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Nestled in the stunning landscape of northern Italy, Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) seamlessly combines natural beauty with a rich cultural heritage. With its crystal-clear waters, picturesque towns, and majestic mountain backdrop, you are spoiled for choice with things to do at Lake Garda.
Stretching over 31 miles (50 km) in length, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It spans across the provinces of Verona, Brescia, and Trentino, changing dramatically from north to south. The southern shores provide a serene and relaxing atmosphere with its pretty lakeside promenades lined with palm trees, vibrant flowers, and breathtaking views of the water.
The landscape of the northern shores becomes more untamed and dramatic, captivating adventurers and thrill-seekers. It is a popular spot for adrenaline lovers, offering an array of exhilarating outdoor activities such as parasailing, rock climbing, and windsurfing.
Lake Garda has something for everyone with its colorful towns, majestic castles, ancient Roman ruins, sun-kissed beaches, vineyards, amusement parks, and historical sites. If you are planning a trip to Italy and want to include Lake Garda on your itinerary, here is everything you need to know.
Things to Do at Lake Garda, Italy
From serene boat cruises to thrilling water sports, historical landmarks, and delectable cuisine, Lake Garda is a treasure trove of attractions and activities. Here are a few of the best things to do in Lake Garda:
Visit Lake Garda’s Towns
Lake Garda is home to over 50 surrounding villages and towns, offering a delightful variety of places to explore. With so many options, it isn’t easy to pick, but here’s an overview of some stunning destinations worth considering.
Sirmione is a resort town on the southern shores of Lake Garda. It is renowned for its relaxing thermal baths and the magnificent Scaliger Castle guarding the town’s entrance. The “Grotte di Catullo,” the ruins of a Roman villa turned museum, is also worth a visit.
Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda, located just west of Sirmione, is a lively small town centered around a marina basin. Known for its vibrant atmosphere and picturesque waterfront, it offers a delightful mix of history, culture, and recreational activities. As a transportation hub, it provides easy access to Lake Garda and its neighboring towns via ferries.
Located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, Lazise is a quaint town renowned for its medieval walls and delightful lakeside promenade. You can spend a day roaming the town’s narrow streets, browsing the local shops, and indulging in the flavors of its inviting restaurants.
Just 3.5 miles (5.5 km) from Lazise lies the enchanting town of Bardolino, famous for its exceptional wine. Indulge in their renowned wine at local wineries or simply relax and soak up the sun on the town’s lovely beaches.
The beautiful town of Malcesine in the northern part of Lake Garda is a hidden gem brimming with historic charm. When you stroll through its colorful lanes, don’t miss the iconic Castello Scaligero di Malcesine. This gorgeous medieval castle offers stunning views of the town and lake from its tower.
Limone sul Garda
Limone sul Garda is a popular town on the lake’s western bank. Its mild climate creates the perfect environment for lemon trees to flourish, filling the air with a delightful citrus scent. The town boasts a scenic cycle path offering panoramic lake vistas, ideal for cycling or leisurely walks.
Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda is the perfect destination for a relaxing experience on the northern shore of Lake Garda. You can climb the medieval bell tower, wander through the alleyways, and soak in the atmosphere of the piazzas. With fewer crowds compared to the lake’s southern end, Riva del Garda is an ideal base for exploring the northern region of Lake Garda.
Enjoy the Lake’s Natural Beauty
Lake Garda is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, surrounded by picturesque mountains and enchanting lakeside towns. The region’s diverse landscapes, including shimmering waters, lush forests, and olive groves, provide a scenic backdrop for outdoor adventures.
Hiking Trails and Gentle Strolls Along Lake Garda
Lake Garda is a hiker’s dream destination, offering an abundance of trails and paths that cater to all levels of fitness and preferences. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual explorer, Lake Garda’s hiking trails offer something for everyone.
If you’re seeking a serene and picturesque outing, the gentle lakeside paths, locally known as “lungolaghi,” are perfect for a leisurely stroll. These paths pass through small lakeside towns and offer opportunities to stop and enjoy the lake views, take photographs, or relax in waterfront cafes.
For a more adventurous hike, the surrounding mountains showcase a variety of trails. This includes the famous Sentiero del Ponale trail, renowned for its breathtaking views of the lake and towering cliffs. Lake Garda’s well-marked and maintained trails ensure a safe and enjoyable hiking experience, allowing you to explore rocky cliffs, lush forests, and picturesque olive groves.
