Home Destinations 27 Best Things to Do in Trieste, Italy (PLUS Map, BEST Tours & Day Trips)

27 Best Things to Do in Trieste, Italy (PLUS Map, BEST Tours & Day Trips)

From Italy's largest cave to coastline castles with epic sea views, here are the best things to do in Trieste

by Michele
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Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Miramare Castle on Gulf of Trieste
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The City of Wind, Vienna by the Sea, and the City of Coffee are just a few expressions used to describe Trieste. Gorgeous, aristocratic, and distinctively cosmopolitan, this small city in the far northeastern corner of Italy checks all the boxes for curious travellers. While Trieste may not be at the top of your Italy bucket list, reading this guide on the best things to do in Trieste, you’ll see why it’s a real gem to explore.

Trieste is a charming port city and the capital of the region Friuli Venezia Giulia. Located just 8 km (5 mi) from Slovenia and 30 km (19 mi) from Croatia, Trieste is beautifully framed by a landscape of cliffs, karstic plateaus, and lush greenery. Plus, it boasts a border-town character that makes it truly unique.

The thing with Trieste is that it’s quite different from the image of Italy you are used to, and that alone makes it worth visiting! The city wasn’t always Italian. In fact, Trieste spent most of its history under the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Six hundred years to be precise: from the late 14th to the early 20th centuries, with some brief interruptions in between.

To help you plan your trip to Trieste, I’ve written a guide to the best hotels in Trieste plus this comprehensive guide on the best things to do in Trieste which includes everything from a city map to top city tours and recommended day trips.

Let’s go and experience the best things to do in Trieste! Andiamo! (Let’s go!)

Map of the best things to do in Trieste

Here is a map of things to do in Trieste that will help you plan your days of sightseeing in and around the city.

Watch my video on the best Things to do in Trieste

A brief history of Trieste

Inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC, Trieste developed with the Romans who founded a Military settlement in the 1st century BC to control the area and push out the Celtics and prevent invasions from barbarians on the other side of the alps.

The settlement was built on top of the hill, a strategic position chosen for its view of the area and coastline. Once safe, it became a colony and people began moving here from all around. There was a Roman Basilica, forum (the Roman version of a piazza or marketplace with shops), a temple, and a theatre.

I say Roman Basilica, but it’s not the kind of church you think of nowadays. A Roman Basilica was a public building where officials met and did business and enforced the law. Many centuries later, the Basilica of the Roman empire was used as an architectural module when Christianity was introduced and churches were built.

Later the area of Trieste fell under Byzantine and Frankish rule. Then, in the 12th century, it became a free municipality, but when its autonomy was threatened, the city placed itself under the protection of Leopold III of Austria in 1382. This marked the beginning of its long relationship with the Habsburgs.

Fast forward to 1719, the Hapsburg Empire declared Trieste a free port and spared no money to develop the city. After all, it was the only maritime gateway of its land-locked territories. During this time, Trieste blossomed as a key trading center, welcoming merchants and entrepreneurs from all over the Mediterranean and soon the city became a favourite destination of artists.

Until 1918 the Hapsburg monarchy was one of the Great Powers of Europe and Trieste was its most important seaport. At the beginning of the 20th century, Trieste became a major center of the irredentism (ee·ruh·den·tuh·zm) movement, which sought to annex to Italy all the lands that were not included in the unified Italian Kingdom although historically Italian. After the fall of the Hapsburg Empire after WWI and the end of the Nazi occupation following WWII, Trieste lived for a few years as an independent state under the protection of the UN before being officially annexed to Italy in 1954.

Today, this intricate patchwork of rulers, cultures, and people that shaped Trieste’s history is everywhere you look – from its varied architectural styles to its multi-faith soul and a truly unique culinary identity.

Why is it called Trieste?

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Giovannin Ponterosso Fountain in Piazza del Ponterosso

Giovannin Ponterosso Fountain in Piazza del Ponterosso

The name “Trieste: is derived from its ancient name “Tergeste”. Even though the Romans settled here, its name isn’t entirely Latin. Instead, it gives us a clue to the pre-Roman origins of the city, in the last phase of the local prehistory, and its economical importance.

One theory is that the place name “Tergeste” comes from “Ter” meaning three and “Egeste” meaning “to build” or” erect”, suggesting that the city was rebuilt three times. Another theory is that “Trg” comes from the Slavic language and means “square” or “market”, while “este” means “city” in Old Venetian, hence it could mean “market-city”.

