Piran, the pearl of the Slovenian coast, one of Slovenia´s most recognizable locations among international tourists and a popular spot for a short trip to the sea among domestic visitors, has stolen my heart as well and I am happy to return whenever I can and at any time of the year. To be fair, my favorite time are the months of May, September and over the winter, when the atmosphere is a bit calmer and the climate is milder. Although I’m not originally from Piran, I’m yet not a complete stranger to it and I feel at home here, so it’s really about time I dedicate one longer blog post to it. So, what are the best things to see and do in Piran? There is definitely a lot more to it than just the famous Tartini Square and the picturesque punta, and although much can be seen in just one day, I still recommend at least one night. This gives you the opportunity to experience Piran in the evening and early morning hours as well. But to be honest, even if you come for a whole week, you will not be bored, Piran can also be a great starting point for day trips to other parts of our coast.
FORNAČE | lively area between Bernardin and Piran
Since the center of Piran is CLOSED FOR TRAFFIC, except for delivery (15 minutes is free for visitors) and holders of special permits, your visit will usually start right here in Fornače in case you are arriving with your own vehicle. Otherwise, there are two garages available for daily visitors to Piran, the best starting point is usually the FORNAČE GARAGE HOUSE. From the latter we descend on foot towards the sea, where there is also a FREE SHUTTLE BUS that takes you to Piran. Otherwise it’s really not far, so you can also go on foot.
The part of the coast between Bernardin and Piran, called FORNAČE, has been nicely renovated in recent years, with a new WALKING PATH, FORNAČE BEACH with easier access to the sea, wooden platforms for lounging and paved platforms with POLPO and PRI POLONCI RESTAURANTS. It’s especially wonderful here towards the evenings when the sun sets.
RIVIERA BEACH | smaller pebble beach near the main bus station
On the way to Piran from Fornače, just before the MAIN BUS STATION and a small parking lot, there is the first CITY BEACH called RIVIERA. It is not big, but when it is not too crowded, it is very pleasant. For relaxing, there is a part with smaller pebble stones and an asphalted part of the beach, otherwise you can also place your towel in the shade of pine trees along the promenade on the left side. There is also a shower on the beach, access to the sea is possible from the pier, via concrete stairs or directly via the pebble beach.
You will not be hungry – there is a larger restaurant in the immediate vicinity, but if you want somehting more upscale, try the excellent RESTAURANT MARA (among other things, they prepare an excellent octopus in the oven) closeby. Next to the bus station there is KAVARNA NEPTUN cafe, offering great selection of coffee and delicious ice creams.
MARINA AND PIRAN MUSEUMS | Museum of underwater activities, Maritime museum, Seashell museum, Aquarium and more
If we walk a little further from the above-mentioned beach towards the bus station (there is also a PUBLIC TOILET here) in the direction of the center, we come to the MARINA AREA. We can take the coastal path along the road (Cankarjevo nabrežje) or walk in parallel less busy streets, for example along Župančičeva. In both cases, on the way to the famous Tartini Square, we pass quite a few clothing stores and GIFT SHOPS where you can buy souvenirs.
Right at the beginning of the marina, you can treat yourself to a typical Balkan feast in the SARAJEVO 84 RESTAURANT, take a quick snack in the BAKERY just next door or, a little further on, dine in RESTAURANT PARK (there is actually a tiny green park with a fountain and a play area for little kids next to it) or PIRAT. There is also a smaller Mercator SHOP on the nearby Trg bratsva square if you would only like to buy some snacks, fod or drinks for later.
There are also several MUSEUMS and GALLERIES in marina area. For example, we can visit the MUSEUM OF UNDERWATER ACTIVITIES (interesting especially for lovers of diving and diving history), the MARITIME MUSEUM (with ethnological, fishing and historical collections of maritime heritage and four dislocated units on our coast), the SEASHELLS MUSEUM and the popular PIRAN AQUARIUM (located in Villa Piranese, where all aquarium lovers can see various underwater animals). Interesting temporary exhibitions are often organized in the aquarium as well.
A walk around the marina is most beautiful very early in the morning when the sea is calm and Piran is still asleep, or in the evening, at sunset when the atmosphere is quite lively and the colors are stunning as well. Observing different kinds of vessels, from sailboats, luxury yachts and simple wooden boats to fishing boats will definitely be interesting not only for you, but for your kids as well. If you feel like having a pizza, the best place in Piran is PIZZERIA BATANA, right next to Tartini Square – you may not even notice it at first glance, but trust me, their pizzas are great and they also have take away options.
