Trieste lies in the furthest most eastern tip of Italy. It was my last stop on my 2-month trip through Italy in 2018. I came to Trieste kind of on a whim, as I was planning to cross over into Slovenia after.
And I’m so glad I did! Trieste is an absolutely lovely seaside city. It’s beautiful, calm and clean (by Italian standards), vibrant, and international. Near the border with Slovenia, Austria, and Hungary, Trieste has been pinged around between different nations during the ages. All those different nationalities have left their mark on the architecture, culture, and cuisine of Trieste, making it a truly unique place in Italy.
It’s woefully overlooked, and most tourists only come here as part of a cruise. But once the day trippers leave, it’s just you and the locals enjoying the city. I loved Trieste so much that I went back a second time in 2022. Both times I stayed in the Controvento Hostel and I highly recommend this cozy, comfortable, and fun boutique hostel for solo travelers.
I’ve had a great time exploring this wonderful city, and there is a lot to do and see. Here are my tips on things to do in Trieste:
Walk around the Old Town of Trieste
The historic city centre of Trieste is absolutely stunning. The mix of different styles of architecture makes for an interesting walk. You can clearly recognize Austrian, Italian and Eastern European elements in the narrow cobblestone streets, spacious piazzas and grand palaces. Everything is well maintained, clean and beautifully renovated.
The city centre is also small, so you can just let yourself get lost in the maze of little streets. The long boulevard also offers a beautiful walk with views of the ocean on one hand and some of the most beautiful buildings in Trieste on the other.
Be sure to pass by the Grand Canal, which looks like a miniature version of Venice.
Trieste tourist board has an audio guide walking tour and a hop-on hop-of bus. Or join the Trieste Free Walking Tour.
Climb up to Trieste Castle
Trieste is a port town that spilled onto the surrounding hills as it expanded. For a great view of the city and the port, climb up to the Castello di San Giusto. This Medieval castle lies on a hill in the middle of the historic centre. The Roman ruins in front of the castle make for an interesting juxtaposition of eras. A ticket to the castle is only €3, and you can walk all along the castle walls for a 360 view.
Make sure to also visit the neighboring Cathedral of San Giusto. This beautiful church incorporates Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and modern elements, which leads to a very visually interesting result.
When Trieste was part of the Hapsburg Austrian-Hungarian empire, Emperor Maximilian and his wife Charlotte built the Miramare castle here as a summer home. Now, that is one nice vacation house 😉
The beautiful castle is now an art museum with special exhibitions during the summer. To reach the castle, hop one stop on the regional train towards Venice and walk through the stunning castle gardens up to the building. Because of its location, Miramare offers some beautiful views of the coast and Trieste.
I loved walking through the shady royal gardens and imagining myself a Venetian princess attending a ball.
Lounge on the beach
Even though Trieste lies on the coast, you’ll have to travel a bit to reach a beach. But if you visit the city in summer, it is certainly worth it to take a dip in the blue Adriatic waters. But don’t expect long stretches of fine white sand, beaches on this coast are rocks, cement or pebbles.
For a cool dip in walking distance, visit Bagno Marino “La Laterna” Pedocin. This city beach dates back to the 1950s and still seperates visitors by gender. Women and young children on one side, men on the other. Not so great for a family visit, but fantastic if you want to tan topless without leering men.
Trieste is a harbor city, so most of the waterfront is reserved for ships. It also means that the water is a lot nicer further out of the city. On the way to (or from) Miramar you will find a row of “beaches” called Topolini. They are round terraces with shady spots underneath from the 1930s. It’s a popular spot for locals and has a cute retro vibe. The stone boardwalk is not the most comfortable for lounging, but you’ll have a lot of fun jumping in the blue water.
Eat all the local Trieste foods
The international influences mean that there are tons of different foods that you can try in Trieste. From delicious fresh seafood and pizza to sausages and sauerkraut in a beer hall, there’s something for everyone. Truly local dishes include seafood, truffle pasta and the Trieste version of Hungarian goulash. For some incredible gelato, head over to Gelateria Zampolli.
If you want to take some Italian goodies home with you, be sure to visit the Eataly store. Here you’ll find high-quality Italian products and even fresh bread, cheese, meat, and vegetables. Perfect for a beach snack or if you feel like cooking.
I’ve been to Trieste twice now, and each time I fall more in love with the architecture and the vibe. Despite the cruise ships, it’s pretty unspoiled by tourism. Even in the high season, the crowds are manageable, and you’re mostly surrounded by locals. You might even spot a few sailors!
Trieste is the perfect add-on to a trip to Northern Italy, Slovenia or Croatia. You won’t regret visiting this pretty harbor city.
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