From the honey-colored Stari Grad, to the most pristine waters of the entire Bay of Kotor, Herceg Novi has something to offer even to the most seasoned traveler. Find out exactly what to do in Herceg Novi and why this little town is well worth your time.
Located at the entrance of Boka Bay (Bay of Kotor in Montenegro) lies the town of Herceg Novi. With a microclimate boasting 200 days of sun, and mudbaths that stave off the aging process, it is no wonder Herceg Novi was once la creme de la creme of beach resorts in former Yugoslavia.
These days, it is often overlooked in favor of the Boka’s new starlets: Kotor, Budva and even Perast. Yet this tiny hamlet, with a perfectly preserved old town and affordable accommodation is worth spending at least a day. It also happens to be the perfect jumping board for visiting the Luštica Peninsula, with some of the best beaches in all of Montenegro. Herceg Novi should be on your list, let’s find out why!
Quick guide to visiting Herceg Novi
WHERE TO STAY
TOURS FROM HERCEG NOVI
- Mamula & Blue Cave: 2-hour private boat
- Herceg Novi: 3-hour guide through Old Town
- Kotor Bay: Herceg Novi-Blue Cave-Lady of the Rocks-Perast tour
USEFUL READING: Browse through my full Montenegro archive for more inspiration.
TOURISM WEBSITE MONTENEGRO: Find plenty more helpful information on the official tourism website of Montenegro.
Is Herceg Novi in Montenegro worth visiting?
The answer to that question is, it depends. There is no denying Herceg Novi is less picturesque than other medieval towns along the winding Montenegro riviera. If you have a tight schedule and are cramming in as much of Montenegro’s beauty as possible, skip Herceg Novi and head straight for picture-perfect Perast.
We had two weeks in Montenegro and decided to kickstart our trip with two nights in Herceg Novi. The reason we opted to add it to our itinerary was twofold; first, to avoid diving headfirst into the overwhelming throngs of tourists found further down the coast, and second to be able to explore the wonderfully authentic Luštica Peninsula right opposite Herceg Novi.
A short history of Herceg Novi
Strategically located at the very entrance of the highly-prized Bay of Kotor, Herceg Novi has had its fair share of rulers before finally becoming part of independent Montenegro in 2006.
Founded by the first King of Bosnia Tvrtko I Kotromanić in 1382, Herceg Novi was built to compete with Dubrovnik in the lucrative trade of salt. Bosnian rule was short-lived as the Ottomans swept over the land in 1481 and stayed for 200 years before being defeated by the Venetians in 1681.
The Venetian Republic reigned over Herceg Novi until 1798. They came in, fortified the old city walls and built a fortress with a Citadella tower (now in ruins due to a devastating earthquake in 1979). From 1798 until the integration of Montenegro into Yugoslavia, control over Herceg Novi was much like a game of musical chairs between Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy.
From the 16th-century Spanish fortress perched atop the village to the Yugoslav-built waterfront walkway built atop a former Austro-Hungarian train track, each of the various rulers has left their mark on this tiny town, making it highly different from any other place in the Bay of Kotor.
5 Things to do in Herceg Novi Montenegro
Let’s start off with the attractions of Herceg Novi itself before delving into the surroundings. Half a day is more than enough the explore the majority of things to do. Start your day before 09.00 to catch a glimpse of local life at Nikola Dubrovnik Square in Stari Grad (Old town Herceg Novi) and end it with a refreshing dip in the pristine waters surrounding the village.
GOOD TO KNOW: Herceg Novi itself sits atop a small hill, overlooking the Adriatic Coast. When driving along the Adriatic Highway, which runs along the full length of the Bay of Kotor, you will find yourself at the same height as the village. Stari Grad is connected to the waterfront by various sets of honey-colored steps.
1. EXPLORE HERCEG NOVI STARI GRAD (OLD TOWN)
Stari Grad is a myriad of little streets connecting whitewashed squares to sun-drenched stone houses. The tiny, architecturally eclectic, hamlet is the number one thing to see in Herceg Novi and can easily be explored in half a day, at a leisurely pace.
