Hearing Slovenia’s name, it’s unlikely that the coast, palm trees and Mediterranean feel of life will jump in for the first time. But Slovenia has it too! The centre of Slovenian Istria is Koper, which more and more foreign tourists are discovering. It has been on the world map as a tourist attraction for quite some time. Tourism is the main source of revenue for the city today.
Its Venetian-style houses, the romance of its small squares, the boats rocking in the harbour and the Italian atmosphere that pervades everything make this city the only port city in Slovenia and an important industrial and business centre.
In summer, there is a lot of hustle and bustle, followed by musical events, festivals and colour performances, the audience is composed of different nationalities.
Koper did not always exist under the same name. It was once a separate island, christened Aegida by the Greeks, Capris by the Romans, and Justinopolis by the Byzantines.
Map - Where is Koper?
Koper is located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in the western part of Slovenia. On the other side is Venice (Italy). Koper is the northernmost of the 4 famous towns on the Slovenian coast (Koper, Izola, Piran, Portoroz). To the north of it, you stumble into the city of Ankaran and then cross the border into Trieste.
Piran, Izola and Portoroz are very close. They can be reached in 20-25 minutes by car.
- Distance to Ljubljana: 1 hour / 100 km
- Distance from Bled: 1.5 hours / 150 km
- Distance to Trieste: 20 minutes / 20 km
Coast and beach
Most tourists visit the city during the summer months when the beach will play a major role. Koper has only one free beach, it is located next to the harbour, with a large area for sunbathing, lifeguards, changing rooms, showers, playground, restaurant, and cafe.
Despite the high tide of the city, it does not boast of the best beaches in Slovenia. It is a concrete beach next to the harbour outside the big bridge. But an aquapark is also located here.
You can go surfing and diving on the shores of the town. You can also retreat to the large shopping center next to the port during the warmest hours.
#1 Old Town
Koper’s main attraction is the historic core of the city, the Old Town, which flies you into an old world. Everywhere there are tangible traces of the city’s rich history, from the period of Venetian rule to the golden age of the Renaissance and Baroque, to which Koper owes its finest architectural monuments.
#2 Main Square
The city boasts a wonderful main square, adorned with the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and its bell tower. The Romanesque cathedral was built in the 12th century, to which the bell tower was later added, and in 1392 it was rebuilt in the Gothic style.
The 54 m high tower indicates from afar that you are approaching the city. This tower hides the oldest bells in Slovenia, made in 1333.
The bell tower has its current appearance since the 16th century and has been performing liturgical duties ever since. You can reach the top of the tower via 204 stairs for a small entrance fee if you want to enjoy the view of the Gulf of Trieste.
The city’s main square is also home to one of Koper’s symbols, the Praetorian Palace, which has been an important player in the city’s history.
Koper was ruled from the stunningly beautiful building for eight centuries. It received its Venetian Gothic style in the mid-1400s, and its outer staircase and railing were added 50 years later.
It underwent a major renovation in 1664, making much of its present appearance. After the fall of the republic, it held several functions, and in 1797 Napoleon acquired it. It was renovated in the 1990s, and since then the municipality has been meeting again, but the city’s tourist office is also located here.
#4 Armeria & Foresteria
The buildings of the Armeria, the former armoury and the Foresteria, the inn, surround the main square. There was a warehouse in the multi-storey building of the armoury, and then a credit bureau was opened in the 17th century.
The second floor was added in 1788, connecting it with the inn next door, one of the beautiful elements of which is the Porta del Corte, the Renaissance stone entrance.
Perhaps the most beautiful Baroque building in Koper is the 17th-century Belgramoni-Tacco Palace, named after the two owner families.
A II. After World War II, the town had a museum of history and art, and today houses the Regional Museum, which showcases the cultural heritage of Istria from prehistoric times, with a special emphasis on the Venetian period.
In the 13th century it became the property of the Patriarchs of Aquileia, who established their seat here and gave it the name Caput Histriae, the capital of Istria. Hence the later name Capodistria. The city was fortified, and some of Koper’s most beautiful buildings were completed at that time, such as the cathedral and palaces.
A 15-16. century Venetian rule brought Koper's golden age. Its trade developed unstoppably, and soon became the administrative and judicial center of Istria.
It enjoyed a monopoly on salt mining and trade, which provided the city with a huge source of revenue as the Habsburg Empire was a permanent market there.
This flowering came to an end in the early 18th century, just 20 km from Trieste, whose port became duty-free, so Koper ceased to be important.
Between the two world wars, Koper came under Italian control, and an Italianization program was launched. In 1954, the city was annexed to Yugoslavia in the London Convention.
Then 25,000 Italian-speaking Istrians fled to Trieste and only 3,000 remained in Koper and other coastal settlements. Koper is now the center of the Italian community in Slovenia, and most of its inhabitants are still bilingual.
It is also worth taking a look outside the city. To the south and east, a hilly-valley countryside awaits the traveler with old villages and Roman ruins. Since they are close together, you don’t have to travel for hours!
In the city there is a possibility to rent a bicycle, so if you want, you can leave our car at the accommodation.