The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Piran, Slovenia (Things To Do + How to Stay Overnight)

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Did you know that Slovenia has a coastline along the Adriatic Sea? If the answer is no, don't feel too bad; a lot of people don't know this about Slovenia!

But Slovenia does have a little sliver of coastline, just 29 miles (47 kilometers) long, squeezed between Trieste in Italy and the northern part of Croatia. It's on the Istrian Peninsula, which is actually shared between those three countries. And it's 100% worth visiting!

Within Slovenia's stretch of the Adriatic coast (sometimes known as the “Slovenian Riviera”), there are three main towns that people visit: Koper, Izola, and Piran. Piran sits at the very tip of Slovenia's slice of the Istrian Peninsula, and is the smallest (and arguably most stunning) of the three towns.

View from Piran marina
View from Piran marina
Amanda looking out over Piran from the old walls
Amanda looking out over Piran

I've wanted to visit Piran since I first saw photos of it more than a decade ago – and it was even better than I imagined! Which is why I'm telling you to check it out, too.

Where is Piran?

Like I mentioned above, Piran is a small town situated on the far western point of Slovenia's coastline on the Istrian Peninsula. It's located roughly 1.5 hours from the capital city of Ljubljana, 2 hours from Lake Bled, and 2.75 hours from Maribor. (Slovenia isn't very big; nothing is super far away!)

The town is built on a small peninsula itself, and is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea in the Gulf of Trieste.

View from the Walls of Piran
That land in the distance? It's Croatia!

What makes Piran special?

If you've seen photos of Piran before, you might have thought that it looks an awful lot like Italy. And you'd be right! This part of Slovenia has been part of several empires throughout the ages, including the Byzantine, Roman, Venetian, and Austrian ones. It was part of the Venetian Empire the longest, though (500+ years), and those influences are the ones that still remain.

You'll find red rooftops, narrow streets, and even a near-replica of the Campanile (bell tower) of St. Mark's in Venice (in Piran, it's the bell tower at the Church of St. George).

Tartini Square, with the Church of St George bell tower
Tartini Square, with the Venice Campanile bell tower replica

Up until the end of WWII and the formation of Yugoslavia, Piran was mostly inhabited by people of Italian heritage, and Italian was the main language spoken here. There was a large Istrian–Dalmatian exodus after WWII, though, when many people left the area rather than stay in Yugoslavia.

Today, Slovene is the most dominant language found in Piran – though you'll still hear plenty of Italian, too!

When to visit Piran

The best time to visit Piran is in the late spring, early summer, or fall. (May, June and September are all excellent months to visit Piran.)

Being on the Adriatic and having a Mediterranean climate, Piran can get pretty hot in months like July and August, which make them not-so-ideal in my book. The summer months are also the busiest tourist-wise in Piran, though the city does not see huge crowds or cruise ships, so “busy” is relative here.

Town of Piran from above
It was hot in June, too, but not unbearable.

How to get to Piran

It is possible to reach Piran by bus from Ljubljana, but it can take up to 3 hours and is not the most convenient. Trains don't run to Piran; the closest you can get by train is to the town of Koper further up to coast.

The best way to get to Piran is by car. Renting a car in Slovenia is fairly easy, and the drive from Ljubljana to Piran is only about 1.5 hours. BUT you won't be able to drive your car into Piran itself – keep reading!

(You can also technically get to Piran via a ferry from Venice, Italy on select days during the summer months – but I'm guessing most people finding this post aren't going to be arriving by ferry. It is an option, though!)

Tree-lined road on the way tp Piran
Driving to Piran – also feels a lot like Italy

Where to park in Piran

If you're driving to Piran (which is what I did and what I'd recommend), there's one extremely important thing you need to know: the center of Piran is not open to non-local traffic. That means that, as a tourist, you cannot drive your car into the city center, even if you're staying overnight.

The easiest way to get into the center of Piran if you're self-driving is to park at a garage just outside of town and take a free shuttle into the city center. The garage that's the easiest to park at is GH Amfora, marked as Garažna hiša Fornače (Garage Fornače) on Google Maps.

This large 7-story covered parking garage is located at the entrance to Piran and costs €2.60 per hour up to 10 hours (in case you just want to visit Piran for an afternoon), or €26 for 24 hours. (And you pay on your way out, so take your ticket with you.)

In our experience, we didn't have trouble finding a parking spot here on an afternoon in June, but the parking spots are very tight, even in a smaller car.

