Beautiful ocean views, stunning architecture, and weather to rival the sunniest places on earth: this is what you’ll find in the beautiful coastal town of Piran, Slovenia.
With only 47 kilometres of coastline in the whole of Slovenia, Piran is blessed to be one of its few seaside towns and, despite its small size, it is packed with highlights.
For over 500 years this part of modern day Slovenia belonged to the Republic of Venice and the Venetian influence can still be seen in the town today. Thankfully, it’s not as large or as busy as the Italian city which sits almost directly across the Adriatic Sea.
It is, however, postcard-worthy. Sitting on the tip of a narrow peninsula that juts into the sea and watched over by a baroque cathedral, Piran is the perfect example of a beautifully preserved medieval town.
Whether you plan to just spend one day in Piran or will visit for longer, there are enough things to do in Piran to keep you well and truly occupied.
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Where is Piran
Piran is located in southwestern Slovenia, close to the borders of Italy (to the north) and Croatia (to the south).
Built on the Adriatic Sea, the town has a subtropical climate with warm summers making Piran weather ideal for holidaymakers. For this reason, and its relaxed feel, Piran is a popular holiday resort and during the summer months the permanent population of 2,000 swells to 6,000.
When planning my visit to the Slovenian coast, I was tossing up whether to make Piran or Portoroz my base. I’m so glad I chose Piran as it is smaller and far less glitzy than nearby Portoroz and the charming Old Town really stole my heart.
Piran attractions and things to do in Piran
Piran is a car-free town (read on further for details on parking and public transport) so to explore the town you’ll have to do so on foot. It’s easy to find Piran’s main attractions as you wander the cobbled, winding streets but if you’d rather not ramble aimlessly, you can pick up a Piran map from the Tourist Office.
Alternatively, why not join a guided walking tour with a local? I joined a sunset tour with local food and wine tasting organised by Piran Walking Tours and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The tour guide was friendly and very informative and our 90-minute walking tour finished at the Church of St. George where we tasted local food and wine whilst watching the sun set over Piran.
No matter whether you explore on your own accord or join a tour, your Piran sightseeing will likely include the following…
Piran Old Town
It’s hard to come by a European settlement that doesn’t have an old part of town, and Piran is no exception. Piran’s Old Town boasts an incredibly well-preserved array of medieval architecture dating back to pre-Roman times.
Between its Venetian Gothic architecture, the narrow winding passageways, and the warm climate, it’s hard not to fall in love with Piran’s Old Town.
Significant buildings include Tartini House – one of the oldest buildings in town, the Venetian, a beautiful example of Venetian gothic architecture which was built in the mid-15th century, and the Municipal Palace which houses the Piran Tourist Office amongst other local government offices.
During summer, the Piran Tourist Office is open daily from 9am until 8pm.
Tartini Square is the city’s main square – as well as being the largest – and was named for violinist Giuseppe Tartini who was born in Piran. A statue of the virtuoso stands in the square today.
In its early days, the square was actually a dock for fishing boats, located outside the city walls. As the city grew, and important buildings went up around the dock, the sewage and rot from the dock eventually prompted city officials to bury it and build a real square.
Piran’s small harbour can now be found just a couple of hundred metres from Tartini Square.
Lined with cafés, seafood restaurants, pubs, and quaint shops, and sparkling under the sun due to its white marble, Tartini Square is a must-visit when you travel to Piran.
The narrow, pastel-coloured buildings that surround the square offer a calming atmosphere.
Piran Minorite Monastery
The Piran Minorite Monastery is a Roman Catholic monastery that sits on the hill overlooking the town of Piran below. It was here that Giuseppe Tartini, for whom Tartini Square is named, received his early musical education in a private room within the monastery walls.
Visitors can explore the cloisters to really soak in the feeling of being transported back in time. There is also an on-site museum with both permanent and temporary exhibits.
Musical concerts are often held here in the warmer months, making for a truly magical experience as you listen to the gentle music.
Piran Lighthouse & the Church of St. Clement
Just west of Tartini Square, the land funnels into a point at the water’s edge. On the tip of this peninsula sits the Piran Lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is quite small and underwhelming but just behind it is the Church of St. Clement.
Both structures date back to the mid-1800s and can’t be missed when you stroll along the seaside promenade.
The tip of the peninsula is a popular spot at sunset as locals and visitors alike flock to the water’s edge to witness one of Piran’s spectacular sunsets.