Nikola Dubrovnik Square
Start exploring bright and early with a visit to Nikola Dubrovnik Square. As Old Town slowly awakens, this is the square for locals to gather over a cup of coffee or get their fresh fruit and veggies bright and early in the open-air green market around the corner. By 09.30 am locals are replaced by flocks of tourists and Old Town loses a touch of its authenticity.
Pedestrian-only Ulica Njegoševa connects the town square to the lower levels of Stari Grad. Lined with plenty of little shops, housed in beautiful marbled 19th-century buildings, the shops sell everything from tourist trinkets to lacy undergarments. For those lucky few that have traveled to nearby Croatia and climbed the walls of Dubrovnik, you might recognize the marble as it is the very same!
Practical: Nikola Dubrovnik Square has a large selection of ATMs. The only other place we saw an ATM was along the Pet Danica walkway.
Herceg Novi Clocktower
The Nikola Dubrovnik Square houses the famous 17th-century Turkish clocktower which is perched atop a flight of stone stairs. Under Ottoman rule, the clocktower was both an entrance gate and a timepiece to remind townsfolk when it was time for their daily prayers. The bells inside the clock tower were added later in 1753, a gift from the Russian Tsarina Catherine II. These days the tower is the symbol of Herceg Novi and can be found on the flag of the city.
As you walk through the passageway under the Tower, make sure to keep your eyes open for the charred wooden statue dedicated to the King Tvrtko of Bosnia, the founder of the city. Once atop the stairs, make a beeline for the little white church
Herceg Stejpana Square or Belavista Square
Belavista Square is the second-largest square in Herceg Novi Stari Grad. As you walk up the stairs from the clock tower, the Serbian Orthodox Archangel Michael’s Church greets you. The domed whitewashed church was built between 1883 and 1905. The façade holds a colorful mosaic depicting its patron saint. Visitors wishing to visit the church are requested to cover their shoulders and knees.
From Belavista Square either head upwards in the direction of Kanli Kula, or veer to the right and make your way down in the direction of Saint Jerome’s church. This 18th-century church on Mića Pavlovića is only open during mass sadly.
Make your way down to the Forte Mare. This crumbling fort was originally built by the Venetians between the 14th and 17th century. The Austro-Hungarian empire provided it with a little facelift in the 19th century and this is the structure you see today. Aside from an information video and the remnants of the Venetian Citadela (devastated in the 1979 earthquake), there is very little to see in the fort. €2 entrance fee to be paid in cash at the entrance.
Pitstop suggestion: As you slowly make your way down to the waterfront, stop for a drink with a view at the artsy Prohibicija pub
Get more info: Looking to delve deeper into Herceg Novi? Try a locally run private walking tour that takes you around all the highlights of Herceg Novi as well as the Savina Monastery.
2. WALK UP TO KANLI KULA FOR THE BEST VIEWS OVER HERCEG NOVI
A short walk up from Belavista Square lies the ruins of the Kanli Kili fortress. The imposing fortress, whose name translates into The Bloody Tower, was built under the Ottoman rule in the 16th century. Prisoners awaiting their sentencing were kept in the lower section of the fortress, which can still be visited today. The observant visitor will see the scratchings on the walls of the former prison cells left by their unfortunate occupants. It was slightly harrowing to see, truth be told.
Much more heartwarming is the beautiful amphitheater, which was added after a devastating earthquake badly damaged the fortress in the second half of last century. The Operosa Opera Festival is still held here every year during the summer.
The lack of information panels inside the fortress makes the experience a bit lackluster. The views however are the very best Herceg Novi has to offer.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday – 10.00 am to 20.00 pm
Entrance Fee: €3/person to be paid in cash
3. TRY A DELICIOUS FLAKY PASTRY (BUREK)
After exploring the very best of Herceg Novi, which undoubtedly involved clambering up and down an inordinate amount of stairs, your tummy is bound to start rumbling. I know mine was! Salvation presented itself in the form of a flaky pastry.
A small bakery on Stepeniste 28 has a wonderful offering of local pastries available, and plenty of them are vegetarian. When I asked “vegetarian” the lady in the shop patiently pointed out the various options available.
