Best Places to Visit in Lake Garda – The Most Beautiful Places and Best Things to Do
As a German, I had heard of Lake Garda many, many times. Located “close“ to the German border, it is a popular place to visit in Italy, and given its popularity as a travel destination, I decided to take my parents on a trip – so we can all see what the fuss is about.
While I had always thought it was a place great for families and campers, I now know that this is the best lake area to stay in when in Italy. Yes, I liked it way more than Lake Como and its surroundings. I was stunned by the beautiful places in Lake Garda and the numerous activities you can do there.
Though Lake Garda is nice, it is more the beautiful towns and villages at Lake Garda and the diversity of activities to do there that appeal.
So, if you can only visit one place – Lake Como or Lake Garda – I suggest opting for Lake Garda. So if you are wondering why and what to do in Lake Garda, where to go and what to see this post witll give you the answers.
Lake Garda Travel Tips
- 1 Lake Garda Travel Tips
- 2 Best Places to Visit in Lake Garda – Most Beautiful Places and Best Things to Do
- 3 More Places to Visit Around Lake Garda
- 4 More Places to See in Northern Italy / Tours From Lake Garda
Before listing my favorite activities there, here are some important travel tips for Lake Garda.
Lake Garda Facts
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, with a shore length of about 160 km. The average depth is about 136 meters.
There are 28 cities, towns, and villages in Lake Garda and it belongs to the regions of Trentino-South Tyrol, Veneto, and Lombardy.
How to Get to Lake Garda / How to Get Around Lake Garda
Popular airports close by: Bergamo/Milano Airport, Verona Airport, and Brescia Airport. Venice Airport is about 100 km away.
The bigger cities are served by trains; however, the bus service to get from one place to another is limited and not optimal.
By car is probably the best way to get around. While tolls are high in Italy (and so is gas and diesel), it is the most convenient mode of transportation. Around Lake Garda, I never paid tolls though (but heading to other places might include toll costs).
The narrow streets in the mountains (serpentines) are not my favorite places to drive – Italians tend to drive faster and always use a bit of the opposite lane as well. However, if you are careful and don’t mind a bit of adrenaline, then driving yourself is the best way to get around (if you want to see all the beautiful places in Lake Garda, a car is your best chance of seeing them all).
Boat tours are fun and a must when in the region. However, given the size of the lake, it is time-consuming getting from the northern to the southern shores of the lake.
You can surely do it once or twice, but even I did not want to spend all day on a boat. (From Limone to Sirmione, a trip takes about three hours – one way!)
Best Time to Visit Lake Garda
We visited Lake Garda in mid-September – and it was still busy. Like really busy, though the crowds had thinned.
The weather is still great in September (sunny and warm, but not hot) and if you can avoid the months from June until August, I would definitely do it. Besides September, I suggest early October or March (if you don’t need holidays for getting a real tan) April, May or early June.
Italian is the official language, though most people in the tourism sector do speak German and also basic English.
More Things to Know
Mosquitos! There are a lot of them. So, bring whatever you have that keeps them away from you (and tell us your secret!).
Best Places to Stay in Lake Garda
There are many good places to stay in and around Lake Garda. Surely, Limone or Sirmione are great picks – find out in this post which places to stay in Lake Garda and why.
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Best Places to Visit in Lake Garda – Most Beautiful Places and Best Things to Do
Limone sul Garda
Limone is probably one of the prettiest and most picturesque towns/villages I have visited and visiting Limone is one of the best things to do in Lake Garda. It is so extremely cute that it is admittedly quite busy, though, with only around 1,000 inhabitants, it is very small.
Located on the western shores, up in the northern part, it has become very popular amongst tourists, especially from Germany. Hardly any other place at Lake Garda had so many picturesque houses – and flowers. The flowers, Bougainville, made this place perfect for photo lovers – but the little harbor, cute cafes and restaurants, the promenade, and the illuminated globe at night (outside of the town center, just 500 meters from the beach section) made Limone the best place in Lake Garda.
Have I mentioned the free beach access? While I prefer sandy beaches over pebbly beaches, water addicts will love it here.
Last but not least, the cyclopath that opened in summer 2018 is another reason to visit.
Get there early in the morning and walk the kilometer-long path, with great views over the lake.
Despite its size, it is not only great to stay here, but this is also one of the best places to stay in Lake Garda.
Probably one of the best places to visit in Lake Garda – and a tourist hotspot – is Sirmione on the southern shores of Lake Garda. The peninsula is also a perfect base for those who like to visit Milano or Verona.
There are many reasons to visit Sirmione and here are a few.
Stroll the old town of Sirmione and enjoy the flower-power here. The old town is really lovely and the flowers just add so much beauty to it.