Piran City Walls
Piran’s ancient city walls, built due to expansion within the city, are largely still standing today. Though some areas have crumbled or begun to disintegrate, the walls and many of the gates from the original construction, built between the 7th century and the 15th century, remain entirely intact.
The most popular portion of the walls sits high above the town, so once the uphill climb is over, you will be rewarded with sprawling views of the town and the Adriatic Sea.
For an admission fee of just €2 (children under 12 are free) you can access the city walls of Piran – well worth it for the spectacular views.
You can access the Piran city walls daily from 8am until dusk.
Church of St. George
A Venetian Renaissance-style church that sits on the hilltop above Piran, the Church of St George is a structure visitors will want to see. An important landmark, and a key part of the city’s rich history, the church is a popular place for travellers.
The church’s bell tower dominates the skyline of Piran and its namesake, St. George, is Piran’s patron saint.
Though it is a popular attraction, mass still takes place in the inner hall (incidentally, this is the only time it is accessible), and the lawn which was formerly a graveyard now houses an observation point overlooking the bay below.
Piran seaside promenade
As you stroll along the seaside promenade, the waters of the Adriatic lap at your feet. This is a popular spot for swimming and sunbaking and diving straight into the sea from the small jetties is a great way to cool off.
This is also where you’ll find lots of lots of restaurants, many serving locally caught seafood. Typically these restaurants are quite touristy and very busy during the summer months.
Although there are no beaches in Piran, beaches can be found a few kilometres away at Portoroz.
Other things to see in Piran include an aquarium, the Aquatic Diving Museum and numerous galleries.
Day Trips from Piran
Piran is superbly located for day trips, making it easy to take a day or two to cover a little more ground during your stay in or around Piran.
For help planning your road trip in Slovenia, click here to see my 1 week itinerary.
Much larger than Piran and very Monaco-like, the linked city of Portoroz is home to numerous casinos, narrow sand beaches, a large marina and many arts and music festivals. There is even a museum dedicated to the British band The Rolling Stones.
From Piran to Portoroz it is just 4 kilometres and Arriva Slovenia buses depart every 30 minutes to link the two towns. Journey time – 7 minutes.
Secovlje Salt Pans
Salt was the primary reason behind Piran’s growth. It flourished in large part due to the Secovlje salt pans, where the fleur de sel has been produced for seven hundred years using the original methods.
The salt pans, which date back to the first century, are all still in operation today and are surrounded by landscaped parks.
Tours and lessons about traditional salt-making are available and you can also test the healing properties of salt mud and brine in an outdoor spa.
Visit the official website for more details.
If you love more unique adventures then a visit to the Skocjan Caves is a must-do while you are staying in Piran. The only UNESCO Heritage Site in all of Slovenia, these caves have significant natural and historical value.
The area is marked by a huge gorge where the Reka River disappears underground. Atop this all lies the village of Skocjan, from where the caves derive their name.
The Skocjan Caves system is made up of numerous caves, passages and natural bridges. There have been archeological discoveries indicating that prehistoric peoples may have lived in these caves.
As a visitor, you can enter the caves and pass through them via modern bridges, passageways, and rafters that make underground passage possible. Entry to the caves is only possible with a tour guide (English-speaking guides are available).
We joined the two-hour tour (we spent about 75-minutes in the caves and the rest of the time walking to and from the entrance and exit points) which cost €20 per adult.
The tour was informative but we felt that the group sizes were too large. If you plan on visiting during the summer months, I recommend arriving early and joining one of the first tours of the day.
Skocjan Caves are located 50 kilometres from Piran, just off the A1 motorway. Exits are well sign-posted.
Skocjan Caves are open from April through to October.
Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle
Another popular excursion from Piran is a visit to Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle. The Castle is the only preserved cave castle in Europe and the caves are the only ones in the world that can be visited via an electric train!
The caves are only an hour’s drive from Piran and Predjama Castle a further 15 minutes away.
A 5-hour escorted tour from Piran is available. Click here to check details and prices.
Lipica Stud Farm
Not far from Skocjan Caves, the Lipica Stud Farm is one of the oldest breeding centres for Lipizzan horses, the famed white horses of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna, Austria.
A visit to the farm is a great activity for families as the stud farm offers many onsite activities such as riding lessons, carriage rides and even a choreographed horse show (fees apply).
Park entry costs €3 per adult, however if you arrive by car and can provide a Slovenian vignette receipt, entry is free. Parking costs €3.