Nowadays, Trieste goes by many names: “Città della Barcolana” (City of the Barcolana, a historic international sailing regatta) , “Città della bora” (City of the Bora, referring to the northerly to north-easterly katabatic wind), “Città del vento” (City of Wind), “Vienna by the Sea” and “City of Coffee” are just a few expressions used to describe Trieste.

Want to learn all about the city’s history while seeing the sights? Join the same private Trieste walking tour I did with the lovely Sonia.

How to visit Trieste and travel around

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Download Public transport FVG app for bus tickets

Download the FVG Mobile app

Trieste Airport is about 35km from the city and offers direct connections to 14 destinations in Italy and Europe, including Rome, London, and Frankfurt. Travelling by train is a great alternative, with daily high-speed connections to main Italian cities through Trenitalia and Italo. Trenitalia also has trains running between Trieste and Ljubljana. As for cars, while it’s true they allow you to maximise your time, you also have to be aware of the numerous Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL) located in the city.

Trieste is best explored on foot as it’s pretty compact and easy to navigate, plus most of the top sights are within easy walking distance. There’s a convenient bus network with single tickets starting at €1.35. For this, I recommend downloading the TPL FVG app so you can easily purchase single journey or daily tickets instead of having to hunt down a Tabacchiera every time. Bicycles can be rented through the city’s handy bike-sharing scheme (rides under 30 minutes are free). Finally, a ferry service ensures connections within the Gulf of Trieste.

27 Top things to do in Trieste

When it comes to tourist attractions, Trieste has many activities to enjoy. With its rich history and maritime tradition, the city’s attractions include anything from visually stunning architecture to culturally fascinating sights.

Below, I have gathered the best things to do in Trieste with tips and information that will help you plan your city break. It’s a good mix of top attractions and a few hidden gems. You’ll also find a Google map highlighting all the locations. Save this for later!

1. Take a tour of Miramare Castle

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Miramare Castle - Terrace and gardens

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Miramare Castle at sunset from water

There’s no doubt that the Miramare Castle is on everyone’s bucket list of things to do in Trieste, and for good reason. Although it lacks the ancient history you’d expect from a castle (it dates from the mid-1800s), this white fairy-tale palace is a real beauty. So much so that it’s often listed among Italy’s most beautiful castles.

The Miramare Castle sits on a cliff overlooking the sea and boasts an eclectic blend of Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance styles, in line with the fashion of the time. Rooms dazzle with their sumptuous furnishings, while the 22-hectare park outside is filled with woodland and exotic trees. Plus, the castle’s unique location makes sunsets here a real treat.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Delfino verde

Don’t miss: reach the castle with a ferry boat to admire the castle in all its beauty from the sea. The line is called Delfino verde and operates in the summer months from the quay near the aquarium. Timetables are available here.

Join this experience that combines a panoramic tour of Trieste and Miramare Castle. The price includes transportation and admission to the castle.

2. Arco di Riccardo

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Arco di Riccardo Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Arco di RiccardoThrough a maze of alleys, there is the small square called Piazza Barbacan. It’s here you’ll find Arco di Riccardo or Richard’s Arch. This ancient arch seems to disappear into the modern building next to it.

The “Arco di Riccardo” is one of the most important monuments in Trieste. Made of white stone from the cave of Aurisina it stands around 7 meters high. Dating from 33 BC, the arch is said to be a Roman gate in the city walls when the emperor Augusto established the Roman colony Tergeste. The gate was located along the main roman way that connect the sea to the hills.

The origins of its name are debated but there are several prevalent theories. The Riccardo, or Richard, might refer to English king Richard I the Lionheart, who was said to have been a captive in Trieste while on his way back north. Another theory is that it originates from the word cardo, which was the name of one of the two main roads of the Roman settlements and finally some refer to the term ricario, the name of a medieval courthouse, located in the area.

A local legend refers to the transformation of the name Carlo Magno, to whom the arch was dedicated after his passage on his return from his belligerent victories in neighbouring Istria. The truth? I guess we’ll never know for sure!

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Arco di Riccardo - Piazza del Barbacan

3. Visit the Duino Castle

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Duino Castle
Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Duino Castle courtyardI’m cheating a little bit here when I say that Duino Castle is in Trieste when actually it’s an hour’s commute north, but there’s a very good why I’m including it in this guide.

Nestled on a promontory overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, just north of the city, this beautiful historic residence predates the Miramare Castle by about five centuries. It’s owned by the Princes of Torre and Tasso, who have played hosts to great artists and illustrious personalities over the years. These include Empress Sissi, Paul Valery, Gabriele D’Annunzio, and Reiner Maria Rilke, who wrote some of his most famous lyrical poems here.

