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11 Best Things to Do in Trieste (From an Expat)

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I've been living in Trieste, Italy since Aug 2023 and in that time I've done my best to soak up everything this cute city has to offer.

At first glance, Trieste is really small. If you're just in town for a day or two, you'll be grateful for its small size and the ease in which you can walk from one end of town to the other. But, if you're moving to Trieste like I have, there are plenty of things to do near Trieste, too.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the top things to do in Trieste and why you need to add this unique Italian city to your travel itinerary (or future home!).

1. Start Your Day with a Coffee

Although all of Italy is well-known for being addicted to coffee, Trieste is actually known as the Capital of Coffee throughout Italy. You can't blame me for putting it at the #1 spot of things to do in Trieste, even all of Italy knows it's true!

You'll find that surprising until you get here and realize that coffee houses really do take over the city. Plus, Illy, one of the most famous coffee brands, is from Trieste, really putting this small, unsuspecting town on the radar.

When deciding where to grab your coffee, you can't go wrong but there are a few things you need to know about coffee in Trieste:

  1. "Un caffè," which translates to "a coffee" is the term used for an espresso. Sure, you can order an espresso at the bar but if you ask for or are offered un caffè, know it'll be an espresso.
  2. Cappuccinos are rarely drunk after lunch throughout Italy. So if you're eager for a mid-afternoon coffee break, a bartender will still make one for you (most likely) but know that you might get a funny look.
  3. "Capo in B" is what the Triestinos (locals from Trieste) are drinking. This is pretty much a mini cappuccino or a macchiato.
  4. You might have noticed that I've used the word "bar" or "bartender" when talking about cafes and that's because in Italy, cafe and bar are used interchangeably. Most coffee shops serve booze and neighborhood bars are open in the morning to serve coffee.

2. Walk Along Trieste's Own Canal Grande

Move over Venice, Trieste has a canal, too.

Jokes!

While yes, Trieste does have its own Canal Grande (Grand Canal), please do not show up here expecting it to look anything like Venice because it doesn't. While Venice is all canals, Trieste has one. It's still a nice place to walk around and maybe where you'd want to get your coffee.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars on the canal but the food isn't as good as these restaurants in other parts of town. The ambiance might be worth it for but if you're looking for a stellar meal, hang tight - I have some recommendations coming your way!

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3. Enjoy the View from Castello di San Giusto

Just above the city center sits Castello di San Giusto. History buffs can go inside and enjoy guided tours and the castle museum but for non-history fanatics, it's still worth the visit. By heading up to Castello di San Giusto hill, you'll be rewarded with fantastic views of the city and the bay below.

You can walk up to this Castle 2 ways: either through the Parco della Rimembranza or through the tree-lined street leading up the Cattedrale di San Giusto Martire. Both are nice walks so I'd go up one way and down the other.

Once you get back in town, reward yourself with my favorite. Gelato Marco. The lines can get long in the summer but in my opinion, after trying plenty of gelato shops in town, it's worth it.

If you're feeling energetic, head a little past the castle to Panifico Giovini, my favorite bakery in all of Trieste.

4. Admire Piazza Unità d'Italia Day or Night

No matter how many times I walk through Piazza Unità d'Italia (and it's usually a few times a week), I always have to stop and enjoy it for a second. No matter the time of the day or the angle, this piazza is always a site to behold.

You can think of this as Trieste's central square. It's located in the heart of town and surrounded by the most important (and impressive) government buildings.

When you're here, you might start to notice that the architecture in Trieste isn't quite like that of the rest of Italy and that's because Trieste was actually part of the Austro Hungarian Empire for centuries, adding to the unique blend of style, food, and culture you'll find here.

Just like the canal area, there are plenty of bars and restaurants that offer views of Piazza Unità d'Italia while you dine but like that area, the food isn't the best and you know that you'll be paying for the area. Sometimes it's worth the tourist tax but if you're on a tight budget, I'd hang around for a few minutes to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the surrounding buildings before heading on.

While all views of Piazza Unità d'Italia are great, do yourself a favor and head to Trieste's waterfront to see it from that angle before moving on. While you're there, walk down the pier to enjoy the ocean views. On a clear day, you can see the mighty Dolomites in the background across the bay which is really a stunning sight.

