Piran (Пиран) is a gorgeous Slovenian port town, and one of the nicest anywhere along the Adriatic coast. Located in the far southwestern corner of Slovenia on the only 47 kilometres of coastline in the country, it boasts a beautiful, sheltered location right on the Gulf of Trieste on the Istrian peninsula. With its photogenic old town, classic medieval walls and a whole range of activities nearby, Piran is one of the best places to visit in Slovenia.
Is Piran Worth Visiting?
Tucked away in a tiny section of the Adriatic between the larger coastlines of Italy and Croatia, Piran is easy to overlook on the Slovenian coast. Sometimes referred to as the “Slovenian Venice”, many people simply choose to visit the much more famous destination which sits just a few hours away. But we can say with certainty that it is a mistake to pass on pretty little Piran, and it should be part of any Balkan holiday itinerary. Encompassing a tiny little peninsula, it is filled to the brim with wonderful viewpoints, classic architecture and excellent seafood restaurants. Enjoying the sunset with a cold Laško beer, climbing the iconic walls or simply lounging on one of the nearby beaches, Piran ranks right up there with Ljubljana and incredible Lake Bled as a top destination.
What to do in Piran, Slovenia
Climb the Walls of Piran
The most famous spot in the entire town, climbing up to enjoy the stunning views from the ruins of these famous city walls should be every visitor’s top priority. Looking back down on the traditional, red-roofed buildings of the old town with the deep blue sea surrounding it on three sides is simply exceptional. And, while the photos you’ll get are truly amazing, they still don’t fully capture the atmosphere of being up there in person. We were impressed with the low entrance fee of €2 compared to entrance fees on similar attractions in other parts of Europe. But make sure to watch your head when climbing the steep staircases.
Climb the Bell Tower
Yes, I know this sounds like a lot of climbing but trust me, it’s worth it. This 46-metre tall tower is right next to the phenomenal waterfront Church of St. George. The iconic clock tower looks great from below and offers even better views from up top. Also with an entrance fee of just €2 it is definitely a steal. I made a point of climbing up every viewpoint option as the views over the Old Town were impressive from every angle.
Visit the Church of St. George
Sure, the tower always gets your attention first, but you shouldn’t forget about this Catholic gem, either, officially named St. George’s Parish Church. Completed in the early 17th century, this Venetian Renaissance style building is as historically significant as it photogenic.
Walk the Old Town
Rather than a one-time activity, this is something you are likely to enjoy for hours every day during your stay. The narrow, scenic alleys and picturesque Venetian gothic architecture, particularly the peach-coloured Venetian House, are continually fascinating and even after several days you’ll be surprised to continue discovering new corners and pleasant plazas. Start in the main square and wander from there.
Enjoy Sunset on the Promenade
The tiny peninsula of Piran is lined with a wide range of terrific restaurants and bars with relaxed terraces where you can sit with your wine or Laško and watch the sun slowly sink into the sea. Or you can simply perch yourself anywhere along the promenade. The changing colours of the sky are mesmerizing wherever you end up. We got a couple beers from the local grocery store, found a rock and watched the sun sink into the ocean.
Visit Tartini Square
The cultural heart of Piran, this immaculate round “square” features a beautiful fountain and views of the church, bell tower, walls and marina. It is dominated by the Town Hall which was built by the Venetians in the 13th century. Plant yourself at one of the several excellent restaurants, order a drink or two and spend the afternoon people watching. The first time we saw it was when it was dark and rainy and it was still impressive.
Go to the Beach
The closest thing to a beach where you can swim in Piran is the concrete promenade (where determined sunbathers are still happy to put down a towel) – there are ladders to help you easily enter the calm, protected waters. But if you want something more than this Piran beach there are also some nicer stretches nearby. Strunjan Beach is a rocky sunbathing area just east, Beach Fornače is a tiny stretch of sand just south, while Pirancek Beach is a nice spot a little farther along. Izola Beach, a short drive to the east, is popular with families while Portoroz, a 15-minute drive south or short bus ride away offers the best beach in the region. We were there in late September and Piran’s weather moved from cool and rainy to hot and sunny. It was definitely still warm enough to swim in Piran and sunbathe afterwards.
Enjoy Fresh Seafood on a Square
Each tiny little plaza in the Old Town has at least a couple great seafood restaurants to choose from. Despite its popularity with tourists, Piran is still a fishing village at heart and seafood lovers will quickly become obsessed with the quality and value of the dinner options. We had great, cheap fish and calamari meals at the Fritolin Pri Cantini, a popular little semi-takeaway place. You get a table in the square, order at the window, a server comes by and brings drinks from the bar next door and when your order is ready they ring a bell and hang a seashell marked with your order number on a string over the window.
Ranging from short, budget tours of the bay to extensive, luxury cruises taking in all the highlights along the coast, getting out onto the water offers a unique perspective of both Piran and its scenic surroundings.
Hike the Nearby Trails
There are a number of nice hikes near Piran that allow you to get out into nature to enjoy the solitude and serenity of pretty forest trails or quiet rural fields. Check out the AllTrails app to see specific routes or just zoom in on the map and follow dotted lines and see where you end up. We found some nice hikes up in the hills above Piran as well as along the coast.
Day Trips from Piran
Slovenia is a fairly small country, meaning most of its top attractions are within easy driving distance. While Ljubljana and Lake Bled should be included as destinations on their own, there are some other cool places and towns that many people visit on day trips from Piran.
