best of Lake Garda places not to miss

Best of Lake Garda – Places You Shouldn’t Miss


Lake Garda is one of the most beautiful regions of Northern Italy and has plenty to offer for everyone. But where do you go if you only have limited time and want to experience the very best that Lake Garda has to offer?

You can spend a couple of days or a couple of weeks in the area and you will not get bored. Lake Garda has charming old towns, beautiful landscapes, plenty of sightseeing possibilities and accommodation in all price categories. Water sports enthusiasts will find some of the best places for paragliding, windsurfing, and hang-gliding. You can go walking, mountain biking, visit a theme park, a water park, play golf, go sailing, or spend a couple dolce far niente days by the pool or on the beach. All of this in the most spectacular setting you can imagine…

Lake Garda most beautiful places

If you have a couple of days in the area, don’t miss the chance to drive around the whole lake and visit some of the charming old towns along the way. This can be done as a round trip or you can choose to stay at one central location and discover the lake from there.

Round trip around Lake Garda is about 150km (95 miles) and in principle you can do it in one day, but the roads are narrow and traffic is very busy, so you won’t have much time left to discover the villages along the way. That being said, driving around the lake is still worth doing, as long as you don’t expect to see the very best of Lake Garda in one day.

I advise that you choose one or two places to visit each day. You can drive, take a ferry-boat, or, like we did, combine the two. It’s simply not possible to see everything in a day or two, so don’t even try. Better explore fewer places than rush by and only see the lake through the window of your car.

The most beautiful places and charming towns along the Lake Garda in Italy


Best of Lake Garda – my TOP 5 places you really shouldn’t miss


Sirmione is one of the most beautiful towns on Lake Garda

Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione


Located on the South shore of Lake Garda, Sirmione is probably the most popular tourist destination on the lake. Sirmione is a beautiful old town located at the end of a small peninsula that towers about 4 km into Lake Garda. If you want to discover this town to the fullest, you should count on spending the whole day here.

Sirmione is easily accessible and is right in the middle of the popular tourist route between Milan, Verona, and Venice. Let’s just say, you will not be alone in town…

Try to get there early in the morning or late in the afternoon as it gets really busy during the day. If you are staying at one of the bigger villages at the lake, you may want to consider taking a boat to Sirmione so that you can avoid the busy traffic altogether. Cars are not allowed in the historical city centre. You have to leave your car at one of the designated parking areas and walk from there.

Main Sirmione attractions include:

  • Not to be missed: Grotte di Catulo – the excavated ruins (scavi) of the massive Roman villa at the headland on the tip of the peninsula
  • 13th century Rocca Scaligera Castle
  • Church of San Pietro in Mavino
  • Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Really worth it: if you have time take a short boat ride around the peninsula.


Malcesine is not to be missed

Lake Garda as seen from Castello Scaligero in Malcesine


Malcesine, the pearl of Lake Garda, is located in a very picturesque setting and is a charming old town with narrow medieval streets, a beautiful harbour and lots of small shops, stores and cafes inviting visitors to stroll around and explore.

Just as most other places on Lake Garda, Malcesine is crowded in the summer months with thousands of visitors squeezing through the narrow streets. If you have a choice, try to visit in May-June or in September.

Main Malcesine attractions include:

  • Cable car (weather permitting) to the top of Monte Baldo with amazing views of the area
  • Castello Scaligero – climb the tower for magnificent views


Limone sul Garda

Limone sul Garda


Probably one of the most picturesque towns of Lake Garda is Limone. The scenic road from Riva to Limone takes you through many tunnels and you have wonderful views over Limone just before you reach the town.

Limone has a nice waterfront promenade and a very cozy old town with lots of restaurants, cafes, and little shops.

You can easily combine a visit to Limone with that of Malcesine or Riva. You can leave your car at the paid parking area in Limone and take a ferry-boat from here. Since the distance is not very big, it doesn’t take that long and the ferry fees are reasonable as well.


Riva del Garda on the North side of Lake Garda

Riva del Garda old town


Riva del Garda is a nice little town surrounded by steep cliffs and high mountains on he Northern shore of Lake Garda and it’s particularly impressive if you arrive there by boat. Riva has a nice little old town with picturesque narrow streets and plenty of shopping and dining options. You will have a tough time trying to resist buying at least some of the local specialities and all kinds of traditional Italian gifts.


Northern Side of Lake Garda from the ferry boat

Northern Side of Lake Garda


You cannot truly appreciate how spectacular Lake Garda is if you don’t see it from the water. If you don’t have the time, the money, or the desire to spend the whole day touring the lake, I suggest that you take a boat from either Limone or Malcesine to Riva. You will be really glad you did. The dramatic fjord-like Northern end of the lake is surrounded by towering mountains and the views are just spectacular! 

Note that Limone and Melcesine are built on a very steep terrain and while in Limone you can still make a nice walk on the promenade near the lake, Malcesine may be difficult to visit for people with restricted mobility. Our kids were all traveling in strollers when we visited and we could get pretty much everywhere we wanted, but it was quite an exercise with moments and we were glad we had full-size strollers with big rubber wheels.

