Top Things to Do at Lake Garda

a shot of lake garda and its terrain.

Updated On: April 12, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

One of the most well-known attractions in Italy, Lake Garda is the largest lake in the country at 370 square km. It is surrounded by the Lombardy region from the southwest and west, the Veneto region from the east and southeast, and in the north is the Trentino-Alto Adige region. Lake Garda is located at a height of 65 meters. It starts from the north and being narrow and between towering cliffs, the lake expands gradually southward into a nearly circular basin and if you visit the southern and western shores you will see many lovely plants there.

In the old days, the lake was named Lacus Benacus by well-known writers like Virgil, Horace, and Catullus. The name was changed after that the city of Garda was promoted into a county in the early 9th century by the emperor Charlemagne. The northern part of the lake was under the rule of Austria until 1919. Lake Garda is well sheltered by the Alps to the north and the climate there is amazing and it is a common resort area for vacationers. Fishing carp and trout are well-known there; you will find small boats in the lake moving between the main towns on the lake, like Riva, Gargnano, Desenzano Del Garda, and Peschiera Del Garda.

There are some lovely places to visit near the lake if you’re looking for a well-rounded experience in this magical region of Italy.

Things to Do at Lake Garda:

  1. Sirmione:

The beautiful small town of Sirmione is located on the southern shore of Lake Garda, on a small peninsula. It allows you to enjoy the views across the lake and it is considered one of the well-known attractions overlooking Lake Garda. The town is also located between Milan, Verona, and Venice which makes it a crowded place in the summer.

  1. Scaliger Castle

Another attraction at the lake is Scaliger Castle, which was constructed in the 12th century by the Scaligeris, Verona’s ruling family. Take a moment to admire its unique construction and interior design before climbing up its tower with its magnificent view of the lake and town. The Romans used to go to this place before the castle was built to bathe in the sulfur springs and nowadays it is a luxury spa.

  1. Riva del Garda:

This town is located at the north end of Lake Garda and has been inhabited since the Roman period. While you are visiting, you will find a wonderful mix of old streets and sunny waterside parks. Also, you will find many attractions, like the Apponale Tower which was built in 1220, as well as the Praetorian Palace built in 1375 by the Scaligeri family and inside the palace is the Civilian Museum with prehistoric and later artefacts.  The Inviolata Church is a great example of the Baroque style built in 1603. The interesting thing here is the beach at nearby Torbole and it is known as a premier windsurfing spot because of steady winds. The town was actually part of Austria until 1918.

  1. Malcesine:

Another beautiful small town located at the base of Monte Baldo, it has narrow wonderful streets, harbour, shops, and cafes. Overlooking the town is a 13th-century castle, another one that stands on a crag and its ramparts dropping directly to the lake and the view from there is magnificent where you can see the mountains rise on all sides. You can reach the castle through the narrow lanes between lovely stone buildings that have been there since the middle ages. In the summer, the town is always crowded with tourists from everywhere walking through its streets and eating the delicious food offered at its restaurants. Also, there is a cable car that takes you even higher to see more views along Monte Baldo’s scenic ridge.

  1. Ruins of a Roman Villa:

It is an easy place to reach; only a 15-minute walk from the village of Sirmione or on an electric tourist trolley from Piazza Piatti. The Roman villa was the home of the Roman poet Catullus from 84 to 54 BC. The villa is surrounded by the lake from three directions and contains its own museum as well.

  1. Arco:

It is located north of Varone and lies along the bank of the Sarca River in a rich place of southern vegetation. The weather there is beautiful and you will find magnolias and palm tree plantations everywhere. One of these places is Arboreto di Arco, dating back to the 1800s and established by a Habsburg duke. It has many trees from all over the world. The Arco Castle is in a higher place above the town; you can climb to the castle and enjoy a fantastic view from the top.

  1. Gardaland and other Parks:

Gardaland and the other parks offer many interesting things to do there for you and your family. These parks are located near the lake’s shores on the southeast between Peschiera del Garda and Lazise. They are all opened from April to late October.