Planted firmly on the last rock spur of the Carso high above the Gulf of Trieste, Duino Castle is not just another stately home. An unusual case in Italy, and far more interesting, it that it is still the residence of the princely family of Torre e Tasso.

Despite the devastation of the First World War and the depredations of the Second, the Castle still boats artistic masterpieces and rare historical relics. Overlooking vast horizons of the sea are its gardens, with their romantic avenues embellished with period statues and objects and panoramic terraces. The owners have decided to open the gardens and most of their Castle home to the public for tours, conferences, concerts, gala dinners and other events.

Set out over a number of levels, the gardens display multi-coloured beds and cascades of all types of flowers, forming attractive splashes of colour amid the classical Meditteranean vegetation and acting as a backdrop for a wealth of status and an old well decorated with the family coat of arms.

The Castle itself is a solid composite construction dominated by a 16th-century tower which holds intact a structure whose origins go back 2,000 years, as witnessed by the commemorative stone placed there in the 3rd century to mark a visit by Emperor Diocletian.

It was around this tower, on the ruins of a Roman military outpost, that building started on the present Castle in the 14th century. Its location was not far from that of its ancient forerunner, which is traditionally thought to have been dedicated to the worship of the Sun god and has been given the romantic name “The White Lady”.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - View of Roman Castle from Duino Castle Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - View of Roman Castle from Duino Castle  Under the Counts Torre-Hofer Valsassina, in the 17th century the Castle began to acquire its status as a cultural and humanistic centre, one that it maintains to this day.

There are about 20 rooms to visit, filled with precious artworks and period pieces. The visit also includes the bunker that the Germans built when they occupied the castle during WWII.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Duino Castle - Rilke trail

Rilke trail

Don’t miss: Take a panoramic walk along the Rilke trail. Named after the great German poet, it’s a stunning 2km coastal path connecting the castle to the bay of Sistiana.

4. Explore the Giant Cave (Grotta Gigante)

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta Gigante - Inside cave

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta Gigante - Michele with stalagmiteSo, you know Italy for its pizza, pasta, designer brands, and iconic monuments like the Colosseum, but did you know Italy has more than 35,000 caves?

Located on the Trieste plateau (Altopiano Triestino) which covers an area of about 200 square kilometres (77 sq mi) there are 2,760 caves of various sizes on the Italy side of the border and 180 of them were inhabited by prehistoric man. The most famous is the Grotta Gigante (meaning “Giant Cave:), a name which says it all! Grotta Gigante is the largest tourist cave in the world, with a single cavity large enough to contain St Peter’s in Rome!

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta Gigante - Stalagmite and path Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta GiganteAs one of the most important attractions in Trieste this massive karst cave has been inhabited since the Neolithic Era. To give you a sense of its size, the biggest chamber is 98.5 m high, 167.6 m long and 76.3 m wide. For these numbers, the Grotta Gigante made it onto Guinness World Records as the world’s largest tourist cave chamber until 2010 (when it lost the title to Lascaux in France).

The cave started forming over 10 million years ago when two rivers diverged and formed this giant cavity underground. Today you can visit this space by taking 500 steps down and following a 167m pathway before winding up the other side of the cavity via 500 more steps.

During your visit, don’t miss the cave’s biggest stalagmite which stands 12 metres tall and is 150,000 years old and is still active! This means that it’s still growing at a formula pace of 1mm every 10-15 years!

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta Gigante - Cave biggest stalagmite

Grotta Gigante biggest stalagmite

As you take the steps leading back up, see if you can spot the original steel cable ladders’ with wooden steps. It’s scary to think these were used in the early days of the cave’s exploration when it was discovered in the 1800s while searching for a solution to water shortages.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grotta Gigante - LadderGrotta Gigante opened to the public in 1908 and is now a true highlight of any trip to Trieste. Located in Borgo Grotta, it’s a 30-minute bus ride from the city centre and can only be visited as part of a guided tour.

You can visit the Giant Cave and Duino Castle from Trieste on this guided half-day tour.

Don’t miss: get an adrenaline rush with a speleo expedition (the scientific study or exploration of caves) that goes 252 meters deep into a secret cave system. For further information, visit grottagigante.it

5. Experience Trieste’s coffee culture at a historic café

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Inside Caffe TorineseAlthough it might sound surprising to most, Trieste is Italy’s uncontested capital of coffee. During the Habsburg era in the mid-1800s, Trieste became the major coffee port of the Mediterranean, with a lot of roasteries popping up all over the city. Coffee drinking became a favoured pastime and contributed to shaping the city’s identity. So much so that locals are said to drink nearly twice as much coffee on average as the rest of the country!