Lake Garda places to visit if you have more time

The following places on Lake Garda might not be as spectacular as the Top-5, but are really nice to visit if you have more time. You can easily combine a couple of them in one day, or just go there for dinner after a day by the pool or at the theme park.

  • Gardone Riviera
  • Desenzano del Garda
  • Salò
  • Torbole
  • Garda
  • Bardolino

TIP: If you have more time and want to visit a more authentic part of Italy, I strongly suggest to spend a few days in Trentino region, North of Lake Garda. It’s an amazing place for those looking for a big variety of more active outdoorsy things to do. You can find some recommendations here: Best Things To Do in Trentino in Summer.

Lake Garda markets

Local Italian market at Peschiera del Garda Lake Garda

Italian pottery at a local market in Peschiera del Garda


Lake Garda is also well-known for the traditional Italian markets. These markets aren’t just food markets, you can buy Italian leather goods, pottery, tapestry, clothing and much more…
If you have the time, try to visit at least one local market during your Lake Garda holiday.

Below you can find a short list of Lake Garda markets per day. There are many more markets than this, but I’d choose from one of these because they are in the most beautiful towns you can visit at the same time. Note that most markets stop early in the afternoon so you have to visit in the morning.

Lake Garda market days

Monday: Peschiera del Garda, Colombare di Sirmione
Tuesday: Desenzano, Limone sul Garda, Torbole (April to October only).
Wednesday: Riva del Garda (2nd and 4th week of the month), Lazise
Thursday: Bardolino, Toscolano
Friday: Garda, Lugana di Sirmione
Saturday: Malcesine, Salò
Sunday is not really a market day in Italy. You can try Rivoltella or better wait a day and go to Peschiera on Monday.

You may also like to read our tips for the best Lake Garda itinerary  to help you plan your trip to the area.

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Most beautiful towns along Lake Garda in Italy


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  1. Going to Sirmione for three days and very interested in pottery. November 1st-Thursday, but holiday, 2nd and 3rd. Any suggestions?

    1. Author

      Hi Mary, sorry, I don’t think I can help you there. Why not just ask at the hotel or the local tourism information.
      Enjoy your trip.

  2. Very interesting post. We’ve been a few times and can vouch for all your recommendations. We’re going again next week and are looking forward tovisiting your recommendations.

    1. Author

      Good to hear that, Hari. Enjoy your trip to Lake Garda!

  3. A group of us are visiting Lake Garda next week we staying in Simione really interesting read on your page liked your 5 top tips Thank you

    1. Author

      Glad to hear you found this information useful. Enjoy your trip to Lake Garda, Elaine.

  4. I’m going to Italy in August. We will be staying in Verona and I would like to take a day trip to Lake Garda. From what I’ve read, mybest option is take a bus there. I was thinking about going straight to Sirmione. What would be the best place that I could go to in addition to Sirmione. Or should I just stay there the whole day? Just want to get the most of my time as I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to come back!

    1. Author

      Hi Sharon, I don’t really know about public transport options. But indeed Sirmione is probably the easiest to reach by bus. You can easily spend the whole day in Sirmione, but if you want to see the best of Lake Garda, you could consider booking a boat trip on the lake. The entire trip and back will probably take you a big part of the day though. Otherwise just make a short boat ride around Sirmione which is also really worth it. If you just want to take it easy, stay in Sirmione and make the best of it. Here you can read my Lake Garda itinerary suggestions (check the 1 day itinerary).
      Depending on which day of the week you go there is also a possibility to join a guided Lake Garda day tour from various locations including Sirmione.

    2. Hi Sharon. From Verona We did what you are doing last year in August 2017. we took the train from Verona 15 minute train trip to Peschiera del Garda, short walk, or bus or taxi to the port where the ferry leaves from. So beautiful and you you can choose where you want to go to. It was a Thursday and we went to Bardolino for Market day. We went really early on the boat by 7:30 am. Bardolino was about the 4th ferry stop and the town we decided to get off at. We had a fantastic day. It does get very busy late morning when it is market day. We will be going back to visit other towns on the lake over the coming years. Bernadette

  5. Thank you,

    very well written summary of Lake Garda ,especially for those who have little time .
    Stunning pictures,

    We will be visiting for the first time end of April and really looking forward


    1. Author

      Thank you. Enjoy your trip to Italy (we can never get enough of this beautiful country!).

  6. I have been visiting Garda for 7 years and done extensive exploring and struggled to find a helpful review as there so much out there, however this is the very best I have come across, well done this is so helpful in every way.

    Great layout and helpful review well done

    1. Author

      Thank you very much for your feedback, Stefan. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. To know that someone like you who has been to the area so many times finds this post useful – this is why I blog, not just to inspire people to visit one or the other area, but to really help them to get the most out of their trips. So thanks a lot for taking the time to leave this feedback.

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