What to see in Trieste

Cosa vedere a Trieste in un weekend-Piazza Unità d'Italia- Palazzo del Municipio- Palazzo della Luogotenenza Austriaca- Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino-

A Brief Guide to Discovering the “Little Vienna by the Sea”

Are you looking for a city that combines the sea with the beauty of Northern European cities? Read our article and discover what to see in Trieste in a weekend!

Trieste is a city we had been longing to visit for a long time, and finally, we managed to do so. After visiting Palmanova and Aquileia, we took the road that follows the coast to Trieste, being able to calmly enjoy the view that slopes down from the mountain to the sea. Nestled between the Karst Plateau and the Adriatic Sea, Trieste enchanted us with its exceptional blend of Mediterranean and Central European character. To help you understand better, imagine Vienna by the sea – a seemingly odd comparison that makes perfect sense once you’re in Trieste. Its Central European soul stems from Austro-Hungarian rule, significantly enhancing both its beauty and importance. The port became a crossroads for all maritime trade of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, attracting diverse peoples and cultures.

During our weekend, we discovered the city’s ancient history, dating back to Roman times, as we wandered through the streets climbing the San Giusto Hill (the old town), encountering monuments and remains that harken back to those centuries.

The truth is, there are numerous things to see in Trieste over a weekend, and enjoying them all at a leisurely pace may be impossible. So, we’ve chosen to recommend only the truly unmissable highlights.

Cosa vedere a Trieste in un weekend: Il Borgo Teresiano

A fundamental stop for a weekend in Trieste is a stroll through the streets of the Teresian Quarter. Created in the 18th century by Maria Theresa of Austria, this neighborhood allowed the city to expand and breathe, thanks to flourishing trade. The construction involved burying the city’s salt pans and designing a road axis with an orthogonal layout, one of the earliest examples of a modern urban plan in Europe.

We can easily tell you that the most beautiful spot in this quarter is the Canal Grande, where magnificent palaces are reflected, and small boats dock. The entire scene creates a truly special atmosphere. From any point on the Canal Grande, the eye falls on the neoclassical facade of the Church of Sant’Antonio Nuovo and the dome of the Orthodox Temple of San Spiridone. The proximity of these two places of worship, representing different faiths, immediately conveys the open spirit that has dominated the city for centuries.

What to see in Trieste on a weekend - Grand Canal - reflections - Boats - Church of Sant'Antonio Nuovo - Orthodox Temple of San Spiridone
Ganal Grande (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Also in the Teresian Quarter, in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, stands the Post Office Palace, a beautiful example of neo-Renaissance art. Besides its architectural beauty, it holds cultural significance as it houses the interesting Postal and Telegraphic Museum of Central Europe. The spaces narrate the evolution of postal service from the 1800s to today, focusing especially on the Austro-Hungarian domination period. For enthusiasts or families with children, it’s a fascinating place.

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: Piazza Unità d’Italia

When visiting Trieste for a weekend, you must spend ample time in one of the most beautiful and scenic squares globally: Piazza Unità d’Italia. This place remains the gathering point for the city’s most important institutions, nearly all in an eclectic style. On the short side is the Town Hall with its unique facade, while on its sides, two rows of elegant buildings start. Among them are the Austrian Lieutenancy Palace adorned with beautiful mosaics, the Lloyd Triestino Palace with the allegorical fountains of Thetis and Venus, and the Model Palace. The latter is so named because, in the late 1800s, it was built as a model, with its eclectic style, for the square’s renovation. In front of the Town Hall, the Fountain of the Four Continents rises, allegorically representing the international trade of the Trieste port.

Molo Audace and the Royal Staircase

If you wonder why we included it in the list of what to see in Trieste in a weekend, the answer is simple! Despite being surrounded on three sides by beautiful palaces, what makes the square special, in our opinion, is the fourth side. It opens to the sea and, ideally, to the world, providing a great sense of freedom. To appreciate the square’s beauty entirely, we recommend walking along the Molo Audace. In the evening, when illuminated, it becomes even more spectacular!

The square, like the rest of the city, is adorned with bronze statues of iconic figures important to Trieste. At the top of the so-called Royal Staircase, you’ll find two sculptural groups: the Bersagliere and the Girls of Trieste. The first celebrates the arrival on November 3, 1918, of the first Italian army corps in Trieste, while the second depicts two Trieste girls sewing the tricolor flag.

What to see in Trieste in a weekend - Piazza Unità d'Italia - The girls of Trieste - Town Hall
Detail of the sculptural group of the Girls of Trieste (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: Piazza della Borsa

A short walk from Piazza Unità d’Italia led us to spend some time in a more intimate square that seems to be a synthesis of the architectural currents present in Trieste. Piazza della Borsa, with its irregular shape, serves as an ideal link between the new and old city. Here, you’ll find the Borsa Palace, one of the finest examples of Trieste neoclassicism, and the Tergesteo Palace, with its beautiful gallery. Scattered along the sides of the square are neoclassical and rococo palaces, such as Palazzina Romano, and Liberty-style buildings like Casa Bartoli. To enhance it all, at the center, you can admire the Fountain of Neptune by Giovanni Domenico Mazzoleni and a column with a statue of Emperor Leopold I.

Piazza della Borsa - Palazzo della Borsa - Palazzo del Tergesteo - Fountain of Neptune - Statue of Emperor Leopold I
Glimpse of Piazza della Borsa

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: San Giusto Hill

In our weekend in Trieste, we wanted to explore the streets of San Giusto Hill. This part of the city, representing the old town, is often less publicized than modern neighborhoods but rightfully belongs to the list of what to see in Trieste in a weekend. To reach it, we recommend climbing the Giants’ Stairs, a monumental staircase that leads through the Remembrance Park to the top of the hill.

