A towering Venetian spire surrounded by red-slanted rooves covering opulent baroque palaces and churches. There is a surprising amount of things to do in Perast Montenegro. Grab your camera, a beach towel and a healthy dose of curiosity. Time to explore one of the unexpected jewels in the Bay of Kotor!
Nestled inside the famous Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, flanked by Herceg Novi to the West and Kotor to the East, lies the tiny Venetian-style village of Perast. It is precisely because of its vantage location that Perast has held through the centuries a privileged position, first as a defensive outpost against the Ottomans and in recent years as a pitstop for daytrippers exploring the winding bay.
While most travelers choose to visit Perast as a day trip, we decided to take it slow and spent a blissful three days exploring every nook and cranny. This guide takes you through all the things to do in Perast Montenegro, provides practical tips (“How in the world do I find parking?”) and plenty more to make your trip to Perast unforgettable.
Quick guide to visiting Perast
WHERE TO STAY
USEFUL READING: Browse through my full Montenegro archive
TOURISM WEBSITE MONTENEGRO: Find plenty more useful information on the official tourism website of Montenegro.
Is Perast in Montenegro worth visiting?
My answer to this question is a resounding YES. The tiny hamlet of Perast was one of my favorite places we visited during our two-week road trip through Montenegro. In fact, we loved it so much, we ended up circling back to spend an additional two nights at the end of our travels.
Despite outward appearances, there is plenty of things to do in Perast. Today a sleepy fisherman village with a mere 300 inhabitants, it once was a crucial defensive outpost for the affluent Venetian Empire. The 16 churches and 17 opulent Baroque palaces still to be found in the densely packed, one-kilometer swath of land that makes up Perast, are a testament to its heroic past (more on that below).
If you are planning on visiting Perast, I truly recommend spending at least one night. As dusk sets in, the old town of Perast slowly empties of daytrippers – usually coming in from Kotor or Budva – once again the village becomes blissfully restful. Locals emerge from their houses to take a stroll, fishermen set about catching mussels for dinner and children fling themselves off concrete docks and into the crystalline waters under the watchful eyes of mom and dad. These moments offer a rare glimpse into local life.
A short history of Perast
The first mentions of Perast date back to the 14th century, when it was but a small fishing village. Perast is incorporated into Venetian Albania (part of the Venetian Republic) in the 15th century and soon thereafter catapulted to the forefront of the war between the Venetian and Ottoman Empire.
As battles against both the Ottoman Empire were won, Perast was granted trading privileges by the Venetian Republic which included selling goods without taxes on the Venetian market. By the 18th century, Perast was at the height of its power, with over 1600 inhabitants, four active shipyards and a standing fleet of 100 ships. Many of the opulent baroque palaces that still adorn the waterfront of Perast today, date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and were built to showcase the wealth of the local merchants.
What goes up, invariably also comes down. After the fall of the Venetian Republic at the end of the 18th century, a period of strong decline set in. The Bay of Kotor changed hands several times over the next few centuries until finally in 2006 it was part of independent Montenegro.
Fun Fact: When Napolean bought down the Venetian Republic in 1797, Perast was one of the last strongholds to capitulate.
10 things to do in Perast
Many visitors breeze in and out of Perast in a few hours. The usual tours normally entail walking the 1-kilometer beachfront street that winds between the parking, climbing the bell tower, and perhaps taking a dip in the water before moving on to the next must-visit place in Montenegro. While the village might be small, there is more than enough to do in Perast to easily fill one or even two days.
Perast does not have the infrastructure for large cruise ships to dock. As such the large groups of tourists, usually sporting the telltale sticker or – dare I say it – questionable hat, only ascend the town at certain hours of the day. For the rest of the day, the village is a welcome reprieve from bustling Kotor and Budva.
On a side note: You might have gathered I am no fan of cruise ships, especially not in the pristine fjords of Kotor Bay. These behemoth ships contribute significantly to over-tourism in the area, not to mention the havoc their wreak on the environment by discharging gray water.
1. EXPLORE PERAST OLD TOWN
Three hundred years of Venetian rule have left their mark on Perast old town. In fact, thanks to strict building laws, Perast has remained relatively unchanged since the 18th century, ensuring the Venetian heritage oozes out of every stone.
