Tucked deep into a finger of the fjord-like Bay of Kotor on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, the photogenic town of Kotor started life back in Roman times as a port and was protected by fortified walls that were finally completed by the Venetians in the 14th century. Butted up against the rugged cliffs of St John’s Hill, its biggest draws are its spectacular geographical setting and the delightful Old Town (Stari Grad), which is wrapped in a protective mantle of sturdy walls and was built between the 12th and 14th centuries; over the years it has been occupied by the Venetians, the Ottomans, the Habsburgs, Napoleon and – more latterly – the Italians and Serbians. Today it is increasingly popular as a stopover on Mediterranean cruises and, thanks to its eclectic past – showcased in its architecture – the town was granted UNESCO status in 1979.
Although Kotor Old Town gets rammed with visitors in high summer, it remains a charming respite from the modern-day town, built on a grid of narrow alleyways and marble-paved, fountain-filled piazzas backed by soft sandstone town houses lined with cafés and shops. Entered through a series of gates in the walls, it is home to the twin-spired Cathedral of Saint Tryphon (Sveti Tripun), constructed in the 12th century in honor of the patron saint of Kotor, plus several Romanesque churches, the 17th-century Prince’s Palace and a theater commissioned by Napoleon in 1810 (now part of a hotel). That’s also a small historical museum but the laid-back charm of Kotor Old Town is best appreciated while simply wandering around its tangle of streets.