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Antico Caffè Torinese

Caffè Torinese

During that time, an impressive amount of cafés were built, becoming a place for artists and intellectuals to socialize and find inspiration. Kafka, Freud, and Svevo all had their favourite café in Trieste, and it is said that James Joice came up with the idea for Ulysses while drinking cappuccino in Trieste. Caffè San Marco, Caffè Tommaseo, Caffè Torinese, and Caffè degli Specchi are among the best coffeehouses in Trieste to choose from.

Don’t miss: The locals use a coffee terminology that’s unique to the city. The espresso in Trieste is called a nero, the coffee with milk is called a capo, and the cappuccino is a caffelatte. Brush up on your Italian and learn how to order food and drink in Italian.

6. Indulge in a traditional dessert at Pasticceria La Bomboniera

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Pasticceria La Bomboniera Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Biscuits at Pasticceria La BombonieraTake a step back in time at Trieste’s most famous patisserie. The “La Bomboniera” pastry shop was founded in 1836 by a Jewish family during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Set in a beautifully designed Art Nouveau shop which offer locals a variety of decadent desserts based on Austro-Hungarian tradition.

Each display case is filled with homemade cakes all baked in their original wood-fired oven, the only one of its kind in Italy. Choose from the following:

  • Torta Rigojancsi – A traditional Hungarian cube-shaped chocolate sponge cake and chocolate cream pastry named after a famous Hungarian violinist Jansci Rigò.
  • Pischinger – A cake consisting of layers of thin wafers and chocolate filling.
  • Torta Sacher – A chocolate cake, or torte of Austrian origin, invented by Franz Sacher in 1832 for Prince Metternich in Vienna.
  • Torta Linzer – Named after the city of Linz in Australia, this traditional Austrian pastry is topped with fruit preserves and sliced nuts with a lattice design on top.
  • Presnitz – The most famous is the Presnitz, a circular-shaped strudel made with pastry dough and filled with a mix of hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pinenuts, prunes, dried figs, dried apricots, raisins, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, a touch of dark chocolate, and sometimes also with coffee and rum or marsala. As the story goes, the circular design of the cake is said to have had an inscription that read “se giri il mondo, ritorna qui” (“if you travel around the world, come back here”)

Other items to look out for are Jewish marzipan desserts, “fave dei morti” almond biscuits, and white and brown chequerboard mandorlati almond biscuits. The list goes on!

7. Go to the beach in Trieste

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Beache in Trieste

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Sunset at Barcola Beach

Barcola Beach at sunset

There’s nothing like going to the beach in Trieste. Not just for the beautiful landscapes, but also for the unique character of some of its most popular lidos.

For a real local experience, El Pedocin beach on the Lantern Pier is a local institution and still has a wall separating the men’s and women’s parts – the only one of its kind in Italy.

Another popular beach in Trieste is Barcola, a stretch of concrete (yep, no sand!) backed by pine trees. The same goes for Topolini, where ten semicircular terraces are a favorite among the city’s youth.

Another summer highlight in the city is Ausonia, a beach club from the 1930s complete with a pool, trampolines, and a terrace restaurant. There’s also a pretty beach called Sticco on the way to Miramare Castle. It’s got crystal clear water and retro changing booths.

If you’re travelling with your furry friend, you might want to check out Fido Lido, which offers dog-friendly facilities on Trieste’s outskirts.

Don’t miss: If you’re looking for a beach getaway outside of the city, Sistiana is a great option. About 20 minutes west of Trieste, it has beaches lapped by turquoise water, a pretty harbour, and many shops and restaurants.

8. Visit the Civic Museum of Natural History (Museo di Storia Naturale)

If you visit Trieste with kids or simply love dinosaurs, then the city’s Civic Museum of Natural History should definitely be on your sightseeing list. It’s located just outside the historic center and has 4 million finds gathered over a century. These include the largest and most complete dinosaur discovered in Italy: an impressive 3.6 meter-long Tethyshadros insularis named Antonio which was found almost intact near Trieste.

Among the most interesting exhibits inside the museum ia a section on the evolution of hominids, a zoological room with mammals from all over the world, and a space filled with imposing skeletons of sea animals including Carlotta, a 5.4-meter-long white shark.

Don’t miss: look for the human jaw from over 6,400 years ago in which you can see a dental filling made with beeswax, which represents the world’s oldest example of dental care!

For further information, visit museostorianaturaletrieste.it

9. Marvel at the sheer beauty of Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Town Hall in Piazza Unità d'Italia A dazzling sight in Trieste is Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia, the city’s main square with one side opening onto the Adriatic Sea. Grand and beautiful, it’s the largest sea-facing piazza in Europe. Originally called Piazza San Pietro after a church located there, it was remodelled and renamed several times before getting its current name in 1955 following the city’s annexation to Italy.

