During my trip to Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, I visited Malcesine and have listed the top things to do in Malcesine: the picturesque medieval atmosphere of the old town, the pretty panorama of the lake and the mountains from the harbor, the most beautiful view of Lake Garda from Scaliger Castle, and much more.
This beautiful town, located on the northeastern shore of Lake Garda, is a great base to visit other highlights of Lake Garda, such as Limone sul Garda and Riva del Garda. In this post, you will learn some facts, what to do in Malcesine, and more useful tips for your trip to Malcesine and Lake Garda in general.
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MALCESINE TRAVEL TIPS
Get ready for your trip to Malcesine with this useful information.
- The town of Malcesine (pronounced mal-che-see-nay, with the accent on “che”) is located in the northern part of Lake Garda, on the eastern shore, south of Riva del Garda and opposite Limone sul Garda.
- It forms part of the province of Verona, in the region of Veneto: Verona is approximately 40 km to the South-East, and Venice is approximately 120 km to the South-East. The city of Trento is also quite close, approximately 65 km to the North.
- This small comune of approximately 3500 inhabitants is nestled between Lake Garda and the slopes of Mount Baldo: the iconic Scaliger Castle overlooks the lake from the top of a hill.
HOW TO GET TO MALCESINE
PLANE: The closest airport to Malcesine is in Verona; however, take a look also at Milano Bergamo Airport, Venice Airport, and Treviso Airport, which are bases for low-cost airlines in Europe such as Ryanair and Wizzair. Slightly farther away are Milano Malpensa Airport and Bologna Airport. From there, you can rent a car or take public transportation.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Unfortunately there is no train station in Malcesine; the closest stations in large cities are Verona to the South and Rovereto to the North. Buses run along the coasts of Lake Garda; bus connections can take a while to travel in this area. During July and August, there may be extra connections between Riva del Garda and Venice or between Verona and the Lake towns to bring Opera-goers back to their accommodations. During the rest of the year, some connections may be canceled. The main public transportation company is called ATV Verona.
CAR: The scenery of Lake Garda and the surrounding hills and mountains is beautiful from the road to Malcesine. However, it is a local road that crosses many towns and holiday destinations, so there could be traffic.
BOAT: There are ferries connecting Malcesine to towns all around Lake Garda. The ferries leave from Peschiera or Desenzano to the South, or from Riva to the North. Many ferries are managed by this company.
HOW TO GET AROUND MALCESINE
- Malcesine is a very walkable town: wear comfortable shoes and enjoy the picturesque cobble-stoned streets.
- You can easily explore the whole city center. The Scaliger Castle is located on top of a hill, but it’s not hard to reach.
- You don’t need a car to get around Malcesine, plus there aren’t many parking lots. If you travel by car, or you want to use it for day trips, make sure you check with your accommodation if they have space for it.
- There is a tourist bus during the summer, but the schedule may change, so be sure to check it.
BEST TIME TO VISIT MALCESINE
Lake Garda is a very popular summer destination. Even though Lake Garda might not be that popular with US-Americans, it is extremely popular with European – especially German – visitors. Malcesine and the nearby towns can get very, very crowded in July and August, which are also the hottest months. Prices for accommodations rise and it can become pretty expensive.
I recommend visiting Malcesine in April or May, or in late September and early October. In these periods the weather can be nice, destinations are less busy (but there is still a lot going on and it can be partly crowded), and accommodation prices are a little lower. It is much more pleasant to visit the best attractions of Malcesine in these conditions.
During the rest of the year, many tourism establishments may be closed.
WHERE TO STAY IN MALCESINE
Even though I didn’t stay overnight in Malcesine, here are a few accommodation possibilities. Note that many hotels state an “adults only” policy which may come in handy for those looking for a children-free stay.
LUXURY: Guesthouse Grand View is perfect if you are looking to enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Garda and the mountains while swimming in the outdoor pool. It is located on the slopes of Monte Baldo close to the center of Malcesine. Check out rates here.
MID-RANGE: Enjoy the old town from Hotel Malcesine, located in the heart of the city center, close to the harbor. The terrace with sun chairs overlooking Lake Garda is a beautiful place to relax. Check out rates here.
If you plan to stay in another village around Lake Garda, check out my accommodation guide with tips on the best accommodation around Lake Garda.
MALCESINE – RANDOM INFORMATION
- In Italian restaurants, leaving a tip is not required, but appreciated.
- At restaurants where you sit at a table, the bill will include a “coperto”. It is a fee between 1-3 EUR per person that covers the cost of the tablecloth, cutlery, bread, and sometimes a jar of tap water.
- Take good care of your feet by wearing comfortable shoes.
- Be prepared for mosquitos in the summer months (seriously).
Top Things to Do in Malcesine
Without further ado, here are the top things to do in Malcesine.
Explore the Old Town
The first thing to see in Malcesine is the medieval old town. Walking in the center of Malcesine, between the lake and the main road, is very pleasant and relaxing.
