Kotor Old town is charming, cute and as I always say – the most beautiful town in Montenegro. Anyway, even if special and unique moments you can have around the city of Kotor, there is one more spot above the town you have to check out, and it is along the hill up to St Giovanni Castle.
A medieval castle above Kotor fascinates everyone just upon reaching the town. It is one of the main attractions visible when entering the city. The walls are stretching from the old town uphill following the zigzag direction and along the way are decorated with churches, gates and fortresses. Wonderful viewpoints over the city and the whole Kotor Bay will make you forget all the efforts you make while climbing around 1350 stairs.
During its turbulent history, the city of Kotor was defended from the towers, bastions and ramparts built along the cliffs of the San Giovanni (St. John) Hill. This hill is located about 260 meters above Kotor. Its name comes from the church of the same name, first mentioned in 1440, which was located in the main fortress at the very top of the hill, and was dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The church served the needs of the army that guarded the city walls.
The fortification complex, fortress and ramparts were built gradually over the centuries, and the construction of the city walls started between the 9th - 10th century. The fortification consists of two parts. One is made up of walls that surround the old urban core, with five bastions and three doors as the entrances into the city. The other part contains the ramparts that climb the eastern and southern sides of the hill and meet in the fortress at the top. The total length of the ramparts is 4,5 kilometers.
There are two entrances from the Old Town which are easy to reach and find. Going up, one of the first places to stop and admire the view is in front of the Church of Our Lady of Remedy at 100 m of altitude. From here upwards, with each step, the views are getting better, and upon reaching San Giovanni Fortress, the panorama is displaying the whole Bay of Kotor.
To visit the Castle, I suggest you choose the part of a day without much sun. If you are one of those people who wake up early in order to seize the day, then consider walking to the fortress early in the morning. If on the other side, you are a bit lazy, and you see your holiday also as a way to get enough sleep – then take a walk in the evening. The view is also stunning and maybe even more romantic with the yellowish street lights turned on and when you can hear the music from the small city squares.
There is one more advantage in visiting San Giovanni Castle early in the morning or during the night. As from this year, the walk costs 8 euros, but if you decide on visiting it before 8 AM or after 8 PM, you can have your walk for free.
Going up to San Giovanni Castle in Kotor is kind of an adventure, it is not that easy and be prepared to feel a bit tired and exhausted after reaching the top. However, it is indeed worth climbing, as it gives you another perspective of Kotor and a closer view of its history and culture.
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