Pretty Piran on the Slovenian coast is tiny. But it packs a powerful punch in terms of scenic beauty. It’s the perfect coastal spot to round out your Slovenia itinerary. Read on to discover the most fun things to do in Piran!
Slovenia’s coastline is a miniscule 29 miles in length. Piran sits at the very tip of the Gulf of Piran peninsula and is one of the three major towns of the Slovene Riviera, the other two being Koper and Izola.
Piran has a long and very interesting history. It is reported to have been settled as far back as the 7th century! From the later part of the 13th century until almost the end of the 18th century, Piran was under the rule of Venice. You can see a lot of Venetian influence in Piran’s architecture.
Today the charming town is a popular tourist destination in Slovenian Istria. Its beautiful architecture, delicious seafood-dominant cuisine, and stunning location make it well worthy of a place in your itinerary for Slovenia.
THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN PIRAN
Piran may be small, but you’ll definitely not be bored here. We spent about 1.5 days here and found it just the right amount of time.
Whether you enjoy sightseeing or you just want to sit back and watch the world go by, you’ll have a marvelous time in this charming little Slovenian coastal town. Here are 10 fun things to do in Piran:
#1 Walk around Tartini Square
Piran’s principal square is actually quite large and majestic for such a tiny town. The square is named for Giuseppe Tartini, an Italian composer and violinist born in Piran. You can see a statue of Tartini in the square.
The site originally used to be a dock for small fishing boats, but gradually buildings came up around it. Tartini Square was properly developed in the second half of the 19th century. New buildings, including the magnificent town hall, were built.
Walk around the square in the early part of the day to take photos and admire the beautiful architecture. Stop by later in the day and sit at an outside table at a cafe to enjoy the bustle and activity in the square.
#2 Wander the streets of the old town
Piran’s narrow cobblestone streets and alleys are charming. Wander the town to see the pretty facades and the smaller squares. The town is small, so you can walk it in a short time. We spent about an hour, including time to take photos.
In one of the smaller squares just off Tartini Square, you’ll find the local green market if you visit in the morning on any day except Sunday. Stop by to pick up some fresh fruit. We bought some cherries for a sweet snack and they were juicy and delicious.
Don’t miss the First of May Square! With its pretty colored houses on the periphery and statues of Liberty and Justice, and the old well in the middle, it is one of the prettiest squares in the town.
If you prefer, you can join a walking tour for a more structured walk around the town.
#3 Stroll the waterfront promenade
Piran’s waterfront promenade offers gorgeous views of the water and of the pretty buildings along the shore. One of my favorite memories from Piran is of an evening walk along the promenade, feeling the sea breeze ruffle my hair and listening to the raucous cries of the many seagulls.
Look for the sculptures in the rocks piled up along the promenade. I was surprised when I came across a sculpted mermaid in the midst of a pile of rocks. I learned later that local artists have been invited by the city to contribute their talents to the project.
At the very tip of the peninsula, you’ll see the Piran Lighthouse and the Church of St. Clement. It’s a beautiful walk any time of day, but walk the promenade at sunset if your itinerary allows: Piran sunsets can be spectacular.
#4 Visit the Church of St. George
Visiting St. George’s Parish Church is definitely one of the best things to do in Piran, mainly because of its stunning hilltop location. The church was built in the Renaissance style, and a Baroque baptistery was added later.
A fairly steep stone path leads to the church from Tartini Square. The walk is not too long though, maybe 6-7 minutes. The pathway along the church is the best place to get views of Piran’s charming rooftops if you don’t want to climb to the top of the bell tower or the walls of Piran.
Over the orange rooftops of the town, you can see all the way to the coast of Croatia across the water if you visit on a clear day. Walk to the back of the grassy area in front of the church portal, for equally beautiful views of the coast of Italy across the Bay of Trieste.
The interior of the church contains some frescoes and it’s worth popping in if you visit when it’s open. It also has a sculpture of St. George on horseback.
#5 Climb to the top of the bell tower
If the slender bell tower of the Church of St. George reminds you of the St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, it’s because it was built as a replica. Topped by a statue of the Archangel Gabriel, the bell tower dominates the Piran landscape.
Climb to the top of the bell tower for fabulous views over Tartini Square, the terracotta rooftops of the town, and the blue waters below. It’s one of the most exciting things to do in Piran!
There are approximately 150 steps to the top. When we visited in June 2019, the steps looked new and in great condition. Along the stairway, you’ll see names of saints inscribed on the floor. At the top, climb out through the trap door to the viewing area.
Two of the four bells at the top are newly installed: they were donated to Piran in 2013 by a parish in Berlin, and installed in 2015. The oldest bell is from the 15th century.
There is a nominal fee to climb the bell tower.
#6 Walk the town walls
For the best rooftop views of Piran, head even further up the hill from the Church of St. George to the old town walls. Climb up the steps to the ramparts, and you’ll see all of Piran spread out below you.
Be warned: the walk up to the walls is steep. Also, while parts of the wall climb just involve stairs, some parts require climbing steps while bent over to avoid hitting your head on the ceiling.
Walking the town walls was our favorite sightseeing activity in Piran. The walls were built to keep Turkish invaders at bay, and they are thick and solid, even if not in the best of shape at this time.
You can walk from one end of the walls to the other, all the while oohing and aahing at the magnificent views. You can also climb further up to the top of each of the towers. From the walls, you can see the triangular shape of the town, surrounded by water along two of three sides. It’s the perfect picture postcard!