There is an elevator in the parking garage, but it does not go all the way to the ground level where you can walk to the free shuttle. If you're bringing luggage, just be aware that you'll need to carry it up/down one flight of stairs. (If you're spending the night in Piran, you might consider just packing an overnight bag and locking the rest of your bigger luggage in the trunk of your car.)

When you exit the garage on foot, follow signs for the shuttle stop, which is down by the water (it's even marked on Google Maps as “Piran Free Shuttle Bus Stop”). The free shuttle runs from here to Tartini Square in Piran every 10ish minutes, and from there it's easy to walk everywhere in Piran.

Piran free parking shuttle
The free shuttle is very easy to spot!

NOTE: There is a surface parking lot close to Garage Fornače, right next to the water. This lot is reserved for Piran residents with parking passes, however, so don't try to park here! The other parking garage option close to Piran is at Garažna hiša Arze, which is an underground garage up a hill above the city. It's a bit cheaper to park here, but fills up faster and does not offer a shuttle to town.

8 fantastic things to do in Piran

Okay so now you've finally arrived in Piran!! What will you do now?

Piran is a small coastal city, with a population of around 4,000 people. The main part of the city only covers 173 acres, or roughly .27 square miles (yeah, tiny!). But don't let its small size fool you; there's still plenty to do in Piran to fill up your day.

Here's what I'd recommend you do in Piran:

1. Walk around the Old Town

The free parking shuttle will drop you off right next to Tartini Square, the main (actually round) square in Piran that's surrounded by several pretty buildings and cafe terraces.

Tartini Square in Piran
Tartini Square

The visitor center is here, along with Casa Tartini, which is the birthplace of violinist Giuseppe Tartini (his statue is also in the center of the square). There's a small museum about him inside the house.

From the square, you can walk through Piran's Old Town, most of which is pedestrian-only and made up of narrow streets that will definitely make you feel like you're in Italy.

Piran Old Town street
Piran Old Town street

2. Climb the bell tower at the Church of St. George

A great viewpoint in Piran is just outside the Church of St. George. Next to this church is its freestanding bell tower, which is the replica of the St. Mark's Campanile from Venice. You can visit the church, and also climb 147 steps to the top of the tower for about €2*.

*Note that they have begun renovation work on the bell tower in 2024. It's currently covered in scaffolding, and might not be accessible during restoration.

3. Climb the old city walls

If you like history AND great views, then make your way to a spot on the (Google) map marked Walls of Piran (Obzidje Piran).

Entrance to the Walls of Piran
This is what the entrance to the Walls looks like
Walking the Walls of Piran
Walking the Walls of Piran

Fortified walls began being built by the Venetians in the 7th century to protect Piran from invasion, and 7 of the original gates still stand today throughout the city.

You can climb one small section of the old wall above Piran town for the absolute best views!

View of Piran from the Walls of Piran
View from the Walls of Piran in the late afternoon.

The walls are open daily from 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m. barring bad weather, and cost just €3 to visit. Just note that if you're going to walk here from the town center, it requires walking up some steep streets!

(And if you want the best light for photos, go in the morning! My photos were all taken in the late afternoon, and the light was challenging.)

4. Stroll along the promenade

The main part of Piran is kind of shark fin-shaped, and a car-free seaside promenade goes all the way around it. It's on the map as Prešernovo nabrežje, named after beloved Slovene poet France Prešeren (you'll find things named after Prešeren literally all over Slovenia).

The promenade walk offers up beautiful Adriatic views and lots of restaurants with outdoor seating. And keep an eye out for sculptures right in the promenade stones, including the most famous one of a mermaid.

Mermaid sculpture along the Piran promenade
Mermaid sculpture along the Piran promenade

5. Go for a dip in the Adriatic

There ARE beaches near Piran, but none within the main city (the closest actual beach is at Fornače, near where you catch the free shuttle from the parking garage). And Piran does not have sandy beaches – they're all pebble beaches.

But all along the promenade in Piran are areas where you can sunbathe and get into the sea via ladders or stone steps. The water is gorgeous and clear, so definitely pack your swimsuit!

Swimming area in Piran
This is what the swimming areas look like in Piran

NOTE: You may spy jellyfish in the Adriatic waters here; in the summer, they are likely to be purple moon jellies, which do not have stingers powerful enough to harm humans.