The narrow alleys have a very special atmosphere made of colorful buildings, cute shops, and cafés, with pretty squares suddenly opening up to the sun, some bordered by orange trees and palms. As Malcesine is between the lake and the slopes of Mount Baldo, most streets are uphill.
Malcesine’s history dates back to Roman times. Afterwards, this area was dominated by Goths and Lombards, by the Scaligeri family of Verona, by Venetians, and Austrians, before finally becoming part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866. The old town retained its medieval structure around the fortress of Scaliger Castle.
- Italian tip: if you are looking to enjoy some local wine, look for the Italian words “osteria”, “vineria” or “enoteca”.
Walk by the Harbor
When considering what to do in Malcesine, the answer is as easy as walking along the harbor.
The small harbor is another beautiful place in Malcesine, bustling with travelers and locals, ferries, and fishing boats. It is perfect to relax and do some people-watching.
In the courtyard of Palazzo del Capitano, one of the top attractions of Malcesine, you can sit on a bench with a gelato while you enjoy the wonderful view of the Lake and the mountains.
Visit Scaliger Castle
The Scaliger Castle of Malcesine is a must-visit in Malcesine: You will learn a bit about Malcesine´s history and it offers the best view at Lake Garda. The rooftops of red shingles below, the Lake in front of you, mountains all around: it was my favorite view!
Also known as the Malcesine Castle (Castello di Malcesine in Italian), this medieval castle sits on a promontory overlooking Lake Garda. Even though the first castle here was built around the year 500, it takes the name of the family that ruled in Verona, Della Scala, who took over in 1277 and rebuilt it. It was declared National Monument in 1902.
If you have only one day in Malcesine, make sure you visit the castle to experience the view and learn about the local culture.
The Scaliger Castle houses the small Museum of Natural History about the flora and fauna of Lake Garda and Mount Baldo, as well as an exhibition of drawings made by Goethe; another museum of local history is being created.
From the various courtyards and balconies on different floors, you can enjoy wonderful views. Make sure you climb the tower and admire the picturesque view 70 meters above Lake Garda.
The Scaliger Castle is also a very romantic venue: the Rivellino courtyard is used to celebrate weddings.
- Price: the ticket to Scaliger Castle in Malcesine costs 6 EUR.
- Opening hours: Scaliger Castle is open every day, but hours change seasonally and on weekends, so make sure you check online.
- Top tip: enjoy a wonderful view of Scaliger Castle rising above Malcesine and Lake Garda from the ferry to/from Limone, the town on the other side of the lake.
Visit Captain’s Palace
You will certainly notice this beautiful palace near the harbor: it is one of the key historical attractions in Malcesine.
This historic building was constructed by the Scaliger family over Roman and Romanesque ruins in the 1200s and 1300s; it was later remodeled in Venetian style in the following centuries, with sumptuous decorations worthy of the residence of the Captain of the Lake.
The most recent renovation started in 2007 and gave the palace back its original splendor.
You can walk through the main hall, admire the frescoes on the ceiling, and enjoy the wonderful view of the lake and the garden through the back gate. It is a very Instagrammable spot in Malcesine, especially when the flowers are blooming.
- Price: admission is free. Only the ground floor and the garden are open to the public.
- Events: the first floor is used for concerts, conferences, or wedding ceremonies.
Admire the View From Mount Baldo
Monte Baldo is certainly a top destination around Lake Garda, especially for day trips. It is popular to visit Malcesine just to reach the top of Monte Baldo and admire the view.
I took the cable car to reach the top. The first station of “Funivia Malcesine-Monte Baldo” is close to the city center, approximately 10 minutes on foot from the harbor. In just a few minutes, it takes you up to 1800 meters of altitude.
After the mid-station, the rotating cabins make this experience even more unique! The view of Lake Garda and the surrounding mountains makes it worth traveling to Malcesine. I would say this is definitely a place to visit in Malcesine in one day.
Animal lovers should check out the cute “Elalpaca” alpaca farm on the top of Mount Baldo, near the cableway arrival.
- Price: A return ticket costs 25€ when purchased online, and 27€ when you buy tickets at the ticket center.
- Opening hours: The cable car is open approximately from May to October, from 9 AM to 5 PM, depending on the year. Make sure you check it in advance.
- Practical tip: Get there in advance in high season, as the queue could be long. Getting there early as possible is the best option, as well as buying the ticket online.
- Clothing tip: On top of Monte Baldo, it can feel significantly colder than in Malcesine, so consider bringing a light jacket. Of course, check the weather before you head there, as clouds could block the view.
It is also possible to hike from Malcesine to Monte Baldo. The trail is 11 km long but the altitude difference is 1815 meters! I can recommend this very steep trail only to trained hikers. Even hiking downhill can hurt your knees.
Paragliding at Mount Baldo
Those of you looking for a thrill should definitely consider paragliding from Mount Baldo to Malcesine! Thanks to the thermals rising from Lake Garda (the flows of air going upwards), after taking off from the top of Monte Baldo, you can reach up to 3000 meters! The landing is all the way down in Malcesine, close to the lake. It looks very exciting.
