Lake Garda in northern Italy is a fantastic place to visit, renowned for its incredible beauty. The lake is known worldwide for its breathtaking views and crystal-clear waters. If you’re planning on traveling to northern Italy, a visit to Lake Garda is worth it. To make planning your trip to the area easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Lake Garda.
Lake Garda is chock-full of places to visit and things to do. No matter what interests you, chances are high that you can find something you’ll love to do in or around Lake Garda.
Whether that includes relaxing on a beach, swimming in the lake, exploring the charming towns surrounding the lake, or just eating some authentic Italian cuisine and experiencing the lifestyle of the locals as much as possible, Lake Garda has got you covered.
Here are the best things to do and places to visit in Lake Garda:
- Limone sul Garda
- Riva del Garda
- Gardone Riviera
One of the most popular cities along Lake Garda is the resort town of Sirmione, located on the southern banks of the incredible lake in northern Italy. If you’ve been looking into things to do while visiting Lake Garda as well as places to stay, chances are high that you’ve seen Sirmione recommended again and again.
And there’s a good reason for that. Sirmione is chock-full of fun things to do, and it’s well worth spending a day visiting the city. If you decide to visit the town of Sirmione, there’s at least one thing you must do. And that’s visit the Scaligero Castle.
Look at almost any picture of Sirmione (including the one just above!), and it’ll catch your eye immediately. It’s one of the best-preserved castles in the country and costs less than $10 to enter.
But don’t limit your visit to just the famous castle! You can do many other things, such as explore the archaeological site of Grotte di Catullo or visit one of the city’s many thermal spas. You can also relax on one of the popular beaches (Jamaica Beach and Lido delle Bione are both great options), stroll through the city’s central park, and more. You won’t get bored here, and it’s worth visiting Lake Garda in Sirmione!
A lesser-known town sitting on Lake Garda is the quaint village of Malcesine. Situated on the lake’s eastern shores, Malcesine is located fairly close to the two popular tourist destinations of Verona and Venice. This is part of why it doesn’t get the love it deserves. There’s just too much else going on nearby.
But those who make the trip to Malcesine are in for a treat. With its tree-lined walkways, cobblestone streets, and friendly atmosphere, Malcesine is a little slice of serenity amid the bustling cities nearby.
If you happen to be in Malcesine while the weather is nice, you should take the cable car up to the top of Monte Baldo to get unobstructed views of the lake and surrounding areas.
The other big attraction in Malcesine is the counterpart to the famous castle in Sirmione. The one in Malcesine may not be as famous as its counterpart, but the Castello Scaligero (sounds familiar?) is just about as impressive. Explore the grounds and ascend to the top of the castle’s tower for city views.
Limone sul Garda
Next up on our list is arguably the most beautiful city anywhere on Lake Garda, the famous Limone sul Garda. The combination of the countless lemon tree groves, colorful houses and buildings, and views of the surrounding mountains and lake make Limone sul Garda a breathtaking place that you don’t want to miss out on.
With its proximity (just across the water) to Malcesine, dividing a single day up or spending one day in each town is a great way to enjoy the area. Just jump on the ferry when you’re ready to go to the other location, and you can quickly make your way between the cities.
In Limone sul Garda, take some time to enjoy some of the many lemon-flavored treats offered throughout the city. They’re some of the best-tasting, authentic treats you’ll enjoy anywhere in the country.
Spend time walking through the streets and admiring the colorful buildings, stopping at a few restaurants and cafes in the area.
Riva del Garda
Located on Lake Garda’s northern shore is one of the most impressive-looking towns along the lake, Riva del Garda. And by that, we are referring to the incredible backdrop surrounding the famous town. Travel to Riva del Garda by boat, such as the ferry, and be blown away by what you see as you get closer.
You’ll find yourself surrounded by steep cliffs, towering mountains, and endless hills for as far as the eye can see. It is breathtaking when you first see it. If you’re the adventurous type that likes to go on hikes and explore the mountains, then Riva del Garda is arguably the best place to stay on Lake Garda. With its proximity to the mountains, you have quick access to many hiking trails that will make it a trip you won’t forget.
And if the hiking isn’t enough or isn’t your thing, there’s plenty else to do in the city to keep you entertained. Walk along the narrow streets and take it all in — the culture, the architecture, the lifestyle. Spend a day exploring the town and going into the many boutique shops and quaint restaurants in town.
Located on Lake Garda’s western shore sits one of the hidden gems of the region, Gardone Riviera. Far less popular than most of the other options on this list, Gardone Riviera is still worth a visit.
Spend a few hours passing through, or take a whole day to enjoy this beautiful lakefront city. No matter how much time you choose to spend here, there is one thing that you cannot pass up on — visiting the famous villa, Vittoriale degli Italiani.
As arguably the best-known villa of Lake Garda, Vittoriale degli Italiani is not technically in the city limits of Gardone Riviera. Still, it’s incredibly close by and is the major attraction of the town. The first thing that you’ll think when you visit the villa will likely be one very simple word. Wow.
