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Koper Cruises

Koper, Slovenia

About Koper

Gateway to picturesque Slovenia, Koper boasts a rich architectural legacy that dates back to its days as a capital city under the mighty Venetian Republic. Even today, the Italian influence is strong. As Koper is just three miles from Slovenia’s border with Italy, Italian is just as likely as Slovene to be heard along the narrow streets and tidy squares of its Old Town. Once an island, Koper was connected to the mainland by a causeway in the 1800s. A mere one percent of Slovenia’s borders consist of coastline, making Koper a city of great importance to the otherwise landlocked nation. Today its port serves other Central European countries that do not enjoy access to the sea, such as Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

Koper became part of the Republic of Venice in 1278, and was eventually the capital of the province of Istria. After World War II, when the city fell under Yugoslav control, many Italian inhabitants fled. Slovenia claimed its independence in 1991, yet Koper’s Italian influence remains firmly intact.

Koper Lifestyle and Culture

Koper is sandwiched between the Adriatic Sea and rolling hills. It prospered from the salt trade in the 12th century, as today’s magnificent buildings attest. Titov Trg (Tito Square) marks the center of the old city; from here, a network of narrow streets radiates outward. Walk these byways, some of which are gloriously closed to traffic, for a glimpse of local living: medieval townhouses and restored Venetian homes line the hushed lanes. Renaissance and baroque touches add another layer of history to this architectural gem of a city.

The University of Primorska, just recently established in 2003, brings a fresh vibrancy to the town as young scholars hunch over laptops in neighborhood cafés. The town comes alive at festival time, its annual Carnival among the oldest. Floats, music and costumed parades fill the streets. Sweet Istria is an international festival of desserts, the largest of its kind in Slovenia. Stalls with vendors from all over the world present their sugary concoctions. Tastings, workshops, contests and children’s programs take over a September weekend each year.

Koper Sights and Landmarks

The 15th-century Venetian-Gothic Praetorian Palace, a beloved landmark in Titov Trg, serves as the city hall. It also stands as evidence of the city’s once-great power, with its imposing crenellated facade. Opposite the square, the elegant Loggia is a Venetian-Gothic wonder, home today to a relaxed café and an art gallery. The 12th-century Cathedral of the Assumption is home to a bell cast in 1333, one of the country’s oldest, and a masterful Renaissance painting by Carpaccio, the Sacra Conversazione, or “sacred conversation,” a stunning and color-rich depiction of the Virgin and Child. A climb up the cathedral’s tower is rewarded with splendid views of the city and the Bay of Trieste.

Brutti Palace in leafy Brolo Trg boasts an impressive baroque facade and entrance gate. The work of Venetian architect Giorgio Massari in the early 18th century, it now houses the town’s central library. Another building that serves double duty is the Koper Regional Museum inside the Belgramoni-Tacco Palace; its collection of art and artifacts spans the centuries from ancient times to today. Koper and the immediate area also boast their share of medieval castles. Kubed Castle, Socerb Castle, Podpeč Castle and the ruins of the castle of Črni Kal are all stunning examples.

Farther north, the star-shaped Fort Ticonderoga rests in the foothills of Mt. Defiance, overlooking the southern narrows of Lake Champlain. Built by the French during the Seven Years’ War, sometimes known as the French and Indian War, it also played a role in conflicts between the French and British and in the American Revolution.

Koper Entertainment and Activities

Slovenia’s most impressive natural wonder and the world’s largest underground canyon is a short 20 miles from Koper. Škocjan Jama (Škocjan Caves), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a subterranean cave network stretching for nearly four miles. Walk past enormous stalactites and stalagmites formed over millennia, then cross a footbridge that spans a gorge nearly 500 feet high and twice that in length while the Reka (River) rushes below your feet.

For beauty closer to sea level, head to Piran, a picturesque town on a small peninsula just south of Koper. Cliffs rise from the sea and host one of the best preserved historic towns on the Adriatic. Wander its cobblestone alleys adorned with pastel buildings in the Venetian-Gothic style. Walk up the hill for a spectacular view of the city: a blanket of red roofs set against the backdrop of the azure sea.

Farther from Koper, Ljubljana is a lively university town steeped in culture and charm. Cobblestone streets, pretty bridges and riverside cafés make it one of Europe’s most captivating capital cities. Restricted traffic makes roads in the city center pedestrian-friendly, and charming bridges across the Ljubljanica River and the Old Town’s pastel facades exude a fairy-tale air.

Perhaps Slovenia’s most picturesque spot is Lake Bled. A storybook church is perched on an islet right in the middle, and the Julian Alps offer a splendid backdrop. Perhaps embark a pletna, a traditional canopied boat piloted by a standing oarsman, for a pleasant crossing to this tiny pilgrimage site. Or ascend to the lakeside Bled Castle for magnificent views.

Koper Restaurants and Shopping

Slovenian cuisine borrows greatly from its neighbors. In Istria, Italian dominates, but other influences include Austrian, Hungarian and Croatian. Soup is often served as a first course and seafood is common in this seaside enclave. Istrian pasta like pljukanci and fuži, served with a variety of different sauces, is also popular. Gostilnas, family-run taverns, offer delicious food in a warm, welcoming atmosphere.

Dine al fresco at Capra, with its clean lines and earthy feel, to enjoy well-prepared seafood, meats, salads and pastas. Or for fine dining in a relaxed setting, visit Gostilna Za Gradom Rodica. It is located just outside the city high atop a hill, and offers locally influenced, beautifully presented food. Reservations are required. For pizza the Istrian way, try Pizzeria Atrij, a small spot where the focus is food, not ambiance. If you’re not in the mood for pizza, the menu includes other options.

Koper has a number of shopping venues where you can shop alongside the locals. Supernova is a two-story shopping complex with a selection of high- and low-end shops. The main local market, held opposite the Hotel Koper, offers produce and other local food staples.