I tried the stuffed bread with potatoes (& onions) which was delicious and reminded me of street food in Georgia. The Burek we had here would turn out to be the best we had in entire Montenegro (and believe me, we had our fair share). My pastry cost €1.5, while my partner’s meat-filled pastry was €2.
4. STROLL ALONG THE FIVE DANICA PROMENADE
The Šetalište Pet Danica or Five Danica is a 7-kilometer waterfront promenade winding from Igalo in the west to Meljine in the East. To access it from Stari Grad, simply start walking down in the direction of Fort Citadela.
The promenade is dotted with arches, a testament to the Sarajevo – Zelenika that used to operate here until 1968. It was later demolished to make way for a beautiful promenade conveniently connecting the various seafront hamlets.
Igalo to Herceg Novi is the most lively section of the promenade. Lined with plenty of lidos (paid sections of beach offering umbrellas and deckchairs for hire), beach bars, and restaurants. The restaurants are more expensive, the music louder and the menus have a surreptitious amount of pictures on them. If you are looking for a night in the town, this is the place to be.
Herceg Novi to Meljine is decidedly more laid-back. Little restaurants still line the waterfront, but they offer a more intimate setting with soft candlelight. We found the food to be fresher and less expensive on this side of the promenade. From what we could gather, this section of the promenade, although but a mere few kilometers out sees a lot fewer foreign tourists.
Do not miss: The Five Danica promenade undergoes a complete transformation as the sun sets. Bars spring to life with loud nineties classics (Backstreet Boys anyone?), makeshift stalls selling popcorn and trinkets mushroom up, and local youngsters come to see and be seen.
5. KICK BACK AT HERCEG NOVI BEACH
The craggy shoreline in and around Herceg Novi might be the most evocative in terms of views, but when it comes to laying down your towel it is a rocky affair. The sea is quite simply pristine, much cleaner than you will find elsewhere in the Bay of Kotor.
Therefore one of my top things to do in Herceg Novi was to take a dip in the sea, if only to cool down from the blistering heat. A variety of different options are available for travelers seeking to indulge in a little sunbathing.
Free beaches Herceg Novi
Along the Five Danica walkway, you will undoubtedly come across large slabs of concrete connecting the sea to the promenade. In summer the drab constructions morph into a colorful patchwork of towels filled with locals, moving further or closer to the water according to the ebb and flow of the sea.
Unless expressly stated otherwise, access to the sea here is completely free of charge. You will however be required to bring your own towel/foldable chair and snacks. The largest selection of free beaches can be found between Herceg Novi and Meljine.
Paid Herceg Novi Beaches
PLAZO ZALO: The closest beach to Stari Grad. Sunloungers go for €6/day and umbrellas cost €3/day. SUP and Kayak can be rented for €10 a day. The facilities are nice, but it tends to fill up very quickly. We arrived at 09.00 and it was already choc-a-bloc.
COPPAS BEACH: A short walk from Stari Grad. Sunloungers cost €4/day and an umbrella will set you back €2. The fully stocked restaurant atop the beach bar ensures you can order a proper meal (not just a snack) and decent cocktails. Also a great option for families with kids.
BLABLA BEACH: A short walk from Stari Grad. The prices are similar to Coppas beach but the crowd is different. Upbeat music was playing when we went and the crowd was decidedly younger. Option to order drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), no possibility to order a meal when we went.
4 Additional things to see around Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi is a great location to base yourself while exploring both the Luštica peninsula as well as the other – more pricy – villages dotted around the Bay of Kotor. The Adriatic Highway which connects Herceg Novi to Tivat has clear signposts, sensational views and relatively laid-back drivers.
Practical Tip: If you do decide to drive around the Bay of Kotor, make sure to park within the designated parking areas. Either opt for official parking (indicated by “Parking” or a large “P”) or look for the white lines on the street. If you park on the street, purchase a parking ticket at a small kiosk (€6/day on average). Some paid parking spots have a large yellow sign which explains how to pay in both English and Montenegrin. The signs have a QR code that allows you to download an app that in theory should allow you to pay online. For us the app did not work, we always headed to a kiosk.
