If we were listing destinations in Montenegro based on levels of romance, Perast would be in a league of its own. Just a short drive from the centre of Kotor, the village manages the seemingly impossible reality of being hidden from the world but very much known, a contradiction that shapes much of Perast’s history. The village is secluded, tucked away off the road between Kotor and Risan, but it has influenced and informed history for centuries. For years, it was a centre of shipbuilding, a place famous for its naval engineers and scientists, so elite that Peter the Great sent young Russians here to learn the craft from local experts.
Today, Perast is more focused on building memories, with tourism long replacing shipbuilding as the primary source of income and romance replacing construction. It is an utterly beautiful place, with the dramatic St. Ilija hill providing a dramatic backdrop to a warren of old stone houses and glimmering charm. If you are looking for Montenegro’s most romantic spot, look no further than Perast, no matter your idea of romance.
Perast, nestled beneath the Saint Elijah Hill, enjoys a strategic location on a cape separating the Bay of Risan and the Bay of Kotor, smaller bays within the grand Boka Kotorska Bay. The town overlooks the Verige strait, the narrowest part of Boka Bay, a location of significant strategic importance. The strait, named after the large chains that were once raised from both shorelines to prevent enemy boats from entering the bay, protected the wealth of the flourishing settlements of Morinj, Risan, Perast, and Kotor.
Today, Perast is a significant and popular tourist center in Montenegro. Right in the center of the Bay of Kotor, Perast faces its entrance and is positioned to receive the maximum sun throughout the year. The town, built by Medieval rulers and affluent Venetian sailors, consists of beautiful churches and palaces well-preserved under the Montenegrin sun.
Perast, named after the Illyrian tribe of Pirusta, is near two small islands in the Boka Bay: the natural Saint George Island, linked to numerous Medieval legends, and the man-made Gospa od Skrpjela or Our Lady of the Rock, built in the late 15th century. Both islands, with their surreal picturesque appearance, are rich with stories and hold fascinating attractions. Saint George Island, surrounded by sturdy stone walls and hidden by tall cypresses, houses a local graveyard where prominent locals are buried. The island’s current appearance dates back to the late 17th century. The inhabitants of Perast, from their strongholds on Saint George and Our Lady on the Rocks, guarded the strategically important Verige straits, where the maritime path to Kotor was most endangered.
Perast was part of the Venetian Albania Veneta province and was under Venice’s rule between 1420 and 1797. The city was developed amid conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic. It was during this period that the city’s sixteen Baroque palaces, seventeen Catholic churches, and two Orthodox churches were built. Most significant among these are the Saint Nicholas Church, the Chapel of the Virgin Mary, Saint John the Baptist Church, Saint Anne Church, Saint Mark Church, Saint Anthony Church, and the Holy Virgin Church. In front of the Saint Nicholas church are busts of three significant personalities of Perast – Admiral Matija Zmajević of the Russian Tsardom Navy, Marko Martinović, a maritime skills instructor for Tsar Peter the Great’s cadets, and Tripo Kokolj. The city also features nine defensive towers, the most important of which is the tower of the Holy Cross, built by the Venetian Republic’s navy in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Reasons to Visit Perast
Small but perfectly formed, Perast is packed with things to see and do, but the main event lies just offshore. In theory, that should be “main events,” as two picturesque islets represent the most inviting attraction in town. The curiously named Our Lady of the Rocks is the bigger of the two, embellished by a cuter-than-cute church that contains a museum, gallery and countless stories. Legend has it that the island was created by local seamen laying a single rock for every completed voyage, a superstition that soon became a tradition and gives us the islet we know and love today. The small church is adorable and contains almost 70 works by Tripo Kokolja, arguably the most famous artist to come from Perast. The museum is above the church, and its most fascinating artefact is Jacinta Kujić-Mijović’s achingly sombre tapestry, a work of art made out of her own hair that took 25 years to complete as she waited for her love to return home. The islet is accessible by the many small boats that wait in Perast, although most hotels also organise tours.
St. George Island is across from Our Lady of the Rocks, but this mysterious islet couldn’t be more different in creation and history to its more accessible neighbour. St. George Island is a natural island with a graveyard, the final resting place of many of Perast’s nobles, but the islet is off-limits today. Visitors will have to make do with taking snaps of the island, although this isn’t to be scoffed at.
In Perast itself, various churches and palaces make up the bulk of the interest. Located in one of these gorgeous structures is the delightfully detailed Perast Museum, a house of culture that tells the story of Perast from its origins to the current day. The town’s relationship with the sea understandably takes pride of place throughout, divided through maritime, ethnographic, and historical art collections, with model ships, portraits, coats of arms, and more at every turn. The second floor of the museum is dedicated to the Visković family, with impressive furniture and distinguished portraits.