PODLANICA BOAT | top location for a local seafood feast on a fishing boat
For an authentic SEAFOOD LUNCH OR DINNER, try booking one of the tables on PODLANICA FISHING BOAT, where fresh fish specialties (there is no fixed menu so they offer what they catch) will be served on the deck and roof terrace of this wooden boat. Podlanica can be found near the red lighthouse, next to the breakwater walls a little further from the Caffe Theater. Definitely book in advance via phone call, since they are often full.
TARTINI SQUARE | the most famous representative square surrounded by several important buildings
The most famous square in Piran, named after the internationally renowned composer and violinist GIUSEPPE TARTINI, has been a protective symbol of the city for decades and an important point, both in cultural, architectural and social terms. Namely, many EVENTS and CONCERTS take place here, as well as occasional MARKETS, in addition to which it is an interesting stop for people watching, and the place around the G. TARTINI STATUE also act as a “meeting point”. There is a free BUS SHUTTLE to the square from Fornače, so many people start visiting Piran right here.
The square is surrounded by important buildings such as the TOWN HALL and COURT PALACE, and in addition to other charming colorful houses, there is also the famous and most beautiful Gothic-Venetian HOUSE “BENEČANKA”. At Tartini square you can also find some RESTAURANTS, CAFES and SHOPS, and the square is also a crossroads of several streets leading to different parts of Piran. Very close to the square there is also a daily fruits & vegetables MARKET as well as a smaller FISH MARKET.
Otherwise, the IMAGE OF TARTINI SQUARE has changed greatly over time. In the place where a larger paved area has been arranged since the second half of the 19th century, there was originally a MARINA FOR SAILBOATS AND FISHING BOATS. This marina was later filled with building material and turned into a larger PAVED SQUARE used also as a city PARKING. For many years now, the entrance to the center of Piran by motor vehicles has been severely restricted, and so Tartini Square has eventually become a larger pedestrian zone and has come to life as a REPRESENTATIVE PLATFORM and space for various events.
One of the most beautiful VIEWS OF TARTINI SQUARE is from Adamičevo nabrežje street or the promenade next to the church of Sv. George. For an even greater view, climb up to the top of the church bell tower.
“BENEČANKA” VENETIAN HOUSE | the most beautiful house in Piran
Although there are plenty of beautiful buildings on TARTINI SQUARE, I simply have to point out the oldest preserved and for many the most beautiful of them all, the “BENEČANKA” HOUSE. It is named after the recognizable VENETIAN-GOTHIC ARCHITECTURAL STYLE, the details of which adorn its exterior. In addition to the famous CORNER BALCONY on the facade, we can also see a stone slab with an inscription between the lion’s paws and other details. In 2016, the Venetian facade was painted from burgundy red to creamy white, similar to the one in the original 15th century version.
ON THE GROUND FLOOR of the house there is a nice PIRANSKE SOLINE shop, where you can buy cosmetics and food products with salt from nearby salt pans. In the so-called Piano nobile storey you can check out Sloveniansparkling wine collections and ROGAŠKA CRYSTAL products, in the SECOND AND THIRD FLOOR of this fmaous house there are two luxurious rooms for rent, called Del Bello and Margareta.
PIRAN PUNTA | picturesque Madona peninsula
In addition to Tartini Square, PIRAN PUNTA, also known as MADONA PENINSULA, is today the liveliest and most popular part of Piran. The extreme end of the peninsula on which the city lies delimits the bays of Koper and Piran, and the area is also an important NATURAL MONUMENT at the expense of extraordinary biodiversity. Near the cape is also the deepest point of the Gulf of Trieste, around which is home to many animal and plant species.
Otherwise, due to the colorful facades of typical Piran houses, the entire area of punta is one of the most picturesque in Piran. You can come here for a morning or evening walk, refresh yourself by jumping into the sea or sunbathing on one of the concrete piers or platforms, treat yourself to a delicious feast to the sounds of the waves in one of the many restaurants, admire an interesting lighthouse and much more. Be careful in bad weather, the sea can sometimes flood the promenade.
A MODEL OF PIRAN | interesting model construction of Piran city
On the breakwater walls near the Caffe Theater, there is also a smaller PIRAN CITY MODEL, which, I admit, I didn’t notice at all for a long time, until Lu noticed it one day. The next time you find yourself in Piran, make sure to look for it, especially if you are with children, they usually find things like this interesting.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS ON PIRAN PUNTA | Ribič Baja, Cafinho, Caffe Teater, Čakola and other
There are a number of larger RESTAURANTS waiting for you at the punta, but this is not usually where I would personally go for a bigger meal. If I want the first row by the sea while nibbling on seafood and have to choose one of the restaurants over here, it would be RIBIČ BAJA. Otherwise, I usually find myself at a delicious breakfast or brunch, afternoon cocktail, refreshing beer or an elegant glass of espresso martini (by the way, in the latter, in addition to coffee, it is vodka and not Martini, as one would expect) in CAFINHO bar. We often go to the CAFFE THEATER for coffee or something else, especially when we jump into the sea during the day, and there is often something going on in the evenings, including LIVE CONCERTS. For a glass of local wine and a delicious plate of prosciutto, cheese and olives, or something more, you must go to ČAKOLA. There is no sea view, but the atmosphere is great, especially in the evening.
