If you think Slovenia is all about mountains, you are wrong. In fact, the 47 km long Slovenian Coast has a couple of beaches, though perhaps not as impressive as other ones in the Mediterranean. Additionally, the country has three historical towns that are well worth visiting: Koper, Izola and Piran.
Through the centuries, Slovenia has been part of Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Yugoslavia. Thus, the country’s architecture is varied and rich. Today, life here seems relaxed and quiet. Beaches are narrow and covered in pebbles, the food is great and, this is a big plus to us, Slovenia hasn’t been gentrified nor invaded by franchise shops. Easily accessible from Italy, the Slovenian seaside is a great surprise!
While many online portals advice against visiting Koper, we found it to be quite beautiful. Yes, it’s the biggest city on the Slovenian seaside with a big industrial area and a port, but it is also home to a splendid old town. On top of that, it’s not as visited as Piran or Izola so it feels very local.
The Old Town
The focal point of the Old Town is the large Tito Square. Though most of ex Yugoslavia’s towns renamed their squares and streets in the nineties, Slovenia kept the old name. On the square you will find three superb buildings: the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Praetorian Palace and the Campanile on the square.
To the north of the Koper Old Town there is a small beach, named Mestna. In fact, Mestna in Slovenian means city beach. The pebble beach is rather small, with a green area and a restaurant next to it. Take note that the port is not far. To the southwest of the Old Town, you will find the so-called Koper Promenade or Semedelska cesta. This paved pedestrian thoroughfare is also a beach. The atmosphere is quite relaxed, with people enjoying the sea and the sun in peace.
Hotels in Koper
In Koper we stayed at the renowned Hotel Koper. It has an old grand feel to it and our room had spectacular views to the sea. In addition, we were just off Koper’s main square amidst great restaurants. Since we didn’t have much time, staying near the train and bus stations was important for both connections with Trieste and Ljubljana. We’ve learned that the new owners of the hotel closed it and will refurbish it soon. In the meantime check out nearby B&B Veneziana Suites & Spa. It’s got a great location and tastefully decorated rooms.
Izola is something literally and figuratively in between. The city is located between Koper and Piran and doesn’t feel quite like a city nor as a small town. Once again, the Old Town is the most interesting part. A lovely promenade full of bars and restaurants surrounds the old town. Additionally, there is a narrow stretch of beach. The whole atmosphere is laid back, with people eating, having coffee, sun soaking and swimming.
The Old Town
Izola’s Old Town seems a bit smaller and less monumental than Koper’s. Nevertheless, the 16th Century St. Maurus’s Parish Church is truly interesting. There is also a cool small museum, Parenzana, which displays the history of a defunct narrow-gauge railway that once passed through Izola. We had a great time getting lost in the old town and watching older men playing chess by the sea.
In all honesty, Izola is not a great beach destination. Don’t get us wrong, though you can for sure go for a dip and sunbathe, don’t expect wide sandy beaches. Kopališka Ulica (bathing street) is a pedestrian street north of the Old Town. People bathe at the adjacent narrow strip of pebbles and big stones called Svetilnik (lighthouse). If you walk to the southwest of the Old Town, you will reach a big marina where there is a concrete beach called Delfin (dolphin). Finally, further along the coast is San Simon, Izola’s best beach. This pebble beach has a bar and restaurant where you can eat fresh fish.
Hotels in Izola
Though Izola is not big, we believe it’s better to stay downtown. The Hotel Marina is ideally located in front of the sea and at the edge of the Old Town. This wonderful hotel has first-class facilities, including a spa. Don’t forget to ask for a top floor room for fantastic sea views!
Piran is arguably the most beautiful town on the Slovenian coast. Upon entering the magnificent Old Town you’ll spot a narrow beach packed with people. Continuing walking on the marina you get to the monumental Tartini Square. Be sure to notice the colorful Venetian House on the square.
The Old Town
There is another beautiful square in the Old Town: The 1. Maj. There are a couple of cool coffee houses and yet again, people chilling. Go up the hill and check out the Church of St. George, one of several interesting churches in town. You can climb the city walls next to it and enjoy amazing views of this charming city.