For such a relatively small place, Perast has beautiful churches that delight for different reasons. The grand Church of St Nicholas is arguably the most dominant structure in Perast, a gorgeous 17th-century structure that no longer functions in any meaningful fashion outside of its aesthetics. It was never truly completed, although one could argue that churches are never finished. Whatever your stance, the Church of St Nicholas is one of Montenegro’s most beautiful Catholic centres, and the views from the Bell Tower are stunning. Three busts stand in front of the church, paying homage to Perast’s three most notable sons: landscape painting genius Tripo Kokolja, poet and shipbuilder extraordinaire Marko Martinović and Matija Zmajević, who served as an admiral in Peter the Great’s Baltic Fleet.
How to Get to Perast
Perast is easily accessible from Kotor and Risan, with frequent buses passing by the town throughout the day. However, there are a couple of important things to note. Firstly, buses don’t actually go down into the town; instead, they stop at the two entrances to Perast. Secondly, the town is serviced by Blueline buses, which run from Kotor’s old town and not the bus station. Of course, it is easiest to head to Perast with private transport, although be aware that parking can get quite expensive in the summer.
As with its culinary offer, Perast has a range of hotels that tick many of the same boxes, relying largely on the charm of the town to make up for minor missteps. Hotel Conte is the best in town, a four-star delight in the centre of town spread over multiple properties. Its restaurant is one of the best in Perast, and the staff are tremendous. Elsewhere, Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato is Montenegro’s first heritage hotel and definitely worth some attention, while the magnificently renovated Heritage Grand Perast brings five-star luxury class to the town. There are also several private rental options, but Perast is a place where spending a little extra on a hotel makes a big difference.
Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato: Indulge in the luxurious rooms and suites, meticulously designed to provide comfort and elegance. Delight your taste buds with the exquisite dining options, where a fusion of local and international flavors awaits. Unwind and rejuvenate in the spa and wellness center, offering a range of treatments and therapies.
Take in the breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea and mountains from the hotel’s terrace or enjoy a refreshing swim in the outdoor pool. With attentive service and a warm ambiance, Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato ensures a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience for every guest.
Hotel Conte: Escape to the enchanting town of Perast, where the timeless beauty of the sea meets the majestic cliffs of Mount Lovćen. Immerse yourself in the rich history and cultural heritage of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed destination. Nestled within this picturesque setting, the Conte Hotel and Restaurant awaits, a hidden gem lovingly restored by the esteemed Kasalica family. Step into a world of refined elegance as the old stone palaces and houses have been thoughtfully transformed, blending contemporary comforts with the authentic charm of indigenous architecture. Indulge in a truly captivating experience at Conte Hotel, where history, luxury, and warm Montenegrin hospitality converge.
Apartments Villa Perast: This family-owned apartment complex offers comfortable accommodations and breathtaking sea views. Each apartment is equipped with a kitchenette and a private balcony.
Where to eat and drink
Perast has a handful of food and drink options that don’t differentiate from each other too much, choosing instead to let the town do most of the work. The majority of restaurants have waterfront seating of some sort, so it really does boil down to whatever your location preference is when hunger strikes. The restaurant at Hotel Conte is a gorgeous place to enjoy dinner, with a seafood-heavy menu accentuated by exquisite service and an undeniable sense of class. The burgers and pizza served by Locanda represent more down-to-earth dining options, while Konoba Otok Bronza stays true to Montenegrin traditions with vintage rustic decor.
For that oh-so-vital morning coffee, Boca Libre is the place to go, although you can’t really go wrong with anywhere in town. Be aware that while you can stop for a drink at any of Perast’s restaurants, waterfront seating is often reserved for diners only, so don’t expect to enjoy a pint or a cocktail with the sea in full view. And watch out for cats, this being Montenegro and all that.
5 Activities to Do in Perast
- Visit Our Lady of the Rocks: Take a boat tour to this beautiful island and explore the church and museum.
- Walk along the Seafront: Take a leisurely stroll along the town’s beautiful seafront promenade and enjoy the fresh sea air.
- Visit the Bujovic Palace: This beautiful 17th-century palace houses a museum with collections of old weapons, traditional costumes, and art.
- Climb the Hill of St. Ilija: Hike up to the top of the hill for stunning panoramic views of the bay and the surrounding mountains.
- Take a Boat Tour of the Bay: Book a boat tour and explore the beautiful Bay of Kotor from a different perspective.
Perast is a hidden gem in Montenegro that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, historical landmarks, and outdoor activities. The town’s rich cultural heritage and stunning architecture reflect its Venetian and Mediterranean influences, and there is much to discover for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts. Meanwhile, the beautiful surroundings, including the Bay of Kotor and nearby mountains, offer numerous opportunities for outdoor adventures and relaxation.
If it isn’t pretty clear already, we adore Perast. Kotor continues to attract crowds in ever-increasing numbers, but the sweeping romance of Perast is arguably the most magical spot on the entire Montenegrin coast. An impressive history of shipbuilding belies a modern serenity, and it is easy to imagine setting up shop in Perast and never, ever leaving. You might even decide to start building your own boats to resurrect that famous old craft, but we recommend sticking to delectable seafood and jaw-dropping vistas instead.