SCULPTURES ON PIRAN PUNTA | examples stonemasonry works of art
Towards the end of PIRANSKA PUNTA, near the lighthouse, we can see many interesting RELIEFS and STONE STATUES, carved from existing rocks, which protect against strong waves and the intrusion of water on the streets of the city. The most famous and noticeable is probably the MERMAID seen in the picture collage below, but there are also fish, shellfish, snails, the sun and other sculptures. Stone-cutting works of art have been created in recent years under the auspices of Strunjan’s KUD Korenina, also as part of international workshops.
1. MAJ SQUARE | former, architectural interesting main square
If you turn right from the promenade on the punta into one of the narrow streets, you will soon find yourself on the FORMER MAIN SQUARE, which is today called 1. MAJ SQUARE or Prvomajski trg square. Some of the main streets of Piran converge on it, and it is also known for its STAIRCASE and STONE COLLECTOR OF RAINWATER with a well-preserved hand pump.
The square is surrounded by typical Piran town houses, and there is a nice lively atmosphere during the summer days, especially in the evenings when the temperatures go down a little bit. This is mostly due to a very popular fish restaurant called FRITOLIN PRI CANTINI. The latter offers many fresh seafood delicacies that are prepared relatively quickly. You order and pick up food at the counter, get a drink in the adjoining canteen, and then you just have to be lucky to find a free table. I always make sure to eat here at least one time during each of my Piran visits. Here you also find restaurant ROSTELIN, serving delicious pasta – I´ve not yet got the chance to try it, but definitely doing so as soon as we get back to Piran. I can also point out another store on the market, namely MARKET 1.MAJ, where, despite its small size, you will find plenty of culinary delicacies that are not available in many other stores.
MADONA PENINSULA LIGHTHOSE | the only real stone lighthouse on Slovenian coast
The most important point of MADONA PENINSULA, at the end of the punta and at the same time one of the most recognizable SYMBOLS OF PIRAN, this beautiful STONE LIGHTHOUSE from 1617 is another “must see”. This over 10m high striking lighthouse does not work today, moreover, actually it stands there waiting for better times. Together with the associated CHURCH OF MARY HEALTH, they are unfortunately CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC and can only be viewed from the outside, despite the exceptional potential for opening a lookout tower with an existing platform and organizing events, exhibitions and similar.
PUNTA FROM THE OTHER SIDE | coastline from Madona peninsula towards Fiesa
If we continue our walk to the other side at the lighthouse at MADONA PENINSULA, a number of BARS and RESTAURANTS await us, as well as a DIVING CLUB and a tidy CONCRETE BEACH, with stairs to the sea. PREŠERNOVO NABREŽJE, as the path along the point is called, ends with another city beach, BEACH UNDER THE WALL.
Personally, I like it best here at sunrise, because the sun rises from this side, while sunsets are more beautiful from the other side of the punta. You can also enjoy your morning coffee right by the sea so this is a good place for the early birds.
BEACH UNDER THEW WALLS | pebble rocky beach under Piran´s main church at the end of Prešernovo nabrežje path
One of Piran’s beaches, which may be a little less crowded than those at the other end of town, offers easy access to the sea and possibilities to relax on a pebbles rocky beach or on larger rocks which protetc against waves. The beach, where the promenade along Prešernovo nabrežje ends is located almost below the cliff at the top of which is the church of St. George.
ST. GEORGE´S PARISH CHURCH | main church complex with a bell tower and baptistery
Piran’s main CHURCH COMPLEX stands in an extraordinary location on the ridge of the peninsula, from where one of the most beautiful views of Piran’s red brick roofs, Tartini Square and other sights opens up. The complex, whose construction dates back to the 6th century, consists of a CHURCH, a free-standing BELL TOWER and a BAPTISTERY. Today’s VENETIAN – RENAISSANCE IMAGE was given to the complex in the 17th century.
THE BAROQUE INTERIOR of a rectangular church nave with many altars, organs, sculptures, paintings and more is partially still in the restoration phase in collaboration with the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Piran, but is open to the public most of the time.
Attention should definitely be paid to the beautiful, over 46m high alone STANDING BELL WITH a clock, built in the 17th century, at the top of which everybody who manages to climb up the steep narrow staircase gets rewarded with beautiful views over Piran. It´s worth it! The bell tower is modeled on the bell tower of St. Mark in Venice, and is adorned with a ROTATING STATUE OF THE ARCHANGEL OF ST. MICHAEL.