Ride a Cable Car up Monte Baldo
Monte Baldo is a majestic mountain range located in the Italian Alps on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Rising to 7,277 feet (2,218 meters) above sea level, it’s the tallest mountain around the lake. It is often referred to as the “Garden of Europe” due to its diverse flora and fauna.
Monte Baldo offers a variety of outdoor activities throughout the year. In the winter, it transforms into a popular destination for skiing and snowboarding. There are several ski resorts and well-groomed slopes in the area catering to beginners and advanced skiers. During the warmer months, Monte Baldo attracts hikers, mountain bikers, and nature enthusiasts.
To reach the summit of Monte Baldo and enjoy the breathtaking views, you can take the Malcesine-Monte Baldo Cable Car, one of Europe’s longest cable car systems. This thrilling ride starts from the lakeside town of Malcesine and provides unparalleled vistas along the way.
Take a Ferry or Boat Ride on the Lake
When it comes to exploring Lake Garda, ferry and boat rides offer a unique and scenic experience. Cruising across the tranquil waters of the lake allows you to take in the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
Taking a sightseeing cruise on Lake Garda offers a fantastic opportunity to witness multiple attractions in a single excursion. As you sail, the boat will gracefully pass by renowned sites like the Grottoes of Catullus. Additionally, there will be a chance to indulge in a refreshing dip in the lake and savor a glass of prosecco.
For those with limited time, a Lake Garda mini cruise is the perfect choice. This scenic ride takes you around the Sirmione peninsula, allowing you to soak in the beauty of Lake Garda’s highlights in a short span of time.
Departure points for boat tours are commonly found in towns located in the southern part of the lake, such as Peschiera, Sirmione, or Bardolino. The duration and destinations of the tours vary, so you can easily find a boat ride that suits your interests and time availability.
Relax on the Best Beaches in Lake Garda
Lake Garda boasts several gorgeous beaches where you can relax, sunbathe, and swim in its crystal-clear waters. Here are some noteworthy beaches along the lake:
Spiaggia Porto San Felice is a beautiful pebble beach located in Bardolino. It is known for its stunning panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding hills, creating a picturesque backdrop for beachgoers. The beach is well-maintained and offers a clean and relaxing environment.
If you are in Riva del Garda, Spiaggia dei Sabbioni is the perfect destination. The beach features soft golden sand that gently slopes into the lake’s clear waters, making it suitable for swimming and water activities. There is also a spacious lawn where visitors can set up picnics, play games, or simply unwind.
Jamaica Beach, situated in Sirmione, is another popular destination that stands out for its crystal-clear waters and vibrant Caribbean atmosphere. There are beach bars that offer a variety of refreshments. The beach’s location in Sirmione makes it easily accessible, and parking facilities are available nearby.
These are just a few stand-out beaches on Lake Garda’s shores. Whether you prefer sandy shores or pebbly beaches, secluded spots, or lively atmospheres, there are options available in different towns around the lake.
Explore Lago Di Garda’s Historical Sites
Taking a journey through Lake Garda’s rich history is an unmissable experience. From imposing castles to ancient Roman ruins, there is no shortage of remarkable places to explore.
Visit Lake Garda’s Castles
Immerse yourself in the rich history of Lake Garda by visiting Scaliger Castle in Torri del Benaco, as well as Malcesine and Sirmione Castle.
Sirmione Castle is a fortress that dates back to the 13th century. It is one of Italy’s best-preserved castles, featuring an iconic drawbridge that serves as the main entrance to the city center. You can explore the castle’s various halls and courtyards and even climb to the top of the tower for sweeping views of Lake Garda and Sirmione.
Perched on a hill in Malcesine, the medieval Malcesine Castle offers stunning views of the lake and surrounding hills. Also dating back to the 13th century, the castle is a prominent landmark in the area and features distinctive crenelated towers and fortified walls.
Inside, you can explore its various rooms and chambers, which house a museum showcasing historical artifacts and exhibits related to the castle’s past.
Another site worth mentioning is Scaliger Castle in Torri del Benaco. Originally built during the 14th century, this fortress provides a panoramic view of the old town, the harbor, and Lake Garda. The castle houses a fascinating ethnological museum that showcases the region’s maritime heritage, focusing on fishing, olive oil production, and the art of cultivating lemons.
