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Port Guide

Trieste: Cruise port guide – what to do, see & eat

Trieste cruise port is not just a gateway to the delightful Italian city of Trieste but also magnificent Venice – here’s what to do on cruises to Trieste.

Words by Nick Dalton

Trieste, on Italy’s border with Slovenia, is a beautiful place with Trieste cruise port increasingly popular with ships now Venice along the coast is scaling back on big liners.

Cruise ships sail right up to the historic heart of a place that was created as a Roman colony by Julius Caesar and which became the fourth largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, only beaten by Vienna, Budapest and Prague.

Sitting on a finger of the Italian coast, the calm Adriatic in front and the mountains of Slovenia behind, Trieste is a city of elegant buildings, beautiful squares, Roman ruins and a hilltop cathedral, all easily walkable from Trieste cruise port.

There are waterfront walks, a Parisian element to the café-filled city streets and a celebrated cultural history that includes James Joyce, who wrote much of his avant-garde Irish literature, including Dubliners, during more than a decade here.

A day’s cruise visit here is glorious but Trieste is such a relaxed city that a couple days pre- or post-cruise are well worthwhile.


Practical bits

Walk across the road! Trieste Italy cruise port is one of the most accessible you’ll find anywhere. In August, dazzlingly decorated giant Norwegian Viva [above] sailed her maiden voyage from here, her nose across the street from ornate buildings, including regal, flag-bearing offices of giant cruise ship builder Fincantieri.

Turn right as you disembark and it’s a short stroll to the picturesque yacht marina; turn left and historic port buildings tucked away behind an imposing stone arch are being reimagined as apartments along with shops and restaurants.

The other side of the latter, a 15-minute walk from Trieste cruise port, is the railway station.

How far is Trieste airport from the cruise port?

Trains from Trieste airport take half an hour. The bus costs much the same and takes an hour.

Trieste has Ryanair flights from London Stansted but other carriers involve changes and lengthy journeys.

How far is Trieste cruise port from Venice airport?

Venice Marco Polo airport, about 100 miles from Trieste, has more flights, including BA and easyJet.

Transportation from Venice to Trieste cruise port

A bus from Venice airport takes about two hours 20 minutes. If you want to take a train from Venice to Trieste cruise port it costs a little more and takes just under three hours. Neither journey is particularly scenic, keeping away from the coast, but the road is simple and motorway all the way.


Fun bits

See the sea

The grandiose seafront of Trieste cruise port is a place to stroll, particularly at sunset when the Gulf of Trieste glows and shines. The cruise ships are a particular attraction – a wonderful view of ship and shore comes from nearby Molo Audace, a 246m stone pier built over the wreck of the ship San Carlo, opened in 1751 and named after Italian Navy destroyer Audace.

Across the road is Piazza Unità d’Italia [above, left], a vast, stone-paved piazza – said to be Europe’s biggest sea-facing square – lined with palaces from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, and glorious when illuminated at night.

A little farther along is the Grand Canal, not as grand as Venice’s but Venetian in feel. The short waterway, dating from the mid-18th century, allowed ships to unload in town. The more recent Ponto Rosso footbridge (on which stands a lifesize bronze statue of James Joyce) means it’s now only navigable by tiny boats. At the end is the beautiful Church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo while on either side are cafes and market stalls.

San Giusto Cathedral

Narrow, cobbled streets and alleyways reach an unusually squat cathedral at the top of San Giusto hill. In the 14th century the cathedral itself (which replaced an earlier building) was linked to the neighboring Shrine of San Giusto creating a striking four-aisle interior, with a splendid circular window above and decorated with Byzantine mosaics inspired by works in Ravenna, the cruise port city south of Venice.

San Giusto Castle

Next to the cathedral, are the 15th- to 17th-century fortifications of San Giusto Castle, the work variously of Austrians and Venetians, with epic views over city and sea. The armory is impressive while the Lapidarium of Tergeste is a garden and catacombs packed with Roman relics. Find out more.

Roman Theatre

The remains of a vast amphitheatre once believed to hold at least 3,500 spectators and only uncovered in 1938, the Roman Theatre offers a peaceful public spot among the shops close to the sea, open 24 hours. Statues and inscriptions found in the excavations are at the Lapidarium at the castle.

Joyce Museum

Above the public library, homage to the writer with details on the taverns, churches, homes and less-salubrious places the author frequented during his life here – his children, Giorgio and Lucia, were born here and his brother and two sisters joined him – while creating works such as The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Find out more.