There are three beaches in Piran. The tiny pebbled beach of Fornače is at the entrance of the town. Since it’s very popular, it’s often full. Walk north of the Old Town along Prešernevo Nabrežje to reach Piran Beach. This is a small concrete strip with a café next to it. There is a wonderful trail all along the north coast of Piran. At its eastern end, there is a beach called Fiesa, another narrow pebble strip.
Hotels in Piran
Piran has two fantastic hotels. Hotel Piran is a majestic palace over 100 years old. Rooms have direct views of the sea, there is a first-class spa, and you can see the entire city from the roof terrace. The concrete platform in front of the hotel serves as a beach. If you rather escape the crowds, stay at the fabulous Barbara Piran Beach Hotel & Spa, at the end of Fiesa Beach.
Granted, Slovenia doesn’t offer the most amazing beaches. All three historical cities have short narrow pebble beaches. Therefore, if you are looking for a beach resort you should check Portorož, just south of Piran. The beach is bigger, so it’s full of fancy hotels and bars.
On the other hand, Portorož doesn’t have a historical old town or the small-town charm we love so much. Instead, it is full of bars, restaurants, and loud discos. In fact, it is the main party town on the Slovenian coast. However, one thing sets Portorož apart: the famous Portorož Palace Hotel. Built during the Austro-Hungarian reign it was one of the most important European seaside resorts and spas, favored by many statesmen and celebrities. Even if you don’t stay here, go for a coffee or cocktails.
Other Slovenian Beaches
On the other hand, if you are looking for a real natural beach, Moon Bay beach (Mesečev Zaliv) is the one for you. The beach is in the middle of a bay surrounded by high cliffs and dense forests. Once again it is made of pebbles (no sand beaches in Slovenia!). Though it is not that wide, there are never too many people around.
Moon Bay is halfway between Izola and Piran, at the edge of the beautiful Strunjan Nature Park. Take note that you can reach the beach only with a car. Nevertheless, a public bus stops at nearby Strunjan Town. The beach is only a 20-minute walk, along the Strunjan Salt Pans, which have been producing salt for over 700 years.
Where to stay on the Slovenian seaside
We always like to stay in a great location with nice views. After a thorough research we decided that Koper would be our base to discover the Slovenian coast. Koper is well connected to Trieste and the rest of Slovenia. Additionally, it feels pretty off the beaten track, since most tourist flock to Portorož, Piran or Izola.
If you want to spend most of your time on the beach, stay in Portorož. The Portorož Palace Hotel, part of the Kempinsky chain, will treat you like royalty. If you rather be surrounded by nature, stay at the Barbara Hotel. The hotel is just outside Piran, but within a stunning natural setting.
As you can see, Slovenia may be a small country, but it has a lot to offer. Do not rush through it and be sure to stop at Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle. We did and had a great time. Located just over an hour from the coast on the route towards the capital Ljubljana, both are unique and set in nice nature.
The Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are closer to the Slovenian seaside and for sure worth a visit. If you can’t have enough of beautiful small towns, cross over to Croatia and visit Umag. Another brilliant idea is to visit the Italian city of Trieste, some 30 km away. The city was part of the Hapsburg Monarchy for over 500 years and the most important port in the Austrian Empire. You can feel its glory and convoluted history on its streets and squares.
How to Get to the Slovenian Coast
Koper is the entry point for most tourists visiting the Slovenian Coast. Several companies go from Trieste to Koper. There are two Flix buses each day, and the journey takes 30 minutes. Črnja also has two daily buses, but the journey is slightly longer: about 50 minutes. Arriva has more buses, and the journey takes 40 minutes.
Trains and buses connect Koper and Ljubljana. Slovenian Railways operates five daily trains to the Slovenian capital. However, take note that two of these include a bus for a part of the journey. The train journey takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Arriva operates a dozen buses connecting Koper with Ljubljana, and the journey takes between 1 hour 15 minutes to 2 hours 20 minutes. Some buses going to Ljubljana start their journey in Piran, Izola, and Portorož.
Note: to travel between Koper, Izola, and Piran you can take any of the frequent public buses from 5:00 to 22:20. From Piran to Portorož there are even free shuttle buses.