Beautifully set against the alluring Morainic hills and nestled between the dolomites of Brenta, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Boasting a typically Mediterranean climate, the lake is surrounded by dainty towns awash with vivid colour and clear blue waters edged with Cyprus trees and olive groves. Lake Garda holidays are sure to impress with spectacular scenes, from its picturesque lemon groves to its fringed palms, this region is not only relaxing, but stunning too.
Located in the north of Italy, holidays to Lake Garda also offer some of the best water sports and hiking and skiing opportunities in Italy, ensuring you have the choice of whether to kick back and relax or quench your thirst for adventure. With an abundance of activities and entertainment on offer, including theme parks, it’s no surprise that Lake Garda is the most popular of the Italian lakes.
If you’re looking for a place to regain your wellbeing, then take a holiday in Lake Garda for a range of relaxing activities. You can recharge your batteries in the fresh mountain air or meditate in the ornate gardens. A popular place to relax is Sirmione, where sulphurous water spas aim to cure a variety of ailments. Garda Thermal Park also provides relief for many, where visitors can bathe in pools of thermal water, well-known for their restorative properties. Another wellness haven is Villa dei Cedri Park, which is surrounded by ancient cypress and beech trees, and contains a natural thermal spring. With specially provided heated gazebos, you can journey through tunnels that take you directly to the heated lake – a perfect complement to an already fantastic break.
You will find a host of ancient remains around Lake Garda that hark back to its colourful past. The lake is surrounded by several provinces with plenty of historical attractions such as Malcesine, a quiet settlement featuring 13th century fortifications and Nago-Torbole, a fishing village with the ruins of the Penede Castle. Many of the attractions at the lake consist of Roman ruins and castles, which make for many great day-trips.
Most popular hotels in Lake Garda
Europa Hotel - Desenzano
Desenzano, Lake Garda
Sirmione, Lake Garda
The Garda Village
Sirmione, Lake Garda
Hotel Du Lac
Gardone Riviera, Lake Garda
At a glance
- Currency: Euro
- Language: Italian
- Time Zone: GMT +1
- Average flight time: 2h 10m
When to go
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With a wealth of Italian culture that can be found in the lakeside markets and delicious local cuisine, a trip to Lake Garda is truly inspiring. Whether you dream of an idyllic escape or simply fancy some sightseeing, there are plenty of things to do in Lake Garda.
A great way to see Lake Garda is to either go on a boat trip or rent a boat. Starting at the Capital of the lake, in the charming harbour of Desenzano, you can navigate towards the tip of Sirmione, where you can admire the crystal-clear waters that surround the beautiful Grotte di Catullo, the largest Roman villa in Northern Italy. Heading in the direction of Peschiera, the lake becomes the Mincio River. You can make a short stop in Lazise then continue on towards Bardolino, across the Garda Bay to Punta San Vigilio. Another great stop on your boat trip is to the stunning Garda Island.
A popular attraction are the sulphur springs at the tip of the peninsula of the lake. The Garda Thermal Park is set in an environment of green scenery with old trees, magnolia trees and exotic plants, as well as two lakes with thermal water. It is long believed to have healing properties, so if you are looking for a relaxing holiday in Lake Garda, the springs are a must-see.
Quench your thirst at the Zenato vineyards, set in the rolling hills of Garda. Located in the ancient morainic lands of Lugana and Valpolicella, in a mild climate, wine enthusiasts enjoy tasting the produce and the views that overlook the Veneto shore of Lake Garda. Covering 75 hectares, the vineyard is the perfect place to produce the Trebbiano di Lugana.
Wine and Dine
Mediterranean fare can be found around every corner of Lake Garda, with locally grown fruit such as grapes, peaches and nectarines readily available on most menus. Offering a true taste of Italy, there is a huge variety of pizza and pasta to eat, as well as the local delicacy sun-dried Lake Garda fish, which is worth trying. Served with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of locally produced olive oil, this dish is very popular amongst locals. For the perfect accompaniment to any dish, indulge in a glass of Merlot. Lake Garda is home to many vineyards and is particularly well-regarded for the production of red wine.
Specialising in local seafood, Le Gemme di Artemisia in Torri del Benaco offer diners a choice from five different menus or the surprise tasting menus. The food here is of high-quality and gourmet and is definitely enjoyed with a bottle of local wine.
Ristorante Esplanade is situated on the lakeside in Desenzano and delivers a menu that embraces lots of different dishes, from pasta to fish and meat. You can expect the best at this restaurant as they also have their own Michelin star.
The family-run Al Cardellino restaurant is located in Riva del Garda and is both elegant and rustic in style, offering brilliant views of Lake Garda. It features a beautiful garden where you can enjoy a candle-lit dinner of specialities like fresh-water fish, home-made pasta and black truffles, alongside quality wines.
If you’re bringing the family on holiday to Lake Garda you’ll find pure excitement at one of Garda's three amusement parks. The little ones can play pirates and run round with dinosaurs at Gardaland on one of the six exhilarating rollercoasters. Located on the south-eastern corner of the lake, the theme park also has three water rides to have fun on whilst older children can visit the two-in-one theme park of CanevaWorld, which is home to the exhilarating Aquaparadise. Or take a trip to the action packed Movieland in Lazise.