Gardaland is one of the largest parks in Italy where there are more than 35 attractions for the young and old. There is a fun park that has all the expected rides, from children’s rides to adventure and adrenaline thrills.

Another park that you will have a great journey in is the Caneva World theme park that is devoted to the world of cinema with shows, animation, and reconstructions of film sets. There is also the Caneva Water Park that is a great place for a family to visit where you will find big and small pools with slides and water games. It is located in the Verona district. Also, the Parco Natura Viva is considered a zoo and contains more than 1,500 animals of 200 different species from all continents and it includes a Safari Park with African animals and birds. For more relaxation, you can go to Aqua Paradise Park with lovely landscapes, palms, white-sand beaches, pools, waterslides, and splashing rides.

  1. Vittoriale d’Italia:

This is the villa of the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, and it contains a variety of artistic decorations with large grounds surrounding the building. Among its unique pieces are a coffin-shaped bed, indigo bathroom suite, and statuary. The tour of the villa takes around 30 minutes, and you can also explore the grounds and gardens to tour the ship Puglia which he was leading and make sure to visit the Mausoleum, an amphitheater, and a museum.

  1. Gardone Riviera:

Gardone Riviera is a town located on the western shore, in the Riviera Bresciana, and has a great climate. One of the interesting things there is the Hruska Botanic Garden with its vast landscapes where the tropical foliage shades its winding paths and terraces. The plants also cover the sculptures, pools, and waterfalls. The garden is surrounded by beautiful gardens with great views. There is also Villa Feltrinelli that was occupied by Mussolini, but it is now a hotel. To the south, you will find Salo in a bay under Monte San Bartolomeo and it includes the church of Santa Maria Annunziata that was built in 1453.

  1. Cathedral of Salò:

The Cathedral of Salo was built in 1453 in the Brescia area in the late Gothic style. When you visit the cathedral, you will see the simple, unfinished brick façade and also lovely artworks by Paolo Veneziano, Romanino, and Moretto. Inside the church, you will find an altarpiece in gilded wood which was made in the 15th century, and a large crucifix made in 1493 by Giovanni Teutonico.

  1. Desenzano del Garda:

Desenzano del Garda is a small town located west of Sirmione, in the center of a marina basin. There are wonderful attractions in town, such as Villa Romana, a Roman villa excavated near the old town which has amazing mosaics. There are some cafés and restaurants and you can find great beaches on the southern shore to relax and have a good time.

  1. Garda Island:

It is known as Isola Borghese, located only 200 meters from the coast, and it is considered the largest island in Lake Garda. It is easy to reach it by boat and you can go on a tour which includes the park and the Villa Ferrari that was built in 900 AD in the Gothic style. This island has been a shelter for pirates then it became a spiritual center after the involvement of St. Francesco d’Assisi. It also hosted many well-known people like Dante Alighieri, St. Anthonio da Padova, and Adelaide Malanotte.

  1. Limone sul Garda:

Limone sul Garda is an old town located on Lake Garda that is famous for the cultivation of citrus fruits. Not only is the island famous for lemon but also cedar, mandarin, bitter oranges, and kumquats. You can visit the town and take a walk through its narrow streets, squares and old fishermen’s houses on the lake. There are also wonderful attractions in Limone Sul Garda that you can visit like the church of San Pietro that was built in the 9th century and one of the oldest Romanesque churches in the area. Also, make sure to visit other places, such as Piazza XX Settembre, the Old Market Square, Visconti Tower, Basilica of St. Nicolò, Town Hall, and the Azzone Visconti Bridge.

  1. Bardolino and some other Towns:

Bardolino is a town that rises on the slopes of Monte Baldo in a landscape of olive groves and vine-cloaked fields which the town is famous for. There you can find the church of San Severo on the southeast shore which was built in the 8th century and it has beautiful frescoes. In the south, there is Lazise, with middle-aged town walls and a castle built by the Scaligeri family from Verona in the 14th century. Also, between Garda and Torri del Benaco, there is cypress clad promontory of San Vigilio, Torri del Benaco which has the middle-ages Scaligero castle.