The tiny town stretches for a mere kilometer from P1 (Parking One) to P2 (Parking Two) and is wedged between the highway and the Adriatic Sea. Most visitors tend to stick to the waterfront, lined with restaurants, a tiny harbor and some of the town’s prettiest palaces. While this is hands-down the most evocative part of town, the best viewpoints are from above.
Climb one of the many little stairs connecting the town of Perast to the main highway. A surprising myriad of little streets awaits, peppered with beautiful bougainvilleas, fig trees and crumbling ruins awaiting a much-needed facelift. Don’t forget to take in the sweeping vistas as you explore!
Palaces to see in Perast
For the architectural fiends, a list of what to see in Perast cannot exclude a few of the 17 Baroque palaces, most of which were constructed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Some have been beautifully restored, while others are but mere crumbling remnants of bygone glory.
When strolling through Perast, keep an eye out for the following palaces:
- Bujović Palace: The most opulent palace in the village. It has now been turned into Perast Museum. Legend has it, the stones used to build the palace were taken from the destroyed walls of Herceg Novi following its liberation from Turkish rule in 1687.
- Smekja Palace: Less opulent than the Perast Museum, but a lot larger. Built for the Smekja family in the 18th century after the head of the family successfully established a trading route between Venice and the Baltic countries and was awarded the title of “Count”. Today it is home to the only 5-star hotel on the island Heritage Grand Perast.
- The Balović Palace: This unassuming palace is known not so much for its architecture but for its famous guest. In 1846 Prince-Bishop Petar II Petrović-Njegoš spent his vacation here and composed the famous poem — Paris and Elena or A Night is More Precious Than a Century.
Churches in Perast
Perast is home to some of the prettiest churches in Montenegro. Few of them are recognizable by their imposing spires but the majority are more elusive. The larger churches such as Saint Nicholas Church and Church of Our Lady of the Rosary each have their own separate section further down in this article.
- Saint Mark’s Church: An 18th-century church dedicated to the Virgin, St. Anne, St.Mathew and St. Mark the Evangelist. Originally built to bury the nobility of the island, it was later turned into a warehouse in 1959. Upon closer inspection, you will see the winged lion on the façade, the symbol of the Venetian republic.
- Church of St. John the Baptist: This time-worn little Rennaisance church stands hidden between houses. First mentions of the church date back to the 16th century when it was owned by the “Confraternity of the Wounds of Jesus Christ”.
- Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Virgin: Built in the 18th century, this is the only Orthodox church in the village. The church was built in the Byzantine style and has a valuable iconostasis.
2. VISIT THE SAINT NICHOLAS CHURCH AND CLIMB THE BELLTOWER
Located in the center of Perast, the 17th-century Saint Nicholas Church towers over the village. Unlike many other churches, Saint Nicholas Church is open throughout the day for visitors (free of charge).
Inside the church, you will find a small museum that houses collections of paintings by Tripo Kokolja (1661-1713), a local painter. Entrance to the museum costs €1, to be paid in cash.
Next to the museum, a 55-meter Baroque/Renaissance church spire stands tall. Upon completion in 1713, it reportedly contained the biggest bells in all of Europe. The clock on the tower was shipped from Venice 20 years after the belfry was completed the way from Venice
Practical details for climbing the bell tower of Perast
The entrance to the bell tower is located on the left-hand side of the Saint Nicholas church. It cannot be reached from inside the church itself. The climb itself is easy enough, though not advised for travelers suffering from claustrophobia.
Once you reach the top, unimpeded views over both the Bay of Kotor and the old town of Perast await. The viewing platform is located right underneath the bells of the Saint Nicholas church. The bells do not ring every hour, but to avoid any unexpected surprises I would advise checking at the entrance if the bells are scheduled to ring when you are climbing the tower.
Opening hours: 09.00 AM to 17.00 PM
Entrance Fee Bell Tower: €1 – to be paid in cash
3. TRY A SLICE OF DELICIOUS PERAST CAKE WITH A GLASS OF MONTENEGRIN WINE
An absolutely unmissable thing to do in Perast is delving into their local cake. Perast cake is essentially a delicious almond cake with a hint of lemon. According to the local folktale, the recipe of the original cake dates back to the 17th century. It was first served at the inauguration of a new Maritime commander who had come to oversee the Perast army and fleet. Several places along the waterfront serve Perast Cake, we tried ours at Armonia (delish!)