For a little more substance, you and the children can learn about farm life at the Agritur Laghel 7. The 18th century restored rural farm lies inside a large olive grove overlooking Lake Garda. The educational farm breeds cattle and offers activities for all the family, including learning about the animals and the bio-vegetable garden. There is also an onsite Western-Riding school for horse-lovers.
Galleria di Scienze Naturali Reptiland is based in Riva del Garda and is home to living reptiles, arachnids and insects, as well as fossilised creatures. Inside the Galleria Città di Riva, the natural science gallery gives you a fascinating view to discover the lost world.
Action and Adventure
A holiday in Lake Garda wouldn’t be complete without taking part in the wealth of water sports on offer. While sailing and windsurfing have made the region famous throughout the world, water-skiing and snorkelling are also popular.
If you’d rather keep your feet dry, there are plenty of other Lake Garda attractions to entice you on land. The nearby town of Arco is great for those with an adventurous streak. Surrounded by mountains, it is the perfect place for rock climbing. A hotspot for motorbike enthusiasts, there are also over 1000km of marked trails winding through rocky valleys and tunnels.
With the mountains surrounding Lake Garda, there are plenty of opportunities to go hiking, with nearby Monte Baldo providing a challenge for keen hikers. You can also take the cable car up the mountain for skiing in the winter months. If you’re bringing the family, the tamer lakeside paths are suited to groups with push chairs.
Life's a Beach
Although Lake Garda is located inland, miles away from the coast, it does have several pleasant beaches. The lake’s natural beaches are mostly pebble and shingle, with a few man-made soft golden sandy beaches, which are perfect for sun bathing.
Lazise Beach is probably the best beach on the lake and has fine sand. The beach is located along the coast south of Lazise and is popular with locals and tourists. The Desenzano area is blessed with several pleasant beaches, the best being a shingle beach, set in an area called Rivoltella.
The beaches are rocky at Sirmione, however, they are worth a visit to see the swans as the lake is a sanctury for the birds. Perfect for swimming with the cleanest and clearest water on the lake is Lido dell Bionde, whilst the main public beach of Santa Maria has lots of places to play, making it popular with families.
In Punta San Vigilio, past Garda Town you'll find some lovely shingle beaches with crystal clear waters and ample parking. For peace and quiet you must head to Spiaggia Baia del Vento for its softer sands. Ideal for families with small children, here you can hire canoes and pedal boats on the beach.
The nightlife on Lake Garda is a lot more relaxed than its busier neighbours Milan and Venice. Bar and beach bar culture is thriving here thanks to the views and lakeside location.
In Bardolino, the Hollywood Dance Club shows off magnificent 1950s architecture in a pretty part of the lake. You are in for a colourful night with its vibrant rooms inspired by Hundertwasser and Gaudi.
If you fancy a night beside the lake then head to Coco Beach Club in Desenzano del Garda. The club is home to a lounge bar, a restaurant and a disco, with various events like barbecues and DJ sets occurring throughout the week. As one of the most popular bars on Lake Garda, Coco Beach sits on a white sandy beach under palm trees where you can enjoy a cocktail.
Located on a street in Moniga del Garda, Recyclage Café boasts a unusual décor both inside and out. With different pieces of recycled and reconstructed furniture you are bound to have a unique night out at this café.
There is a certain allure about Lake Garda, with its sleepy, romantic setting and winding cobbled streets. The majestic landscape and pastel-coloured villas provide a perfect backdrop for a romantic trip away. A popular choice for couples and honeymooners, there are plenty of things to do on a holiday in Lake Garda for the lovebirds out there.
The Gardens of Parco Giardino Sigurta are abundant in bloom and are a great setting for an afternoon picnic for two. Offering a kaleidoscope of colour, you can enjoy this park either by foot or by renting a bicycle. To learn a little more about the region and the delicacies it produces, take a visit to the Trentino Garda area where the vineyards are located. Sample the fantastic wine on offer in Lake Garda’s picturesque settings.
Alternatively, take a visit to Sirmione, a small historic town overlooked by Roman ruins. Perfect for a relaxed day out, the labyrinth of winding streets are home to many alfresco cafés, shops and gelaterias.
Steeped in history and culture, there are a variety of Lake Garda attractions to see and enjoy. A short walk along the lakeside towards Salo, you will find the enchanting Il Duomo, one of Lake Garda’s churches. Within the church is a wooden crucifix and various paintings that are both interesting and inspiring.
Sirmione, in the centre of the southern shore, is home to the Grotte di Catullo, an impressive maze of Roman ruins with a museum adjacent to the site. You can delve into the history of the area and its peaceful surroundings, followed by a pleasant walk to the town. The walks will provide plenty of excellent photo opportunities.
In Malcesine you can walk back in time to visit the medieval buildings, stunning Venetian villas and wonderful ruins that lie untouched in this town. In the lake-front square of the Palazzo dei Capitano you can take in the sights from one of the little cafés.
Explore the old centre of Garda and the 16th century Villa degli Albertini, dating back to the 16th-century. Pay a visit to the hidden art galleries on the narrow street paths, as well as Chiesa de Santa Maria, the Baroque 13th century church with amazing renaissance-style frescos.