Kotor, Montenegro

Wedged between brooding mountains and a moody corner of the bay, achingly atmospheric Kotor (Котор) is perfectly at one with its setting. Hemmed in by staunch walls snaking improbably up the surrounding slopes, the town is a medieval maze of museums, churches, cafe-strewn squares and Venetian palaces and pillories. It’s a dramatic and delightful place where the past coexists with the present; its cobblestones ring with the sound of children racing to school in centuries-old buildings, lines of laundry flutter from wrought-iron balconies, and hundreds of cats – the descendants of seafaring felines – loll in marble laneways. Come nightfall, Kotor’s spectacularly lit-up walls glow as serenely as a halo. Behind the bulwarks, the streets buzz with bars, live music – from soul to serenades – and castle-top clubbing.
Budva’s got the beaches, and nearby Dubrovnik’s got the bling, but for romance, ambience and living history, this Old Town outflanks them all.