The Perast cake pairs well with tea, or if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, a glass of chilled white Montenegrin wine. The prevailing grape varieties are Krstač (white), Cabernet Sauvignon (white), Chardonnay (white) and Vranac (red).
4. TAKE A BOAT RIDE TO THE ISLAND OUR LADY OF THE ROCKS
Opposite the town of Perast, in the middle of the bay lie the two famous “Perast Islands” or more accurately Sveti Dorde (Saint George) and Gospa of Škrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks). If you are spending only one day in Perast, make sure to save some time for a boat trip to the islands.
Our Lady of the Rocks island
It might come as a surprise to read that The Lady of the Rocks island is entirely artificial. Legend has it, the creation of the island started in the 15th century after two Venetian sailors found an icon of the Madonna and child on the rocks.
After the pair returned home from a successful trip, they decided to start laying the foundation for a church by literally throwing stones into the sea. Soon other fisherman followed suit and slowly but surely the Lady of the Rocks took form. Today locals still believe in the sacredness of the island. Indeed, on the 22e of July, an event is held where locals head to the island to throw rocks into the sea next to the island.
On the island stands a small museum and a little chapel, both of which can be visited. A small fee is charged for the chapel (€1, to be paid in cash). The chapel is a holy place and as such has a strictly enforced dress code. Knee-length shorts are allowed for men and women. Shoulders however should be covered.
How to get to the island from Perast
Two boat companies run little ferryboats departing from the harbor of Perast between 09.00 and 18.30. Simply show up, pay €5 and hop on the boat. The ride takes less than 10 minutes and is very gentle. In high season the boats run on a continuous basis between the mainland and the island. Once you have finished touring the island, simply wait for a boat from the same company to arrive back to the island and get on. We waited about 10 minutes to hitch a ride back.
Saint George island
Saint George island is home to a Benedictine monastery dating back to the 12th century as well as the graveyard of the former Perast nobility and the extended bay of Kotor. Officially the island is off-limit for tourists to visit as it is privately owned by the local Catholic Church.
5. RENT A KAYAK OR SUP TO SEE THE PERAST ATTRACTIONS FROM THE WATER
Looking for an alternative thing to do in Perast? Why not rent a kayak or SUP and take to the water? We saw several locations around the waterfront that offered hourly rentals for €10/hour. The vendor right next to the Djardin restaurant offers dry bags to store your valuables in.
Photography Tip: Sunset is a great time to go out on the water. As the skies burst into a dazzling array of pink hues, the soft light hits Perast Old Town making it even more magical.
6. RELAX AT PERAST BEACH
The craggy shoreline of Perast has a few options for those visitors looking to take a refreshing swim. It is noteworthy to mention that Perast is surrounded by rocks. Be careful when you wade into the water, do not simply jump in without checking how deep the water is.
SANDY BEACH: Pirate Beach Bar Perast is located right next to P2 (Parking Two). It is a tiny stretch of sandy beach, which has been taken over by a lido (paid beach which provides deckchairs and an umbrella). Open from 08.00 AM to 21.00 PM, two chairs and an umbrella cost €20. Make sure to reserve in advance, when we tried to go at 08.00 AM all beds had already been reserved.
HIDDEN BEACH: At the other end of town, next to P1 (Parking One) there is a large concrete slab that is partially shaded by a cluster of trees. It serves as the second “beach” of Perast and is free. We observed mainly locals using this more hidden beach. It is indicated in Google as Perast Beach.
CENTRAL BEACHES: As you walk along the waterfront, you will undoubtedly stumble upon the many makeshift concrete “beaches”. Upon closer inspection, you will notice some of these concrete outposts have small stairs leading into the water. Both locals and tourists freely throw their towers here, strip down their bathing suits and wade into the water.
PRIVATE BEACHES: The Heritage Grand Perast hotel is the only hotel to have its own private beach. It is located in the largest historical Baroque palace of Perast, in the middle of the village.
7. WATCH THE SUNSET FROM THE WATERFRONT
Rarely have I seen a sunset this beautiful in Europe, aside from perhaps in Sicily! As the sun starts to set, the limestone cliffs surrounding Perast turn a deep shade of pink. Sunset is usually the time when most daytrippers have left Perast and the village once again resumes its slow rhythm.
