Last Updated on January 16, 2024 by Michela
On a map, Lake Garda, Italy is pieced together like a puzzle, marked by dotted lines across its middle and top to distinguish the three regions that share it – Veneto to the east, Lombardy to the west, and Trentino-Alto Adige to the north. Although the largest lake in Italy, it has a romantic and intimate feel that comes from the flower-adorned towns and cozy snow-tipped peaks of the mountains that hug it. But Lake Garda’s large size means navigating to the various towns dotted along its shores can be more difficult. So whether you are looking to for a day trip from Milan or are organizing the stops on your northern Italy itinerary, you will benefit from this guide to the best towns on Lake Garda to know which one fits your trip best!
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Sirmione is a one of the best towns on Lake Garda to visit because there is so much to do that isn’t just wandering cobblestone streets and taking pictures for the ‘gram (even though those are things you should definitely do.)
The striking Castello Scaligero is the centerpiece of Sirmione and an absolute must to admire.
As you wander over the bridge to Castello Scaligero from where you parked your vespa (we can all dream,) you will meet the bright town center abundant with shops, restaurants, and people.
Sirmione is on a peninsula that stretches out from the very south of Lake Garda towards the north, so whichever way you turn your head, there are stunning views. There is a walkway that encircles almost the entire peninsula!
At the end of the peninsula is an archaeological site, the Grotte di Catullo. You can enter to visit the ancient ruins of a Roman villa dating back to the 1st century B.C. for 14 euros!
The fact that Sirmione is a peninsula also makes it a perfect location for a boat cruise – you can see all the amazing sites from the water.
Best Parking: Parcheggio Lungolago Diaz, Lungolago Armando Diaz, 25019 Sirmione BS
This lot is very near to the town center, so it can be difficult to find a space but worth a try! It’s 2.50 euros per hour and you pay ahead at a machine where you input your targa, meaning license plate.
Where To Stay:
2. Limone Sul Garda
From the lemon-adorned house numbers to the relaxation chairs on the marina, Limone Sul Garda, on Lake Garda’s western shore, evokes a positive and relaxing ambiance.
As you leave the small but bustling town center, the excitement of exploration comes over you. Limone is a web of tiny streets weaving up and down, east to west, and dispersing into tiny alcoves or mysterious passageways leading you to a new place.
Ascending the town, you’ll notice on the ground another local and endearing touch – a tile with brightly painted lemons leading you to the Limonaia del Castel, a playground for citrus lovers.
This beautiful citrus-growing sanctuary is another maze of sweetly-scented fruit trees with panoramic views of Lake Garda and Limone’s rooftops.
The gardens are only two euros per person to enter and are a magical little place to frolic, take photos, and pinch yourself that this is your life right now!
Limone boasts another surreal attraction nearby, which is the Ciclopista di Garda a panoramic, elevated cycling and walking path alongside the mountain. There is a tiny parking lot on the side of the road right at its entrance, but the limited spots are snatched up quickly.
Otherwise, you can walk from Limone sul Garda starting at Capo Reamol to reach the path.
Best Parking: Parcheggio Multipiano, Via Lungolago Guglielmo Marconi, 50
This is a parking garage in Limone (a rare site in small towns,) with restrooms available and rates at 2.50 euro for the first hour and 1.50 euro for every hour after! Keep your ticket on you as you visit the town and you will pay at the machine when you return to your car.
Where to Stay:
Lasize is another gorgeous town on Lake Garda, but this time on the Veneto side.
I have to rave for a second about probably the best pizza I’ve ever had in Italy, in Lazise at a restaurant called Classique. Firstly, the service here was top notch without costing an arm and a leg, which can be hard to find in Italy sometimes (the waiters aren’t working for the tip here.)
Secondly, my bufalina pizza was straight out of Italian cuisine heaven made with the freshest bufala mozzarella you can imagine.
Thirdly, you cannot beat the view. The sunshine twinkles on the water and you can people watch the sprawling boardwalk that is one toe dip away from the lake.
After you stop and eat that pizza (you have to, I’m serious) you can make your own way along the boardwalk or walk closer into town near Castello Scaligero.
Are you a wine connoisseur? Lake Garda is just beside the Valpolicella, one of the famous wine regions of Italy.
Best Parking: Parcheggio Marra, Piazzale Marra, 37017 Lazise VR
This parking lot is free and very close to the historical walls and center of Lazise!
Where to Stay:
4. Riva del Garda
The north end of Lake Garda is a bit unlike any other part, much like its region, Trentino-Alto Adige is unlike any other part of Italy.