This piazza showcases a striking mix of prestigious buildings that are a photographer’s delight. There’s the City Hall with its beautiful clock tower topped by the statues of two Moors, and the Palace of the Government with its Art Nouveau facade. Also not to miss are the Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino, a shipping line founded in 1836, and the Grand’Hotel Duchi d’Aosta which looks straight out of a Wes Anderson film.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Assicurazioni Generali in Pizza Unità d'ItaliaPiazza dell’Unità d’Italia is of historical importance for a more sombre reason. A plaque on the ground marks 18 September 1938, where, from the balcony of city hall, Benito Mussolini announced that the promulgation of racial rules again Judaism was imminent in Italy and that segregation would begin.

At this time, Trieste was the most international city in Italy, with its cosmopolitan and frontier soul. It also had one of the largest Jewish communities in the country. That day Mussolini wanted the major international newspapers in Trieste to spread his message about the “enemy”, the necessary solutions and the new “separation policy” that he believed everyone needed to hear loud and clear.

Don’t miss: Beautiful by day, Piazza Unità d’Italia shines at night when warm lighting illuminates its magnificent buildings, creating something magical.

10. Go for a sunset passeggiata along Molo Audace

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Molo Audace Pier

Next to Piazza Unità d’Italia, the Molo Audace promenade is really beautiful and one of the must-see places in Trieste. Stretching for more than 250 meters into the Adriatic Sea, it’s a great spot for a passeggiata (Italian for ‘stroll’) in the early morning or after dark.

The promenade is lined with benches where locals seat to chat, read the newspaper, or simply soak up the gorgeous views of the coastal scenery that stretch as far as the Miramare Castle on clear days. On summer evenings, it’s not unusual to stumble upon great street music performances.

Don’t miss: Molo Audace is a prime spot to admire the boats taking part in the Barcolana in October, the largest sailing regatta.

11. Travel back in time at Trieste Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano di Trieste)

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Roman Theatre Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Roman Theatre of Trieste Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Roman Theatre from 1st century ADBest Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Roman AmphitheatreThere’s a little piece of ancient Rome right behind Piazza Unità d’Italia that history lovers won’t want to miss. Teatro Romano di Trieste is a marvellous stone theatre dating back to the 1st century AD when it was built as part of the development of the Roman colony of Tergeste under Emperor Trajan. Built in an area that, at the time, was by the sea, it could seat up to 6,000 spectators.

In the Middle Ages, it was hidden by the houses that were built over it. 2,000 years later is was excavated and restored in 1938 and today is still the site of shows and artistic events.

The location is quite scenic, situated at the foot of the San Giusto hill it provided a natural setting for the amphitheatre. The structure, mostly made of masonry, is still in great shape, with the original stage and seating areas still visible along with a variety of columns. The original ornamental statues are on display at the Civic Museum of History and Art in the Castle of San Giusto.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Eating gelatoDon’t miss: Stop by Gelato Marco for a refreshing break. It’s only steps from the Roman Theatre and it’s the best gelato shop in Trieste. I went back twice it’s so good!

12. Discover Piazza della Borsa

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Piazza della Borsa 1Not many people know that Trieste used to have its own stock exchange market, as testified by the stunning palazzo on Piazza della Borsa that once hosted the activities of the stock market traders. During the 19th century, this square served as the city’s economic centre. Today, it’s an elegant pedestrianised area with fine examples of Neoclassical architecture.

Piazza della Borsa is a great place to shop and meet people. There are lots of restaurants and boutiques, and sometimes small fairs and markets are held here. In the center of the piazza stands Neptune’s fountain, once used by locals for washing clothes.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Bartoli house

Casa Bartoli

Don’t miss: Among the palaces that line Piazza della Borsa, Casa Bartoli is the most famous liberty-style building in Trieste. It is also known as the Green House due to the colour of the floral decorations on the main facade.

13. Explore San Giusto Castle

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - View of San Giusto Castle from Cathedral of San Giusto bell tower

Overlooking the city from the top of the San Giusto Hill, this castle deserves a spot on the list of what to do in Trieste for its history and collections. It was built by the Habsburgs between the 15th and 17th centuries, with interventions also by the Republic of Venice when it regained rule over Trieste in the early 16th century.

After a scenic entrance via a wooden drawbridge, you can explore its beautiful vaulted halls and climb up the ramparts for some of the best views of Trieste and its gulf. There are also some museums displaying ancient weapons, rich tapestries and statues from the Roman amphitheatre.