Basically Piran’s sister city, while nearby Portoroz lacks Piran’s historic importance, it does offer nice beaches, a wider range of modern shops and serves as the region’s transport hub.
If you look at a Slovenia map you will see the tiny stretch of Slovenian Istria coastline. The towns of Izola, Koper and Piran are all in this area. We think that Piran is definitely the prettiest of the towns but along with its popular beach, Izola features some impressive scenery and plenty of small-town charm. Buses are frequent and taxis affordable, but we would recommend tackling the interesting 10 km walk along the coast in at least one direction.
One of the larger cities in Slovenia (which isn’t saying much, it has just 25,000 people), Koper is another Venetian gem up the coast toward Trieste. You could spend an entire day wandering among its classic buildings and checking out the churches and museums.
Secovlje Salt Pans
Right next to Portoroz, these fascinating salt pans can be seen on an easy day trip. Dating back to 800 AD, the entire town was based on the salt produced in these traditional salt farms. If you happen to be visiting in August you can time your stay to participate in the raucous Saltern Festival, celebrating the salt harvest.
Lipica Stud Farm
A pleasant 45-minute drive from Piran through a unique karst landscape, it is here that the world-famous Lipizzaner horses have been bred for over 400 years. A visit to see these graceful, white horses is a must for animal-lovers and anyone with an appreciation for horses that are better dancers than they are.
About an hour from Piran is this unbelievable cave network, which allegedly features the world’s largest cave castle. Stretching for 24 kilometres, it is filled with great attractions, art instalments, a colourful train and fun activities for kids.
Also an hour from Piran is this amazing 13th century castle built into the side of a mountain. The photographic possibilities alone make it an enticing journey, but venturing inside for a closer look is well worth it as well.
While a little farther away (approx. 1 hr 15 min), cave connoisseurs won’t want to miss the “Largest Underground Canyon in the World” (or at least largest in Europe, depending on who you ask). Filled with lakes and waterfalls and riddled with fascinating stalactites, it follows the Reka River underground among the area’s iconic karst formations. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason.
Day Trip to Piran
While there is plenty in and around Piran to keep you occupied for several days, it is technically possible to hit the highlights in one day. You’ll want to focus on the Tartini Plaza, St. George’s Parish Church, the marina, the promenade, the Bell Tower and the Walls of Piran. Getting to all of those should take you through much of the Old Town by default.
How to Get to Piran Slovenia
Driving in Slovenia is safe and easy, and Piran is within a few hours of many other popular destinations. Keep in mind, though, that cars are not allowed within the Old Town of Piran so you may need to scope out one of the public parking lots near Portoroz. Your hotel or AirBnB should be able to tell you the best place to park to get to their place.
Trieste, Italy (40 min)
Rovinj, Croatia (1.5 hrs)
Ljubljana, Slovenia (1.5 hrs)
If you have a rental car you need to check your agreement to make sure it is okay to cross borders. Very few rental companies in the Balkans actually allow international travel so it is best to ask ahead of time.
Many day tours out of Ljubljana include Piran in their itineraries. It is also a common stop on larger, multi-day tours of the Balkans.
While it is possible to get to Piran by bus, it isn’t nearly as straightforward as you’d assume. Even from nearby destinations such as Trieste and Ljubljana you may have to transfer once or twice.
Rovinj (2 hrs)
Trieste (2.5 hrs)
Ljubljana (3 hrs)
Getting to Piran from Ljubljana
There are several buses per day that leave from the main bus station in Ljubljana and take anywhere from 2-4 hours to get from Ljubljana to Piran. The trip is quite scenic but most routes have a lot of stops so the journey takes a lot longer than it should for that distance (120 km). It pays to study the Arriva schedule for your particular day to see which ones are the most direct. When taking the bus from Piran to Ljubljana you can buy the ticket on the bus as there is no bus station.
Getting to Piran from Venice
FlixBus runs a couple of comfortable daily buses from Venice to Trieste that take just 2 hours. In high season they sometimes have one that continues on another hour to Portoroz. This is the option we chose to get to Piran. It was a comfortable and fairly scenic journey.
There are also several trains per day to Trieste that take 2-3 hours.
From Trieste, there are several daily Arriva buses that take a little over an hour to Piran, and frequent buses that go as far as Portoroz. From Portoroz, local buses travel the 15 minutes back and forth to Piran every 20 minutes or you can get a taxi for around €5.
Liberty Lines runs a summer ferry between Trieste and Piran 4 times per week that only takes 30 minutes. Or Venezia Lines offers a comfortable ferry (3 hrs) directly from Venice once a week in high season but the schedule occasionally changes so be sure to check on the latest info at Direct Ferries.
Where to Stay in Piran
There are a lot of great Piran hotels and other accommodation options to fit any budget, many located right in the Piran Old Town. Here are a few of the best choices:
Apartments Lara has a nice garden patio, central location and kitchens in the units.
Memento B&B is right next to the St. George Parish Church and offers a terrific buffet breakfast and some rooms with sea views.
Hotel Zala Piran gets rave reviews for its luxury and comfort, located just steps away from the seaside promenade.
Apartment Stella has a quieter location just south of town, with comfortable well-equipped apartments.
Most people come to Piran for the beauty, but usually leave surprised at all the history, fascinating architecture and wide range of things to do in the area. Whether you are the active type who wants to experience every highlight in the area or are content to take some photos, stroll the Old Town and cap off the day with some terrific seafood and a nice sunset, Piran, Slovenia is a must-see destination.
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