14 Things to Do in Trieste, Italy

Visiting Trieste and looking for the best things to do and see? Look no further!

Nestled along the northeastern coast of Italy, Trieste beckons with its rich history, cultural treasures, and breathtaking scenery. Whether you’re a history buff, a food enthusiast, or simply seeking relaxation by the sea, Trieste has something for everyone.

The town is pretty easy to navigate, and you can reach almost all the attractions on foot. Bearing this in mind, one day is quite enough to see all the most important sights in the city and its surroundings.

The Castello di Miramare

The Castello di Miramare, or Miramare Castle, is a 19th-century castle located on the outskirts of Trieste. Visiting this castle should be your starting point when exploring Trieste. 

If you’re coming by car, be aware that finding parking near the castle can be quite challenging, even if you’re willing to pay for it. During a previous visit, we couldn’t find parking, so we parked for free on the main road above the castle and walked a few hundred meters to the building. 

You can cut the walk in half if you find a well-hidden shortcut through the bush-covered hill. There’s an entrance fee of 10 euros for the castle, but visiting the garden is free. According to the impressions of other travelers, the interior of the castle is okay but not spectacular. 

However, the park is highly praised and recommended for a visit. Since it was July, and I wasn’t overly interested in spending time indoors, I decided to visit only the park. Surprisingly, I spent a good two hours there and still couldn’t explore every corner. 

The park is vast, and most of the plants are not native to the area. Within the park, there are several outbuildings, including a smaller castle called Castelletto, greenhouses for growing plants for the park, ruins of the Chapel of Saint Cyprian where a cross made from the wood of the Novara bark is kept, and a house that now serves as a café.

The Canal Grande 

Encircled by numerous palaces like the Carciotti Palace and the palace of Spiridona Gopčevića, a famous shipowner and merchant originally from Herceg Novi, is a notable feature of the city.

Constructed between 1754 and 1756 by Venetian Matteo Pirona, the canal played a key role in the city’s urban development, particularly in the Borgo Teresiano district. Originally, it was longer, extending as far as the Church of Sant’Antonio, but its final part was filled in 1934 to form the current Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo.

The Canal Grande is surrounded by impressive architecture. Notable buildings include Palazzo Aedes (the Red Skyscraper), built in 1928 by Arduino Berlam, Palazzo Gopcevich, constructed in 1850 by Giovanni Andrea Berlam, and the Neoclassical Church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo, built in 1849 by Pietro Nobile. Also notable is the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint Spyridon, erected in 1869 by Carlo Maciachini, characterized by its light blue domes.

The canal is crossed by two bridges and a pedestrian walkway. The Red Bridge (Ponte Rosso), built in wood in 1756 and later reconstructed in iron, is halfway through the canal. The Green Bridge (Ponte Verde) at the canal’s beginning was built in iron in 1858. A 25-meter-long pedestrian walkway, named Passaggio Joyce, was added in 2013, connecting Via Cassa di Risparmio with Via Trento.

Adjacent to the Ponte Rosso is Piazza del Ponte Rosso, a market square with a historic fountain built in 1753 by Giovanni Battista Mazzoleni.

At the place where the canal ends, begins Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo, dominated by the eponymous Catholic church dedicated to St. Anthony, built in the period from 1825 to 1849.

Take a photo with James Joyce

A statue dedicated to James Joyce, who spent nearly 15 years here with his wife Nora on two occasions is on the bridge over the canal. He loved this city so much that he wrote that his heart remained in Trieste.

Piazza della Borsa

This square represented the economic center of the city in the 19th century, as evidenced by the grandiose neoclassical building of the Chamber of Commerce, which at that time served as a stock exchange. It is adorned with four allegorical sculptures symbolizing Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. 

The square also features other interesting buildings such as the Rusconi house, the Bartoli house in the Art Nouveau style, and the Tergesteo palace. In front of the Chamber of Commerce building is also located the Neptune fountain from 1755, which was returned to its original place after the completion of the restoration in 2008, having been relocated to Piazza Venezia for a whole 88 years.

The Revoltella Museum 

It was founded in 1872 by Baron Pasquale Revoltella, who bequeathed his palace and its contents – including art works, furniture, and books – to the city. The museum is situated in the heart of Trieste, near Piazza Venezia.

The main building of the museum, which was originally designed by Friedrich Hitzig, was constructed in 1858. To accommodate the growing collection, the city acquired the nearby Brunner palace in 1907.

However, it wasn’t until 1963, after a reconstruction by Carlo Scarpa, that this additional building was fully utilized. Today, the museum spans three buildings with a total exhibition area of about 4,000 square meters, with the main entrance located on Via Diaz.

The Revoltella Museum’s collection includes approximately 350 paintings and sculptures. These include works from Italian artists of the late 19th century, early 20th century acquisitions, as well as pieces by artists from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and other national artists from the latter half of the 20th century.

Among the notable Italian and European artists featured in the gallery are Giuseppe Barison, Carlo Carrà, Felice Casorati, Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, and Giuseppe Tominz.

The museum is highly regarded for its diverse collection and is considered a significant cultural attraction in Trieste. It is open to visitors throughout the week, with consistent opening hours from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. For those planning to visit, the museum offers a range of experiences, including various tours and nearby attractions.

Piazza Unita D’Italia

It’s often referred to as Europe’s largest square situated next to the sea. The square is positioned at the foot of San Giusto Hill, facing the Adriatic Sea.