One of my favorite thing to do in Perast was to buy a local beer and head towards one of the concrete slabs jutting into to sea to enjoy a quiet moment. The two small supermarkets in town both carry a small selection of local beer and other beverages.
Alternatively head to Laguna Restaurant, next to it you will find a tiny stand selling €1 homemade lemonade. If you are lucky, you might even find two gregarious older ladies sitting next to the lemonade stand selling a selection of little fried fish. Perfect to nibble on with your beer. They were only there one out of the three nights we spent in Perast though.
8. POP INTO PERAST MUSEUM, OR NOT …
The Perast museum is located at the entrance of the village in one of the most imposing 17th-century baroque palaces of Perast. The museum houses the Perast Maritime History, if you are a nautical fan it is one of the top things to see in Perast, if not skip this activity as truth be told it is not the most evocative exhibition.
GOOD TO KNOW: Prior to 2021 it was possible to access the terrace of the Perast Museum. This is no longer the case.
Entrance fee for the Perast Museum: €/$5
Opening Hours: October 15th to April 15th – Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 AM to 16.00 PM; April 15th to October 15th 08.00 AM to 20.00 PM.
9. CLIMB UP TO OUR LADY OF THE ROSARY CHURCH
Perast Old Town has two Venetian church spires the first belongs to the Saint Nicholas Church, the second to the Our Lady of the Rosary Church a little further up the hill. This Church was built as part of the Zmajević family residence.
Dating back to the 17th century and built in the then-prevailing Baroque and Renaissance styles. Inside you will find a small altar and the tombstone belonging to Andria Zmajević with the family crest. This same crest can also be found on the outside of the entrance pillars (it’s a dragon!). The spire is closed to the public.
While the altar itself is nothing special, the views over the Bay of Kotor from this vantage point surely are! Photographers will love this spot at sunset. At sunrise the light hits the Verige straight opposite Perast, leaving Perast Old Town shrouded in morning twilight
10. UNMISSABLE THING TO DO IN PERAST: APERITIF OR DINNER ON THE WATER
Is there anything more romantic than enjoying a delicious meal to the soundtrack of lapping water, surrounded by unimpeded views of the Bay of Kotor? While lunchtime is great for a romantic meal, there is always the slight chance a large cruise ship floats by and dampens the mood ever so slightly. Time permitting, book yourself a spot for an aperitive or dinner instead.
TIP: Restaurants at the waterfront tend to have multiple rows of seats. Only the first row is right next to the actual water. Not surprisingly these seats tend to fill up quickly with reservations. Make sure to book well in advance if you are looking for a seafront table.
Where to stay in Perast
PERSONAL RECOMMENDATION: Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato ($$)
The Heritage Hotel Leon Coronato is well worth your pennies if you want to treat yourself. This 4-star hotel has the most beautiful courtyard in the village and top-notch restaurant facilities. Some rooms come with spectacular sea views, though these book out fast!
Affordable Views: ($$) Bella Vista Zmukic is a great mid-range accommodation in Perast that offers simply spectacular views over the village. This is an apartment that comes with a fully equipped kitchen
Most Convenient: ($$) Mara Apartments is one of the very few accommodations in Perast that comes with free Parking. Located in a traditional old-stone house, some rooms have a balcony with a spectacular sea view.
Luxury Pick: ($$$) Heritage Grand Perast. Located in a beautifully restored 18th-century Baroque palace, right in the heart of Perast. Without a doubt the prettiest hotel in the entire village. Comes with a private section of beach and a large (private) terrace overlooking Perast where guests can enjoy breakfast.
Where to eat in Perast
Perast has a slew of restaurants lining the waterfront. As a fisherman’s village, 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.
CONTE RESTAURANT: Conte Restaurant is part of the eponymous hotel. The restaurant is located by the waterfront and is especially known for its seafood. We went after reading rave reviews on Tripadvisor and were not disappointed. They also happen to serve good coffee and decently priced breakfast
ARMONIA: Located right off the Perast Harbor, on the waterfront. They offer Mediterranean-style cuisine and have a decent selection of Montenegrin wine. The service was some of the best we had in the village. My number one place for lunch and some good old people-watching.
