ you gain access to the church’s main room and small treasury of valuable items.
I would personally recommend paying to enter the main room, because it’s the only way to see the church’s most beautiful section, the domed room at the center.
In front of the church is the Main Square of Perast, with some statues of famous residents on Perast such as the one below.
Climb the Bell Tower
Connected to the Church of St. Nicholas, the 55-meter Perast Bell Tower provides an incredible view of Perast and the Bay of Kotor.
For another 1€ (separate from the church treasury entrance fee), you can climb up a very steep, narrow staircase to the top of the tower. Exercise caution, as the staircase is crumbling in parts, and you’ll have to duck down low under some jagged sections of wall while climbing up. Children under 15 are not permitted to climb the tower.
The Bell Tower seems to have more limited opening hours than the church, opening around 10:00 a.m. daily, closing whenever the bell needs to be rung, and closing entirely for the winter season from around mid-October to mid-May.
If you don’t get a chance to climb the tower, you can also enjoy an equally stunning view of the bay by climbing the stairs up past the church to the highway and walking along to find a good viewing spot. That’s how I got the below shot of Our Lady of the Rocks (telephoto lens required!)
Ride a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks
If you didn’t already visit Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) on a boat tour from Kotor, then there are regular boats from the waterfront in Perast (5€ return per person, young children free) running from around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There seem to be a few companies operating, so you’ll be given a ticket and can just take any boat run by the same company to go back. You may also be able to barter with private boats, but make sure you settle on a price and ensure that the price is for a return trip. You’ll only need around 30 minutes on the island.
Boats depart from Marina Perast and a few other docks in town, and most pass right by the Island of St. George, where visitors are not allowed, so you can have a look. The island’s Benedictine monastery conceals a cemetery where important people from the area were once buried.
Arriving at Our Lady of the Rocks, you can look down in the water to see the rocks piled up (you won’t be able to see the sunken ships). Every year, locals continue adding to the pile, which supports the island, by tossing more rocks into the water at the sides of the island during a festival.
After walking around the island and snapping photos of the church, you can enter the small chapel (2€, young kids free), including a museum of naval artifacts and artworks on the first and second floors.
You may be lucky and have the island mostly to yourself, but what’s more likely is that large tour groups will come and go and clog the tiny island and church. It seemed nearly impossible to avoid, even when we visited first thing in the morning in the shoulder season.
Enjoy the View from Perast Museum
Although Perast seems to have more palaces than normal houses, most of them are either private residences, in ruins, or have been converted into hotels.
If you’d like to see inside of one, the 18th-century baroque Bujovic Palace, former residence of Captain Visko Bujovic, now houses the Perast Museum (Muzej grada Perasta or Perast Maritime Museum).
The museum’s small collection covers Perast’s Maritime History (if you’re not into that, you may find it boring and be out in five minutes), but I paid the admission mainly for the outstanding picture-postcard view of Perast from the second-floor balcony. You can essentially get the same view from the dock in front of the museum, but the patio gives you some elevation to get even better shots.
Entrance to the museum is 4€ (1€ for children up to 12, young children free), and the museum is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The entrance fee is waived for those with a Bay of Kotor Hop-On-Hop-Off bus pass.
Climb up to Our Lady of the Rosary Church
The 17th-century Our Lady of the Rosary Church (“Rimokatolička Crkva Gospe od Ružarija” on GoogleMaps) is a Catholic Church. It sits up on the hill at the northwestern end of town, only a few minutes from the waterfront on foot, just below the highway. It was the family chapel of the adjacent Zmajević Palace, which is closed to the public. The palace is also known as the Bishop’s Palace (Biskupija), and was built in 1664 by bishop & poet Andrija Zmajevic
The church itself is closed (you can peer into it), but the most notable feature is its tall octagonal belfry (the tower in the photo above), one of the tallest structures in Perast.
I would recommend walking up to have a look and enjoy the excellent views looking down on Perast and the Bay of Kotor. The staircase up to it is located at the back-right of a small parking lot across from Marina Perast, just east of Palace Jelena Hotel.
You’ll pass the tiny 9th-century (!) Church of the Holy Spirit along the way.
Another option, and exactly what I did, is to do a loop by following the stairs from Saint Nikolas Church up to the highway, walk northwest along the highway, then follow the staircase down to Our Lady of the Rosary Church and continue down to the waterfront.
Gaze at More Palaces and Churches
Just walking along the waterfront road, you’ll spot numerous palaces and churches, the more significant ones of which are marked and dated with red signs. Note that the term “palaces” is used to describe what were very luxurious homes in their day; some of them are not actually very large.
Beginning at the western end of town and walking southeast, you’ll pass the following:
– Bujovic Palace: see “Perast Museum” section above
– St. John the Baptist Church: a small 16th-century church sandwiched between buildings and set back from the main road
– Jelena Palace: now houses Jelena Palace Hotel and restaurant
– Smekja Palace: a striking white palace that is the most impressive in town, dating to 1764, and now houses Iberostar Hotel Perast. It is right next to the Perast Marina, where boats depart to Our Lady of the Rocks.