Its massive size, impressive gardens, lavish decorations, and breathtaking views make it one of the most incredible villas in the entire country, much less just on the banks of Lake Garda! Tours are offered commonly around the property as long as you book in advance.
But the property’s exterior is open to the public and can be explored anytime. So if you’re anywhere nearby Gardone Riviera, be sure to check out Vittoriale degli Italiani. You won’t regret it.
If you want to experience some of the best food options on Lake Garda, Salo is the place you want to visit. As the city along Lake Garda with the longest promenade of them all, Salo is a great place to stay if you’re into the fantastic beaches and water views of Lake Garda.
But even if not, it’s worth making Salo your home base just for all the different food options you have. You’ll get to experience authentic Italian cuisine during your visit to this famous city.
Specializing in seafood, Salo has many options that serve fresh-caught fish for you to savor, such as Osteria dell’Orologio. But the city is also home to many other places that have incredible food if seafood isn’t your thing. Check out Osteria Di Mezzo or La Veranda restaurant for top-rated dining, and you won’t regret it.
While the world-class food might be reason enough for some people to visit Salo, it’s not the only thing this city offers! Hop on a boat and take a quick ride out to Isola del Garda to explore. Drive to Giardino Botanico Fondazione Andre Heller botanical gardens.
Or walk through the city streets and visit some of the popular ancient structures you will find throughout, such as Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata. No matter what you’re into, Salo has plenty for you to choose from.
Situated along the northern banks of Lake Garda is one of the best cities on the lake to go out there and enjoy the water, Torbole. Whether you like swimming, windsurfing, or just relaxing on the beach, Torbole is the perfect place to go during your visit to one of Italy’s most famous lakes.
Most-known for its windsurfing, Torbole is a great place to go for anyone who loves the outdoors. Grab some breakfast at one of the city’s many quaint cafes, get your beach and water stuff ready, and head to one of the beaches that Torbole has to offer.
Spend a few hours relaxing on the beach and hop in the water for a nice swim or hop on your board for some of the best windsurfing you’ll find in Italy.
Even if the water activities aren’t your thing, don’t let that keep you away from Torbole. The city’s architecture is also some of the most impressive and intriguing that you’ll find along the lake.
You could spend a day just walking the streets and admiring some of the incredible buildings all around. Torbole is a bit of a unique city along the banks, but one that you’ll have an unforgettable experience at when you visit.
Last but certainly not least, we have the beautiful city of Bardolino, located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Located about 80 miles from Venice and just 15 miles away from Verona, Bardolino, like Malcesine, is often overlooked as a place to visit because of its proximity to these other two more famous cities.
But it’s definitely worth the visit and will offer you an unforgettable experience. Famous for its wine and olive oil, Bardolino is the place to be if you want to explore all the unique aspects of these two Italian pastimes.
To learn about the history of these two facets of Italian life, consider visiting the city’s two museums. There’s one for each: wine-making and the history of olive oil. So you can delve deep into these aspects of Italian history.
Besides the museums, Bardolino also has several incredible wineries that are worth visiting, including Cantina F.lli Zeni and Guerrieri Rizzardi Winery. Located close to one another, you could easily knock out both wineries and museums in one day for a day full of history and delicious wine. So if wine is your thing, Bardolino is undoubtedly where you want to be along Lake Garda!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have an idea of where some of the best places to go in Lake Garda are and some of the best activities to do, let’s take a look at a few frequently asked questions. This should help clear some things up that might be swimming around in your brain!
What is the prettiest town on Lake Garda?
This is a tough question because Lake Garda has so many incredible towns bordering its waters, and beauty is subjective. But if we had to choose one of them as the prettiest, we’d have to go with Limone sul Garda.
With its troves of lemon trees dotting the landscapes, a tall castle dominating the skyline, colorful buildings, and breathtaking waterfront, there’s too much not to love. It’s truly a wondrous town to look at, up close and from afar.
Can you swim in Lake Garda?
The short answer is yes. You can swim in Lake Garda! It’s one of the many reasons people journey to the area during summer. Many of the towns on this list have a beach that offers a great place to relax and swim, such as the shingle beach you’ll find in Sirmione. Keep in mind that the water of Lake Garda can get pretty cold during the winter months, so don’t expect to dive in during that time!
Is Lake Garda worth visiting?
Lake Garda is undoubtedly worth visiting as it’s one of the best places to visit in all of Italy. Between the many colorful towns surrounding the lake, the picturesque mountains dominating much of the background in many different directions, and the breathtaking views of the lake itself, it’s a stunning place to visit.
Is Lake Garda expensive?
Lake Garda is not typically seen as being overly expensive by most people who visit, but it isn’t exactly cheap either. The highest cost of a trip to Lake Garda, besides the hotel or lodging, is the transportation to get around the lake. If you don’t have your own car, you can spend a few hundred dollars over a week-long trip just to get around. In general, it’s a bit more expensive to visit than some of Italy’s other popular destinations.