Eating grilled calamari with a view of the dreamy Adriatic sea was the perfect final destination for our week in Slovenia. The turquoise water crashed against the rocky coast as I snapped photos with the perfect glimmer of lens flare from the sun. It was heavenly. Between great food, medieval walls, nearby towns and beautiful squares there are so many things to do in Piran.
1. Get Your Bearings in Tartini Square
Tartini Square is the perfect spot to get your bearings in Piran. It’s the most famous location here and is named after Piran’s most famous resident, Giuseppe Tartini, who was a famous violinist and composer.
The plaza used to be a harbor but was filled in with sand in the 19th century to build the ellipse-shaped area visitors presently see. It was once a turnaround for a trolley that ran between nearby coastal cities but went through renovations in the mid-20th century that created its present design.
Touring is hardly ever ideal when it rains, of course, but it was really fun to take photos of Tartini Square at night filled with precipitation. The reflection of the lights on the stone was beautiful.
Venice ruled the city for quite some time so if the architecture reminds you this legendary Italian locale, that’s why! There are two things in particular here that most emulate Piran’s Venetian history:
- The Venetian House. In the photo below it’s just to the left of me, in the background of the photo.
- Two stone flag poles that mark the entrance to the square, created in the 15th century. If you’ve been to Venice you know two famous poles mark the entrance to the most notable square there too, Piazza San Marco, better known as St. Mark’s Square.
From Tartini Square you can walk:
- South to the marina where the boats beautifully populate the horizon (#2)
- North to the Maj trg and one of our favorite restaurants, called Fritolin pri Cantini (see #3 in this post)
- Northwest to the restaurants along the coast on the street named Prešernovo nabrežje (#3 in this post as well)
- Even further north to the Walls of Piran (#4 of this post)
2. Watch the Sunrise Over the Adriatic Sea
We had a great view of the sea and Piran marina from our hotel room balcony. We didn’t have to get up that early to see the sunrise in Piran – it was around 7:00am in November. It was so peaceful to watch the colors of a painted sky turn blue as seagulls flew by. (Note it can be windy in November, especially in the mornings!)
3. Try the Seafood
The seafood is a main attraction in Piran. It is, in fact, a city on the ocean! We loved trying whole grilled Branzino (it’s like Sea Bass), grilled calamari, and even langoustine-topped pasta. One of our favorite little restaurants was Fritolin pri Cantini in Maj trg, the sweetest little hidden market square. The restaurant was no fuss, family owned, affordable and delicious. You can get food to go at the window shown below or sit to eat in at their restaurant, whose door is to the right of the service window.
There’s also a well known street along the coast named Prešernovo nabrežje where we got this pasta below. We preferred the restaurant above because it was less touristy and was more affordable than the one below. But we had a few meals in Piran so we diversified our locations.
4. See the Walls of Piran
We hiked to the Walls of Piran one morning, which took our breath away in two ways:
- We were really out of breath. Haha! It was an uphill climb. (Bring water.)
- The scenery from the top was truly awe-some.
The construction of the walls dates back to the 10th century. They literally grew in length under Venetian rule and medieval times during the 13th century as the city flourished and defense became an increasing concern.
There is a turnstile you need to pass through in order to walk onto the property and climb the wall stairs. If it looks closed try to go through anyway. We saw someone attempt entry, though not with enough energy, and move on after thinking it was closed. What a shame for him because we tried and got through easily. It was worth climbing for views like this:
You can see the Walls of Piran from a distance (close to St. George’s Parish Church, mentioned as #5 in this post) at the top of the photo below.
5. Take a Peek Inside St. George’s Parish Church
European churches may be a dime a dozen but this church is worth putting on a list of things to do in Piran. Its interior is really pretty. We recommend visiting to take a peek at it’s restored ceiling as you walk back towards the town center from the Walls of Piran.
6. Visit Koper or Izola
We visited Koper under recommendation from our hotel concierge. It was a cute town worth spending a few hours in. You can’t drive a car through the old town city center, which is kind of nice. Most parts of the historic part of Koper seemed to be pedestrian only unless you were a resident, construction or sanitation worker. There was plenty of parking surrounding the town either in lots or on the streets.
We walked around to find shops, had traditional Slovenian cream cake in a sweets store at their food market, and enjoyed wine and people watching.
Unfortunately a lot of the shops were closed the third week of November, during the off season when we visited. But we did find a few that were open. We imagine many more are open other times of the year, especially peak season.
We skipped Izola because we didn’t have time to visit both towns. But it’s another popular destination on Slovenia’s coast, just next to Koper. We heard it has a beach and great views of the ocean, an attraction more popular in warmer weather.
7. Spend a Few Hours in Italy
Trieste, Italy is so close to Piran. In fact, it only took 45 minutes to drive there. It was cool to say “oh, we went to Italy for a few hours today!” It was as easy as driving from Piran to Trieste. No one stopped us, no one asked for passports (but we had them on us just in case), there wasn’t a gate to go through indicating we were now in Italy. Nothing.
We saw the incredible Miramare Castle, ate pizza, and walked around for a few hours. It was worth it!
8. Take a Cave Tour
There are two caves you can easily reach from Piran:
- Postajna Cave (one hour driving time from Piran)
- Škocjan Caves (45 minutes driving time)
We sort of regret not going to Postajna Cave because Predjama Castle is there and we heard good things. However we only had half a day for a cave tour so we went with Škocjan Caves because it’s a tad closer to Piran and we could see it in less time. (Seeing Postajna Cave and Predjama Castle would have taken up more time than simply seeing Škocjan Caves did. We also fulfilled our castle desired when we were in Trieste and visited Miramare Castle.)
We most enjoyed learning about the history of the cave exploration. We did so through the tour guide pointing out original staircases and passageways the original explorers built and through their museum exhibits. We recommend arriving a little earlier than your tour (at least 15 to 30 minutes) to read about the caves’ history in their on-site museum. We also learned the main difference between the two caves: Škocjan Caves has a cool river that runs through it and we were told Postajna Cave doesn’t. And the river inside was pretty cool! (You’re not allowed to take photos inside the cave but, truthfully, they wouldn’t come out well anyway.)
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Heading to Slovenia? Also check out:
- 15 Traditional Slovenian Foods to Delight Your Tastebuds
- Helpful Tips and Facts to Know if You’re Traveling to Slovenia
- Record Breaking Sightseeing in 5 Hours in Trieste, Italy (Just North of Slovenia!)