The deep-water port and maritime gateway for Northern Italy is a melting pot of different cultures and steeped in history. With an Austro-Hungarian quarter, a medieval old center, and lusted seaside location on the Adriatic, Trieste is a great place for a family getaway and there are a wealth of kid-friendly activities to keep everyone busy.
From ancient castles to underground caves, adventure parks, and the inviting Mediterannean sea, you won’t be bored by the Triestino lifestyle or the surrounding natural beauty. Better yet, this city and all it has to offer is sure to satisfy the tastes of little ones and the moodiest of teenagers too.
Whether you’re planning a budget weekend jaunt or a fun-filled fortnight with the family, our guide has everything you need to know about keeping busy in Trieste with kids. Let’s get started.
Nestled on the Gulf of Trieste between Barcola and Grignana, Miramare Castle is a 19th-century fortification and the beloved former home of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg. Rising majestically from the Adriatic in all its white karst marble grandeur, Miramare’s grounds comprise a seashore park of 22 hectares on the edge of the cliff.
The gardens are home to a wealth of tropical plants and creatures, thanks to the re-landscaping of the grounds on the instruction of the archduke. Miramare Castle was built in the late 1850s and Fernidand Maxilimillian, along with his wife, Charlotte of Belgium (later Emperor Maximilian I and Empress Carlota of Mexico), called the castle home until the archduke’s assassination in 1867.
A tour of the impressively furnished castle and a walk around the grounds is a great activity for kids on a sunny day. Learn about the history of the families who’ve inhabited the fort and take in the spectacular views of the bay and Miramare’s small lake swimming with swans. There’s also the headquarters for the Marine Reserve of Miramare within the grounds, with a visitor center commissioned by the WWF.
The museum includes a reconstruction of the marine bed below the castle and a small aquarium of the fish to be found in the waters. Children are invited to tour the marine reserve barefoot and you can even book snorkeling activities conducted by the WWF through the museum.
There are some stairs in the castle itself but nothing is unfeasible with a stroller here. Kids’ tickets to enter the castle are just €6 but everyone can walk the grounds for free without admission.
Antonio Dinosaur, Museum of Natural History
Located just outside Trieste, in a former quarry between Vilaggio del Pescatore and Duino, a fascinating fossil site was discovered in 1994 which now takes pride of place in the Museum of Natural History in Trieste. Affectionately nicknamed Antonio, the well-preserved skeletal fossil remains of a real-life dinosaur are displayed in a special room along with fish, shrimp, crocodiles, and pterosaurs.
The museum makes for a fantastic day out, no matter where you go, but Antonio is a real highlight and his 70 million-year-old remains are the most complete of all medium-large dinosaurs, not just in Italy, but in Europe. Antonio measures almost one meter tall and four meters long, weighing 700 kgs, but is thought to have had around 2,000 kg of mass when walking the earth.
The Natural History Museum is the oldest and most important in the region and an impressive Great White Shark, captured and embalmed in 1906, is also among the two million other specimens housed here. Botanical, zoological, mineralogical, and geological exhibitions can all be enjoyed, no matter what your family is into. Better yet, the entrance fee is just three euros and you can head over to the Museum of War for Peace next door too with a combined ticket for just five euros.
Trieste Adventure Park
Treetop walkways, suspended rope bridges, zip lines, and Tarzan-esque vines, all within an exciting woodland setting, the Trieste Adventure Park is a must-visit for any adrenaline-seeking families who want to take to the tree tops for a fun-filled day out. It might put your courage to the test, but there’s something for all children over six years old and you can select a trail matching your ability level for that feeling of optimum safety while you push your limits.
The adventure park is only 30-minutes by car from Trieste, located just outside the quaint village of Sistiana. The woodland province is minutes from the Slovene border and the adventure park offers 750 meters within the Karst forest to explore.
Open from May through to October you can enjoy the park during the school holidays or in the middle of the shoulder seasons for cheaper rates and refreshing weather. Children under eight go for just €15, while older kids and adults can access all paths for just €20-23. The park even hosts events if you’re looking for something to do with a bigger group or for a special occasion.
Also known as Riesengrotte or Grotta di Brishiachi, this enormous cavern on the Italian side of the Trieste Karst is among the world’s largest show caves and a bucket list attraction for all the family. Measuring over 100 meters high, 65 meters wide, and 130 meters long, Grotta Gigante – literally meaning “giant cave” when translated from Italian – has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records on multiple occasions.
Peppered with towering stalagmites like piles of dishes and dangling stalactites precariously pointing to the damp, dark floor, the cavern is an otherworldly spectacular. Steep stairways and paths down through the cave and out the other side make it accessible for visitors, completed by atmospheric lighting and a constant temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
And if you’re worried about moaning children as you journey the 1,000 total steps, fear not. The Grotta Gigante even puts on an engaging superhero experience, designed for the family, with performers dressed as your little ones’ favorite marvel figures to encourage them along the way. These take place once a day on the weekends, so check ahead for the schedule to make sure you don’t miss the special family tour.
There’s something for everyone here from science lovers to imaginative explorers. Be sure to check out Café Vatta after too, located just minutes away from the cave in Opiscina, for Michellin star sweets and world-class pastries.
