If you’re looking to spend 48 hours in Trieste, there is plenty to keep you amused in this compact and underrated Italian city.
Nestled on the Istrian peninsula, Trieste is both the gateway to the Balkans and one of Italy’s loveliest cities. Most holidaymakers coming through are using the local airport to head to Slovenia or Croatia which is a shame as even a 24 hour stop is enough to check out this gem.
As one of Italy’s most affluent cities, Trieste is actually a great place to stop off and get some real Italy. Away from the hoardes of Venice or Cinque Terre you can actually stop and soak up the vibe and get some proper dolce vita!
There are lots of plush looking hotels in Trieste and a good selection of AirBnB’s. We had an AirBnB apartment right on the Corso Italia, the main drag through the city, which was the perfect position for exploring.
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Trieste is famous for coffee. Coffee giants Illy are based in Trieste and you’ll find coffee bars pretty much everywhere. As you’re gonna be on your feet all day you’ll want to find a good spot to grab a coffee and a pastry.
We had a cappuccino and cornetti (Italian croissant) at La Portizza on Piazza della Borsa, just off the main Corso Italia.
Be warned, the coffee you’re familiar with doesn’t go under the same name in Trieste. A cappuccino here is a bit stronger and shorter than the one you’re used to (especially if you frequent Starbucks!). If you want a very milky coffee ask for a caffe latte. And don’t expect to find hazlenut syrup either…
You can find many lovely cafes down side streets or random corners all of which do a mean coffee and have a lovely cornetti to accompany it. Expect to pay around €5 for a breakfast croissant and coffee.
Piazza Unita d’Italia
The Piazza Unita d’Italia is the centre of the city both culturally and geographically speaking. This impressive plaza is open to the sea and is fringed with some very impressive architecture with the City Hall sitting in the centre.
It is pretty grand and has apparently been used as a concert venue by the likes of Green Day and Iron Maiden.
To the south of the Piazza you’ll find the very pleasant old town, where most of the buildings date from the Austro-Hungarian days. A meander along via San Sebastiano is the most pleasant. Stood by the town hall and facing it, take the street immediately to your right. This will take you past several smaller piazzas as you head into the old town.
Heading south from the Piazza you’ll find yourself wandering the narrow streets of the old town which is packed with cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. At night this area comes alive so expect to head here after dark too. However in the day it makes a pleasant stroll in the shade.
Via Torino is the centre of the action in old town for nightlife. Don’t expect a whumping night out, but you will find lots of bars playing many mainstream hits, or if you’re lucky a bit of cool house.
As you pop out of the Old Town you’ll spot the marina. There is a lighthouse just beyond the marina which makes a good waypoint to wander towards.
The lighthouse isn’t that interesting but the wander towards it will bring you to the only beach in Trieste, bagno Marina ‘La Lanterna’. If you’ve got your swimmers then get stuck in and cool down in the Adriatic sea.
If not enjoy the view of the city from here and skim some stones on the beach.
If you’re up for some maritime history then head to the Museo del Mare (Museum of the sea). Entry is free and you get to take a look at art and exhibitions about seafaring.
One of the loveliest things about Trieste is taking in the view as you walk along the seafront. From the marina you can walk all the way back into the centre of town taking in the view of the hills overlooking the city, the architecture and even a few piers where you can dangle your feet in the water as you watch sea bass nibbling the seaweed.
Some of the walk will take you through car parks, which may be a bit of poor strategic planning by the local authority. But on the whole, it’s a nice walk and at sundown is especially romantic.
You’ll also spot a few watering holes as you go. When we came in the evening we found a hole in the wall near the aquarium serving Aperol spritz where we could sit and watch the twinkling lights at dusk.
We didn’t go in the aquarium, but by all accounts it’s a bit of a bargain. €4.50 for adults or €3 kids and concessions. Free for under 5 year olds.
Wandering back to town you’ll spot the Piazza Unita d’Italia. Just after this you’ll come to a bridge which hosts the postcard image of Trieste.
Looking down the canal to the San Antonio church you could almost be in Venice… The canal is lined with cafes and restaurants and makes a great pit stop of a full slap up meal if you’re in the mood.
This is also the newer part of town so wander the streets checking out the boutiques and shops for some Italian treats. You’ll find all the high end stores like Max Mara and Gucci as well as the sort of shops where you’ll pick up a €5 bargain. Have a wander.
For food we headed to the area in old town around via Torino where there are lots of great restaurants. In fact the whole of the centre of town is packed full of eateries.
We had probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had at DiNapoli in via Armando Diaz, between the Piazza and via Torino. They also served what can only be described as a massive ball of mozarella with tomatoes which was amazing.
We also had food one evening at Osteria Istriano which specialises in seafood and offers a lovely view across the marina.
A busy morning followed by a chilled afternoon is the order of the day. When you’ve had your coffee and cornetti head to the Roman theatre.
If you’ve been to Italy before, or anywhere in this part of the world, you’ll know that most towns have a stack of Roman ruins. The Teatro Romano is a well preserved auditorium right in the middle of town, just off the Corso Italia. Entry is free if you’d like to take a look around. There are sometimes events on too.
If you’re only on a 36 hour trip to Trieste (and you’re heading off soon) we strongly recommend the next stop as a matter of priority.
Castello di San Giusto
From behind the theatre you can climb winding alleys up the hill to the castle. It is signposted but it might also be handy to have a map as we did hit a few dead ends as we wandered. It’s not a massive walk but it will test your lungs if you’re not in top notch shape… If you’re not up for that then grab the 24 bus from the sea front.
Once at the top you’ll be presented with another landscape of Roman ruins as well as great views across the city which are worth the effort alone.
You can get into the castle too which is €3 for adults or €2 for concessions and children. Wander the ramparts looking at the view and then take a trip into the museum (included in your entry) and take a look at the excavated Roman trinkets.
You can also visit the cathedral which is just outside the castle walls. Entry is free but it’s €1.50 to go up the campanile (tower).
To head back into town take the path just in front of the cathedral. This will take you down cobbled streets past the babypark. This quaint park is nice for a stop in the shade and if you have kids, let them loose on the playground.
Back To Old Town
As you wander on down Via della Cattedrale you’ll spy more Roman ruins in the form of an old arch, arco di Riccardo, originally built into the city walls.
There are a few small cafes here too if you need to refresh.
The white walled Miramare castle is a bit of a jaunt away from the centre of town. Take the 6 or C bus. The C goes from the top of Corso Italia or the 6 goes from the train station.
It’s about 20 minutes on the bus but when you get off at Miramare you’ll find yourself wandering a beautiful seaside park with views back towards the city. It’s €10 to get into the castle although the park is free.
If you’re feeling up to it then you can wander back towards town. It’s quite a walk though. Better still jump back on the bus and join the locals at the Bagnomare. About halfway back into town this is where you’ll spy the locals sat on the walkway soaking up the sun. There is no sand beach but there are access points through the rocks into the sea which is what most of the city does on a hot day.
There are lots of bars here too so if you’re after an Aperol spritz then this is the place to do it…
48 Hours In Trieste?
If you’re looking for a city break that’s different from Venice or Rome then Trieste is a great option. A bustling working city that is unmistakably Italian and isn’t packed full of tourists. A 48 hour trip to Trieste is a great option and a good springboard into Slovenia or Croatia, or even for a day trip to Venice…
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