Don’t miss: on your way to the castle, stop at Piazza San Silvestro to admire the beautiful Baroque interior of the 17th-century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore.


For further information, visit castellodisangiustotrieste.it

14. Visit the Cathedral of San Giusto

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - San Giusto Cathedral - Inside

Next to the castle, the Cathedral of San Giusto is Trieste’s most important religious building. Its current look comes from the aggregation of two churches back in the 14th century and the result is architecturally impressive. There’s a beautiful Gothic rose window adorning the brick facade while a statue of San Giusto stands above the entrance to the bell tower.

The interior features beautiful mosaics dating from the 12th-13th centuries and frescoes depicting stories of the saint. You can also see traces of 5th-century mosaic flooring, while the cathedral bell was cast from a cannonball left by Napoleon.

Don’t miss: You can climb up the bell tower for great views of Trieste and close-ups of the five enormous bells that toll the hours.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - San Giusto Cathedral altar

15. Stand on the steps of Giants at the Giant’s Stairway (Scala dei Giganti)

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Giant’s Stairway - Scala dei Giganti- View from top

Located between Piazza Goldoni and Via del Monte, Scala dei Giganti, is a steep and stately stairway that connects the heart of Trieste with the archaeological site on San Giusto Hill. Built in 1970, Scala dei Giganti was designed by the Berlams, a well-known Triestine family of architects. Designed in a neoclassical style, it features a double stairway, niches and statues, and a large fountain. From the top of the hill, the tree-lined path frames a wonderful view over the city of Trieste.

16. Snap a postcard picture at Trieste’s Grand Canal

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grand Canal

The Grand Canal in Trieste isn’t as grand as Venice’s, but it’s certainly worth more than a look while you’re in town. It’s near Piazza Unità d’Italia,in the heart of the historic old town, where it was built in the mid-1700s so that boats could unload their cargo directly into the city.

This spot is just so pretty: it has cute little boats moored at both sides and is surrounded by elegant buildings with the St. Spyridon Serbian Orthodox Church peeking out. Surely, one of the best Instagrammable places in Trieste. Additionally, it hosts various events all year long, including the Christmas markets.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Statue of James Joyce

Don’t miss: On one of the bridges across the Grand Canal, there’s a statue of James Joyce, who lived in Trieste in 1904-1915 and loved this area.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Grand canal at dusk

17. Admire the glorious Victory Lighthouse (Faro della Vittoria)

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Faro della Vittoria - View of from Lighthouse

Standing high on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, is Faro della Vittoria or Victory Lighthouse, a symbol of Trieste.At a height of 223 feet (68 m) it is one of the tallest lighthouses in the world. It’s both graceful and formidable, matching the motivations for its erection. It was built in the 1920s to celebrate the inclusion of Trieste into the Kingdom of Italy after the long occupation by the Austrian Empire, but also to honour those who died at sea during WWI.

The lighthouse is still working and is often open to visitors. The climb up the viewing gallery is via some 300 steps, but there’s also a lift. Once at the top, you’re rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the city and the coast, and the Gulf of Trieste.

Don’t miss: Look for the anchor at the base of the statue of the Unknown Seaman. It commemorates the historic entry of the first Italian ship into Trieste, called Audace which translates to audacious.

For more information, visit https://www.farodellavittoria.it/

18. Explore a gloomy chapter of local history at Risiera di San Sabba

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Risiera di San Sabba Concentration Camp

Being a border territory, Trieste had its fair share of dark moments, but the worst came with the Nazi occupation in 1943-1945. The prime testimony of the horrors the city experienced in those years is the Risiera di San Sabba, a former rice-husking factory (hence the name, Risiera in Italian) that turned into a concentration camp during WWII.

The Nazi regime killed an estimated 3,000 political prisoners at the Risiera di San Sabba, and thousands more were deported to larger concentration camps, mainly Auschwitz.

In Italy, there were only two concentration camps; Trieste was the only one with a crematorium. In the 1970s, it became a civic museum with a permanent exhibition about the Nazi crimes in the region.

One of the rooms you can visit is called “La sala delle croci“(Hall of crosses). Originally divided into floors, on the third floor lived Jewish prisoners that were later deported to Germany. On the second floor were political suspects and on the ground floor were those who worked in the tailor and cobbler workshops.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Risiera di San Sabba Concentration Camp - Hall of crosses.jpgOn a more personal note, this is the first time I’ve ever visited a concentration camp and it’s definitely given me an uneasy feeling. The energy here is quite overwhelming and I had to take a moment to myself.

