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The top 8 sights of Lake Garda: places you must see

Updated on16.02.2022
Biggi & Flo from the travel blog Phototravellers

You must see these places at Lake Garda

The most beautiful places & sights at Lake Garda

The second we opened the window on the drive, the unmistakeable scent of the air filled the car: it smelled heavenly of Lake Garda (in Italian Lago di Garda or Bènaco). We’ve almost reached our destination and I can already smell it. The lake that to me means time off. Time off, good food, great emotions, beautiful sights and excellent weather at least most of the time, when it’s grey and dull in Germany. Ice cream – unbelievably tasty ice cream and constancy. Because the places at Lake Garda are always the same, but always just as beautiful. The smell that that reaches my nostrils has a touch of freedom, of Italy and of summer.

A summer that is still far away in Germany. But one thing is guaranteed: at Lake Garda, the weather is superb. Of course it can rain here from time to time, but even then, it’s mild and smells splendidly of fresh rain. In Germany, I would curl up with my warm blanket; at Lake Garda, I find everything just so beautiful. Even the rain. However, I haven’t experienced rain very often at Lake Garda. On the contrary, that location has always been a safe bet for me to escape from the cold and dive into a warmth that’s like balm for the soul.

One of the most popular destinations of Germans

Located in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy and one of the most popular destinations of Germans. Today, I want to recommend you the places at Lake Garda that I find simply enchanting and hold dear to my heart. You will probably already know these sights. But maybe this article will take you back to a great holiday you had there or even better: by the end, you will feel like going there right away. Maybe over Easter? Or camping in Summer? Hiking? Biking?

Or in autumn, when it’s already starting to rain again in Germany? Or in winter, when not many people choose to go to Lake Garda? Actually, it’s always the right time to visit Lake Garda, isn’t it? In this article, I will show you the most beautiful places & sights at Lake Garda. By the way, if you want to take it even further: Here is our article about the most beautiful lakes around Lake Garda. We also happen to have stumbled upon the ultimate insider tip at Lake Garda: the Tortellini Festival in Borghetto.

Where to sleep at Lake Garda – our very special hotel tips

A trip to Lake Garda is pure relaxation. The cherry on top of an unforgettable trip is a great hotel where you can relax after an exciting day. One of the best (and most expensive) hotels at Lake Garda is the Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda* in Gargnano. The 5-star hotel is surrounded by breathtaking scenery and has to offer an incredible luxury spa that leaves nothing to be desired. In Malcesine, we recommend the Hotel Castello Lake Front*. The modern 4-star boutique hotel is small but sweet and rewards its guests with a spectacular view. If you’re on a shoestring budget, we also have two amazing hotel tips for you.

The 3-star Hotel Al Caminetto* in Torri del Benaco invites you to relax in its beautiful garden and is among the region’s most popular hotels. The 2-star Garda Family House* in Brenzone sul Garda is another excellent and at the same time budget-friendly option. If you prefer to stay at a more private holiday flat or luxury estate, we have a little gift for you: a 25-euro discount on Airbnb*.

Lake Garda sight #1: Sirmione

Sirmione is a peninsula on the southernmost brink of Lake Garda. Every time I’m at the lake, I just have to go there. You enter the town over a little drawbridge – this alone always takes me back to all the times I’ve been here before. Visiting the castle ruin (Castello Scaligero) is a must for me, as well as climbing its old towers from which you have a fantastic view over Sirmione and Lake Garda. The castle dates back to the 13th century and can now be visited as a museum. (“udn”!)

The journey continues through the small alleys of Sirmione itself. And every time, there’s something new to discover, from trinkets in tiny shops’ windows to new ice cream flavours. Speaking of ice cream: don’t forget to grab one of the giant scoops of ice cream in Sirmione! Maybe it’s because it’s even warmer in the south of Lake Garda, but the ice cream in Sirmione is definitely my favourite.

Sirmione is a spa town at Lake Garda. Did you know that the biggest private thermal baths of Italy are in Sirmione? (“üüber”!) One of them is the old roman thermal spa of Catull. The thermal water is said to have healing properties. It’s supposed to help with skin diseases, rheumatism and even hearing loss.

I personally enjoy hiking all the way around the town. For details on this subject, take a look at our article on the hike around Sirmione. Starting from the city centre, you will find the beach on your right-hand side. From there, you can go around the town on a paved street which later turns into a trail. This route will take you along the water, always with sand under your feet. For me, this is the ideal way to leave all my cares behind. I use this time to dwell on my thoughts, sunbathe and take a break from everything. Because usually, there aren’t many people around here. Most of the tourists seem to be too lazy to take on the hike.

Lake Garda sight #2: Limone

Whenever I think of Lake Garda, the small town Limone immediately comes to my mind. Its lemon groves, the fresh scent of lemons and lemons painted on the walls of the houses. I think of Limoncello and of lemon soap. There’s a lot of all that in Limone. My tip: try taking the small winding steps through the old town all the way up to the top until you reach the big city walls. Through its holes and slits you are closer to the fresh lemons than anywhere else, and they are just waiting to be picked!

But as it might be a little unsatisfactory just to walk alongside the high walls, I recommend you go to the Hotel Splendid Palace. Its terrace rewards you with a divine view over Lake Garda, the lemon grove, the lemon trees and you can treat yourself to a coffee. As soon as you’ve recovered from climbing the hill, you should be ready to return to the town’s alleys. And don’t forget to buy the Limoncello!

Lake Garda sight #3: Bardolino

I remember that during my first stay at Lake Garda, a small travel agency recommended I go to the ice cream parlour Cristallo in Bardolino. And let me tell you, I did not regret it. The ice cream there is simply d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. Every single time, I sit there with my ice cream cone and look at the many colourful boats that are moored to the quay. And that’s when I realize that you don’t need a lot to be happy.

