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Grado - a real pearl near Slovenia

View on one of the sea channels in Grado, with a lot of boats and skyscrapers
View on Canale della schiusa

For the first trip we recommend, we have chosen one of the places close to Slovenia. It's the town of Grado, a remarkable little town in the lagoon of the same name, just 140 km from Slovenia (a little over an hour's drive).

It can be reached either by the expressway through the Vipava Valley or by the motorway past Trieste, then by the Tržič-Monfalcone route, or from Palmanova south, past Aquileia.

#hint Whichever of these options you choose, we strongly recommend the route across the lagoon. It is an extremely long embankment across the entire Grado lagoon, where you are practically driving on the sea. It really is one of the most beautiful approaches to towns we've ever seen, and it's definitely worth the extra 15 minutes of driving.

A little bit about the city through history

As soon as you arrive in Grado, it is clear that it is not just any town. It was created like Venice, by connecting several small islands, and today it is a very nice tourist town.

The island settlement was connected to the mainland by a causeway in antiquity and developed into a trading and port suburb of Aquileia, one of the largest Roman cities and the second largest centre of early Christianity. In the 5th century, Aquileia was devastated by Attila, and refugees fled first to Grado, where they moved the seat of the Patriarchate. In the following centuries, therefore, Grado had a very strong influence on the development of Venice, but then its power diminished when the Venetians succeeded in moving the seat of the Patriarchate to Venice.

Grado became important, especially for tourist reasons, at the end of the 19th century, during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when it became an important Austro-Hungarian resort and climatic health resort. Franz Joseph probably felt this too, as in 1892 he declared it the most important seaside resort.

What does Grado have to offer and what to see?

It is a lively and, above all, very touristy town, with many beautiful spots and tourist attractions at all times of the year.

In June, July, and August, of course, it can be difficult to find a parking space, as the place is packed with tourists, the beaches are full of beach chairs and umbrellas, and the restaurants are running out of places, especially if you're a bit late for dinner. Grado also has its own charm in winter, with a high-quality climate.

#hint Parking depends on the time of year. At weekends and especially during the summer season, you will hardly find parking in the centre, despite the huge number of parking lots. During the peak season we suggest parking near the football stadium, which is a 10-minute walk from the centre, and during the low season we suggest the car parks between the old and the new harbour. Parking is free in winter, but all-day parking is a reasonable €5 even during the year.

The pretty town centre, which stretches around the 5th-century Basilica of Sant'Eufemia, is well laid out, interspersed with cute streets and little cafés. Around the basilica itself is a spacious square with benches and typical seaside houses, which continue down to the coast. The town centre of Grado is closed to traffic, giving it an even more romantic and visitor-friendly image. Enjoy the view of the beautiful streets, the old houses, and the many monuments.

view on the main street full of restaurants
Main street in Grado centre

#hint Make sure to visit the old part of town (the "main street" from Piazza Duca d'Aosta to Piazza Biagio Marin), the Baptistery, the lapidary and the Basilica of Sant'Eufemia, and the old port - Porto vecchio di Grado. If you have an hour or so more, also head to Barbana.

You'll also be impressed by the town's seafront promenade (from the beach on the west side of town, via Lungomare Nazario Sauro, to the pier by the beach on the east side of town).

Most visitors to Grado may not even know that to the north-east of Grado, in the middle of the lagoon, there is a small island called Barbana, on which stands a church that is a well-known pilgrimage route for Slovenians. It is well-known among Slovenians from abroad and Primorska, as it is a famous pilgrimage site dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It can be reached by a 20-minute boat ride on tourist boats, which go there several times an hour from the port of Riva Scaramuzza, even in high season, but only at weekends in low season.

Swimming, cycling, shopping, food ...

You will also be impressed by the town's 3 km long sandy beach with very low water. This means you'll have to walk about 200 metres before the water completely covers you. Which is great for sand lovers and children. The beach is packed to the brim on summer days, but in spring it makes for a great promenade.

#hint Don't forget your sunshades during the summer months. There are no trees on the beaches and two beach chairs and a sunshade cost €15 per day.

The promenade through the town is part of a long path that winds along the sea and goes far along the beach, even further out of town. There are several parks along the promenade and several places to relax, as well as plenty of games for children, and you always have a view of the sea on one side and a park with palm trees and other trees on the other.

View on island Barbana from the boat
Island Barbana

#hint If you speak German, you will be like a fish in water in this city. Practically all the waiters, hoteliers and shopkeepers speak fluent German, thanks to the large number of German tourists.

Grado can also be a good excursion point for those who like to spend their free days actively. A cycling route will take you, among other things, to neighbouring Aquileia, once one of the largest and richest Roman towns and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For those who love the waves, you can also practice kite surfing.

Grado also offers the chance to do some good shopping. Shoe, clothing, and lingerie shops invite visitors to spend a little money.

In addition to good coffee, you will also find very tasty food in Grado, mainly based on seafood caught on the many fishing boats that can be seen in the harbours. Of course, you won't be short of delicious pasta or meat dishes, as well as aperitifs and other alcoholic beverages.

#hint Very close to Grado is the Aquileia, where you can see the incredible mosaics of the 4th century in the Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Very close to Grado is the Isonzo nature park, which is a very nice place to spend a day in nature.


🍷 Drinks: our choice would be a glass of local yellow rebula.

🥗 Food: We recommend mainly seafood that is freshly caught. Our choice would be - spaghetti with sardines (spaghetti ai sardoni).

📷 Must-see: See the city centre, the seafront promenade, the old harbour and if you have time, take a boat to Barbana Island.

🏨 Accommodation: If you want to stay overnight, there are many very nice options. We highly recommend the Laguna Palace Hotel, which is really exceptional, but prices have gone up quite a lot recently in high season. There are also many other options, such as the Hotel Hannover or the Hotel Astoria.

🔝 Top experience: sunset on the road across the sea from Grado to Aquileia.

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