DJARDIN RESTAURANT: The Djardin restaurant specializes in – you got it – seafood. Tables are available either by the waterfront or in the wonderfully intimate courtyard.
VERIGE 65 BAR RESTAURANT: Located in the Verige straight, right opposite Perast. 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 Perast Montenegro
Driving and parking in Perast
The easiest way to visit Perast is by rental car (pickup in Tivat, Kotor, Budva and Herceg Novi). If you are planning on taking a road trip through all of Montenegro then a car will be essential. Driving along the Bay of Kotor and into Perast is very straightforward, there is but one road to take.
It gets a bit more tricky when it comes to finding a place to park. Perast has two official parking lots, one on either end of the village. Both however are reserved for locals and visitors who have booked accommodations in the town itself.
As we had accommodation booked, we paid €8 to the parking attendant (you can easily identify them by their shirts with “Old Town of Perast” printed on them). Even then, we had to wait for someone to leave before we could grab a spot 20 minutes later.
Good to know: If you are planning on visiting Perast and do not have a reservation for a hotel in town, you will be obliged to park alongside the main road which runs between Herceg Novi and Kotor. You will not be allowed to park in the “official” Perast parking lots.
Take the bus between Kotor and Perast
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 Perast. This can be done by boat or on land in an air-conditioned mini-van. Tours vary in length from 1h30 to full-day tours which include Herceg Novi and the Blue Cave. Check out the various tours on offer.
Tips for visiting Perast
Best time to visit Perast Montenegro
As with many places, shoulder season is the best place to go to Perast. June and September have an average temperature of 25°C/77°F, prices are also about half of those in July and August.
That being said, we went in July and it was not too packed. Let me clarify, certain moments of the day were positively heaving with tourists (when the groups coming from the cruise ships arrived), while the early morning and late afternoon were still pretty tranquil compared to other places in the Bay of Kotor.
How to explore Perast on a budget
There is no denying the bay of Kotor is the most expensive place in Montenegro. Although still much more budget-friendly than nearby Croatia or Greece, high-season prices are steadily increasing as the demand rises.
FOOD: Swap a pricy waterfront meal (€30-€80), for one of the flakey pastries (Burek) from the two small supermarkets (€0.7).
ACCOMMODATIONS: Call the property to book. We got a 10% discount for booking directly with the hotel. Make sure to book well in advance as accommodation in limited in Perast
How to get around Perast
There is a strict no-car policy in Perast Old Town. As the village stretches a mere one kilometer from one end to another, there is really no need for any form of transportation aside from your feet. If however you are staying in town and have heavy luggage, that is another kettle of fish.
The only vehicles allowed are little golf carts. Each hotel has its own golf cart, which is used to transport their guests from and to the parking lots. If you are staying in Perast, make sure to contact your hotel in advance to ask for a pickup.
Good to know: We were told there are two “public” golf carts available to transport visitors who are not staying in the village. To receive more information, I advise you to head to the small white kiosks stationed on both parking lots to ask the attendant.
Visiting the Lady of the Rocks island by yourself
The first boat from Perast to the Lady of the Rocks leaves at 09.00 AM. By the time you reach the island, it will be packed with daytrippers from nearby Kotor and Budva. Instead, opt to rent a kayak or SUP and be there by 08.30 AM to have the place to yourself! It is noteworthy to mention the church and museum on the island will not be open before 09.00 AM.
Map of Perast, things to do and see
This interactive Google Map contains all the places mentioned in this Perast Guide, including what to do in Perast, accommodations, parking and the supermarket. Click on the link for more information or take a sneak peek at the below screenshot.
Final thoughts on visiting Perast
Tiny Venetian Perast has attracted travelers for more than 600 years thanks to its highly strategic location and great accessibility from nearby Kotor and Herceg Novi. Despite its small size, there are plenty of things to do in Perast.
I highly recommend you spend at least one night in Perast, soaking in the baroque palaces and clambering up the bell tower before taking a refreshing dip into the glistening water. Tuck into a delicious meal at the waterfront and finish the day with a slice of delicious Perast Cake.
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING THE BALKANS
Montenegro: The essential guide to visiting Herceg Novi
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