Many companies offer a tandem paragliding flight in Malcesine, where you sit on the paraglider together with an instructor. You just have to wear comfortable clothing, and they take care of the rest. Many packages also include pictures and a video of this amazing experience.
- Top tip: paragliding is a very popular activity, so make sure you book in advance.
Hiking in Malcesine
There are plenty of hiking trails in Malcesine that lead up the slopes of Monte Baldo.
Some are easy and suitable also for families with children, such as the ring trail from Malcesine to San Michele (the mid-stop of the cablecar ride); others are quite challenging and more scenic, like the hike to the top of Mount Baldo and the treks on the peaks, where there are even WWI trenches.
Make sure you do your research, choose a trek suitable to your capabilities, and bring the necessary equipment.
Watersports in Malcesine
Another cool thing to do in Malcesine is spending time by the shore of Lake Garda!
The water sports that you can do in Malcesine are windsurfing and kitesurfing. Winds blow on Lake Garda all day long: the strong Pelér wind blows in the morning, and the lighter Ora wind blows in the afternoon. As long as you have basic swimming skills, you can book with the local providers and have some fun!
There are also options for sailboats and for SUP (stand-up paddling).
If you’d rather relax, make sure you check out the beach north of the city center called Paina Beach, or the lovely Val di Sogno beach, approximately 30 minutes on foot south of Malcesine. Everywhere, the water is clear and very inviting for a swim.
It is also fun to rent a motorboat to enjoy the view of the mountains from the lake.
- Price: Most are free, in some, you can rent a sun chair.
- What to expect: the beaches are made of pebbles!
- Food: There are restaurants and kiosks around the beach areas.
- Italian tip: The Italian words for “beach” are spiaggia and lido.
Discover the Markets of Malcesine
A traditional market takes place in Malcesine every Saturday morning, from 8 AM to 2 PM. You can find fresh produce, local food, and traditional crafts. This area is famous especially for olive oil and wine.
The atmosphere in the alleys and squares of the city center is super Italian. It’s the perfect place to find cute souvenirs.
- Practical tip: because of the market, on Saturdays, it’s even harder to find a place to park your car.
Olive Growers Consortium of Malcesine
Foodies will enjoy visiting the Consortium of Olive Growers. Olives are a specialty in Malcesine: the shop of the Consortium is located in the center of Malcesine, while the Olive Mill is 30 minutes away on foot on Via Panoramica.
Locals are proud of producing an excellent extra-virgin olive oil thanks to the mild climate of Lake Garda, which is ideal for growing olives. Olive trees are able to grow easily in this stony and exposed soil. It is quite amazing, since just south of Lake Garda is the foggy plain Pianura Padana, and just north are snowy mountains.
The Consortium was founded in 1946, but olive trees have grown in the area since Roman times. Olive oil is so precious that it is called “yellow gold“. More than 500 small olive producers from Malcesine and the nearby towns are part of the Consortium, which ensures high-quality processing of the olives through strict policies. You can only buy Malcesine Olive Oil in Malcesine!
- How to visit: You can visit the Consortium with a guided tour on Fridays, to learn about olive trees with a video, and taste wine and olive oil on bread. Make sure you book until one day before.
DAY TRIPS FROM MALCESINE
Malcesine is the perfect location to take day trips around Lake Garda and even beyond.
Limone sul Garda
My favorite day trip from Malcesine is Limone sul Garda, the town on the opposite shore of the lake. I loved the atmosphere in the cute alleys of Limone, the colorful flowers, and the view of Lake Garda. Furthermore, from the ferry, you can enjoy an extra special view of Malcesine Castle.
- Check out my Limone post for more info on Lake Garda´s cutest village.
Riva del Garda
It is also very easy to visit Riva del Garda from Malcesine. Riva del Garda is the town on the northern tip of Lake Garda. The beautiful city center features colorful houses, the impressive Torre Apponale stone tower, and an interesting Museum of Lake Garda concerning archaeology and history from Roman times until the WWII resistance. The mountains are very close, so the beach and the trails nearby are very scenic.
The interesting cities nearby are Verona, with its pretty center, the Roman Arena, and the Romeo and Juliet balcony; Rovereto, home to the stunning Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art “MART”; and Trento, with a very authentic old town and the massive Buonconsiglio Castle.
- Check out my Verona guide for more travel tips.
Sirmione is probably the most famous town on the shores of Lake Garda. It is on the southern shores of the lake and it is a tourist hot spot – home to several historic sights and beautiful narrow streets in the old town.
- Check out my guide for more tips on Sirmione.
FINAL WORDS ON THE BEST ATTRACTIONS IN MALCESINE
Without a doubt, Malcesine is one of the prettiest villages around Lake Garda. It is worth going there on a day trip, but it is also a perfect base for multiple days. I hope with my post you will be able to enjoy the top things to do in Malcesine.