5. Have a Fantastic Meal (or two)

One of my favorite things to do in Trieste is going out to eat. While no city in Italy goes without fantastic food, Trieste's cost of living is lower than many other places so eating out can be enjoyed on a lower budget.

In Trieste, you can try traditional Triestino food that comes from the city's Austrian Empire roots, eat fresh seafood, or go full-on Italian. Why not try all 3?

A few of my favorite restaurants in Trieste include:

  • Ristorante Baracca E Burattini Trieste: This Italian restaurant changes their menu often. You'll need to understand some Italian or be ready to translate with patience because the only menus available are big printed ones that move from table to table. They're usually only open for lunch and since it's a popular spot, I recommend making a reservation.
  • The Modernist Bistro: If you don't want Italian but do want a great meal, The Modernist is my go-to. This one always has a table free for walk-ins.
  • Buffet Birreria da Rudy: Want to try typical Triestino cuisine? Most places with the word "buffet" in the name offer this. Expect to feel as though you've been transported to Austria with heaping servings of meat, potatoes, and sauerkraut.
  • Radici: This restaurant focused on locally grown ingredients that always test as fresh as they are. While they're classified as a pizza restaurant, I've tried a lot of things off their menu and have enjoyed every single one. Although their interior is nice, if the weather is good, sit outside to people watch while you eat.
  • Ristorante Ai Fiori: Unlike the one above, the ambiance here could use some work but if you're in the mood for seafood, the fish here is hard to beat. Their plates are creative but somehow work out perfectly.

6. Have Your Aperitivo in Cavana

Cavana is by far my favorite area of Trieste. This small neighborhood is the most stereotypical Italian part of Trieste, with its colorful buildings and small, windy alleyways. While there are plenty of great restaurants here (Radici is located right in the heart of this neighborhood), it really comes alive at night.

This is where most people end up for an aperitivo or all-night drinking sessions so it can get busy and loud on a weekend but since it's all pedestrian, it's a really fun place to hang out.

There are loads of bars throughout Cavana but a few of my favorite spots include:

  • Cemût: This wine bar also has a great selection of meats and cheeses to accompany your meal. If you go here, be sure to try frico, a famous dish in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Just know that Cemût is one of the few places that doesn't give free snacks with their drinks.
  • Al Ciketo: Another that doesn't follow the traditional aperitivo rules to provide snacks with your drink is Al Ciketo. You'll quickly see that regardless of that, both of these spots are incredibly popular. Al Ciketo is super small and usually standing room only. They offer an extensive wine list and plenty of cicchetti, small tapas, to choose from.
  • La Muta: If you're looking more for a bar vibe, La Muta has it. Their bartenders are great and can make a meal cocktail. This bar is a little bit nicer than others in Cavana so has turned into a favorite date night spot for my husband and me.
  • Draw: The street that Draw is on is lined with bars so there are plenty to choose from but I like Draw for its interior if the weather outside isn't great. The inside here is a lot bigger than other places and has a cozy vibe.

7. Take a Dip at Barcola

Barcola is a town within Trieste Province just up the coastline from the city center. It's connected by a sidewalk so if you're in the mood to walk, you can. Otherwise there are direct buses that'll drop you off right at the "beach."

You might notice that I quote the word beach and that's because although Trieste is on the coast, there isn't a stereotypical beach here like you might be hoping for. Instead, we get some rocky areas that are still good to take a dip.

There is a public beach within Trieste itself but it's divided male and female and not the best beach, unless you're just interested in getting your top off without men around - in that case, it's great.

Barcola has a long park lining the coast that in the summer is teeming with people. In the off season it's quiet and relaxing. There are a handful of bars, restaurants, and drink shacks lining the coast.

8. Visit Castello di Miramare

If you continue north from Barcola, you'll get to Castello di Miramare, or Miramare Castle. This castle can be seen from Trieste, jutting out into the water. Up close it's even more beautiful.

You can take a tour to go inside the castle or simply enjoy the views from outside and walk around the immense free gardens.

