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WHICH TOWNS TO VISIT ON LAKE GARDA

An overview of each town on Lake Garda and why you should visit each one


La Rocca view


Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and offers incredible views, high-quality Italian restaurants and is in close proximity to the city of Verona and nearby airports. It is a popular holiday destination particularly from May-September as the weather is sunny and warm.


James and I worked on Lake Garda for two summers and lived in Garda, Bardolino and Sirmione so we have extensive knowledge about each of the resorts around the lake and why you should visit each one.


Garda


Garda is a busy and bustling resort town and one of the most popular around the lake. It a large town with a number of hotels where you can choose from luxury to budget and everything in between. There are a number of hotels on the lake front so you can have views right across the lake from your hotel window. To combine luxury and views of the lake stay at the Regina Adelaide.


In Garda you can:


  • Walk along the lakefront to the nearby town of Bardolino

  • Visit Punta San Vigilio - a small peninsula to the north of the Garda - and have a romantic meal overlooking the lake

  • Climb La Rocca - a hiking trail you can start from either Garda or Bardolino

  • View Villa degli Albertini from the lakefront


Restaurants:


  • La Bussola - seafood

  • Piccolo hotel - lake front dining

  • Pegaso - pizza

Bardolino


Bardolino, located on the East of Lake Garda and next door to Garda, is our favourite town on the lake for a number of reasons. The town itself is beautiful and a pleasure to meander around at your leisure. There are a number of great souvenir shops selling handmade ceramics, pottery and limoncello and other Italian spirits in all shapes and sizes.


You can walk along the promenade in both directions and reach another lake town. To the East you will find Garda and to the West you will find Lazise. If these walks are all you manage during your holiday (in between all of the pizza eating and Aperol spritz drinking of course) you will have a wonderful time. The walks are easy, pram-friendly/wheelchair friendly and picturesque.


You can also climb La Rocca from the Bardolino side or visit the Lenotti winery and enjoy some wine tasting. The winery is only a 5-10 minute walk from the lake front.


Restaurants:


  • Biri - seafood and pasta

  • D'annunziocafe - top rated on TripAdvisor, seafood and pasta

  • Caprice - the best pizzeria

  • Cristallos - ice cream and spritz by the lake



Peschiera


Peschiera is one of the cheaper towns on the lake and you will see a difference in the accommodation costs compared to other resorts in the South such as Sirmione. Peschiera is well connected with a train line to you can get from Verona or Bergamo airport or from Verona city by train.


You can visit the Madonna del Frassino church, Venetian fortress and nearby wineries such as Zenato. If you visit the Cantina Ricchi you can enjoy wine tasting as well as a picnic in a vineyard.


Desenzano


Desenzano is known as the capital of Lake Garda and one of the most important muncipalities. Desenzano is next door to Peschiera and again well connected with its own train line. In terms of cost Desenzano falls between Peschiera and Sirmione but only a 20 minute drive from Sirmione if you were looking for the more affordable option.


In Desenzano you can visit:


  • Torre di San Martino

  • Castello di Desenzano

  • The picturesque lake front

  • Nearby wineries

  • Sunbathe of the beaches

  • Stroll around the green parks

  • Visit the Roman Villa

  • Enjoy some retail therapy at the shopping centres


Sirmione


Sirmione is one, if not the, most popular town on Lake Garda and for good reason. It is a beautiful town set inside the walls of the Scaligero Castle. Sophie worked in Sirmione for a summer season and fell in love with it for a number of reasons. Not only this, Sirmione is home to natural thermal springs so you can jump in a natural thermal pool or visit the Sirmione spa to enjoy and benefit from the minerals in the water.


Sirmione is home to the best gelato we have had, not only in Italy but the world! You will find a number of gelaterias around Sirmione and Lake Garda but our favourite is Gelateria Scaligeri. Our favourite flavours are Amarena (Cherry) and Pistachio.


Also make sure to visit Jamaica Beach and the Grotte de Catullo. Wandering around the town itself is so beautiful and along the lake front near Jamaica Beach. There are plenty of places to stop and sunbathe including on the jetty where you can jump into the lake to cool off.


Parking can be tough in Sirmione if you are visiting for the day but you can park at Piazzale Monte Baldo for a reasonable price and get live updates as to whether there are free spaces using SirmioPark online.


The one downside to Sirmione is because it is so popular it does get extremely busy and sometimes it is difficult to walk down the narrow streets (especially with a pram like we were!). That is the benefit of staying in Sirmione as you can have the town to yourselves before the tourists arrive in the morning and in the evening.


