Most of Slovenia lies in Europe’s mainland with the exception of a tiny sliver of it, that stretches to the Adriatic sea. And at the edge of that tiny sliver lies this small but charming town.
8 awesome things to do in Piran, Slovenia
Piran is not like other Slovenian towns – it was a part of the Republic of Venice till the end of the 18th century, and it shows. The town’s architectural style much more resembles a Croatian coastal town than a mid-European medieval city.
It lies in the small area known as Slovenian Istria, at the edge of the Gulf of Piran.
Although the town is absolutely gorgeous, you shouldn’t spend your entire vacation in it. Since Piran does lie at the coast, going for a swim is mandatory. And besides that, there are many sights just outside the town, perfect for a leisurely summer day trip.
But regardless of your travel style, these travel tips will help you experience Piran better. Now let’s get right to it, and check all the awesome things you can do and see in (and around) Piran!
Check out the Tartini square
The Tartini square (or Tartinijev trg in Slovene) lies in the center of Piran. The square is named after Giuseppe Tartini, a famous violinist, and composer, who was born in Piran. There’s also a statue, built in his memory, standing in the middle of the square.
For most of the town’s history, there was a port for the local fishing boats where the Tartini square lies now. At the end of the 19th century, the inner port was filled with soil and transformed into the square we can see now. Interestingly, the main reason for this was the port’s stench – that’s why they simply filled the place up and moved the port outside the town.
Besides being Piran’s main square, Tartini square is also its social midpoint. It is a place where people gather, go out in the evening, or simply chill out. The square is packed with bars and restaurants, which gives the place that nice atmosphere you’d enjoy while on vacation.
Tartini Square often hosts various cultural events, especially in the summer. These are events, like an open-air concert, culinary event, classical music festival, etc… Regardless, you should definitely check it out, if you can. You can browse through all the upcoming events on their official website.
Wander about in Piran’s narrow alleys
When you’re done admiring the Tartini square, continue your sightseeing in the Old town Piran. Simply strolling down the narrow alleys is the best way to capture the town’s vibe. Who knows, you may discover some quirky souvenir shop or that amazing, hidden ice-cream shop all the locals head to on a warm afternoon.
Architecture is one of Piran’s strong points, and wandering through those alleys is a great way to admire it. You’ll see historic buildings, many of them restored to their former glory from the Venetian times.
And don’t worry too much while wandering about. You can’t really get lost in there, Piran isn’t really big enough for that.
Climb the church’s bell tower
We all love a good view, and one of the best views you can get over Piran is from the bell tower of St. George’s church. There is a narrow and steep stairway leading to the top, but the reward is well worth it. You get a 360-degree view over Piran, as well as the Alps, Adriatic sea, Croatia, and Italy.
The tower stands beside the Piran’s church of St. George, which was modeled after St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.
The entry fee to the tower is 2€ (last checked in April 2020). Entry to the church is free, but it’s not always open, so you’ll need a bit of luck.
Walk down the town walls
Like most of the towns in the middle ages, Piran too had a wall to protect itself from invaders. It was actually built three times, not because it was demolished, but because the town needed more space.
For another great view over Piran, walk down the old town walls. Only a short stretch is open for the public since the rest of the walls succumbed to the elements.
The entrance to the town wall is located a short walk uphill from the church of St. George. The entry fee is 2€ (last checked in April 2020).
Go for a swim
When you’re on vacation at the Adriatic sea, you absolutely have to go for a swim. If you’re not in the mood for leaving Piran, you can check out these beaches:
- Plaža Piran (old town beach) – it’s located at the northern end of Piran
- Plaža pod obzidjem (under the town walls) – a short walk along the coast from Plaža Piran
- Plaža Fornače (Fornache beach) – at the southern end of the town, about a ten-minute walk from Tartini square.
A helpful tip: Plaža (pronounced Plazha ) means beach in Slovene – it might come in handy when asking a local for advice.
But, if you’re looking for a really nice beach to spend an entire day at, Piran isn’t the best possible place. The best beaches are located outside the town – but we’ll cover that in the later chapters.
Eat local food
Eat local food is one of the most common travel tips, and rightfully so. At least for me, trying local food is a huge part of experiencing a foreign place.
And it goes the same for Piran. Slovenia has its own cuisine, but it differs from region to region. Since Piran lies on the Adriatic sea, the cuisine there is distinctly Mediterranean.
If you’re looking for some fine dining, simply go for a stroll down the seaside promenade. You’ll many find seafood restaurants, where they serve freshly made local specialties. And besides the food, Piran lies in one of Slovenia’s wine regions. And nothing goes better along with seafood than quality white wine.
If dining at a fancy seaside restaurant isn’t your thing, I suggest searching through the maze that is the old town Piran. A great example of a more budget-friendly place is Fritolin pri Cantini. It is a fast food place, serving mostly fried seafood. Not fancy, but still delicious!