When my mom came to visit we decided to check out the inside of the castle but did a self-guided tour, simply reading the signs in each room. It was impressive how well-preserved the rooms were and a great way to learn more about the Austro Hungarian rule in Trieste.

If you're hungry before or after visiting the castle, I recommend eating at Tavernetta al Molo. It's not a cheap meal but their seafood is really delish.

9. Take Delfino Verde to Muggia

Delfino Verde is the public ferry that works in this region and what better way to head to a neighboring town than by a 30-minute ferry? Trust me, it's better than the bus or driving through the industrial part of town (Trieste is a port town after all).

All year round you can take the Delfino Verde to Muggia and in the summer months you can take it up the coast to Miramare Castle, Sistiana, and Grignano.

Muggia is a small fishing village right on the border with Slovenia. Don't expect a lot to see or do here but in my opinion, if you have an extra day to spare, it's still worth it.

On hot days, they have a bit more coastal space than Trieste and Barcola for dips in the water but otherwise head that way to walk around the quaint alleys and eat a meal while looking at the sailboats docked in the marina.

10. Enjoy a Local Meal at an Osmiza

You'll only find osmizas here in Trieste, not in other parts of Italy. They come from their shared culture with Slovenia, which is a close neighbor. If you're looking for something you can't do anywhere else, this should certainly be one of your top things to do in Trieste.

You can think of osmizas as farm-to-table spots but instead of bringing the farm to the city, you go to the farm itself. Typically you can only drink their homemade wine and eat their products, a variety of cold cuts and cheeses. Some larger ones might offer more but I would go expecting only this.

There are a lot of osmizas in the hills of Trieste but they all have super weird hours. Luckily, this website shares which ones will be open each day so you can plan accordingly.

11. Head Out for a Day Trip

Given Trieste's location, you have Slovenia, Croatia, and Northeastern Italy at your fingertips.

Before you start planning all of your day trips from Trieste, it's important to know that you can only traverse Italy by train (with the exception of Ljubljana) and must explore the rest of Slovenia and Croatia by rental car or Flixbus.

If you train by train throughout Italy, I highly recommend you book your tickets on Trainline.

A few of my favorite Trieste day trips are:

  • Rovinj, Croatia: 1.5 hour by car: Rovinj is a super cute coastal town that somehow feels more Italian than Trieste does. Spend your time walking around old town. Just be sure to get a gelato from Ombra.
  • Motovun, Croatia: 1 hour by car: Motovun is located in the heart of truffle country so I think it'll be easy to guess that I'm recommending this town to eat the freshest truffles possible. Plus as a hilltop town, the views are pretty great.
  • Pula, Croatia: 1.5 hour by car: While Trieste does have some Roman ruins, Pula's Roman amphitheater far outshines the one here so if history interests you, you'll love a quick trip to Pula.
  • Piran, Slovenia: 40 minutes by car: Piran is on the Slovenian coast and is well-known for its medieval architecture. The town is laid out a lot like Rovinj, with the old town surrounded on 3 sides by water making it easy to roam around aimlessly.
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia: 1 hour by car, 1.5 hour by train: Easily one of my favorite European cities, a day trip to Slovenia is one of the best things to do in Trieste. Trust me though, you might feel like you need to stay overnight and enjoy more time here.
  • Udine, Italy: 1 hour by car and train: Directly north of Trieste, Udine sits at the foothills of the mountains. This city has more Venetian architecture than Trieste does if you want to see the differences.
  • Monte Zoncolan, Italy: 2 hours by car: In winter, this is a very affordable skiing and snowboarding destination and in other seasons, it's famous as one of the most difficult mountain biking routes there is. Adventure sports lovers will certainly enjoy this mountain.
  • Treviso, Italy: 2 hours by car and train: Known as Little Venice, Treviso has a few more canals than Trieste does. It also boasts similar architecture to Venice but is far smaller. This town is famous thanks to Prosecco since the bubbly drink is produced in the hills just outside of town.
  • Venice, Italy: 2 hours by car and train: Canals, gondolas, and some of the best architecture you can witness in person awaits here. While most think Venice is a tourist trap, I completely disagree. The city has tourist traps, yes, but if you allow yourself to roam, you'll find plenty of quiet alleyways where the views are all your own.

