Situated at the head of the 43km-long Slovenian coastline, the main town of the obala (coast) has a rich Venetian history, which is much in evidence throughout its historical centre. The Venetian highlights of Koper can easily be seen in an afternoon, so here’s a quick tour…
History of Koper
The Italian name, Capodistria means ‘the head of Istria,’ Istria being the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, running from the Gulf of Trieste in Italy to the Kvarner Gulf in Croatia. The Istrian region has its own distinctive architecture, traditions and cuisine, which you will find in abundance all along the coast of Slovenia.
The Old Town of Koper was built on an island and settled in Roman times under the name Insula Caprea (Goat Island); it formed part of the Republic of Venice from 1278 to 1797, and many important buildings from this period survive in the town centre. Koper lost its island character at the beginning of the 20th Century, when the salt pans which had surrounded the island were drained. The city came under Italian rule at the end of the First World War, and formed part of Yugoslavian territory from the end of the Second World War until Slovenia won its independence in 1991.
A Tour of the Old Town
You can enter the Old Town proper through the Muda Gate; Koper’s last surviving city gate, which was built in 1516. From here, head North through Prešeren Square to the Da Ponte Fountain, which was constructed in 1666 to provide drinking water to the City’s residents from a nearby natural spring.
Head North again winding through narrow, Italianate alleyways to reach Tito Square, where the most well-preserved and striking examples of Venetian architecture can be found. The square is bordered by the Praetorian Palace (see Featured Image above), which once formed the seat of the Venetian city government. The present palace was built in the mid-15th century, and though it fell into disrepair following the fall of the Venetian Republic, it was renovated and restored to it’s former glory after Slovenia gained independence, and is now the seat of the Koper municipal government.
Opposite the Praetorian Palace is the impressive Loggia Palace, which dates from 1462 and now houses a cafe and art gallery.
Also overlooking Tito Square is the Assumption Cathedral, whose original foundation predates the Venetian period. It was, however remodelled by the Venetians to include the iconic bell tower, which is well worth a visit, not least for the extensive views it offers over the Bay of Trieste.
If you enjoyed this tour of Koper Old Town, why not take a walk around Lake Bled next?