Trento is the gateway city to the mountainous Dolomites region in Northern Italy on the Adige River. It has around 120,000 residents and is equidistant from Verona to the south and the Austrian border to the north. Trento has a much more alpine feel than the majority of other Italian cities in the north of the country. Despite its unique qualities, Trento’s obscurity means it is often overshadowed by other Italian cities close by. Or, it’s used as a base for winter sports or a stopover destination.
Despite being much smaller than Milan, Verona, or Venice, for example, there are so many things to do in Trento, Italy. It has medieval castles, world-class museums, historic churches, and other fascinating monuments. There are plenty of places nearby that would make fun day trips, yes, but there’s also a lot of beautiful scenery and great eateries that would not make you regret visiting Trento for a few days.
Here are all of the top Trento tourist attractions and things to do in the city. Many of these activities are included on the Trentino guest card. So, if you plan on ticking a few of these off your list then you may save money on entrance fees if you invest in the card.
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Things To Do in Trento
1. Castello del Buonconsiglio
One of the top things to do in Trento has to be visiting Buonconsiglio Castle on Via Bernardo Clesio. It was originally a 13th-century castle that’s been expanded upon over the years so you could also say it’s a renaissance palace too. It has a number of artworks on display as well as frescoes and painted ceilings.
It’s a sprawling complex with its own museum (named Fossa dei Martiri) and gardens (Giardini del Castello del Buonconsiglio). Because of its position on a small hill just outside of the city centre, it’s become a symbol of the city. And the pièce de résistance of Castello del Buonconsiglio is the view of Trento and the mountains in the distance from one of the terraces. You cannot miss it!
2. Piazza Duomo
Every Italian city has a bustling main square where you’ll find lots of historic buildings, cafes, and tourist attractions and Trento is no different. When you visit Trento, you will inevitably visit Piazza Duomo. This is where you’ll find San Vigilio Cathedral (also known as Trento Duomo, hence the name of the piazza), the Tridentine Diocesan Museum, and Case Cazuffi – Rella which is a historic mansion.
Trento’s Christmas markets and other festivals are often held here. You’ll also find a beautiful, impressive fountain in the centre of the square named Fontana del Nettuno which is dedicated to the Roman god Neptune. There are also some cafes like Bar Caffè Portici and Locanda del Gatto Gordo which are genuinely worth visiting. Not like other Italian cities where the most expensive meals are in the main square!
3. Sardagna Cable Car
Because Trento is a city in the mountains, there are lots of incredible viewpoints. The best is the view from the mountain village of Sardagna. You can hop on the Trento cable car to the village and enjoy the overlook (named Terrazza Panoramica Busa Degli Orsi) for half an hour or more before taking the cable car back down.
It’s inexpensive and you could even take the cable car up in the evening and eat dinner at Osteria San Rocco. Try and time your trip with sunset so you can enjoy the best light. If you want to do something active, you could follow the Il Sentiero dei Castagni hiking trail up to the top of the mountain instead.
4. MUSE Science Museum
Most people expect the best museums to be in the biggest cities, and often that’s true. But MUSE (or Museo Delle Scienze) is one of the best science museums in Italy and it’s right here in Trento. If you are travelling with kids or are interested in science then it’s a must-do.
It only opened in 2013 and was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano who also designed The Shard in London and Valletta’s city gates in Malta. He designed the museum to look like a mountain and much of the exhibits focus on the natural science of the local Trentino Alto Adige region and the Dolomites. There are also sections on prehistoric science and lots of interactive displays to entertain your little ones.
5. San Vigilio Cathedral
There has been a cathedral on this site for over 2,000 years, but the structure that exists today was built in the 13th century in a Romanesque style. And in 1628, a baroque chapel was added to the existing building. Despite the mix of architectural styles from different eras, the whitewashed stone both inside and out looks harmonious and flows well.
It doesn’t have the ornate and intricate designs like other Italian cathedrals, but it has a gorgeous rose window. And the scale of the cathedral in a relatively small city is still impressive. Plus, the cathedral was originally built as a cemetery cathedral so the graves of a few Italian saints reside there.
6. Tridentine Diocesan Museum
Just a few steps away from San Vigilio Cathedral across Piazza Duomo is the Tridentine Diocesan museum (or Museo Diocesano Tridentino in Italian). Most of the exhibits in this museum are tapestries, paintings, and sculptures found in an excavation of the cathedral around 50 years ago. Naturally, most depict religious scenes and notable figures.
The building itself is also hundreds of years old and it’s attached to Torre Civica, the city’s clock tower. It’s important to note that most of the top tourist attractions in Trento, like the cathedral and this museum, are closed on Tuesdays. If you visit other European cities, you’ll find many landmarks shut on Mondays. But for some reason, Trento is an outlier.
7. Santa Maria Maggiore Church
Just a short walk from Piazza Duomo is another beautiful church, the Santa Maria Maggiore Church. It was built in the 16th century on the foundations of old Roman public baths and became a cathedral of minor status in the 1970s. Like the San Vigilio Cathedral, it has a rose window and pale stone that gives a pink hue under sunlight.
This renaissance church’s interior design is much more understated than other churches but it’s still worth visiting. Entrance is free and you can also admire the church and its tower from the small park in the piazza named after the church.