I think it’s important that everyone visits a historical monument such as this. It definitely makes all those history lessons at school more tangible and deepens one’s awareness of what happened. It’s hard to imagine that all this happened not that long ago and in the lifetime of our grandparents.

Visiting Risiera di San Sabba is free and takes just a 20 minutes bus ride from the city centre.

Don’t miss: The local tourist office organises monthly tours of Little Berlin, a network of underground shelters built by the Nazis to protect themselves from bombing raids.

For further information, visit risierasansabba.it

19. Browse Revoltella Civic Museum – one of Italy’s major modern art museums

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Revoltella Civic Museum - Lounge areaArt lovers should seek out the Revoltella Civic Museum, one of Italy’s major modern art galleries. Housed in three beautiful palazzi, its collection features over a thousand paintings and several hundred sculptures, prints, and drawings from the mid-1800s to the modernist era.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Revoltella Civic Museum - Mordern museum

The majority of the collection, as well as one of the buildings occupied by the museum, were bequeathed to the city by Pasquale Revoltella, an entrepreneur who played a crucial role in the opening of the Suez Canal. Artists showcased in its 40 rooms include Mario Sironi, Francesco Hayez, Lucio Fontana, and Giorgio De Chirico.

Don’t miss: During your visit head to the museum’s rooftop terrace which is open to the public for views over the harbour. In the evening, during August, there’s even a bar where you can enjoy the views as the sun goes down.

For further information, visit museorevoltella.it

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Revoltella Civic Museum - View from rooftop terrace

20. Visit one of Europe’s largest Synagogues

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Jewish Synagogue - InsideAs a result of its thriving port, over the centuries Trieste was a crossroads of cultures and people, something that can still be seen today in the numerous religious buildings of different faiths dotting the city centre. One of them is the Jewish Synagogue which opened in 1912.

The Jewish community in Trieste has roots in the 13th century, but most arrived in the city during the Empire period, engaging in trade and banking. This grand synagogue is the second largest Jewish temple (holding 1500 people) in Europe after the one in Budapest (which holds 1200 people but is larger in size) and stands as a testament to the cultural importance of the Jewish community to Trieste.

You can visit the synagogue as part of a 60-90 minute guided tour where you’ll learn about the history of the Jewish community of Trieste from the Middle Ages all the way up to the present day. To join a tour, booking is essential and can be organised via the Trieste Ebraica website.

Don’t miss: Located between Piazza della Borsa and the Roman Theater and close to Piazza Unità d’Italia is the old Jewish ghetto. Enjoy the magical atmosphere while browsing through its antique shops and second-hand bookstores.

21. See the Saint Spyridon Church

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Spyridon Serbian Orthodox ChurchThe Orthodox Serbian Church of Saint Spyridon near the Grand Canal is another example of Trieste’s distinctively multi-cultural identity. The Orthodox Serbian community is well-integrated in the city and has contributed to its growth since the 18th century when merchants and shipowners arrived attracted by the city’s role as the main commercial harbour in Austria.

The church was built in the second half of the 19th century after Empress Maria Theresa granted them the right to establish their own religious community. Today, it’s one of the best places to see in Trieste to learn more about the local Orthodox Serbian community, which is the largest in Italy. It boasts all the distinctive architectural traits of Eastern churches, with interiors covered in beautiful frescoes and glittering mosaics.

Don’t miss: Listening to the vesper chants performed by the church’s 24-member choir is pure magic.

22. Explore the Civic Sea Museum (Civico Museo del Mare)

Documenting the city’s extensive naval heritage, the Civic Sea Museum is a must-see in Trieste. Its collection is so rich, that it’s ranked among the most important maritime exhibitions in the Mediterranean. There’s a particular focus on the history of Lloyd Triestino, the shipping company which greatly contributed to making Trieste the flourishing port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The exhibition features documents, model ships and period equipment. They all provide insights into the evolution of the maritime industry as well as life aboard prestigious cruise liners. The collection also includes rare pieces like the zopolo, an ancient canoe carved from a single log, and even the radio technical equipment on the laboratory ship on which Guglielmo Marconi conducted most of the experiments.

Don’t miss: Look for the small key that Marconi used to switch on the Sydney Town Hall on 26 March 1930, at 11:03, by sending a radio signal from Genoa to Australia.

For further information, visit museodelmaretrieste.it

23. Relax with a view at Pier The Roof with sea terrace

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Have a drink at Pier rooftop bar Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Drinking a Hugo at Pier rooftop barPier The Roof is not only a popular hangout it’s also the only bar and restaurant located on the sea in the center of Trieste. Decorated in a yachting theme you’ll even find several salvaged elements used as furnishings. 

