Slovenia only has 47 km (29 miles) of coastline. Compare that to Croatia’s 4,058 km (2,522 mi). That’s part of the reason travelers head directly to Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, or other Dalmatian islands. It’s simply more well-known. But don’t overlook Piran! It’s not as famous but definitely worth a stop.
Architecturally speaking, there’s no mistaking that Piran was part of the Republic of Venice for centuries. From 1283 to 1797 to be exact. Today you’ll recognize the Italian heritage that remains, mixed in with its more modern Slovene heritage. Italian was even the dominant language until the mid-20th century when it was replaced by Slovene as demographics shifted.
Piran is located in southwestern Slovenia on the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the three major towns of Slovenian Istria. It’s just across the sea from Venice, so if you look at the map, its history makes sense. If you’re coming from Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, it’s about a two-hour drive, or less than an hour from Italy’s Trieste.
The oldest part of Piran has a medieval layout with narrow streets and compact houses. It looks very enticing from the hillside above town. Climbing the bell tower of St. George’s also gives a fantastic vantage point over this city and its complex maze of reddish-brown buildings.
Piran has everything you could want from a small historic city and nothing that you don’t want. Small family-run accommodations and fish restaurants, a sprinkling of souvenir and art shops, and sufficient parking on the edge of town. When I visited during shoulder season it wasn’t swamped with visitors and the city retains its residents in the old town to keep it feeling like a local city rather than one invaded by tourists.
Piran is gorgeous. From its elegant Tartini Square (which was once an inner dock for fishing boats) to the towering St George’s Cathedral to the sparkling blue Adriatic surrounding Piran, half of the enjoyment is just taking in the beauty of this city and its setting.
Pran is small enough to enjoyably walk around for the day but big enough to have the amenities you need. Twenty minutes is enough to cross the old city but I spent a few hours wandering in and out of the narrow medieval streets and along the coastline. Piran is best seen on foot. So park your rental car in the lot outside of town, and take the free shuttle into the center. Or walk. Nothing is too far in Piran.