Trieste is a beautiful city that’s as much Austrian as it is Italian. It practically straddles the border between Italy and Slovenia, and much of its history is tied to the Hapsburg Empire. You’re just as likely to find paprika in the dishes here as garlic.
It’s been an important port since Roman times, and a rival of nearby Venice for centuries. Today, you’ll find everything from medieval to modern buildings in Trieste. But most of the city’s signature architecture dates from the late 18th century when the Hapsburgs made Trieste a key seaport.
Over the years, Trieste has been home to many intellectuals, including Rainer Maria Rilke, Sigmund Freud, and James Joyce, who wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and part of Ulysses when he lived here.
Backed by cliffs leading up to the Karst Plateau, and with a beautiful Adriatic coastline, Trieste is as scenic as it is historic. You’ll find a vibrant culture in the turn-of-the-century coffee houses and bars.
Trieste attractions – what to do
A few miles north of the city, Castello di Miramare is well worth a visit. Built by the Archduke Maximilian in the 1850s, the palace itself is all golf-leaf and crystal.
But the surrounding gardens are the real reason to come. The seaside setting is really lovely and a pleasant place for a stroll.
The palace is said to be unlucky – many of its most esteemed guests have met an untimely end. In July and August, there are sound and light shows here.
For terrific views of the city and Adriatic, walk the walls of Castello di San Giusto. It was begun in 1470 and took a century and a half to complete. Inside, there’s a museum with antiques, old weapons, and period rooms. But they pale compared to the vistas you’ll enjoy outside.
The church nearby is Cattedrale di San Guisto. Both the castle and the church are in the Parco della Rimembranza on the Capitoline Hill. There are several Roman ruins in the area, and the 14th-century campanile of the cathedral was built on the remains of a 1st-century temple.
Two Romanesque basilicas were joined by a central nave and there are mosaics from the 13th century. But they don’t compare to those in Ravenna.
Cheapest Trieste hotels
The best hotel in Trieste is the four-star Grand Hotel Duchi d’Aosta, which is located on the sea-front Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia.
The hotel’s restaurant, Harry’s Grill, has tables right on the square. Housed in an old neoclassical building, it has lots of old-world ambience and charm. There’s a modern spa, an indoor heated pool, and a Turkish bath. The 55 rooms have big LCD TVs, WiFi Internet access, safes, and big marble bathrooms with Jacuzzi tubs. If you don’t stay here, come to Harry’s for a Duchi cocktail.
With views of the Gulf from the public areas and many of the rooms, the Savoia Excelsior Palace is another good choice. It recently underwent an extensive renovation. Crowned by a beautiful skylight, the Belle Epoque-style lounge is a lovely spot for a drink. The 142 classically furnished rooms have wenge wood accents, fine fabrics, and feather beds – the nicest have balconies overlooking the sea. The location is close to shops and restaurants.
In a pretty neighborhood close to Castello di Miramare, the four-star Hotel Miramare is a contemporary property close to the beach and national park. It’s a good base for those who want to enjoy the outdoors. You can dine in the popular Le Vele restaurant or on the plant-filled terrace of La Nave Café. Both have wonderful ocean views, as do the 32 rooms. Some have terraces.
Housed in an old ropemaker’s workshop, Hotel Le Corderie is a 15-room boutique hotel built in 2008. The clean, modern design is a pleasant change. And guests can help themselves to a drink in the honesty lounge and then enjoy it in the garden. Rooms have WiFi access, mini bars, and writing desks. A breakfast buffet is served in the dining room each morning.
The Hotel James Joyce was built in 1770 in the old part of Trieste, and it’s a real charmer. If you’d like to stay in one of the nine double rooms, you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. There’s WiFi in the public areas, and the rooms, which were renovated in 2003, have satellite TV, safes, and mini bars. Breakfast is included in the rate, and there are lots of restaurants within walking distance.
One of the most affordable hotels in Trieste, L’Albero Nascasto Hotel Residence has a lot going for it. Bordered on one side by the city’s 15th-century walls, it’s in an 18th-century building that was recently restored. The ten rooms are furnished with antiques and have kitchenettes and satellite TV, but no phones. The location is convenient to everything.
In the same neighborhood as Miramare, Riviera & Maximilian’s first opened in 1910. It has a private beach — although it’s not sandy – two outdoor swimming pools, and a restaurant with a pretty terrace. In summer, there’s a buffet at the beach and you can rent water sports equipment for fun in the sun.
Rooms are divided between two buildings, an older one with parquet floors and carved furniture, and a newer wing with balconies and terraces. There are also 12 apartments available on a weekly basis.