1. VISIT THE SAVINA MONASTERY
Located on the outskirts of Herceg Novi lies the beautiful Serbian Orthodox Savina Monastery. Made up of three individual churches, surrounded by lush vegetation and offering dazzling views over the Bay of Kotor. The complex carries the name of Saint Sava, whose tiny eponymous church is set in a wooded area 300 meters above the larger monastery.
The Church of the Assumption is the largest building, dating back to the second half of the 18th century. It has elements of Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque and even Byzantine elements are woven into its architecture. Visitors wishing to step inside must cover their shoulders and knees in accordance with local tradition.
Next to the larger Church of Assumption lies the third, and final church on the monastery grounds. Aptly named the smaller Church of Assumption, it dates back to the 11th century.
Opposite the entrance of the large Church, across the pathway, an open door leads into a dimply lit museum. Inside you will find a myriad of historical treasures from the monastery. We skipped the museum due to the lack of English signage. Noteworthy is the option to try the Savina Monastery wine. More information can be requested at the entrance of the museum.
Tip: The Savina Monastery itself has a little parking lot inside the gate. Alternatively drive 150 meters further to find a small public parking lot.
2. EXPLORE BAY OF KOTOR
Herceg Novi is a great place to base yourself if you are looking to explore the Bay of Kotor on a budget. The more illustrious towns of the bay tend to get very busy and surprisingly pricy in the summer months. We spent two nights in Perast and it set us back a whopping $300.
Tours from Herceg Novi
The most time-efficient way to explore the bay is from the comforts of the water. No traffic jams, great views over the villages, and no stress finding parking. Below are a few tours leaving from Herceg Novi. They are great value for money if you are traveling with a group of people.
- Herceg Novi-Blue Cave-Lady of the Rocks-Perast – 3h – Up to 6 people
- Herceg Novi-Kotor-Perast-Lady of the Rocks – 4h – Up to 6 people
Drive around the Bay of Kotor from Herceg Novi (self-drive)
The drive from Herceg Novi to Kotor along the Adriatic Highway is quite simply spectacular. Limestone cliffs rise up from crystalline waters, dotted with medieval stone villages and Venetian towers. The evocative scenery will move even nudge the most seasoned traveler to take out his phone and shoot a snap. It was my favorite section to drive on our road trip through Montenegro.
A word of caution: While distances might not seem far, the two-lane highway is absolutely choc-a-bloc in summer. Traffic jams around Kotor and Budva regularly added an extra hour to our driving time.
- Herceg Novi to Perast: 31 km (19.2 mi) – 43 minutes
- Herceg Novi to Kotor: 43 km (26.8 mi)) – 60 minutes
- Herceg Novi to Budva: 44km (27 mi) – 1h30
3. WADE OUT TO THE BEACHES AT LUSTICA PENINSULA
The majority of beaches along the Bay of Kotor are made up of pebbles, concrete, and the occasional sandy beach – the latter usually jam-packed with eager holiday goers. Luštica Peninsula is home to some of the best beaches in Montenegro. If sand, pristine water, and tranquility are what you are after, make a beeline for Plavi Horizonti, Rose, Mirišta & Žanjice.
There are a variety of different ways to get to the Luštica Peninsula from Herceg Novi.
KAYAK: Rent a kayak at Plazo Zalo (€10/hour) and head for the tip of the Peninsula to the town of Rose, getting there will require a 30-minute vigorous kayak.
TAXI BOAT: Head to the harbor of Herceg Novi. During high season, multiple boats ferry passengers hourly between Herceg Novi and Rose (€15 to be paid in cash)
DRIVE: We opted for the scenic drive from Herceg Novi to the peninsula. The drive takes a solid 1h40 without traffic.
4. TAKE A BOAT TRIP TO THE BLUE CAVE & MAMULA ISLAND
One of the top things to do around Herceg Novi Montenegro is to take a boat trip to the blue cave and Mamula island. The beautiful blue grotto is a naturally formed cave with pristine blue waters located on the Luštica Peninsula. Mamula island contains a 19th-century fort that was originally built to defend the Bay of Kotor, later it served as a prison, and had a brief stint of abandonment before being snapped up and turned into an exclusive hotel.