Divided into three areas offering different food & wine concepts, you can come here any time of day for something special. For something casual and informal, head to the outdoor café on the ground floor for breakfast,  an aperitif and choose from an à la carte menu.

During summer you can relax at the lounge bar on the upper floor. Here DJ sets help you unwind as you sink into one of their large poufs or beach chairs while nursing one of their many cocktails. When it comes to mealtime, their fish-based menu offers typical Trieste dishes with some international forays.

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Pier terrace bar

24. The best gelato you’ll ever eat at OGGI GelatoBest Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Oggi Gelato

“It tastes like real melon!” – Me, two seconds after sampling an OGGI gelato.

Located behind Viale XX Settembre lined with restaurants popular with young locals, OGGI Gelato makes high-quality gelato on-site each day. Using only seasonal ingredients, evrey flavour tastes as if you’re eating the actual food itself. The flavours are so rich and creamy that I had to go back twice. 

There is an open kitchen where you can see the magic happen from the ingredients fruit being washed, cut and prepared to the gelato machine swirling all the ingredients together. Flavour change often, giving you a good excuse for a return visit.

25. Put your apron on for a fun cooking class

Trieste’s landmarks are enough to keep you busy for days, but why not go further and enhance your visit with a first-hand cooking experience? Considering the city’s unique history and location, the local cuisine has taken on layers of influences from every culture that settled there, making cooking classes all the more interesting.

There’s a lot of seafood in local kitchens, and also meat that’s based on Mittel European traditions. The first courses are tasty and varied (a must-eat is the jota soup), and the desserts are reputed to be among Europe’s finest.

Don’t miss: For a taste of authentic local cuisine, try one of the city’s typical buffet. An institution in Trieste, these eateries specialise in Triestine comfort food like boiled meats cooked in a traditional pot called “caldaia”.

Want to attend a cooking class in Trieste and dazzle family and friends back home? Then I recommend booking this fabulous Pasta and Tiramisu class!

26. Take a day trip

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Day trip to Solvenia - Ljubljana - Robba fountain

Trieste is a great destination on its own, but if you’ve got extra time on your hands, a day trip is a great way to explore a bit of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Regional highlights include the Roman archaeological site of Aquileia, the beautiful beaches of Grado, Gorizia’s scenic old town, and mini-Venice Muggia.

If you like hiking and cycling, then exploring the Carso Triestino is one of the best things to do in Trieste. It’s a rock plateau of great naturalistic importance that the city shares with southwestern Slovenia, offering plenty of trails. This area is also home to Val Rosandra, a large nature reserve with a 40ft waterfall.

Neighbouring Slovenia is another popular destination from Trieste, offering fairy-tale landscapes and postcard-perfect villages to explore. You could combine a tour of its vibrant capital city with a visit to the country’s famous lake on this Lake Bled and Ljubljana guided tour from Trieste. Or you can explore one of Slovenia’s largest cave systems and an amazing cave-built castle on a 5-hour Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle from Trieste.

27. Take a day trip to Lake Bled and Ljubljana

Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Day trip to Lake Bled Best Things to Do in Trieste Italy - Day trip to Lake Bled - Pletna boatIf you have extra time during your visit to Trieste I definitely recommend taking a guided day trip tour to Lake Bled and Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital.

If you go by public transport it will take you almost 5 hours just to reach Lake Bled from Trieste or 2.5 hrs to reach Ljubljana. On this tour, it only takes a little over an hour to reach your first stop, the stunning Lake Bled with a small island floating in the middle.

Called Bled Island, (Blejski otok), the island has several buildings, the main one being the pilgrimage church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary, built in its current form near the end of the 17th century. The church frequently hosts weddings where traditionally it is considered good luck for the groom to carry his bride up the steps on the day of their wedding before ringing the bell and making a wish inside the church.

The traditional transportation to Bled Island is a wooden boat known as a pletna. The word pletna is borrowed from Bavarian German Plätten, meaning ‘flat-bottomed boat’. Some sources claim the pletna was used in Lake Bled as early as 1150 AD, but most historians date the first boats to 1590 AD. Similar in shape to Italian gondolas in Venice, a pletna seats 20 passengers.

While you’re here you have to try the area’s culinary speciality, a cream pastry called kremšnita or cremeschnitte, which was designated a protected dish of designated origin in 2016 by the Slovene government. Also known as vanilla slice or custard slice, kremšnita is a custard and chantilly cream cake dessert commonly associated with the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

After an hour of wandering around the lake, it’s time to head to the capital for a short guided tour of the historical centre before enjoying some free time.

To find out more about this guided tour I joined, you can check availability and book your tour here.

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