It would be an understatement to say it’s huge, but I didn’t like it at all. Despite the presence of several really beautiful buildings, the whole space is in stone, without any greenery, which leaves a gloomy impression. This place is not an exception, as in other parts of the city, green areas are lacking. 

The large square is surrounded by palaces, among which the most prominent is certainly the Town Hall building (Italian: Palazzo del Municipio) built in the second half of the 19th century. In front of the Town Hall, there is also a sizable fountain, which somewhat looks to me like someone emptied a truck brought in from a quarry. 

Among the other palaces in the square, mention should be made of the Regional Council Palace (Italian: Palazzo della Giunta Regionale), Vanoli Palace (now Grand Hotel Duchi d’Aosta), Plenario – Pitteri Palace, Modello Palace, Stratti Palace, and Governor’s Palace (Italian: Palazzo del governo). The palaces date from the 18th and 19th centuries, with the oldest among them being the Plenario – Pitteri Palace.

Piazza Unità d’Italia has been a venue for significant events. It has hosted concerts, such as Green Day’s show in 2013 and Iron Maiden’s concert in 2016. Additionally, it has been used for diplomatic meetings, including a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta in 2013, and a trilateral meeting attended by Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and Paolo Gentiloni in 2017.

The square is easily accessible, located about 1 kilometer from the Trieste Centrale railway station, with a nearby bus stop serving several lines.

Synagogue of Trieste

The second largest synagogue in Europe is in Trieste (the first is in Budapest). The synagogue was built at the beginning of the 20th century. Above the three main entrances facing three different streets is a large rose window with the Star of David positioned in the center. 

The synagogue is open to visitors every day except Friday and Saturday, but during limited time intervals. Therefore, on Sundays, there are organized visits at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, and 12:00 pm, while on weekdays, it is open from 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

Faro della Vittoria

The lighthouse, completed in 1927, one of the tallest at 70 meters, has 300 steps and also has an elevator.

At the base of the lighthouse are the remains of an anchor from the Audace ship, the first Italian ship to enter the port of Trieste after World War I.

Molo Audace 

A stone pier from the 18th century, is the first and ideal place for photography where you can take excellent Instagram photos. As you stroll along this paved path and enjoy the sea around you, you’ll see the inhabitants of this city sitting on the edge of these walls reading books, listening to music while loving couples sit romantically embraced.

The Roman Theatre of Trieste 

Just a few minutes’ walk behind the Unity of Italy Square lies one of the most important remnants of ancient Trieste. This theater dates back to between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD and is remarkably well-preserved. Interestingly, it is surrounded by modern residential buildings.

San Giusto Fortress

For the best views of the entire Trieste and its surroundings, it’s worth exerting a bit of effort and climbing up to the hill of San Giusto, where the fortress and cathedral of the same name are located. There’s also a city transport line (bus 24) that can easily take you from the center directly to the entrance of the fortress but if you can go by foot because along the way, there are a couple of interesting things to see—and the ascent itself takes no more than about 15 minutes.

To the right of the Roman Amphitheater, you can take the stairs next to the 17th-century Baroque Jesuit church, near which stands the Basilica of Saint Silvester—the oldest place of worship in the city, built in the transition from the 11th to the 12th century. From the basilica, you just need to follow the winding path through the narrow streets to the top of the hill. 

Not far from these two churches is the Roman triumphal arch—Arco di Riccardo. Initially, the fortress served as the headquarters of the captaincy before being converted into a garrison and prison in the mid-18th century. Since 1936, San Giusto has been a museum, so besides walking along the walls and enjoying spectacular views of the city, here as part of the permanent exhibition, you can also see a substantial collection of antique weapons.

The entrance fee is 5 euros.

Cattedrale di San Giusto

A 14th-century cathedral with a tower with a lookout and huge bells. On the floor are mosaics from the 6th century because there were Roman temples here before the cathedral.

The cathedral was named after the priest who was executed here in the 3rd century.

Have a Coffee in Trieste

Trieste is a city of coffee. One-third of the coffee that arrives in Italy is roasted here and later distributed, with a good portion being consumed locally. The most important rule in Italy, and thus in Trieste, is that cappuccino is only ordered in the morning. Otherwise, you’ll receive disapproving looks.

In Trieste, the ritual of drinking coffee is elevated to an art form. This didn’t happen by chance. When the Habsburg monarchy ruled this part of the world, Trieste, as its most important port, became a center where ships brought large quantities of goods, including coffee for the Viennese. They embraced it wholeheartedly even during the wars with Turkey.

Trieste is home to two well-known coffee brands founded by non-Italians, Illy and Hausbrandt. Hermann Hausbrandt, an Austrian captain, was the first to start the business of roasting and selling coffee and the first to package coffee in metal tins. Madjer Ferenc Illy was the first to create an automated coffee machine and founded the Coffee University in Trieste.

Try Local Food

Of course, pizzas and pastas reign here, but there are also other specialties unique to this region. However, in Trieste, atypical ingredients like cabbage, mustard, and horseradish are also used. The Habsburgs influenced the architecture. They brought coffee to Italians and also some dishes that I must mention here. These are:

Jota, made from beans, cooked cabbage, and potatoes. In some versions, it also contains sausage, and its main task is to warm the soul and dispel melancholy.

When you’re in Trieste I strongly recommend visiting Udine as well, as it is just an hour away.