Apart from that, it’s also worth walking through the alleys of Bardolino, going out for a nice dinner – I’ve done that and can highly recommend it – and just wandering about. And of course you have to drink a glass of Bardolino. Or at least take home a bottle.

In case you’re interested in olives and olive oil, you shouldn’t miss the museum in Bardolino. It’s called Museo dell’Olio d’Oliva and tells the story of Lake Garda and the olives that are cultivated there. It’s definitely worth a visit! Another pretty and modest sight is the church Chiesa di San Severo. It’s quite simple yet displays a very special charm. As you can already guess from its stone façade, it’s one of the oldest churches in the region: the Romanesque building stems from the 11th or 12th century.

Lake Garda sight #4: Riva del Garda

As you probably know, we’re always on the lookout for the highest places with the best views. In Riva del Garda, that would be the Torre Apponale. It’s on the Piazza III Novembre and 35 metres high. From the top of the tower, you have an amazing 360-degree view over the old harbour, the water castle Rocca and the Palazzo Pretorio. The tower was built to defend the city and its harbour – and it offers the perfect backdrop for your Instagram picture (just saying ;-). You can climb it from March to October.

You can also visit the castle, which houses the Museo Civico. If you’re interested in paintings and archaeology, that’s the place to be. And if you happen to be an avid mountain biker, you might also enjoy Riva del Garda: there’s even an annual Bike Festival.

Lake Garda sight #5: Lazise

We were impressed by the special atmosphere in Lazise. You should choose one of the countless cafés on the central squares to rest for a little while. But don’t miss all the fun in the little alleys! You also have to take a photo on the Piazza Vittorio: its grey and white floor tiles make for a great photo background. The next stop is the small harbour with its fishing boats and cute little houses. The parts of the old city wall and its big gates can’t be overlooked – in fact, you have to walk through them to get into the city. Once, I also bought great Rosé wine in Lazise. I just always have to go back to that town!

Lake Garda sight #6: Malcesine

Malcesine is another must-see town at Lake Garda. Our tip: if you love hiking as much as we do, Monte Baldo rises just behind Malcesine. The mountain ridge can be reached by cable car. Read more about the hike on Monte Baldo here.

Malcesine is especially popular with kitesurfers, windsurfers, and all kinds of water sports enthusiasts. If you’re into that, this town is where you should be. One of Malecsine’s most famous landmarks is the Castello Scaligero, the Scaliger Castle, from which you can enjoy gorgeous views over the town.  By the way, even Goethe was known to visit Malcesine (“am Bodensee”?) and he is said to have liked it there, too.

The Plazzo dei Capitani, a Gothic palace, is also worth seeing. But in Malcesine, as well as in any of the other places we’ve shown you so far, it’s best to just walk through the city, enjoy the atmosphere and just stumble upon all sorts of great sights. Two of these worth mentioning might be the churches Santo Stefano and Santi Benigno e Caro – two of the jewels of the town.

Lake Garda sight #7: Salò

Even though the small towns around Lake Garda are all quite similar, each one has its own special bits and places. In Salò, for example, we were enchanted by the atmosphere. We could just wander about, be it at the beautiful harbour with its cute little boats or trough the historic city centre. Right in the middle of the town, you can’t miss the cathedral of Salò, the Duomo Santa Maria. You should definitely take a look inside the Baroque building!

Our tip: directly next to the church, there’s an ice cream parlour called La del Dolce. We had to go back for seconds because the ice cream was really that delicious. With the ice cream in hand, just stroll through the streets of Salò – what a treat!

Lake Garda sight #8: Arco

If you love hikes or via ferratas, you’ll love the area around Arco. That’s also where our favourite camping site is: Camping Zoo Arco (GPS: N 45 55.958, E 10 53.572 → Google Maps). You’ll almost always find a free pitch there and a lot of your fellow campers will be hikers and climbers as well. Arco is the ideal starting point for many great hikes. For example, we decided to hike all the way up to Monte Cadria and Monte Baldo and we can only recommend these tours. However, we didn’t do a via ferrata here in this region. We’re definitely planning on doing that though! Arco is also famous for free climbing. In fact, the international climbing competition Rock Master takes place here every year. Apart from that, Arco offers a lot of water sports such as kitesurfing and sailing.

If you’re more into culture than sports, you have to visit all the old churches in Arco, as well as the Arco Castle. Another impressive location is the villa of Archduke Albrecht from the House of Habsburg. Furthermore, Arco is known for being an excellent spa town.

The best pizza at Lake Garda

Another tip: when returning from our tours all around Arco, we also stopped in Torbole. We can highly recommend the pizza at the Pizzeria Al Porto (Piazza Goethe, 18, 38069 Torbole). There are always pretty long queues there in the evening, but the pizza is giant and extremely delicious.

Things to do all around Lake Garda

An absolute highlight for all families is a visit at Gardaland, the biggest amusement park in Italy. A trike tour around Lake Garda is an unforgettable experience with lots of fun guaranteed. You can also book a day trip to Venice (here is our article on the best sights in Venice) or relax during a boat ride on Lake Garda all while exploring the picturesque towns from the water.

Numbers and facts about Lake Garda

Have fun on your trip to Lake Garda

We hope that by now, you will feel like visiting Lake Garda yourself and that this article helps you with planning your trip. At Lake Garda, you can’t really go wrong because the whole region is just beautiful. The only disadvantage: there’s almost always a huge amount of people. This is why we recommend avoiding bank holiday weekends and the holiday season in general.

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