It doesn’t take long to learn why the coastal town of Piran is often dubbed as Slovenia’s “Little Venice”.
No, you won’t see a network of canals here. Not even one.
Instead, what you do find is a medieval town filled with architecture that’s almost entirely Venetian; thanks to being part of the Venetian Republic for nearly 500 years.
Many of the street signs in the region are even displayed in both Slovene and Italian, and the second official language is Italian.
I guess Italy is merely a handful of kilometres away!
The social heart of town is undoubtedly Tartini Square, an open space named after the Italian Baroque violinist and composer Giuseppe Tartini.
At one point an inner harbour stood where the square now does, flanked by buildings and palaces just metres from the fishing boats. This village hub did have a major problem in the late 1800s, though. Raw sewerage – seeping straight into the harbour.
The remedy? Fill it in and create a town square.
80s Caffe Bar – Tomšičeva ulica 11
Punta Caffe – Prešernovo nabrežje 24
Much like Slovenia’s coastline, Piran is small and compact. It can be done as an easy day trip, due to not having a plethora of sights and activities. Alternatively, you can easily settle into the languid lifestyle and pretend to be a local for a few days.
You can wander the small historic centre, lounge about the cafés, take a dip off the quay or beach on the north part of town, or get stuck into the local vino at a resto-bar.
Our pick for best coffee in Piran is Caffe Neptun, right by the bus station. Its sun-drenched terrace is the coveted spot for views of the bay, old town and people-watching. Let’s not forget about the sunset.
Fairtrade coffee, cold brew, Chemix, traditional Turkish or good old espresso for us caffeine addicts. Or you’ve got juices, craft beers and the addictive “sorbetto” – a deliciously boozy lemon sorbet, prosecco and vodka concoction.
Sorbetto at Caffe Neptun – Dantejeva ulica 4
Towering over Piran is its Venetian jewel – the bell tower of St. George Parish Church – a replica of St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice. For €1 you can climb to the top for spectacular views in all directions. If that’s all a little too strenuous, the terrace by the church still has good views.
For more views over the old town, the City Wall on the Raštel Hill behind the town is the ideal spot. Accessing the wall is as easy as dropping a €2 coin into a slot machine, and climbing a few steps, of course.
Most of it has been fully preserved – including the towers – and the views from them is nothing short of incredible. You can even see Italy in the distance if you look carefully.
Cafe Teater – Kidričevo nabrežje 6
Whether its a relaxed stroll around the beautifully reflective Kidricevo Nabrazje (Kidric Quay) or Presernovo Nabrazje (Preseren Quay) that extends to the lighthouse, the waterfront is an understated attraction that’s popular for meandering.
Preseren Quay is where you’ll find Piran’s concentration of waterside eateries, all of which specialise in seafood. Expect to pay more for the setting, but if that’s of no concern, take your pick.
Tartini Square has its handful of cafés and comes alive in the mornings for breakfast and coffee, and in the evenings for more coffee and beer-time.
Caffetteria Pirano – Tartini Square
Pizzeria Petica – Župančičeva ulica 6
Sarajevo ’84 – Tomšičeva ulica 43
The food in Piran is typical of the region, so one can expect to see plenty of seafood, pizza, grilled meats and vegetables.
Pizzeria Petica is a good option for decent pizza, and plenty of them to choose from. If that’s of no interest, they dish up grilled meats, pasta and fish, too.
For a typical Balkan grill experience, Sarajevo ’84 is a budget-friendly choice, despite its waterfront location. Grilled meats run supreme at this popular eatery, from the pol – pol (ćevapčići & sudžukica 6.3), to burek or the stewy prebranec s sudžukica (5.8).
Ribicija – Stjenkova ulica 5
Not too far from the waterfront is a laneway eatery popular with the locals. Ribicija lives up to its name by offering predominantly seafood, along with classic Adriatic dishes. I wasn’t overly taken with their house red, but the kalamari na zaru (9.5) was pretty tasty.
Over on Prvomajski Trg – a small square in the old town – is the very popular Cantina Klet; another one that specialises in seafood. Here you can sit beneath arbors of grapevines and graze on excellent seafood and sip on good wine. Again I went for the kalamari na zaru (10) with a delicious side of blitva s krompirom (chard with potatoes). Even the fried squid on its own is a winner.
Cantina Klet – Trg 1 Maja 10
Buses from Ljubljana to Piran are infrequent and don’t leave every day. Our bus left at 10.10am and cost €11.10 per person. Travel time is 2 hours.
Read my post on Ljubljana here.