This Underrated European Town Offers A Relaxed, Picture Perfect Vacation

Have you ever heard of Perast? Often overshadowed by its Greek and Italian neighbors, most travelers have yet to discover the sacred shores of this fairytale Venetian village. Located in Montenegro on the Bay of Kotor, Perast is a preserved gem whose cobblestone alleys date back to the reign of the Venetian Republic. This small hamlet supports a little more than 300 residents, the epitome of a small town with a strong personality. While its picturesque side streets can be perused in just a few hours, Perast is a town that's best savored slowly and intentionally. Flaneur your way from produce markets to airy coffee shops, making friends with the friendly locals as you go. Off the coast of Perast, smaller islands dot the Adriatic coastline while surrounding mountains touch the edge of the sea. According to CNN, Perast is among some of the most eye-catching sights in all of Montenegro.

Slow and spontaneous are the keys to blending in with Perast's culture. The unhurried lifestyle of the local people is a routine that few people retain and is one of the most unique elements of this town. During the day, its streets are filled with day trippers from nearby larger cities, such as Kotor, but at night, it resorts to a sleepy hollow. Much like escaping the busy Florentine streets to indulge in the obscure region of Alberobello, Perast is a true hidden Montenegrin gem. Perusing the island's edge will reveal a magnificent canvas of sandstone quarters capped with red tile roofs, crumbling churches, and bougie boutique hotels. Perast still retains much of its heritage as a sleepy fishing village, trading port, and maritime training center. Today, Perast is included in Kotor's UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a symbolic icon of Montenegro.

You'll never want to leave after a dreamy day in this Venetian village

The Perast Promenade is the town's iconic waterfront attraction, connecting the Penčići and Luke districts. While it may be short in length, it presents visitors with a strong introduction to what makes this townlet such a coveted day trip. Dazzling piazzas and Italian-style Palazzos peppered with fig trees and patisseries parallel the cobblestone boardwalk. It's the perfect place to stroll the water's edge while watching fleets of boats dock at the harbor or gaze out at Our Lady of the Rocks across the water, one of Perast's most-coveted landmarks. Get lost in the side streets among the collections of artisan craft shops with the words "handmade" scrawled on boards and balconies adorned with colorful flower pots.

Perast is famous for all 19 of its Baroque and Renaissance-style palaces that showcase architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries. Each one contains decorative stonework embellished with mascarons and holds the moniker of the noble family for whom it was commissioned. Smekja Palace is the largest of these strongholds, built from stone imported from the island of Korčula. The three-tiered palace was later fashioned into the Heritage Grand Perast Hotel, which now stands as an upscale Montenegrin resort. Bujovic Palace is easily the most elegant and prestigious of Perast's castles, sculpted in 1694. Its gorgeous stone façade and arched balconies face the waterfront, an awe-inspiring stronghold of Perast heritage. Miles of seashore may not be what the region is known for, but it has just enough sand for a beach day. Perast Beach's stretch of golden sand is just long enough to spread out your beach towel and prop yourself up in the sunlight drenching the bank. As twilight approaches, watch the colors in the sky fade from blue to hazy violet and orange before finally giving way to a canvas full of stars.

Pizza, pasta, or seafood? Perast locals love all three

Nestled along the central Mediterranean, with nothing but a channel of the Adriatic Sea separating it from Southern Italy, Perast is blessed with a multicultural cuisine that draws from both Italian and Mediterranean influences. Nearly all of its trattoria and cafe menus highlight some of the world's favorite classic dishes, including seafood, pizza, and pasta. Konoba Otok Bronza is one of Perast's best dining venues to sample the local catch. This little seafood outpost has it all with waterfront dining, mouthwatering cuisine, and friendly local service. The cozy ambiance on their al fresco patio is the perfect place to enjoy their house specialty seafood and pasta dishes.

Right on the waterfront is a true local hotspot. Stumbling upon this charming cafe will make you wonder how the founders managed to pull off a cafe that looks like it belongs in a fantasy storybook. Air plants, flower boxes, and worn wood signage give Armonia an inviting and playful image. Glowing lights from the kitchen flood the indoor space, creating a cozy space to enjoy salads, coffee, or dessert. Speaking of dessert, Peraška torta is an absolute must when dining at this cafe. A traditional native dish, Peraška torta is a moist cake made from ground almonds with hints of lemon and vanilla. Rumor has it that this cultural dish was even served at the grand inauguration ceremony for Perast's new maritime commander.

For an upscale dining venue, Restaurant Conte has a little bit of everything from pasta and risotto to fish specialties and a creative selection of appetizers. Located inside Hotel Conte, an opulent waterfront resort, reservations are required, but well worth it for both the views and the food! Try the Baklava, a traditional pastry staple that's made from filo, chopped nuts, and honey.