The Blue Cave and Mamula island are usually included in full-day tours around the Bay of Kotor from April to November. Abundant tours depart from Herceg Novi, Kotor, or Budva. A full-day tour from Herceg Novi can be booked online (€/$54) or alternatively head to one of the many tour operators in Stari Grad Herceg Novi to book your tour.
Where to stay in Herceg Novi
RECOMMENDATION: Palma Apartments ($$)
Luxury apartments with a sea view terrace, fully furnished kitchen and outdoor sunbathing area located right by the beach. A restaurant and bar are located on-site and the apartments are pet-friendly!
At the beach: ($) Boka Apartment 5 – A fully renovated apartment 700 meters from Herceg Novi Beach. Comes with a little garden and an evocative sea-view terrace.
Most Convenient: ($$) Apartment Milica – A tiny bolthole located right in the heart of Herceg Novi Stari Grad and 400 meters away from the beach. Comes with a fully furnished kitchen!
Luxury Pick: ($$$) One&Only Portonovi – An oasis of tranquility with a 5-star service wrapped up in a jaw-dropping design. This renowned luxury hotel chain has but one foothold in Europe and it is right here in Herceg Novi.
Where to eat in Herceg Novi
Herceg Novi has plenty of restaurants to choose from. Located right by the sea it will come as no surprise that seafood plays an important role in all of the restaurants in Perast. As a vegetarian, I had a pick of various Italian-style vegetarian dishes (risotto, pasta), a few salads or grilled vegetables.
PORTOFINO: Portofino is a little bistro offering Mediterranean-style cuisine in the heart of Herceg Novi Stari Grad, on Belavista Square. We came for breakfast as it was the perfect spot to indulge in people-watching!
KONOBA FERAL: A traditional family-run restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine with a focus on traditional Montenegrin recipes. Make sure to book well in advance as the bistro is quite popular.
PALMA APARTMENTS: The restaurant is set right in front of Coppas beach, and despite outward appearances serves some of the best Montenegrin food we had in Herceg Novi. Very cozy setting in the evening.
VERIGE 65 BAR RESTAURANT: Located in the Verige straight, 25 minutes drive from Herceg Novi. This restaurant has the very best views in the entire Bay of Kotor. You will need a car to get here!
How to get to Herceg Novi Montenegro
Driving and parking in Herceg Novi
The easiest way to visit Herceg Novi is by rental car (pickup in Tivat, Kotor, Budva, and Herceg Novi). If your plan is to embark on a longer trip through all of Montenegro, then a car will be essential. Driving along the Bay of Kotor and into Herceg Novi is ultra scenic and oh-so straightforward, there is but one road to take.
Parking in Herceg Novi is not as easy as it might seem. With tons of winding little streets, it gives a faint Amalfi-coast vibe although the driving is a lot more chilled out. As mentioned above, make sure to park inside the indicated white lines and pay for parking (we got a ticket for being one hour late).
Take the bus between Kotor and Herceg Novi
If you are only planning to visit the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, there is in fact no need to rent a car. You make use of the Blue Line Busses which connect all the towns in the Bay of Kotor. In high season the busses run multiple times a day (check schedule and tickets).
Take a tour from Kotor to Perast
Many travelers choose to book a tour from Kotor to Herceg Novi. This can be done by boat or on land in an air-conditioned mini-van. Tours vary in length from 3 hours to full-day tours which include Blue Cave, Perast and Herceg Novi. Check out the various tours on offer.
Final thoughts on what to do in Herceg Novi
While Herceg Novi in Montenegro might not be at the top of your bucket list destinations to visit, it offers a nice respite from the – overly – busy starlets along the bay. Spend one day exploring the old town of Herceg Novi and kicking back on one of the many beaches. The town forms the perfect jumping board for excursions to the Luštica Peninsula, home to some of the best beaches in Montenegro and the famous Blue Cave.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING THE BALKANS
Montenegro – Perast: Slow guide to the prettiest village in the Bay of Kotor
Montenegro: 14 most awe-inspiring churches and monasteries around Montenegro
Slovenia: Daytrips from Ljubljana
Slovenia: Vegetarian guide to Slovenian Food
Croatia: 7-day road trip through Croatia