See the Roman Ruins
Visiting the Grottoes of Catullus offers a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the grandeur of Roman civilization. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an archaeology buff, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of ancient ruins, this site is a must-visit destination on Lake Garda.
The Grottoes of Catullus are a remarkable archaeological site located in Sirmione. These ruins are considered one of Northern Italy’s most important Roman villa complexes and provide valuable insights into ancient Roman life.
The site consists of the remains of a large Roman villa that once belonged to the renowned poet Catullus, who lived during the 1st century BC. You can wander through the remains of the villa’s various rooms, including its magnificent thermal baths, courtyards, and terraces.
The intricate mosaic floors, frescoes, and architectural elements that have survived the test of time showcase the artistic and architectural expertise of the Romans.
Discover Lake Garda’s Food and Wine
No visit to Lake Garda is complete without savoring the region’s delectable food and wine. Enjoy some unforgettable gastronomic experiences with these must-try culinary delights at Lake Garda.
Try the Local Dishes
A standout dish to try on your visit is “Bigoli con le sarde del Garda,” a traditional pasta dish with homemade spaghetti known as bigoli paired with sardines sourced from Lake Garda. This combination of flavorful sardines and pasta delivers a unique and delicious gastronomic experience.
Another culinary delight is the abundance of lake fish available in the region. Lake Garda is renowned for its fresh and diverse fish varieties, including trout, pike, and perch. You can savor these locally caught fish in various dishes, such as grilled, fried, or in delightful fish-based sauces.
For dessert, treat yourself to a slice of “Cassata Gardesana.” This classic dessert from Lake Garda is a sumptuous and indulgent cake consisting of layers of sponge cake, sweet ricotta cheese, candied fruit, and a touch of liqueur. Its richness and decadence are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Visit the Weekly Markets
Lake Garda offers a wide selection of weekly markets that showcase the region’s charm and local flavors. You can explore a variety of stalls selling local delicacies like cheese, oil, fruits and vegetables, clothing, leather goods, and household items. It’s a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, shop for fresh produce, and find unique souvenirs while visiting Lake Garda.
Bardolino’s Piazza Matteotti hosts its market on Thursday mornings, while Lazise entices visitors near the lakeside promenade on Wednesdays.
Riva del Garda’s market takes place on Saturday mornings in Piazza Cavour, and Sirmione comes alive with its market in Piazza Carducci every Monday morning. These are just a few of the noteworthy markets, but there are many others to explore throughout the region.
Take a Cooking Class
A fun and interactive way to explore the vibrant culinary scene of Lake Garda is by taking a local cooking class. It not only offers a hands-on cooking experience but also immerses you in the rich gastronomic traditions of Italy.
Led by a professional chef, you’ll learn the art of crafting various pasta shapes and perfecting the accompanying sauces. After the cooking session, savor your delightful creations paired with local wines that enhance the flavors of the dishes.
Indulge in Local Wines
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local wines of Lake Garda. The region produces a range of excellent wines, including crisp whites like Lugana DOC and aromatic reds like Bardolino DOC and Valpolicella.
To immerse yourself fully in the wine culture of Lake Garda, visit a local winery for a wine and food-tasting tour. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore the picturesque vineyards, gain insights into the winemaking process, and, most importantly, sample various wines directly from the source.
Enjoy Lake Garda’s Theme Parks
Are you traveling to Lake Garda with kids? The area boasts exciting theme parks that offer fantastic family fun. Here are some top picks:
Gardaland Park is one of Italy’s largest and most popular amusement parks. The park offers thrilling roller coasters, family-friendly rides, live shows, interactive experiences, and themed areas with shops and restaurants. It is also home to Europe’s first fully-themed LEGO® water park, where visitors can enjoy water slides, splash areas, and interactive play zones.
Cavour Water Park
Cavour Water Park combines nature, relaxation, and a tropical atmosphere with fun and excitement. It features numerous water rides, including thrilling high-speed slides and gentler options for younger guests. Due to warm weather and high visitor numbers, July and August are the busiest months at the park, so it is wise to purchase a skip-the-line admission ticket in advance.
La Quiete Adventure Park
La Quiete Adventure Park is an exciting outdoor amusement park in the beautiful countryside near Lake Garda. The park is known for its thrilling adventure courses, including zip lines, rope bridges, and treetop obstacles. Additionally, the park offers activities such as archery, climbing walls, and a giant trampoline.