FAQs

Have some questions before you visit Trieste? I've got you covered here.

Is Trieste Worth Visiting?

I think yes! If you're visiting Verona or Florence, maybe not but if you're in the area, Trieste is a great stop to add. Given its history, no other city in Italy (or Slovenia or Croatia) has the same feel as Trieste making it completely its own.

Is Trieste a Good Place to Live?

If you're looking for a small city with all the amenities you could ask for, Trieste is a great place to live. If you're looking for somewhere big and busy, you might bore quickly. As a port city, a lot of foreigners do live here and there is an active expat community.

Do I Need to Bring Anything Special?

Trieste gets 4 seasons so dress accordingly! The winter, at least this year, has been pretty mild though but given the high humidity it can feel colder than it actually is. Summers are sunny and hot.

Regardless of the time of year you visit, always have travel insurance. Safety Wing is my go-to health insurance and what I've been using for nearly 5 years now. It's the most affordable comprehensive service on the market and will cover you in case of emergencies.

Is Trieste Safe?

Yes! As a female, I've felt very safe in Trieste. Even at night when I take my dog out, I'm not fearful of my surroundings. Even petty theft and scams are unlikely here. The only area I would avoid late at night is the area right in front of the train station.

Where Should I Stay in Trieste?

There are a number of hotels in Trieste but these are my top recommendations based on not only the hotel but the area they're located in. Apartment rentals are also popular but tend to be absurdly expensive when compared to a hotel.

  • Budget Option: Trieste Center Rooms & Apartments. These apartments are spacious and perfectly located right next to Viale XX Settembre, one of the best walking streets in the city.
  • Mid-Range Option: Urbanauts Studios. These trendy studio apartments are located right in Cavana, the coolest and most walkable area in Trieste.
  • Luxury Option: Savoia Excelsior Palace. Stay right on the Adriatic Sea and right to Piazza Unità d'Italia and the canal, two of Trieste's must-sees.

How Many Days Do I Need in Trieste?

Really this depends on your schedule. If you're moving to Trieste, take it slow and explore the city with calm but if you're planning your trip through town, you can see all of the city center in 1 day. To explore more of the area and outside of the city center, you'll want another day or 2.

Do I Need to Speak Italian to Visit Trieste?

Not necessarily. If you hang out in tourist areas, like around Trieste's Grand Canal, you'll be fine only speaking English. If you'd like to get out of the tourist bubble though or even just make a few locals smile, try learning some basic phrases and vocabulary for your trip. Mondly is a great app for this.

Know that in Trieste locals speak the Triestino dialect which differs greatly from Italian but pretty much everyone will speak to you in Italian the moment they realize you're not from here.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Trieste?

Trieste is a great city to visit anytime of the year. Now that I've experienced all of the seasons here, I can say that they all bring a unique twist and the best things to do in Trieste can change a bit from season to season.

At a quick glance:

  • Summer is hot and will best be enjoyed spending time in Barcola swimming in the sea. Thunderstorms will roll in from time to time but usually it doesn't rain for days on end.
  • Fall is mild and ideal for spending time outdoors. The humidity goes away, the view of the mountains across the bay comes out, and everyone and their mom flocks outdoors to enjoy a coffee or drink in the sun.
  • Winter is really windy but otherwise pretty mild. It hardly ever snows here but you can expect it to be pretty foggy and chilly. It's a great time to go to Monte Zoncolan for that skiing day trip.
  • Spring is really nice. Like fall, one of the best things to do in Trieste during spring is to spend as much time outdoors as possible either at the parks, reading by the sea, or enjoying a drink outside.

Enjoy These Best Things to Do in Trieste

With this you're ready to enjoy all the best things to do in Trieste, Italy. I've loved calling this city home and urging others to come visit Trieste and get a feel for the uniqueness that lies here.

Plus, living in the coffee capital of Italy certainly has its perks. You could spend weeks on end simply trying out all of the historic cafes alone. But for those of you that are looking for a little bit more, albeit small, this city does pack a mighty punch when it comes to things to do while visiting Trieste.

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