6. Eat dinner on a fishing boat

With its location right on the Adriatic, fresh seafood abounds at restaurants around Piran. But if you want a really unique dining experience, make a reservation at Podlanica, a casual restaurant on a fishing boat in Piran's harbor.

Not only is this location really cool (walk out to the end of the pier while you're here), but the restaurant serves up THE freshest seafood. The menu changes daily based on what the owners went out and caught that day.

Podlanica boat restaurant in Piran
Podlanica boat restaurant
Ashley and I eating at Podlanica
Ashley and I eating at Podlanica

The boat's website says you need to call ahead to make a reservation, but we also saw people just walking up and being seated at the picnic bench-style tables. (Their number is +386 41 338 612, and we had luck just sending them WhatsApp messages to make a reservation!)

7. Try orange wine on a rooftop

After dinner, there's no shortage of beautiful places to post up for dessert or an after-dinner drink. You could stick to one of the restaurants along the promenade to sip a glass of wine and watch the sunset, or you could head to a spot like the rooftop of Hotel Zala in the heart of the Old Town.

During the summer (June-October), Hotel Zala opens a rooftop sushi bar – but you can also just enjoy cocktails, wine, and dessert.

A unique type of wine you can try here is orange wine – which is indeed orange! But it's not made with oranges; it's made from white wine grapes, and the color comes from the grapes being left in contact with the grape skins for days, weeks, or even months during the fermentation process. Orange wine is actually one of the oldest styles of wine in the world, and is a specialty in parts of Slovenia.

Glass of orange wine on a rooftop at sunset
Trying orange wine at the Hotel Zala rooftop

Ask one of the bartenders at Hotel Zala for an orange wine suggestion, as they have several on the menu.

8. Take a walking + food tour

Want to combine some history, walking, and food into one experience in Piran? Then there's one good tour I'd recommend: this Piran walking tour includes the city walls and churches, and ends with a wine and food tasting. It's a great evening option in the summer in Piran.

How long do you need in Piran?

You can see all the highlights in Piran in one day – and one relaxed day, at that. Piran is a small city, and all the major sites are fairly close to one another.

You can even squeeze everything into half a day if you just want to stay for a couple hours and avoid staying overnight in Piran.

Chairs and an umbrella next to the water in Piran
If you want to relax like this, though, stay a night or two!
Piran marina just before sunset
Piran marina just before sunset

Where to stay in Piran

If you DO want to stay overnight in Piran, however, there are lots of lovely hotel and apartment options. (Just remember that you can't drive into Piran's Old Town, so you'll need to walk with your luggage a bit if you're bringing it.)

I stayed at Hotel Zala (Second Life in Piran – Hotel Zala), which is a boutique hotel in Piran's Old Town just a short walk from Tartini Square. (We did bring our small luggage on the shuttle from the parking garage, and had no issue rolling it to the hotel from the square; it was about a 5 minute walk.)

We really liked Hotel Zala's location and overall vibe, and the rooftop bar was lovely in the evening. I would definitely recommend it! (You can book a room here.)

Room at Hotel Zala in Piran
Our room at Hotel Zala (the air conditioning was great)
Drink and dessert at Hotel Zala rooftop
Rooftop drinks and dessert at Hotel Zala

Some other hotel options in Piran include:

  • Hotel PiranA 4-star hotel right on the water that's very highly rated.
  • Art Hotel TartiniNice hotel right off Tartini Square.
  • Memento B&B PiranA new B&B option just off Tartini Square, where most rooms have balconies.

Is Piran really worth visiting?

As someone who had been dreaming of going to Piran for quite a while, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Piran was even better than I expected! It's a beautiful small seaside town that isn't overcrowded; you can really come here and just relax while enjoying the nice weather and good food.

So yes, I absolutely think Piran is worth visiting, especially from May-October! You don't need to spend a ton of time here (some people would likely be happy with a day trip; I was glad we stayed overnight), but I do think it's worth adding to your Slovenia itinerary.

Is Piran a place you'd like to visit?

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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2 Comments on “The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Piran, Slovenia (Things To Do + How to Stay Overnight)

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  1. I LOVED our time in Piran! It’s such a cool, laid-back town I could totally spend a few days in and just chill by the ocean. I could learn to live with the jellies. “You can’t touch the tentacles, only the tops…” “Something about tentacles, got it!”

      I’m not usually one for beach towns, but Piran was so cool. I loved the vibe, and would definitely go back.

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