How to Get to Lake Garda, Italy
When planning a trip to Lake Garda, there are several transportation options available to help you reach this beautiful destination. Whether you choose to fly into the closest airports, take a scenic train journey, or opt for the flexibility of driving, there are convenient ways to start your unforgettable Lake Garda experience.
If you prefer flying, the closest Italian airports to Lake Garda are Verona (VRN) and Milan Bergamo (BGY). Verona airport is the most convenient choice, with travel time varying depending on your specific destination within the lake region.
The Milan/Venice railway line runs along the southern side of Lake Garda, with stops in Peschiera del Garda and Desenzano. You can easily catch local buses from these stations to reach most towns around Lake Garda.
Having a rental car offers flexibility and convenience while exploring Lake Garda. The A4 motorway runs along the southern part of the lake, and you can take exits at Brescia Est, Desenzano, Sirmione, or Peschiera to access the southern towns.
If you plan to visit northern destinations like Riva and Torbole, connect to the A22 motorway and take the Rovereto Sud exit. From there, you can follow secondary roads to your desired location.
How to Get Around Lake Garda
The most convenient way to get around Lake Garda is by renting a car. Car rentals are available in cities like Desenzano del Garda, Garda, Riva del Garda, Malcesine, or Peschiera del Garda, with rental prices averaging around €70 per day. Keep in mind that parking can be limited in some areas, and there may be a fee to park in each town.
Another scenic way to navigate Lake Garda is by taking a ferry. Desenzano and Peschiera are the main ferry hubs, offering connections to various towns along the lake.
Cruising on the ferry gives you a chance to fully enjoy breathtaking views of the alpine foothills, aquamarine waters, and charming towns that dot the shoreline. However, depending on your destination, you may need to combine the ferry with other modes of transportation, like buses or trains.
Where to Stay in Lago Di Garda, Italy
With options to suit all budgets and preferences, Lake Garda provides a diverse range of accommodations. Here are some of the best choices to assist you in making a decision.
Villa Cortine Palace Hotel in Sirmione is the epitome of luxury. This property offers proximity to attractions and excellent dining options. Enjoy a private beach, a tennis court, and a seasonal outdoor pool. There are two restaurants, including Le Gardenie, serving Italian cuisine, and multiple bars for drinks. The hotel also features a mosaic swimming pool, a private pier, and even a speedboat available for transportation across the lake >> Check Rates and Availability.
Albergo Gardesana in Torri del Benaco combines affordability with quality, offering the best value for your money. The hotel is located near the beach and provides stunning panoramic lake views from its family rooms. Guests can enjoy a delicious dining experience at the on-site restaurant and unwind at the lounge bar, which offers a picturesque view of the medieval castle >> Check Rates and Availability.
For budget-conscious travelers, Hotel Castello Lake Front in Malcesine is a perfect choice. This small, contemporary hotel offers a prime location right by the lake. The hotel features a lovely terrace, a restaurant, and even a private beach exclusively for guests. With its romantic ambiance and family-friendly amenities, Hotel Castello provides excellent value for money >> Check Rates and Availability.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lake Garda
Still have some burning questions about visiting Lake Garda? Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Is Lake Garda Worth Visiting?
Lake Garda is definitely worth visiting for its undeniable beauty, diverse range of experiences, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re seeking outdoor adventures, indulging in exquisite cuisine and wines, or immersing yourself in rich history, Lake Garda offers something for every traveler.
How Long Should We Spend in Lake Garda?
To truly experience the beauty and diversity of Lake Garda, spend at least a few days in the region. A stay of two to four days will allow you to fully immerse yourself in the abundance of entertainment options and attractions around the lake.
Is Lake Garda Worth a Day Trip?
If you are short on time, a day trip from Venice, Verona, or Milan to Lake Garda will provide a taste of its charm and might inspire you to return for a longer visit in the future. You can visit one or two towns like Sirmione or Malcesine, explore their historic sites, enjoy a boat ride on the lake, or indulge in a delicious meal at a lakeside restaurant.
Ready To Visit Lake Garda?
With its stunning natural beauty, charming lake towns, and rich historical sites, there’s no shortage of things to do in Lake Garda. From indulging in local cuisine to enjoying water sports and leisurely strolls along the lakeside promenades, there is something for everyone.