It is definitely bigger than Limone and has more shops, restaurants, and crowds(!).
You can also get to the Scaligeri Castle (which you will see just at the beginning of Sirmione) to enjoy lovely views. The entry fee is about 8€, and while it was pretty, you could skip it if you are on a budget and still have a great day in Sirmione.
Behind the castle, you have a little beach section. While we did not swim there, it was nice to put our feet in the water for a minute.
Looking for more Lake Garda things to do?
Sirmione is also great if you like to take romantic (or not too romantic) boat tours for half an hour around the peninsula.
While we booked it spontaneously at the harbor at the end of the day (salespeople are on the shores of the water, next to the tower), it might be better to make a reservation if you visit during high season. The boat tour costs around 10€ per person.
Fancying a mountain view? Then, head to Mount Baldo on the east shore of Lake Garda and enjoy the mountain ranges in the Italian Alps.
It is easy to get up (at least when you use the cable car) and you have the best views of Lake Garda – it is probably one of the best Lake Garda activities -however, you should know a few things.
When taking the funicular, it will most likely include some waiting in lines, so arrive there before 9 am to avoid standing in line for too long.
Hikers could hike up to about 2,200 meters – this would also mean saving 22€ for the cable car (tickets are sold in many shops all around Lake Garda, or just at the cable car station shop).
When using the cable car, I suggest planning in half a day before heading to the next town, which is just around the corner.
“Malcesine is like Limone – just bigger”. That’s how a local described it to me. I am not sure that it is true, though Malcesine is surely bigger. But it is not as beautiful as Limone (at least this is my honest opinion).
I got to Malcesine from Limone by boat (which is probably the most scenic arrival you can have, about 10€ for a round-trip ticket) and first headed to Mount Baldo before spending the afternoon here in Malcesine.
The narrow and winding streets, the old buildings, the numerous (souvenir) shops, and the harbor make it a great place to spend one day. It is also a good place to stay for water sports lovers – but the view of the Scaliger Castle was probably my favorite place/activity in Malcesine though. For 6€, you get a better view than from the tower in Sirmione.
Riva del Garda
The colorful promenade, the shops, and the busy market on Thursday – this bustling town was my mom’s favorite place in Lake Garda. As someone who likes window shopping, she felt most at home here (but she seriously liked all the places in the area).
Pretty houses and buildings, the opportunity for water sports, and a view from the Apponale Tower, also known as the Clock Tower, (you can climb up the 165 steps for 2€) – these are just some of the reasons to visit this pretty area.
More Places to Visit Around Lake Garda
I actually visited a few more places around Lake Garda, but the above-mentioned places were my favorites.
However, here are two more places I recommend visiting in the area, though they are not directly located at the lake, so if you are wondering about the best things to do around Lake Garda, here are the answers.
Tenno Lake is a little gem north of Lake Garda. Getting there by car was somehow fun, but driving the serpentines can be challenging, too.
The lovely lake color and the absence of crowds make it a great place to visit.
GardaLand Amusement Park
Though I didn’t visit the amusement park, if you are traveling with kids or just love amusement parks, this could be a fun day trip.
35 rides (including 6 rollercoasters) make this a popular tourist place in the area. It is located close to popular places like Sirmione and Peschiera del Garda, and with Skip the Line Tickets, you can skip waiting lines (which are probably crazy in high season).
Verona was probably one of the most positive surprises – it is as pretty as heck!
No blog post had prepared me for its beauty. While I believe you should stay longer than a few hours (probably two days), it is a must see place if you are in the area. From the southern shores, like Sirmione, it takes about 50 minutes to get there (buses and organized tours are available) and it is a fun day trip from Lake Garda.
Just keep in mind that Juliet´s balcony is overrated, but there are many beautiful spots. Find out about the best places to see in Verona in one day – click here to read my post. Verona was just stunning!
More Places to See in Northern Italy / Tours From Lake Garda
If you stay in the northern part of Lake Garda, I also suggest a day trip to the Dolomites. The Dolomites, a mountain range in the very northern part of Italy, are perfect if you are interested in visiting unique and stunning lakes, Lake Carezza and Lago di Braies, or in hiking. A more detailed post with my favorite activities from my one-week stay will be online soon. But until then you can find out about the most click here to read my post.
I do think that Venice is a great place to visit and deserves two days of your life; however, if you cannot plan in that time, you could join a guided tour (or do an independent tour of course) and enjoy one of the most iconic cities in the world. click are my travel tips for Venice.
As you can see, Lake Garda is the perfect place to visit in northern Italy. Whether you visit with your family, friends, solo, or choose it as a honeymoon destination, Lake Garda is perfect for all.