Miramare Castle

On a rocky seafront promontory 8km north of Trieste (a mostly waterfront walk if you fancy it), an aristocratic 19th-century creation, Miramare Castle, is the former home of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg, brother of Emperor Franz Joseph.

The elegant, white-towered house has its original furniture and is surrounded by a grandiose park full of rare and exotic trees. The sea around here is Miramare Marine Nature Reserve, where turtles and dolphins can be spotted on boat and snorkeling trips. Find out more.

See the streets

The city from Trieste cruise port is elegant and bustling without being overwhelming. The hillside roads are calm and historic, the lower streets have the feel of a major European city rather than simply a port town. Smart shops, casual bars, stylish restaurants and small parks.

Hidden gems in Trieste

Parco Farneto

Trieste’s largest park is only 2km from the centre so easy to get to on foot or by bus. The medieval woodland was flattened for firewood during World War Two but the park was restored and reopened in 2000 with looping paths through trees and rolling hills.

Parco di Villa Giulia

Slightly smaller than Parco Farneto but still only 2km from the center. Hilly paths give great views across the city and sea from the top.

Kleine Berlin

Truly hidden, this is a connected twin system of World War Two tunnels. One part was a civilian bomb shelter with a sick bay; the other, vast and complex, was built by the SS when they set up an HQ in the city. Free guided tours. Find out more.

Where to eat and drink in Trieste

Foodie bits

Start your day with a rich and creamy cappuccino paired with a freshly baked pastry at one of the historic cafes like Caffè degli Specchi. For a mid-morning snack, try a “buffet” at a local bar – a unique tradition featuring small bites like crostini, prosciutto, and cheese.

Dive into the city’s seafood culture with a delicious plate of Adriatic seafood, perhaps sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines) or a mixed seafood platter at a trattoria by the sea. Don’t miss out on trying the local specialty, the hearty jota soup made with beans, sauerkraut, and potatoes – a perfect comfort food choice if you cruise to Trieste during the colder months.

Pair these delights with the region’s renowned white wines like Vitovska or the bold red Terrano. Finish with a slice of the delicious presnitz, a traditional pastry filled with nuts, dried fruits and spices.

Trieste restaurants to try


Inside the grandeur of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, this carves out a cool contemporary space while celebrating the past with modern takes on Austrian and Balkan themes and influences, such as gnocchi with cuttlefish ink. Find out more.

The Pier

Casual but trendy bar and restaurant in a delightful setting on the edge of the yacht marina just along from Trieste cruise port. The interior is cool and white while The Roof is like a cruise ship deck for cocktails and a little music with enormous views of sea, city and coast. Find out more.

Harry’s Bar

Brother to the famed Harry’s in Venice, this is in the Grand Hotel Duchi d’Aosta on Piazza Unità d’Italia. As grand as the hotel, all polished wood and timeless style, it spills onto the stone square via an elegant terrace. There’s also intimate, white-tableclothed Harry’s Piccolo restaurant (two Michelin stars but starters from €45), Harry’s Bistro (mains from €18 with its own Margherita pizza) and Harry’s Pasticceria with choccy cakes and pastries. Find out more.

040 Social Food

Hip, stylish reasonably-priced bar/restaurant with outdoor tables giving views along the Grand Canal. Posh burgers (about £10 with fries), plus calamari, sardines and such, with hearty breakfasts, salads and gluten-free options. Cool décor, all wood, metal, brick and stone with an open kitchen, serving craft beers and cocktails at the proper bar. Find out more.

What to do outside Trieste

Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle

Just under an hour from the city (take a ship or local excursion). An extraordinary world of subterranean mountains, rivers and vast halls, not to mention a massive 5m-high stalagmite.

Home to olms, translucent, pink, lizard-like creatures with no visible eyes, dubbed ‘baby dragons’. Tour on the world’s only double-track cave railway. Nearby, halfway up a 123m-high cliff, is the 800-year-old castle [above] with secret tunnels and its own massive cave. Find out more.

Hotels in Trieste near the cruise port

DoubleTree By Hilton

Several streets back from the seafront but in the heart of downtown, from the outside this looks like a historic attraction. Inside, it’s classical too, the early 20th-century building packed with original fresco ceilings, marble pillars and grand spaces. Berlam is a dramatic spot for everything from coffee to cocktails with tapas beneath a chandelier as large as a car. Find out more.

Savoia Excelsior Palace

A grand old-world hotel across the street from Trieste cruise terminal. The building stems from 1911 when it was part of the Habsburg monarchy estate and the hotel has a middle European glamour. The Savoy restaurant specializes in local seafood (including roast octopus) in an elegant, high-ceilinged setting. Find out more.

Published 11.22.23