MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN LAKE GARDA
- 1 MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN LAKE GARDA
- 2 More Places to Visit Around Lake Garda
- 3 Lake Garda Travel Tips
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. 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 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. Today, you will find out about the best places to visit in Lake Garda and the top things to do.
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Here are the most beautiful places in and around Lake Garda and the top things to do and see.
Limone Sul Garda
Limone is probably one of the prettiest and most picturesque towns/villages I have visited. It is so adorable that it is quite busy, though it is tiny with only around 1,000 inhabitants.
Located on the western shores, up in the northern part, it has become trendy 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.
It is probably one of the best places to visit in Lake Garda – and a tourist hotspot – in Sirmione on Lake Garda’s southern shores. 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 charming, and the flowers 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´s top places?
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 water shores, next to the tower), it might be better to make a reservation if you visit during the high season. The boat tour costs around 10€ per person.
Fancying a mountain view? Then, head to Mount Baldo on Lake Garda’s east shore and enjoy the Italian Alps’ mountain ranges.
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, 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.
You can visit museums and do water sports. Riva del Garda is probably one of Lake Garda’s best places because it offers something for everyone.
Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda is a resort town on the southern shore of the lake. It wasn’t my favorite place it is pretty – this lively town is especially popular among tourists that travel here by train, as it has its own train station.
But of course, there is more to do and see than just arriving at the station. The town is the biggest at Lake Garda – so, there are quite some attractions and places to visit.
There is also a lovely water promenade, and many shops and stores. The little harbor, with its colorful buildings, makes it also pretty picturesque.
Also, visit the vibrant Piazza Matteotti and Piazza Malvezzi or the Desenzano’s Castle.
This is the town where you can party the best. So if you are a party person or a night owl, this is the best town to visit in Lake Garda.
Strada Della Forra
If you want the best views of Lake Garda, you need to get high. And the best place to get high is on the west side of the lake.
Several roads lead up into the hills, and they all have spectacular viewpoints for you to enjoy. However, if you’re in a car or moped, you need to drive the Strada Della Forra- the gorge road.
Strada Della Forra is a road that has been literally carved into a gorge. The road climbs steeply up using hairpin bends, tunnels through the cliff, and some of Lake Garda’s best views. The tunnels through the gorge are so low that you couldn’t drive through in anything bigger than a large car- I think even a 4×4 might be too big!
You can find the start of Strada Della Forra about halfway down on the west side of Lake Garda. Traffic lights allow only one direction to go at once, so it’s not 2-way. It’s free to drive- so feel free to drive up, turn around and come back again!
Having said that, there are plenty of things to enjoy once you’re up. There’s a restaurant near the top with delicious food and plenty of great hikes to viewpoints for you to enjoy.
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 places to see around Lake Garda, here are the answers.
Lake Tenno 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 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 for lines (which are probably crazy in high season).
Verona was probably one of the most positive surprises – it is as pretty as heck! 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.
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.
Just keep in mind that Juliet´s balcony is overrated, but there are many beautiful spots. Find out about the best places to see Verona in one day – click here to read my post. Verona was just stunning!
If you stay in the northern part of Lake Garda, I suggest a day trip to the Dolomites.
The Dolomites, a mountain range in Italy’s very northern part, are perfect if you are interested in visiting unique and stunning lakes. For example, Lake Carezza and Lago di Braies, or if you are into 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.
Lake Garda Travel Tips
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
By Plane: Popular airports close by Bergamo/Milano Airport, Verona Airport, and Brescia Airport. Venice Airport is about 100 km away.
By Train: 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: By car is probably the best way to get around. While tolls are high in Italy (and so are gas and diesel), it is the most convenient transportation mode. I never paid tolls around Lake Garda, 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. 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 seeing them all).
By Boat: Boat tours are fun and a must when in the region. However, given the lake’s size, 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 speak German and 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
There are many good places to stay in and around Lake Garda. Surely, Limone or Sirmione are great picks as Riva del Garda is. I have written a more detailed post about the best places to stay in and around Lake Garda.
Check out the hotels for Sirmione here:
Luxury – For a luxurious experience, stay at the Grand Hotel Terme, which offers great amenities.
Mid-Range – If you are looking for a mid-range option, the Champagne Rooms would be a great choice, with a nice location. They also offer family suites, perfect if you’re traveling with your family.
Budget-friendly – Located right by Lake Garda’s shore, the lovely Hotel Porto Azzurro makes a good budget option.
Camping – Camping Tiglio is a great place for lakeside camping, offering clean facilities and nice amenities.
Check out the hotels for Riva del Garda here:
Luxury – The Rivacentro is a popular, luxurious apartment hotel with modern rooms and great amenities.
Mid-Range – For a mid-range hotel, you could stay at the Parc Hotel Flora, which offers spa access and nice views.
Check out hotels for Limone here:
My personal favorite place in Lake Garda was Limone, where I stayed. The place is tiny but yet my favorite place in the region.
Luxury – Hotel Splendid Palace is a lovely accommodation that offers many amenities and beautiful views from its rooftop pool.
Mid-Range – Garni Gianmartin provides a savory buffet and lovely lake views. A favorite among solo travelers.
Budget-friendly – Hotel Cristina has a nice location and offers lake views and a pool.
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 – there are so many beautiful places to visit in Lake Garda.
Just choose the perfect time to visit (so avoid July and August) and then experience all the fun things to do in Lake Garda.
Stay safe and enjoy!