Lake Garda is the largest of the northern Italian lakes, stretching 52 kilometers in length, and is undoubtedly the most visited. It is located between Lombardy to the west, Veneto to the east, and Trentino-Alto Adige to the north. Due to its location, the lake enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, which allows for lush vegetation, including olive trees, lemon trees, palm trees, and even orange trees!

Beautiful picturesque towns line the lake, some more or less well-known, each with its own unique charm, ranging from Roman ruins to medieval castles.

Lake Garda offers a multitude of activities, and one can easily spend a good week here to fully explore its surroundings!

The prettiest villages of Lake Garda, our must-sees

Sirmione and its fortress

Sirmione is located at the southern tip of Lake Garda, on a narrow peninsula that extends into the lake up to the ruins of an ancient Roman villa, offering spectacular views of the lake! Sirmione is undoubtedly the most famous, most visited, and one of the largest towns on Lake Garda. We recommend dedicating an entire day to fully enjoy it.

  • The Scaliger castle: This castle, dating back to the 13th century, is a perfectly preserved medieval fortress! Located at the entrance to the old town, it is surrounded by water. Visitors can explore the castle and climb its ramparts for panoramic views of the lake, although the fortress itself is empty.
  • The grotto of Catullus: This archaeological site houses the ruins of a vast Roman villa, once attributed to the poet Catullus. You will need a bit of imagination during your visit, as not much remains of the ruins. However, the views of the lake and the small museum with artifacts found during excavations are worth a visit.
  • The thermal baths of Sirmione: The thermal waters of Sirmione are renowned for their healing properties. Modern thermal baths, such as the Terme di Catullo and the Terme di Virgilio, attract many visitors from afar.
  • The historic center: The center of Sirmione is a maze of cobblestone streets lined with stone boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. There are also beautiful churches, such as the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore and the Church of San Pietro in Mavino. Exploring the center is very enjoyable; don’t hesitate to get lost in the alleys to discover small gardens by the water.

Malcesine and Monte Baldo

Malcesine is a picturesque small town located on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, nestled between the clear waters of the lake and the slopes of Monte Baldo. This makes it easy to transition from lakeside scenery to mountainous landscapes.

  • Castello Scaligero: This medieval castle, built in the 13th century, is one of the main attractions of Malcesine and overlooks the town. It offers panoramic views of the lake and houses a small natural history museum on the lake’s fauna and flora, much to the delight of children.
  • Palazzo dei Capitani: A historic 14th-century palace, formerly the residence of the Capitani del Lago, who governed the region.
  • Historic center: The center of Malcesine is very beautiful; one can leisurely stroll through the cobbled streets lined with colorful houses, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. For food lovers, we recommend the restaurant Marinaio by the water—affordable and delicious! Don’t miss their tiramisu!

If you come to Malcesine, you must not miss Monte Baldo! The cable car is located in the center of the village and will take you to the summit in about twenty minutes in a large rotating bubble that provides a 360° view! Monte Baldo is a paradise for hikers, with numerous trails of varying difficulty levels, ranging from easy walks to more challenging hikes. However, be mindful of the weather! Check it before going up, as it would be a shame, given the cost of the cable car, to find yourself stuck in clouds once at the top!

We were in for a big surprise upon reaching the top, with Monte Baldo completely covered in snow and a brisk 0°! For those looking to warm up or indulge, we recommend a well-deserved stop at the refuge at the top terminal! Special mention goes to the hot chocolate with cream!

Limone and Limoncello

Limone sul Garda is a very small town located on the northwestern shore of Lake Garda. It is one of the most picturesque and popular destinations around the lake, renowned for its lemon and orange groves, as well as for tasting its famous limoncello.

Limone is quite small, and visiting the port and the village will take only one to two hours. You can also visit the lemon and orange greenhouses, which house a large collection of citrus fruits. For the modest sum of 5€, you can have a freshly squeezed lemonade right on the street. The village is truly beautiful—don’t miss it.

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda is a large town located at the northern end of Lake Garda. It is a popular tourist destination, often compared to Saint-Tropez of Lake Garda. There are numerous activities to enjoy:

  • Rocca di Riva: This medieval fortress situated on the shores of the lake now houses the Museo Alto Garda, which features collections of art, archaeology, and local history.
  • Torre Apponale: This 13th-century tower, located on Piazza III Novembre, offers a panoramic view of the city and the lake.
  • Palazzo Pretorio: A historic palace located on Piazza III Novembre, formerly used as the residence of local authorities.
  • Cascata del Varone: This waterfall, located within a natural park, is found inside a cave. Visiting it on a hot day is particularly refreshing!

How to get around Lake Garda?

By public boats, of course! The Servizio Pubblico di Lago Maggiore. Schedules can be found at the docks, and almost all the villages around the lake have one.

The boat transportation system operates by zone: the south, the middle, and the north. Therefore, prices depend on each zone. You may need to move your vehicle depending on your visits. For instance, when we stayed in Malcesine, we had boat access to towns situated between Malcesine and Limone, up to Riva del Garda.

Prices are quite high, so to minimize costs, consider visiting multiple zones in the same day or getting a pass.

Where to stay at Lake Garda?

There are many options for staying at Lake Garda.

If you are traveling by motorhome, we recommend Camping Lombardie. We stayed there for 3 nights. The campsite is small but clean and very well located. A public shuttle will take you to the city center several times a day, right from the entrance of the campsite, for 2 euros.

Tips and tricks for visiting Lake Garda

  • Book your accommodation well in advance! Whether in a hotel or a campsite, remember that this is a popular destination!
  • Keep in mind that many campsites will be closed in the off-season. Contact them in advance to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

About Author

We are Sophie, Adrien, and our two adorable little ones. Passionate about travel, discovery, and gastronomy, we bought a 2007 Rapido camper van to travel differently, travel more, and introduce our children to the world. Here, we share our wonderful discoveries and tips for activities to do with children in France and beyond ! Welcome !

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