Restaurants:


  • Ristorante l'Arcimboldo - traditional Italian

  • Tavernetta Maria Callas - high end

  • Civico 48 - burgers


Sirmione castle

Gardone


On the Western side of the lake you will find Gardone. The Gardone Riviera is described as a hidden gem and one of the most beautiful towns on the town but perhaps a little less well-known. It is popular for hiking and close to the popular walk and viewpoint, Rocca di Manerba.


Other attractions are:


  • Visit the extravagant Il Vittoriale degli Italiani - a complex of squares, gardens and waterways that sits in the hillside overlooking Lake Garda. It is the former home of the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio

  • Heller botanical Garden

  • Torre San Marco

  • Open-air theatre

  • Visit church San Nicolo da Bari

  • Relax on the Piazza Guglielmo Marconi

  • Visit the beaches and stroll along the lakefront

  • Visit the nearby lake town of Salo


Limone


The town of the lemons. This small but charming town offers an idyllic Italian escape. It is perfectly located close to Riva del Garda where you can visit during your stay to enjoy the views of the mountains.


You can visit:

  • Church of San Benedetto Abate

  • Fishermans museum

  • Park of Villa Boghi

  • Limonaia del Castel


Riva del Garda


Riva del Garda offers a completely different landscape to the rest of the lake as you head into the Italian mountains. The views are beautiful of Lake Garda with the backdrop of the mountains and because of the landscape this is a popular hiking spot. The weather is cooler and it is windier in the North making it a popular destination for water sports such as windsurfing.


Riva is a fairly large town and there is plenty to see and do in the town and close by:


  • Visit Villa Canale - a quaint medieval town less than 30 minutes drive from the centre of Riva and take the short walk to visit another beautiful lake, Lake Tenno

  • If you want a challenge you can embark of the uphill hike to reach the Santa Barbara church which can be seem in the hills from Riva centre for beautiful views across the North of the lake

  • Drive the Ponale road which is one of the most stunning drives in Europe to reach a third lake, Lake Ledro

  • Viewpoints: Torre Apponale, Bastione (centre) and Mount Brione

  • Varone waterfall is a waterfall in a cave a short drive outside of Riva and found in the Parco Grotta Cascate waterfall park


See our Best Things to do in Riva blog for more.


Riva del Garda mountains

Malcesine


A popular wedding destination, Malcesine (pronounced mal-che-se-ney) is located on the Eastern side of Lake Garda. It is a picturesque town with cobbled streets, a beautiful lake front castle and Monte Baldo. If you fancy a challenge you can hike up to 1800 metres and admire the incredible views from the top of the mountain over Malcesine and cross to the Western side of Lake Garda. Alternatively you can catch the cable car with prices starting from 17 euros per person. For an adrenaline rush you can also take a mountain bike in the cable car and mountain bike down this beautiful mountain.


Things to see in Malcesine:


  • Castello Scaligero

  • Palazzo dei Capitani - the former headquarters of the Venetian rules of the area, Capitani del Lago. One of the grandest historical buildings in Malcesine

  • Take the ferry to nearby towns of Riva del Garda and Limone


Another great addition to Lake Garda is the lake side cycle route which currently runs for 2km from Limone. By 2026, the completion of a 140 km cycle path around Lake Garda is planned. The path will be suitable for families and comfortable for all types of bikes.


Other resorts:


Lazise


Located next door to Bardolino, Lazise is connected to Bardolino through the lake promenade. In Lazise you can visit:


  • Morning market on a Wednesday

  • Scaliger walls

  • Relax on the Spiaggia delle Rose and Spiaggia La Bosca beaches

  • Enjoy dinner or lunch at either Pergola or Porto Lion

Torbole


Close to Riva del Garda, Torbole offers some great hiking routes as it is nestled in the mountains. Hike the Sentiero panoramico Busatte Tempesta and visit the Belvedere viewpoint. It is also popular for other sports such as windsurfing and mountain bikers.


Torre del Benaco


Torre del Benaco is a small town located between Garda town and Malcesine. The town is surrounded by medieval walls and towers. You can visit the small harbour, Santi Pietro e Paolo church, Torre del Comun clocktower and the weekly market on Monday.


There are so many beautiful towns to visit around Lake Garda and each offers its own unique attractions, views and tastes of Italy. Lake Garda is somewhere we do and will continue to visit time and time again. It is an Italian paradise, affordable and easy to get to from the UK and other European countries.


We hope you enjoy your trip to Lake Garda.


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