Visit the nearby town Portorož, Slovenia’s resort town
Portorož is another interesting coastal town, located a few kilometers along the coast from Piran.
You can simply walk there. It’ll take you about 45 minutes – but it won’t be the most pleasant walk, as you’ll need to walk along a busy road, and past some port-side factories. You can walk to Piran bus station and catch a local bus, or simply rent a bicycle. I would recommend the latter, as the bicycle will also make exploring easier.
Portorož is not a historic town, where you’d climb the bell tower, check the main square, or hike the city walls. It’s more a resort town, full of luxury hotels and casinos. It’s one of the places in Slovenia for high-end vacation enthusiasts.
But don’t get the wrong idea. Even if you aren’t a luxury traveler, Portorož is still a great place to visit. The town stretches along the coast, with many beaches, piers, restaurants, and beach bars. You can stroll down the shore, have a drink, or simply pick a spot and chill. Either way, it makes for a great, relaxing day.
Portorož also offers a great alternative to Piran when it comes to the swimming area. So if your idea of a vacation is relaxing on the beach, you should definitely visit.
One interesting and unique thing you can do in Portorož is taking a panoramic tour on a pirate ship. Yes, I know, it’s not for everyone, but it’ll make the day for a family. You can read more about this on their official website.
While in Piran, you should definitely check out the places of interest around it too. One very important economic good in the area was, and still is, salt.
There are two salt pans in the area, both still operating and open for visitors.
Sečovlje salt pans are located right next to the border with Croatia, about a 15-minute drive from Piran. The salt pans are still operational, producing high-quality salt and salt-related products the traditional way.
The salt pans are also open for visitors, with the option of booking a guided tour. There is also a museum, where visitors can learn all about the traditional salt-making process. Entry fees are about 5-10€, depending on the time you’re visiting, the tour you’re getting, etc… Visit their website to get more detailed information.
You can also visit the Lepa Vida spa, located within the salt pans complex. They offer different treatments using the salt and salt marsh vegetation from the salt pans. I never tried it myself, but it does sound like a unique and relaxing experience. You can find more information here.
Next to the village of Strunjan lie the other salt pans. These lie just as far from Piran, but in the opposite direction, towards Koper.
Like at Sečovlje, salt here is also produced to this day using the traditional methods. Strunjan salt pans are the northernmost still functioning salt pans in the Mediterranean area and one of the few salt pans in the world where salt is produced with several centuries-old processes.
The area around Strunjan salt pans was declared a natural reserve, so beautiful nature is one of its greater features. Strunjan is a great spot to visit even if you aren’t interested in the salt pans. It has great beaches to relax, and seaside bars to go for a drink.
How far is Piran from Ljubljana?
Piran is located at the south-western tip of Slovenia, next to the border with Croatia. it’s 120 km away from Ljubljana, which makes for about hour-and-a-half drive. But what’s the best way to reach it?
To reach Piran, take the A1 highway towards Koper. Keep driving past Koper until the highway turns into a normal regional road. From here, you can simply follow the road signs and reach Piran in about 10 more minutes.
You should know that Piran is a pedestrian-only area, which means you’ll have to leave your car outside and continue on foot. There are two major parking lots just outside Piran:
- Fornače – located at the sea south from Piran, about 10 minutes walk to the center
- Arze – Located on the hill Above Piran, close to the city walls.
By public transport
If you’re coming from Ljubljana, I suggest you take the bus. Check the rides and timetables at the Ljubljana bus station. The ride should take about two and a half hours, and cost about 10€.
The alternative would be the train, but I really wouldn’t recommend taking it. The train only takes you as far as Koper, so you’d have to search for public transport from thereon. And besides, trains often take longer, cost more and don’t run as frequently as the buses.
Also, don’t forget about carpooling and hitchhiking – both are also viable options for going around Slovenia.
And what if I’m not coming from Ljubljana?
Well, most people do, so I just assumed you are too. But in case you aren’t:
- If you’re going to Piran from the eastern half of Slovenia, go to Ljubljana first, and then follow the directions above
- If you’re starting off from the western half, you’re already closer to Piran. Slovenia isn’t really big, so the entire western part is fairly close to the sea. Simply find the nearest A1 highway junction, and follow the directions
- If you’re coming from Croatia, I suggest going through Istria and crossing the border at the Sečovlje border crossing. Though it is more convenient, that border crossing is small and it often gets overcrowded, so check the traffic conditions beforehand. The alternative border crossing is called Dragonja.
- If you’re coming from Italy, I suggest taking the highway from Trieste. You’ll merge with the A1 highway shortly after entering Slovenia and reach Koper.
Also, note that the best public transport options run from Ljubljana. I’d strongly suggest having your own transport for all the alternatives.
What about the rest of the Slovenian coast?
Yes, I know I only covered half the coast of Slovenia. But I didn’t forget about the other half. I’ll feature that in my post about Koper, the other interesting coastal town.