A particularly beautiful view is towards Piran from the sea at sunset, when the striking dark scenery of the church of St. George makes for an unforgettable scene.
WALKWAY PIRAN – FIESA | panoramic foot path between Piran and Fiesa
If we continue to walk from the Adamičevo nabrežje embankment from the Church of St. George further in the direction of Ulica IX. Korpusa street, we reach a junction after about 100m – if we turn left here, we end up on a scenic seaside foot path leading towards a CAMP SITE and a smaller LAKE in FIESA. In both directions, there are beautiful views of the mighty Piran church, the open sea towards the Italian side and, with good visibility, the Alps in the background.
PIRAN CITY WALLS | the remains of a medieval wall with magnificent views of the Piran peninsula
THE CITY WALLS, which once surrounded Piran, have been only partially preserved to this day. Due to the gradual expansion of the city, the walls also changed over time and they had to be rebuilt with each expansion of the city, so today we can actually see the remains of THREE DIFFERENT WALLS, on which we also find 7 CITY GATES. According to research, the beginnings of the construction of the walls date back to the 7th century, and the largest part of the medieval walls preserved to this day dates from the 15th and 16th centuries.
During a visit to Piran, I warmly recommend a visit to the walls, part of which you can walk after paying a really low entrance fee at the vending machine. The walls will surely be interesting for our youngest ones as well, and there is no shortage of great opportunities for photography enthusiasts.
Although many higher points on the outskirts of Piran offer beautiful views of the historic old part of the city as well, the most photographed and recognizable views on Piran is seen exactly from its city walls.
MINORITE MONASTERY | interesting monastery of St. Francis with a church, library, pinakothek and courtyard
In addition to the mentioned historical and architectural sights of Piran, there is another extremely interesting building, namely the MINORITE MONASTERY OF ST. FRANCIS with its monastery church, library, pinakothek and a beautiful courtyard. The monastery, where the Minorite brothers still live today, was originally built in the 14th century in the Gothic style, but its appearance has changed frequently over time. In the CROSS HALLWAY of the monastery, which is considered one of the acoustically more interesting locations in Slovenia, music events take place from time to time, including the famous TARTINI FESTIVAL.
PIRAN NARROW STREETS | aimless walks through the old town
If you have enough time, simply take one longer aimless walk through the narrow PIRAN STREETS and make sure to look up and admire the facades of houses and their details. Although sometimes it seems like circling in a maze, there is no reason to worry, it is impossible to get lost in Piran and you will definitely discover something interesting while strolling through its streets.
PORTOROŽ – PIRAN WALKWAY | on foot or by bike between Sečovlje and Fiesa
Another great WALKING and CYCLING TRAIL for everyone who prefers to walk or cycle rather than taking the car or public transport. Also suitable for the children with push bikes and scooters. In fact, it is possible to walk all the way from SEČOVLJE SALT PANS, past LUCIJA and PORTOROŽ to PIRAN, and then onwards to FIESA along the already mentioned route. For the time being, cyclists will have to ride part of the way on the road, and partly a special bike path has been arranged. So if you are staying in Piran or Portorož, be sure to take a walk between the two places, the views are beautiful, and there are also interesting stops along the way.
BOAT TRIP | panoramic boat trips in Piran bay
You should definitely treat yourself to a BOAT TRIP, cruising Piran Bay. There are different packages available, from morning and evening cruises including a couple of hour sailing, a delicious snack and a glass of wine, to a full day picnic cruise. If you are a larger group of people you can rent a boat all to yourselves, otherwise you will just join the others. Especially at sunset, there are beautiful views of Piran from the sea, and you get to experience the city from a completely new angle. For departures from Piran, check the VINTAGE BOAT TOURS offer for example. Some of you might also enjoy a boat ride with the SUBAQUATIC boat from which you can see the UNDERWATER SEA WORLD and at the same time enjoy the PANORAMIC RIDE on the route Fiesa – Piran – Strunjan.
SLOVENIAN COAST | things to see and do in other parts of Slovene coastline
There are many other pleasant places on the SLOVENIAN COAST, and for those of you who are looking for ideas of what else you can see and do between Ankaran and Sečovlje, I published a long comprehensive article some time ago, which you can read by clicking on button under the photo.
MORE ABOUT SLOVNEIAN COAST
For more ideas on things to do on Slovenian coast check out VELASEASTORIES Instagram profile, a great place for all the sealovers out there. You can also find and book wonderful apartments on their website as well as Laura´s charming hand made products from LAURASSEASTORIES ATELIER in Piran.
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