It is possible* to see the Lipizzaner horses without entering the actual park. Horses grazed in the paddocks either side of the entrance road when we visited, and there were at least fifty of them in a field beside the main car park. We were able to pet the horses as they approached the fence.
*This may change depending on which fields the horses are in on the day you visit.
Piran to Ljubljana day trip
If you want to explore Ljubljana, when you visit Piran, the easiest way to travel is by car. In less than 90 minutes you can be in the heart of the Slovenian capital and ready to discover the delights of the city.
Alternatively, there are numerous bus companies that operate a Piran to Ljubljana route daily. Journey times range from two to three hours.
Further reading: Ljubljana, the small city that’s big on charm
Piran to Lake Bled day trip
One of Slovenia’s most-visited towns is picturesque Bled, located on the lake of the same name, and it makes a great day trip from Piran.
You’ll need your own car (public transport options all go via Ljubljana) but it’s less than a two-hour drive from Piran to Bled.
There will be plenty of time to explore the main sights of Bled before returning to Piran.
Further reading: Best things to see and do in Bled
Being so close to the border between Slovenia and Croatia opens up a whole new avenue of things to do while in Piran. The Croatian seaside town of Rovinj, for example, is only a two-hour drive from Piran, making it accessible and not too far away.
Other Croatian towns that are easily reached from Piran include Umag, Porec and even Pula, with its Roman arena.
As you will be crossing the Slovenian-Croatian border – from a Schengen-member country to a non-Schengen-member country – be prepared for lengthy queues at the border as all passports are checked as you enter and exit the country.
Waiting times at the border on weekends during the summer months can be particularly lengthy.
For more info about which countries are members of the Schengen zone, click here.
Piran to Venice day trip
The fastest way to get from Piran to Venice is to drive. It should take you around two and a quarter hours to travel the 200 kilometres.
Alternatively, you can take a day trip to Venice by ferry. Venezia Lines operate a ferry service between Piran and Venice and return every Saturday.
The ferry departs Piran at 8.15am and arrives into Venice at 11am. On the return journey, departure time from Venice is 5.15pm and you’ll arrive back at Piran at 7.45pm.
Where to stay in Piran
I chose the Hotel Piran for my three night stay in Piran. Nestled between the seafront and the Old Town, the hotel offers 103 rooms and suites, many with balconies overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Our room, a double room with sea view (and balcony), was not large but it had been designed to make good use of the available space. Facilities included a flat screen TV, mini bar, hairdryer and free WiFi – which was on an open network and quite slow.
Complimentary swimming towels were provided for guests.
A buffet breakfast was available each morning in the restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating. A typically European-style breakfast with lots of cold meats, cheese and bread, was served.
Hotel Piran offers guests complimentary transfers to and from the parking garage as well as discounted rates on parking fees.
The hotel also has a wellness centre.
On our first night in Piran, we enjoyed dinner at the a la carte restaurant at Hotel Piran. Slovenian specialties and wine, including locally caught fish, feature prominently on the menu and our ‘fish of the day for two’ was delicious.
Prices are a bit more expensive than in some of the other restaurants in town but the location, right on the promenade overlooking the sea, and the excellent quality, make it worth it. Bookings are recommended.
Getting to Piran
Arriving by car and parking in Piran
The majority of visitors to Piran arrive by car but due to the its compact size, the town is car-free and car parking in Piran, Slovenia is restricted to residents with a special permit.
A large public car park is located at the entrance to Piran (parking fees apply) and free shuttle buses transfer visitors to the town centre every 15 minutes.
Hotel guests are permitted to drive to their hotel in Piran to drop off their luggage and then return to the parking garage to park their car.
Arriving by bus
Five different bus companies operate from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, to Piran. The Ljubljana – Piran bus journey takes between two and three hours, depending on the number of stops en-route.
Day trips to Piran
Another way to reach the town is on an organised Ljubljana to Piran day trip. Two of the of the most popular day trips from Ljubljana to Piran are:
- Piran and Skocjan Caves day tour – click here for details and prices
- Slovenian coast day trip from Ljubljana – click here for details and prices
If your European travel plans include a visit to Slovenia, I highly recommend you consider including Piran in your itinerary. It’s a gorgeous seaside town with a relaxed and friendly vibe. I hope you fall in love with Piran just like I did.
Top image: Jacob Riglin / Slovenia.info
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