  1. Marmitte Dei Giganti:

Marmitte Dei Giganti is known as Pothole Giants, a huge hole with about 5 meters in width and deep up to 12 meters. It is a phenomenon that took place in the ice age more than 130,000 years ago. In the summertime glaciers used to melt quickly, creating streams and waterfalls made of water and pebbles, which corroded the rock creating wells and pools still visible today.

  1. Boat Trips on Lake Garda:

You can enjoy the beauty of Lake Garda by taking a boat trip around the lake. The tour can take you between the towns that we talked about in the above part and have a great tour of nature and the wonderful landscapes. You can ride the boat and sit on the top deck and soak up some sunshine.

  1. Enjoy Biking and Hiking:

Lake Garda is a magnificent place to explore whether on foot or by bike. You will find many trails for hiking in the area, from family-friendly trails along the shoreline to more adventurous treks out into the hills. An interesting thing you can do is take a walk from the town of Garda to Bardolino, where you can see caves at the top of a lakeside hill. There is a lovely cycle route from Ciclo Pedonale to Lazise Bardolino.

  1. Bolzano:

On your way to Lake Garda, you can have a day tour in Bolzano, which has many places to discover with a mixture of Italian and Germanic cultures apparent in street names, architecture, food, and language. There is also the well-known Piazza Walther where the Christmas market is held every year. Bolzano is also the western gateway to the magnificent Dolomite Road, which the UNESCO acclaimed as a World Heritage Site.

  1. Brescia:

Located in the north of Italy only 30 km away from Lake Garda, make sure to walk around its streets that were once part of the major Roman route from Bologna through the Alps. There is also the Piazza Della Loggia that contains a castle and some wonderful buildings with Renaissance architecture.

  1. Torri del Benaco:

It is the ancient capital of Lake Garda and is located on the east coast of the lake. It is a great place to start exploring the lake. You can relax by the beach and sample Italian cuisine at many of its lakeside restaurants in the beautiful port area where hotels and boutique shops rest up against the old castle walls.

  1. Peschiera del Garda:

A fortified town surrounded by defensive walls rising from the waters of the lake. The walls and the Peschiera fortress were included in the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site List in 2017. There is the Voltoni Bridge, a lovely attraction which was built in the 16th century and it is where Lake Garda meets the river Mincio. Also, you will find natural protected areas like the small lake of Frassino.

  1. Torbole:

Torbole is a fishing town located along Lake Garda. It is a mix of Venetian and Austrian heritage and many writers and artists are attracted to this place to gain inspiration from its natural landscapes. You can take a walk through the town and see the colorful houses and the deep blue waters of the lake. The town through the centuries has witnessed many battles and struggles for dominance of this beautiful and advantageous corner of Italy’s largest lake. If you are a photography lover, you will love taking a picture with all these surrounding beautiful views and you can also have a great time at a beach near the town.

How to Get to Lake Garda:

If you plan on going to Lake Garda by plane, then the nearest airport is Verona Airport only 15 km away, Brescia-Montichiari is 30 km to the southwest, and Bergamo airport is 80 km away. If you are thinking of going there by train, then Desenzano Del Garda and Peschiera Del Garda are the closest railway stations on the south of the lake.

Places to Stay at Lake Garda:

  1. Aktivhotel Santalucia:

This is a mid-range budget hotel near the lake. The hotel has a beautiful pool, sauna, and offers an excellent breakfast.

  1. Hotel Santoni:

It is a perfect range budget hotel with a lake view and delicious breakfast.

  1. Hotel Excelsior le Terrazze:

The hotel has a great lake view, and is a short walk to town, with a lovely private garden.

Visiting Lake Garda is such a great experience and especially for nature lovers where you will love exploring every part of the lake from the views, the beautiful blue water of the lake, its gorgeous landscapes and lovely towns. You will enjoy touring the towns and exploring their buildings and streets or taking a trip through the sparkling waters of Lake Garda for an enjoyable time with your friends or family

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