You can drive to the walls as well. There is a small entrance fee to climb the walls, totally worth it for the views.
#7 Visit the Franciscan Monastery
The Minorite Monastery in Piran dates back to the beginning of the 14th century. It’s here that Tartini received some of his early musical education. Franciscan monks still live in the monastery, and you could be fortunate enough to hear them chanting when you visit.
If for nothing else, you must visit the monastery for its lovely cloisters. The central courtyard, with its well, is also beautiful, and a venue for summer concerts.
Don’t miss the antique chair made from olive wood: it’s more than 500 years old!
#8 Enjoy a scenic boat tour
Get out on the water to enjoy the Slovenian coast with a scenic boat tour! You get gorgeous views of the small towns along the shore, along with views of the cliffs and bays that make up the short coastline.
Tours here are not plentiful, so communicate with the Tourist Information Center ahead of your visit to get the schedule for the day you plan to do the boat tour. Only one tour was offered each day when we visited in early June.
If you visit when the water is warm, you can also swim in the bay! Steps lead from different points on the promenade into the water, and around the bend at the lighthouse, we saw people sunbathing on the rocks as well.
#9 Do a coastal walk to Portorož
If the weather is nice, doing one or more of the scenic walks around Piran is exhilarating. For a nice walk along the coast, head to the town of Portorož.
While Piran has a lot of the charm of a medieval fishing village, Portorož is more a historic resort, with grand old hotels and spas. In the late 1800s, doctors here started offering treatments based on salts and saline mud from the area, and Portorož was declared a health resort.
The walk is gorgeous, with beautiful views back to Piran’s coastline and little marina, as well as out to the blue water and the coastline of Croatia in the distance. It took us about 40 minutes each way, with stops for photos.
If you want to walk just one way, take the bus to Portorož and walk back so you are facing the views of the Piran coastline as you walk.
#10 Visit the Strunjan Nature Park
If you plan to be in Piran for more than one day, visiting Strunjan Nature Park should definitely be on your list of things to do in Piran! A coastal park located between Piran and Izola, Strunjan offers the chance to relax in the unspoiled beauty of the coastline.
The trail within the park winds through olive groves and vineyards before meandering uphill to the top of the cliffs. The walk along the cliffs provides stunning water views. On a clear day, you can even see the Alps from here! You can also take one of the rather steep paths or stairways down to Moon Bay, with its beautiful turquoise water.
Strunjan is about 3 miles from Piran. You can, of course, drive there if you have a car. Otherwise, take a taxi! Plan on spending about 3 hours in the park, to enjoy the hike and a little time swimming or relaxing by the water.
How to get to Piran
From Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, the most direct way to get to Piran by public transport is by bus. The journey can take from a little over two hours to three hours, depending on the bus you take.
Alternatively, you can drive yourself, or splurge on a private transfer. We did a private day tour with stops at Predjama Castle, the Škocjan Caves, Koper, and the Lipica Stud Farm, before being dropped off at our hotel in Piran.
From Rovinj in Croatia, you can take the ferry in season. The ferry only runs on some days of the week, and takes about 1.5 hours. You can also take a bus to Portorož or Koper, and then another bus to Piran. Or you can do a private transfer, which is the most convenient of all your options.
From Trieste in Italy, you can take the ferry during the summer months. The ferry takes just 30 minutes and operates several days of the week. Or you can take a bus, which takes a little over one hour.
Where to stay in Piran
We stayed in Hotel Piran. It’s right on the water. The rooms are comfortable and the rooftop bar is amazing. Breakfast at an outside table right by the water makes for a wonderful start to the day.
Some rooms overlook the water and some overlook one of the smaller squares of the town. The location is convenient to the main square and to several restaurants. Check prices and availability!
Where to eat in Piran
We enjoyed our dinner at Gostilna Park, which is a bit of a walk from Tartini Square. My husband loved his seafood choices. I ate gnocchi, which was delicious, along with a selection of cooked veggies.
If you love seafood, try Pirat for lunch. The menu is definitely heavy on seafood and I had hardly any options as a vegetarian, but my husband tucked into his meal and said his calamari was some of the most tender he has ever eaten.
The best time to visit Piran
Late spring or fall are the best times to visit Piran. We visited at the beginning of June, and the water was warm and temperatures pleasant. September would be another great choice, with the water still warm enough for swimming.
I would avoid the peak summer months of July and August, when the little town is apt to be overrun with visitors.
How long should you spend in Piran?
Many people visit Piran on a day trip from Ljubljana or Trieste. While the town is small enough that you can do a lot on a day trip, I think it’s worth considering an overnight stay. The waterfront and old town are magical in the very early morning and late evening.
With 1.5-2 days, you can do a longer hike in the area, for example, the walk through Strunjan Natural Park. Or you can visit Koper and Izola, the two other towns in the Slovenian Riviera with historical centers. They are both small, so you can easily cover both in a morning or afternoon.
So there you have it: my list of the best things to do in Piran, Slovenia! Have you visited this charming town yet? What did you like best about it? Comment below to respond! If you are planning a trip to Slovenia, I do hope you include pretty Piran in your itinerary. We loved our time in Piran and can’t wait to return!
And if you are scouting other destinations in Slovenia, check out my post on the best things to do in Lake Bled!
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