Play Hard

48 hours in… Lake Garda

Think sipping an Aperol spritz overlooking sparkling blue water that meets majestic mountains - Lake Garda is a true holiday utopia.

Written by Rachael Nichol
Published 26.05.2023

Crystal clear water, majestic mountains and the finest Italian food – Lake Garda is a luxurious, romantic and cultural holiday destination that is a must-visit this summer.

Lake Garda was always on my bucket list to visit and to be honest, yes, it was on the pricey side, but it was SO worth it and a holiday we won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Words can’t even describe how stunning the views are in Lake Garda. As our coach drove down the winding roads on the mountainside to reveal panoramic views of Lake Garda, we were blown away by the beauty – it almost looked like it was photoshopped.

If you’re after a romantic holiday packed with adventure with your partner or a relaxing girls’ trip filled with Aperol spritz and the finest food from lakeshore restaurants, Lake Garda is a true holiday utopia.



If you’re like us and want to get to your destination without any stops, there are direct flights from Newcastle to Verona for around £485 with TUI (looking at July 2023 prices) that will get you there in just under two and a half hours. We then got a coach transfer which took just over an hour to get to Riva del Garda which flew over due to the captivating views of vineyards, the lakeshore and mountains.

HLN TOP TIP: We booked a package holiday including flights, hotels and transfers with TUI which cut the total cost.


Being the most popular and largest lake in Italy, there are so many villages in Lake Garda so we thought we’d research where would be best to stay.  We found that the Northern is the more impressive part of the towering mountains stretching to the nearby Dolomites compared to the busier, more touristy South.

We stayed at Hotel Kristal Palace in Riva del Garda, which has a stunning rooftop pool and bar overlooking the lake and our room had mountain views – it was just so dreamy.

Where Austrian and Italian influences meet and mix, with several sprawling beaches, and a year-round programme of events, Riva del Garda offers the best of Italian lake life. Surrounded by tall, jagged mountains and right on the edge of the sparkling blue lake, Riva del Garda is one the lake’s liveliest villages with plenty of outdoor activities, shops, hotels, bars and restaurants to choose from and just has all-around good vibes.


Bastinone Bar and Restaurant – With panoramic views of Riva and Lake Garda where you can watch the sunset over the rugged mountains, this luxury restaurant serves delicious Mediterranean lunch and dinner dishes. This restaurant holds a very special place in our hearts as my now fiancé got down on one knee and popped the question here (sorry, I just had to drop that in there!)

Caffè Città – Home in the pretty little harbour packed with colourful historical buildings, this is a perfect spot to sit back and watch the world go by while sipping on a Limoncello spritz with free bar nibbles.

Bar Gelateria Punta Lido – You really can’t go to Italy without trying the gelato – they are honestly next level. This ice cream shop is right on the lakeshore with spectacular views and live music performances.


We wish we had booked a two-week holiday as there’s so much to do and explore – we are definitely planning a trip to go back. You can travel around the whole lake by car and ferry too.

See an opera in Verona 

Seeing an opera in Italy was just magical. Buy tickets from the GetYourGuide app which includes a coach transfer to Verona from Riva (this took a few hours due to other pick-ups) and enjoylive opera in the largest open-air amphitheatre in the world: the Arena di Verona. We also had time to explore Verona before the show and managed to see La Casa di Giulietta (Romeo and Juliet’s Balcony) and tuck in some freshly made Italian pizza.

HLN TOP TIP: Before the opera make sure you buy/bring a cushion into the Arena as you’re sitting on stone steps for a few hours.


Dolomites Full-Day Tour from Lake Garda

This is not one to be missed. Experience the staggering beauty of the Dolomites Mountain range on a day trip from Lake Garda booked again through the GetYourGuide app.Visit the village of Ortisei and admire its wood carvings and wooden buildings.

HLN TOP TIP: We didn’t read the tour description properly so learn from our mistake and make sure you bring a hoody/jacket to stay warm as the temperatures up in the Dolomites are a lot colder.

Hire a bike

We managed to hire bikes free of charge from our hotel and it was a great way to see more of Riva and work off all those pizzas we had digested. There are plenty of places to hire bikes from in the village centre.


Spiaggia Sabbioni

We cycled along to the next beach, but you can easily walk here too. Whether you want to swim, hire a canoe, or visit a lakeshore bar, this pebble beach has something for everyone.


Limone sul Garda

There are plenty of boat excursions from Riva’s harbour that can take you to the southern part of Lake Garda but we decided to stay up north (once a Northerner, always a Northerner)

We decided to visit the picturesque village of Limone that’s known for its quiet charm and gorgeous cobbled streets. Plus, the Italian village is famous for the longevity of its residents, with many living until they’re over 100 years old. And with it being the origin of limoncello, of course, we had to try some and take some home. Travelling by boat gave us a whole different view of the lake by seeing the mountains and a famous spot where the car chase at the beginning James Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

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