What Are the Best Museums in Trieste, Italy?

Trieste is a northeastern Italian city with glorious history. In this article, we present the top 9 museums on art, history, and culture of Trieste.

Feb 17, 2024By Polina Grmanova, MA International Relations
best museums in trieste italy grand canal


Trieste is one of the Italian cities which often make the “bucket list” of many travelers. It is not surprising as in addition to beautiful piazzas, palaces, and delicious patisseries, the city has a riveting historical background. Touring the city’s museums is a lovely way to learn about the events and traditions that shaped Trieste and the region.


1. Risiera di San Sabba

Risiera di San Sabba by Pier Luigi Mora
Risiera di San Sabba. Source: Pier Luigi Mora


Risiera di San Sabba is one of the most powerful museum experiences in Trieste. What originally functioned as a 19th-century rice processing facility became a concentration and transition camp active from 1943 to 1945. It was one of the most advanced concentration camps in Italy, with a crematorium and a gas chamber on the site. Many people lost their lives in this industrial-looking red-brick building, and many then traveled to the Polish Auschwitz. In 1965, Risiera di San Sabba became a national monument. Today, the museum is here to educate and remind its visitors about the horrors carried out by the Nazis during WWII. In addition to temporary exhibitions, the museum has a few rooms and cells of the former camp to explore. 


2. The Revoltella Museum

The Revoltella Museum by Dage
The Revoltella Museum. Source: Dage


The Revoltella Museum opened in 1872, so it is one of Italy’s oldest museums on contemporary art. The name of this institution comes from Baron Pasquale Revoltella, a well-known philanthropist, who donated his residence and the entire art collection to the city of Trieste. There are a few reasons to see this incredible museum. First is the architecture of the 19th-century building, designed by Friedrich Hitzig, with a modern addition by Carlo Scarpa in the 1960s. Second is the compelling collection of contemporary artworks of the 19th and 20th centuries featuring many significant Italian artists. The items displayed include pieces by Giuseppe Tominz, Francesco Hayez, Alberto Burri, Morelli, and many others. Quite a few works presented at the Venice Biennale are now part of the collection. 


3. The Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History, Trieste


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Many wouldn’t believe the unique and exciting items in the collection by the Museum of Natural History in Trieste. It opened in 1846 and is one of Italy’s oldest museums. The collection features the Tethyshadros insularis, a.k.a. the famous Dinosaur Antonio. It is a rare find, the world’s only complete representation of these species, and one of the most valuable discoveries in Europe. Another impressive item is the dental filling made out of beeswax, representing the oldest example of dental care worldwide. In addition to these, museum visitors can explore a well-preserved 5.4-meter-long great white shark, fossils of a crocodile, and many other findings from various continents. 


4. The War Museum for Peace

The War Museum for Peace by Federico Colautti
The War Museum for Peace. Source: Federico Colautti


Trieste has a rich and captivating historical background, and one of the best places to learn about it is the War Museum for Peace. It stands next to the abovementioned Museum of Natural History. The goal of the War Museum is to show the impact the World Wars had on Trieste, the surrounding regions, and the life of the local society. Its collection is a product of a passionate collector, Diego de Henriquez, who started assembling it while participating in WWII. The museum holds weapons, military and civilian vehicles, uniforms, war-related artifacts, and a comprehensive archive with books, documents, and maps. 


5. Scientific Imaginary

Science Center Scientific Imaginary. Source: Mayors of Europe
Science Center Scientific Imaginary. Source: Mayors of Europe


This museum, known to most locals as Immaginario Scientifico, is an interactive museum of the modern age. It combines education and entertainment with sophisticated technologies, offering a fun and engaging way to immerse into the world of science. Visitors can touch all the exhibits and participate in hands-on experiences to learn about various scientific laws and phenomena. In addition to projections, there is a planetarium, a few laboratories, and a massive telescope. Since such activities are equally captivating for children and adults, it is one of the best ways to spend some high-quality family time in Trieste.


6. The Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum
The Maritime Museum


Naturally because of its location, Trieste has a remarkable maritime history. This museum is one of the most representative in the entire Mediterranean area. The extensive collection of the Maritime Museum features the outline of maritime navigation starting from the Egyptians, and has sections covering naval technology, fishing, and economic activities of Trieste. One of the most exciting parts of the display is the exhibition dedicated to Lloyd Triestino, a shipping company that played a major role in the history of Trieste. 


7. Museum “Carlo Schmidl” & Palazzo Gopcevich

Palazzo Gopcevich by Luca Aless
Palazzo Gopcevich. Source: Luca Aless


The Palazzo Gopcevich is one of the most dazzling buildings along the Grand Canal of Trieste. It appeared on the city’s map in 1850, designed by the architect Giovanni Berlam, and became the museum venue in 2006. The lavishly decorated building is now a valuable part of Borgo Teresiano, a central neighborhood of Trieste. The story of the Theatre Museum started with Carlo Schmidl, who donated his private collection, representing the musical and cultural life of Trieste of the 18th century and beyond. It boasts musical instruments, posters and fliers, photographs, paintings, and costumes. Inside the Theatre Museum is also a library with over 100 thousand books and a personal archive of Giorgio Strehler, a recognized Italian actor and director. 


8. J.J. Winckelmann Antiquities Museum

Antiquities on display at the J.J. Winckelmann Museum. Source: Winckelmann Museum
Antiquities on display at the J.J. Winckelmann Museum. Source: Winckelmann Museum


This museum is a true find for those into archaeology and antiques. It is one of the city’s smaller museums, dedicated to J.J. Winckelmann, known as the Father of Modern Archaeology. Most people find this hidden gem on the way up the San Giusto Hill, home to the Cathedral of Trieste. The first items in the selection, donated by the historian Domenico Rosetti, appeared in the 19th century. There are three floors and five rooms to explore, with excellent collections of the Roman and Egyptian periods. One of the museum’s highlights is the sarcophagi with human mummies over 3 thousand years old. There are also prehistoric items and artifacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages and objects of Greek and Etruscan origin. A beautiful garden surrounding the building is a fine place to catch one’s breath and escape the hustle of the touristic Trieste. 


9. The Civic Museum of Oriental Art

Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia
Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia


Nearby the main city square, Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia, is Trieste’s Museum of Oriental Art. It is a testament to the relations between the port city and the Orient, which began in the 18th century and improved a century later. The museum has four floors, full of various items, mainly from China and Japan. These include exceptional paintings, prints, photographs, clothing and fabrics, valuable porcelain, and weapons. The most impressive sections of the collection are the works by renowned Japanese artists Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. The museum also features rare Gandhara sculptures. The displayed items help to understand the pillars and traditions of Confucianism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and the culture of the Samurai.

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By Polina GrmanovaMA International RelationsPolina is a passionate freelance writer with an MA degree in International Relations. She loves to travel and enjoys writing about it. Her work experience includes marketing and travel design. In her free time, she reads books on business and psychology and studies Human Design.