There are myriad blogs out there on what to do in Piran. There are lists upon lists of where to eat and where to stay. And these usually aren’t my things. But for Piran, I’m making an exception.
Where to stay in Piran
Accommodation ain’t cheap. It’s a small town with a limited number of hotels to choose from and a growing number of Airbnb apartments that are quickly booked out. It’s possible, of course, to stay in nearby Portorož or even in Isola – both are close and accessible by bus. Portorož is a 30-minute walk if you fancy the trek. Hotels in the old town are in short supply but Hotel Piran certainly warrants putting a price tracker on it. It looks oldie-worldie and wouldn’t take much imagination to figure it into an Agatha Christie murder mystery set way back when.
But if you want to stay in the heart of the old town, an apartment or hostel room is what you’ll be looking for. Himself loves to be in the thick of things and usually if we’re visiting anywhere with a historic centre, that’s where we stay. We lucked out in finding Carpe Diem, a two-bed recently renovated apartment that can sleep five, just minutes from Tartini Square. I’ve stayed in my fair share of apartment rentals and this one leaves most of them standing out in the cold. The kitchen is extremely well stocked with everything from an ice-cream scoop to a hand-mixer. The selling point was the small rooftop terrace (with an umbrella) where we enjoyed our evening cocktails watching the light hop off the tiles of the Piran skyline.
What made the place though, was the attention to detail. From the complimentary beer and bubbly and savoury snacks that greeted us on arrival to the helpful hints and tips on what to do, our hosts had thought of everything. No question was too small, no request too onerous. And they gave us an hour-long tour of their town, hitting the high points with a potted history of Piran and its people. It was a marvellous first impression of a people who show a tangible pride in being Piranesi.
Where to park in Piran
Parking is a nightmare – it doesn’t exist. Even residents of the old town have to leave their cars at the entrance of the town and hoof it in or take the free bus. Tourists get to park in one of two multistorey garages. Garage Arze charges €12 a day but the spaces are very tight and difficult to get in to. It’s up near the cemetery so you’ve a long hike ahead of you to carry those olive-oil-laden suitcases. Garage Fornače is at the edge of the town just by the entrance barrier. It costs €17 per day and seems to have the same small-space issues. You can get a free pass into the city that lasts 15 minutes – enough to get in, drop off, and get out. Or I think for €5 you can get in for one hour (am open to correction on this) – but parking spots are as rare as a heatwave in Ireland in May. So be sure to have someone who can stay with the car is you’res simply unloading. On the advice of our hosts, we parked in Portorož in the Metropole Hotel carpark – plenty of space, easy to navigate, and €14 per day. They very kindly offered to pick us up, but it’s a short taxi ride and an even shorter bus ride. For more on parking, check this link.
Where to eat in Piran
Fish is definitely on the menu. If you don’t like fish, then your choice is slightly more limited, but you still have a choice. All of the places we ate had two things in common – everything was electronic and the waiters/waitresses worked their tushes off. Don’t ask for a latte if you’ve already ordered a cappuccino as they start making your order the minute the send button is pressed. I’ve rarely (if ever) seen such a high standard of service across the board. There’s no playing ‘catch the waiter’s eye’. They’re on the ball and move like sprinters. And they smile. A lot.
For a good choice of fish and meat on Tartini Square, I’d recommend Kavarna Piran. They do good cocktails, good food, and the service is super. They don’t take credit cards though, but it is beside the only ATM in Piran. It ranks at 3.6 in Google right now with some pretty bad reviews. But we stopped there four times and each time it was great. No complaints at all. In my book, good manners beget good service.
On the opposite corner of the square, Mestna Kavarna was our choice for breakfast and morning coffee. And afternoon coffee. And evening coffee. They do great coffee. And again, the service was on the ball. Friendly, attentive waitstaff who run themselves ragged and keep a watchful eye on everyone.
Along the seafront, we were spoiled for choice. Not in the market for tablecloth dining, we wanted something local, something real. And found just that at Ribič Baja, a no-frills, basic, down-home fish restaurant that also does good schnitzel. The fried calamari was the best I’ve had in years. And a photo of the lady of the gaff catching fish added to the authenticity. A lovely little spot at Gregorciceva Ulica 35.
Where to get money in Piran
There’s only one ATM in Piran and not everywhere takes credit cards. We ate at Kavarna Piran one evening (which doesn’t take cards) and watched plenty of disappointed and frustrated tourists try the ATM to no avail. It had run out of money. It was back working the next day, though, but be prepared.
Do yourself a favour and visit Mediadom Pyrhani and watch the 3D movie on the history of Piran up to the present day. Trust me on this. You’ll appreciate the town even more. And as it has aircon, it also offers respite from the heat. Visit St George’s Cathedral. Walk up to the cemetery. Swim in the sea. Eat as much stuffed squid as you can handle. Get lost in the streets. Buy your salad stuff in the local market just off the main square. Buy local crafts – avoid the plethora of touristy shops and find the handful of small galleries that take work on consignment from local artists – the ceramics and metalwork are worth checking out.
The secret to Piran is found in revelling in the locale and listening to the locals. There’s a reason Slovenians are proud of their country – it has it all.