San Giusto Castle

Here, you’ll find the ruins of a large Civil Basilica from the Roman era, testifying to the ancient origins of this area of Trieste. A short distance away is the Castle of San Giusto, a military fortress reconstructed and expanded several times, now a cultural hub of the city. Inside, you can explore some very interesting exhibitions that trace the history of the castle and the city in general:

  • The Tergestino Lapidary, hosting inscriptions, sculptures, and reliefs from the Roman era found in the territory of Trieste;
  • Weapons Museum, a fascinating exhibition of original weapons from the 12th to the 19th century;
  • The Captain’s House from the late 15th century, telling the story of the Castle and the city inside

You can also walk along most of the castle walls, offering a panoramic view of the city from above.

San Giusto Cathedral

In the same area, it’s interesting to visit the Cathedral of San Giusto, the most important religious building in Trieste. The Romanesque-Gothic facade is very austere but adorned with a beautiful Karst stone rose window and many Roman artifacts present on the bell tower.

What to see in Trieste in a weekend - Cathedral of San Giusto - Romanesque - Gothic - Colle di San Giusto
Cathedral of San Giusto (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

However, it’s the interior that houses the most interesting works. In the two side apses, beautiful Byzantine mosaics created in the 13th century by Venetian and Constantinopolitan craftsmen are present. What leaves one astounded are the vibrant colors and shades created by the tiles in the light. A true masterpiece to be included in the list of what to see in Trieste in a weekend!

What to see in Trieste in a weekend - Cathedral of San Giusto - Byzantine mosaics - Gold - Colle di San Giusto
One of the apse mosaics of the Cathedral of San Giusto (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Arch of Richard and the Roman Theatre

Returning towards the sea, you’ll come across two more Roman-era witnesses that integrate seamlessly with the surrounding environment. The first is the Arch of Richard, an ancient Roman gate from the 1st century AD. Its name probably derives from being on the Cardo, one of the two main roads in a Roman city. The second is the Roman Theatre, created by exploiting the slope of the San Giusto Hill, similar to Greek theaters. At the time, this building stood a few meters from the sea, creating a significant impact on the spectators.

What to see in Trieste in a weekend - Cavea - Roman Theater - Colle di San Giusto
Cavea of the Roman Theater (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: Revoltella Museum and San Sabba Rice Mill

Two other places that fit into our list of what to see in Trieste in a weekend are the Revoltella Museum and the San Sabba Rice Mill. To reach them, head south to less central neighborhoods, but they are well connected by public transport.

The Revoltella Museum is an art gallery (divided between the adjacent Revoltella Palace and Brunner Palace) housing one of the most important collections of modern art in Italy. It features works by famous artists such as Hayez, Bistolfi, Morandi, and Fontana, alongside works by local and Central European artists. Not to be overlooked is the Revoltella Palace; the building has retained its charm thanks to original furnishings and the arrangement of works desired by Baron Pasquale Revoltella.

The San Sabba Rice Mill, on the other hand, is a place to reflect on and commemorate the victims of the Nazi massacre. This former rice husking complex was the only active concentration camp on Italian soil, where hostages, partisans, political prisoners, and Jews were eliminated. The transformation of this deportation camp into a memorial site was done in a refined and elegant manner, avoiding rhetoric and leaving room for emotions. Visiting those rooms, reading, and listening to the testimonies of survivors is truly challenging but allows for reflection and keeping the memory of those atrocities alive.

San Sabba rice mill - Prison camp - Nazi concentration camp
San Sabba rice mill (credit to Mia Battaglia photography on VisualHunt.com CC BY NC ND)

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: Miramare Castle and Victory Lighthouse

On the other side of the city, on the rocky promontory of Grignano, isolated by a large green park, stands Miramare Castle. Almost everyone who has visited places it among the top recommendations for what to see in Trieste in a weekend. Well, we won’t be any different. Built in the mid-1800s at the behest of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg (the brother of the more famous Franz Joseph), it is a beautiful example of an eclectic princely residence. Its architects aimed to romantically reinterpret a medieval fortress. The interior comprises over 20 rooms of great value, including the bedroom of Maximilian, furnished like a ship’s cabin, and the sumptuous “Throne Room.” The vast park, with gardens rich in rare plants, sculptures, and lakes descending in wide steps to the sea, is also spectacular.

What to see in Trieste in a weekend - Miramare Castle - Habsburg residence - Grignano - Ecclectic fortress - Miramare Castle Park
Miramare Castle (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Returning to the city, we recommend stopping at the Victory Lighthouse. This tall lighthouse was built in the 1920s to commemorate the Italian victory in World War I and honor its fallen soldiers. We suggest it not only for its artistic and symbolic value but also for the beautiful panorama of the Gulf of Trieste that you can admire from up there.

What to See in Trieste in a Weekend: Historic Cafés

Trieste is also famous for its inhabitants’ close relationship with coffee. We had read many times, before visiting, that Trieste wouldn’t be the same without its Historic Cafés. When we entered, intrigued by this reputation, we understood the essence of those words. Spread throughout the historic center, Historic Cafés are retro-style places in Central European fashion, where time seems to have stopped. Sitting at those tables, it’s easy to imagine Stendhal, Joyce, Saba, or Svevo engrossed in writing their works or discussing with other intellectual citizens. For us, it was a beautiful experience.

We hope our recommendations on what to see in Trieste in a weekend will be useful!

Final Tips

If you still don’t know where to stay in Trieste, click here to discover the best accommodations at the best prices!


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Article Name
What to see in Trieste
Explore the blend of sea and Northern European charm in Trieste. Discover what to see in Trieste for a perfect weekend getaway!
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice

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