– St. Mark’s Church (Rimokatolička Crkva sv. Marka): right beside Iberostar Hotel and, according to one reviewer, now owned by it. The beautiful Venetian church is always closed, but it’s worth admiring from the lovely square in front of it.
– Palača Brajković-Martinović: now houses Heritage Leon Coronato Hotel, named after the original inhabitant, of the Brajković-Martinović family
– Conte Hotel: a protected heritage building that once housed the Home of Culture, and now has Perast’s most famous restaurant, of the same name
– St. Nikola Church (see above)
– Palača Visković and Palača Balović: set back from the main road on a narrow lane
– Palača Mazarović: with ruins visible above the fire station from the waterfront road
You can read more about the churches of Perast here.
Perast Beach and Pirate Bar
Perast has a very small pebble beach (Peskovita plaža Perast) at the far northwestern (furthest from Kotor) end of town, below the parking lot. The water here is very clear and views are stunning.
In summer (June to September), Pirate Bar takes over the adjacent dock and is extremely popular. Sunchairs and umbrellas are available for hire and a beach/party vibe takes over. When we visited in mid-October, the water was on the verge of too cold to go in, but we had the beach entirely to ourselves, and it was still warm enough to bask in the sunshine.
It is also possible to climb or jump into the water from many boat docks in town. The water is very clear and has a surprising number of fish.
Where to Stay in Perast
Like in nearby Kotor, we found the hotels in Perast to be pleasantly (even surprisingly) cheap for what you get. And since Perast is so narrow, almost all the accommodations in town are right on the waterfront or a few steps from it.
In Perast you can stay in palaces of the city’s former nobility. On the budget end, there are loads of apartments well under $100 per night, and most reviews I read emphasized the enthusiastic hospitality of the hosts, which is always a deal breaker for us. Search here for the best Airbnb apartments in Perast.
Our Budget Accommodation in Perast
After spending quite some time perusing apartments in Perast, we went with Waterfront Haven amid Medieval Palaces of Boka, near Bronza Palace at the quieter eastern end of town.
Our lovely host was a retired woman who keeps her summer home there. The apartment is in a 300-year-old building, with a balcony in each bedroom with views of the sea. At the back, there was a lovely patio with shade provided by a kiwi tree. The apartment was perfect for our family, and one of the cheapest places we stayed on our two-month European trip!
Other budget places we seriously considered are Beachfront Villa Perast, which would be perfect for a family or larger group, and even has a pool, and this beautiful waterfront property with a balcony facing the sea.
Mid-Range and Luxury Perast Hotels
Conte Hotel & Restaurant (see prices / read reviews) is a high value choice, with excellent rooms at reasonable prices, and what is widely considered the best restaurant on the waterfront (see below).
Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato (see prices / read reviews) is another exceptional and highly rated property in a beautiful building right on the water. The restaurant patio out front has a small playground suitable for toddlers or young children.
Where to Eat in Perast
One of the quintessential things to do in Perast is to dine at one of the 10 or so waterside restaurants. These patios overlook the Bay of Kotor, and are particularly romantic in the early evening. The menus are predictably seafood heavy, with Italian and Montenegrin fare represented.
Walking from west to east, these are the waterfront restaurants we saw during our recent stay, most of which are operated by hotels: Jelena Palace restaurant, Armonia, Riva Terrace (Iberostar Hotel), Fish Restaurant Djardin (Heritage Leon Coronato Hotel), Conte (the most famous and popular restaurant in Perast), Admiral, and Nauta.
We really loved our meal at Konoba Skolji, which specializes in seafood and meats cooked “under the bell,” and is not directly on the water like most restaurants in town (just a few feet away from it). I had grilled octopus, while my wife enjoyed lamb, their top specialty, which is slow cooked for multiple hours. Both were truly excellent.
Don’t be surprised when an army of cats shows up at your table at dinnertime in Perast, just like we experienced in Kotor!
How to Get to Perast
Perast is located approximately 10 kilometers from Kotor. Blue line buses between the two take about 25 minutes and run every half an hour. You can hop on the bus on the main road just north of the Old Town of Kotor, and it drives right down into Perast.
There are many other long distance buses running along the highway that you can hop on between Kotor and Perast, but you’ll only get dropped off at the highway stop and have to walk down into Perast (5-10 minutes). If you’ve got a lot of luggage (or kids + luggage like we did), then taking the bus is not recommended.
If you’re driving to Perast, there are parking lots at either end of the town charging 2€ for the day. By taxi, we paid around 22€ from Kotor Old Town to our hotel in Perast.
The Bay of Kotor Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus is a convenient way to get to Perast and other towns in the bay. It even includes the entrance to Perast Museum, Roman Mosaics in Risan, and a guided walking tour in Kotor.
Well, I hope you’ve found all the information you needed for planning your trip in this detailed Perast guide. If you’ve got any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below!
I never travel without a good guidebook! Here are a few highly recommended ones, plus some beautiful artwork featuring Perast: