Miramare Castle is a hidden piece of Austria tucked into Trieste, Italy!
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Miramare Castle is one of those places you’ve maybe seen on Instagram but didn’t have a great idea of where it was. The castle sits regally above the Mediterranean sea in the easternmost part of Italy, just outside Trieste.
This part of Italy is unique to begin with because it’s had such a strong non-Italian influence over the centuries. Nearby Trieste spent over 500 years being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and sharing a border with Slovenia means there’s a ton of European influence and much less of typical Italian culture.
Like Trieste, Miramare Castle doesn’t typical Italian style of architecture. Inside and out, the entire place feels like it’s been lifted out of Bavaria and set along the Mediterranean. Square and fortress-like, it sits overlooking the calm sea waters like some beautiful storybook setting.
The grounds and extensive gardens are free to enter, but touring the castle has a fee. Inside, you see much of the public and private spaces of the castle on the first two floors.
The place is beautiful, surprisingly new looking for a European castle, but that’s because it’s only 150 years old.
The initial owner of the castle was Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg, who built it for his wife. In a weird twist of fate, he was offered the chance to become Emperor of Mexico in 1863, so he left Miramare while it was still under construction. Unfortunately, he died before the castle was completed.
Also because of its place in recent(ish) history, it’s easier to understand the significance of the art and crests painted on nearly every wall. The audioguide will also help highlight, but much of it feels more familiar than castles from Medieval times.
Like a German or Austrian castle, the inside is ornately decorated with dark woods, creating a surprising contrast with the big windows letting in the sea air. The grand hall was my favorite room, full of gold and the complete lack of subtlety common to all castles.
Another interesting room is right at the beginning: Maximilian built his private chambers to be reminiscent of a ship’s quarters. Ironic, considering the relative space availability of a ship vs a castle, but distinctly ship-like when you walk in.
Exploring the Gardens
The surrounding gardens are large and feel much more cultivated than Italians usually embrace. On a hot day, the covered walkways are heaven, and there’s a swan pond and Swiss cottage to complete the idyllic scene. The garden is a mix of European and Mexican plants, many of which he sent back from his time in North America. Alternately, the coastline has walking paths and manicured flower beds line the little marina for the castle.
If you can’t tell, I loved the location and gardens a bit more than the inside. It was cool, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re on a grand European adventure and have already seen 5783927 European castles, you can skip the interior. Sometimes we get travel fatigue, yes? I’d rather tell you where to best spend your time.
Getting to Miramare
The big question: transportation.
Driving is the easiest: follow signs to the castle, not the town, and there will be parking. If you see a free spot along the coast, take it: there’s paid parking within the castle walls, but free is always better, right?
There’s a bus you can take and then plan to walk about 15 minutes to the entrance. There’s also a train to the town of Miramare, but I wouldn’t advise this – its several kilometers from the castle.
Miramare should definitely make your list when you visit Trieste, and I’ll share soon how to spend a day or a weekend there!
I’m constantly collecting and sharing ideas for Italy and European trip itineraries on Pinterest if you want more inspiration!