8. Cesare Battisti Mausoleum
Just across the River Adige on a small hill is a historical monument named Cesare Battisti Mausoleum. Cesare Battisti was born in Trento in 1875 (not to be confused with the criminal born in 1954 with the same name) and became a journalist and politician. He believed in unifying his home region of Trentino with the rest of the Kingdom of Italy because, at the time, it was under Austrian rule.
He fought against Austria on the Italian Front in WWI which led to a court martial and his execution in 1916. King Vittorio Emanuele III inaugurated this mausoleum in 1935, made from local Trentino marble. In the centre of the structure are the remains of Cesare Battisti surrounded by a row of canons. It’s a far, far larger structure than you might expect and the area surrounding the mausoleum is a peaceful and pretty landscape.
9. Teatro Sociale
The Teatro Sociale is Trento’s own opera house. Originally dating back to 203, the theatre has undergone many renovations with the most recent being in 2000. It has a classic Italian theatrical layout with plush red seating and can fit 676 seats.
The theatre programmes a variety of shows year-round. You can expect concerts, operas, orchestral performances, plays, and more. If you like going to the theatre when you travel then you should definitely catch a show at the Teatro Sociale when you’re in Trento.
10. Giardino Botanico Alpino Viote
On the outskirts of Trento near the Montesel cable car and ski centre is the Giardino Botanico Alpino Viote. This is Trento’s local botanic garden and it’s a must-do if you are visiting Trento in the summer or you just love gardening. And this one is a little different to other botanic gardens you might have visited in the past.
Whereas some botanic gardens pride themselves on growing exotic plants from everywhere and anywhere, Giardino Botanico Alpino Viote specialises in cultivating high-altitude plants. These are plants local to the Trentino region as well as other mountainous areas. You can expect 10 hectares full of plants from the Pyrennees, the Himalayas, the Alps, and more.
11. Day Trip to Lake Garda
Although there are plenty of things to do in Trento to fill your trip’s itinerary, there are lots of other places in the local area that you can explore too. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and Riva del Garda, a charming town at the northernmost point of the lake, is only a 45-minute drive (around 50 km) south of Trento. Limone Sul Garda is another popular lakeside town that is also convenient to access from Trento.
You can witness the expansive beauty of this lake from a boat cruise and stroll around the small, cobblestone villages. All have great seafood restaurants, small churches, hiking trails, and more.
12. Orrido di Ponte Alto
Trento is well known for its natural beauty, but for most visitors that means its mountains. But the Orrido di Ponte Alto, located just 4 km outside of Trento’s historic centre, is a deep canyon and ravine with a series of waterfalls. You can even get up close and personal with the canyon because there’s a covered walkway along the canyon walls.
You can only visit the canyons with an official guide and it’s worth booking ahead. Don’t be put off by the distance from Trento city centre because there is a local bus that will take you straight to Orrido di Ponte Alto.
13. Local Trentino Cooking Class
Trentino is known for its white wine varieties and grappa but its local delicacies are overshadowed by other Italian regions. That’s why joining a local cooking class is the best way for you to learn about the dishes local to Trento so you can make them yourself at home.
Because of its proximity and history with Austria, traditional Trentino food is very different from other regions. Some of their signature dishes are Carne Salada (a meat salad), Schüttelbrot (a type of flatbread made with spices and rye flour) and Meraner Wurst (a hotdog-like sausage). No pasta or sauces in sight!
14. Piazza Dante
Whereas Piazza Duomo is a city square, Piazza Dante is more like a city park. It’s a huge green space with two fountains, a pond, and a large statue of the poet Dante in the centre. It’s a great place to relax in the sun, enjoy a picnic, or take a breather before hopping on a train to another beautiful city in Italy. It’s directly opposite Trento’s main station, so the park is in a convenient location.
15. The Piedicastello Tunnel
Built during the 1970s to expand a highway system through the mountains next to Trento, The Piedicastello Tunnel (though there actually two of them) is now both an events space and a cultural exhibition. The smaller tunnel houses a permanent exhibition on local Trentino history, while the larger one is used as a venue for temporary exhibits. Check their website to see what’s on during your trip.
16. Day Trip to the Dolomites
Trento is the perfect city to base yourself in while visiting the Dolomites or skiing in the region. It would be a shame to miss it when you are staying so close by. You can enjoy hiking trails, cable cars, scenic overlooks, and a number of great ski slopes in this mountainous region. Some of the best areas to visit in the Dolomites are the Tre Cime di Lavaredo mountains, Lake Braies, and Val di Funes. You can go canoeing in the lakes here and see some of the most underrated, beautiful sites in Italy.
17. Eat the Tastiest Gelato
Even though Florence is the Italian city most synonymous with gelato, you can’t travel anywhere in the country without sampling the local gelaterias! And Trento has some fantastic ones. Try Cherry and La Gelateria for homemade, fresh gelato that you can enjoy while walking around Trento’s piazzas.
Recommended tours in Trento
- Rio Black Canyoning
- Via Ferrata Cima Capi
- From Trento: Private Day Tour by Car: the Great Dolomites Road
- Small-group Street food tour in Trento
- Lunch or dinner and cooking demo at a local home in Trento
- Private Market Tour and Cooking Class with Lunch or Dinner in Trento
- Small Group Market tour and Cooking class in Trento
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