It’s not all about attractions and adventure. Holidays should be about relaxation too, even if you are traveling with kids, and a day by the water is the perfect chance for this. The neighborhood of Barcola, just outside Trieste with its sun-soaked promenades, rows of fragrant pines, and incredible panoramas over the Adriatic, is the place to be when it comes to chilling out by the sea.
As a coastal city, you’re never too far from the ocean in Trieste, but the busy port isn’t the best for swimming with its heavy flow of traffic and deep waters. This is why locals and visitors alike flock to the Barcola promenade for easy access to the sea and plenty of quaint cafés and places to grab a light lunch.
Some bars in Barcola even rent sun loungers so you can laze out in comfort while the kids take a dip. Better yet, most of the swimming strip is blessed with a sandy seafloor which makes getting in and out of the water a pleasure. A section of the Barcola promenade has even earned the nickname “California” for this reason.
Arrive at the right time of year and you can watch the seascape come alive with bobbing sailboats taking part in the iconic Barcolana Regatta, the biggest European sailing race of its kind. The regatta takes place every second Sunday of October in the Gulf of Trieste. The water is still just warm enough for swimming at this time but the crowds of majestic sails make for a fantastic sight nonetheless.
Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and revel in the cliff-face villas, basking sun, and vibrant café culture just 10 minutes from the center of Trieste. Barcola is even better at sunset so stick around for an aperitivo and watch the sun disappear behind the distant Alps.
Piazza Di’Unitia and Molo Audace
The center of Trieste is full of culture and attractions for everyone to enjoy. Whether you’re strolling around the city, hunting for a bite to eat, or window shopping – be it, at the correct time (keep in mind that most businesses close from 12 pm to 3 pm every day for lunch!) – you won’t get bored. One place the whole family is bound to be taken with is Piazza Unità d’Italia, the “Unity of Italy Square” or “Large Square” and the heart of Trieste.
It’s the main square in the city, located at the foot of the hill where the Castle di San Giusto stands tall. The majestic square is headed by the grand municipal building and city hall, previously the head office of the Italia Marittima, the most iconic building in the city, built in the 1870s.
The square itself faces the Adriatic and the Molo Audace, a 245-meter pier that juts out in the sea and is known for its undisturbed views and romantic atmosphere. Piazza Unità d’Italia is said to be the largest square in all of Europe to open out onto the sea and has been used as a concert venue and meeting location for heads of state in the past.
Let the kids roam free in the expansive Piazza and enjoy the temporary art installations or campaigns that usually take center stage, grab ice creams for all the family from the historic Caffé degli Specchi, and stroll to the end of the Molo Audace. When it’s clear enough, you can even see the snow-capped Alps in perfect clarity. Who can say no to that?
A gateway to eastern Europe and the limestone-dominated Karst Plateau of the Italian-Slovene border, you can’t visit Trieste without enjoying some of the natural scenery afforded by its unique location. Val Rosandra is just one of the paradisical valleys that lie on the border and is a great place for the whole family.
Centered on the river from which it gets its name, Val Rosandra, or The Rosandra Valley is located in Dolina just 20-minutes from Trieste’s city center. Designated as a national park, there are tons of things to do here and plentiful ways to enjoy the untouched beauty of the surroundings. Hiking, rock-climbing, and bike rides, to taking a dip in the gleaming waters, walking the woodland paths, and even waterfall chasing, adventure-seekers, and nature lovers will be right at home, but there’s something for everyone.
You can even get the bus directly from Trieste which can save the time spent in weekend traffic and there’s a wonderful Pizzeria called Bagnoli Di Zattarin Alessandro where you can enjoy an indulgent lunch after working up a healthy appetite exploring the lush valley.
Is Italy good for families?
Italy, like much of western Europe, is an extremely family-friendly destination. The wonderful coastlines, vibrant cities, alluring lakes, and exciting mountains make it one of the best places to visit with children, but there’s something for all ages. From arty Florence to the colorful Amalfi Coast, sun-soaked Sardegna, leaning Pisa, and culture-rich Trieste, wherever you go there will be no shortage of attractions to suit everyone and Italy is full of diverse experiences.
When is the best time to visit Trieste?
Located in the northeast corner of Italy, Trieste has a mild, maritime climate with cool winters and sunny, Mediterranean summers. With grasslands, forests, seafront promenades, and karstic countryside, it can differ in temperature wherever you go in the region, but the summers are always pleasant with average highs of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and plenty of sunshine.
Is Trieste expensive?
Northern Italy is notoriously expensive, offering visitors a taste of a lusted western European lifestyle where your dollars won’t go as far. Still, Trieste won’t break the bank if you stick to a budget and book trips and attractions in advance. A seven day trip for a solo traveler will cost an average of $1,000, which is around $1,700 for a couple and closer to $3,500 for a family of four. Hotels range from $50 to $250 for a night’s stay, averaging around $105 in Trieste, while private vacation rentals hover between $130 and $390 a night.
How many days do you need in Trieste?
There’s so much to see in Trieste that you could spend months in the city and still not uncover all of its historical gems and awe-inspiring coastal sites. Still, three to four days is a good amount of time to get a taste of the city, the cuisine, and the culture, but five days is perfect for fitting in some of the nearby national parks and countryside too.