The mountains concave a bit to create a large cove – or as I like to call it, wind tunnel.
Hold onto your hats and make sure to bring a jacket because no matter the time of year, the wind will be howling on this side of Lake Garda.
Nonetheless, Riva del Garda is a beautiful town with a bustling center and lakeside beaches.
There are unique attractions including Reptiland, a reptile zoo, and a panoramic elevator up the mountains providing a birds-eye view!
My favorite part of Riva del Garda is its mini riviera and the large parks along the lake. Some are framed by the characteristic carved stone railings and delicate potted flowers you may have seen floating around Instagram!
Best Parking: Parcheggio, Viale Rovereto 44, 38066 Riva del Garda, TR
Let me tell you, parking in Riva del Garda was a bit of a nightmare. There are lots of lots, but they are small, and Riva del Garda is popular! This is the only lot after trying what seemed like every other that had spaces around mid-day. Parking is 2 euro per hour.
Where to Stay:
Bardolino is located in the Veneto region, on the east side of Lake Garda. It has one of the longest and widest boardwalks along the lake with lots of lakefront restaurants and beach space.
The most characteristic detail in Bardolino is its ferris wheel! Overall, this town is the most family-friendly of all towns on Lake Garda.
The town center is small and narrow but has some hidden gem boutiques. The Parish S.S. Nicholas and Severo is another visit in the town center to put on your list, a church that is quite plain on the outside but has a lot of ornate details and things to see on the inside.
Bardolino is connected by ferry, so it is also is one of the easier towns on Lake Garda to reach if you are not driving in Italy.
Best Parking: Public Parking, 37011 Bardolino VR
Where to stay:
Malcesine is one of the most charming towns on Lake Garda – one that you absolutely can’t miss! It is located on the east side of the lake and part of Veneto.
Malcesine is unique in that it actually doesn’t have a sprawling boardwalk along the lake. Malcesine is more cozy and narrow than the other towns. As for activities, you should visit the huge Scaliger Castle towering over its shoreline, the Castello di Malcesine. Another thing to do is to take the cable car up to the top of Monte Baldo, the mountain at the foot of which Malcesine sits, where you can do things like paraglide, hike, but most of all, get a bird’s-eye view at Lake Garda.
I would suggest visiting Malcesine in the afternoon and treating yourself to a gelato at Da Mario & Son’s, right along the harbor.
Malcesine is connected by ferry, but only to Limone sul Garda, so keep this in mind if you are planning to use the public transport on your trip to Lake Garda.
Best Parking: Piazza Statuto, 37018 Malcesine VR
Where to stay:
8. Torbole (Nago-Torbole)
Next door to Riva del Garda is the town of Torbole. It’s smaller and less showy than Riva del Garda, but it still boasts a beautiful beach as well as spectacular views of the lake – and the exciting things happening on the lake.
While the wind can be a nuisance to sight-seers at times here, it’s a playground for unique sportsmen – kite surfers.
Whether it’s driving up to the northernmost point of Lake Garda or lounging on Torbole’s beach, you will become enamored by the beautiful sight of kite-surfers dancing on the water like tiny ballerinas in comparison to the massive mountains of the Italian Alps.
You can give it a go yourself for a day, or just take in the incredible views.
Best Parking: Parcheggio, Via alle Peschére, 38069 Nago-Torbole TN
This parking is a gravel lot, but it is free and right in the center of Torbole close to the beach!
Where to Stay:
You may expect the lake’s namesake town to be the biggest, the flashiest, the most popular. But Garda is actually the opposite of all that, making it a peculiar little gem to go out of your way and explore.
What makes Garda different from other towns is that it is located on an inlet of the lake, so it feels much more intimate.
You will find lovely boutiques, tons of lakefront dining, and option to rent a boat to go explore the bay.
I personally loved Garda for its quietness and tranquil feel compared to some of the other towns that are much busier with tourists.
Best parking: Via C. Colombo, 1, 37016 Garda VR
Where to stay:
Salò is a special town on Lake Garda. It carries with it an important history, having been the capital of Mussolini’s puppet state during World War II.
Salò is on an inlet of Lake Garda, so the boardwalk along the lake has an intimate feel, as you can see across the bay a stretch of luxe Italian villas.
It is one of the larger towns on the lake, but surprisingly, it gave a way less touristy feel than some other smaller towns, like Sirmione and Lazise. So, if you are looking to get away from crowds but still have plenty to do, Salò could be a perfect alternative.
The cathedral of Salò is can’t miss. Thankfully, it is also right next to the best gelato shop in town, La Casa del Dolce.
If you love history, you cannot miss the MUSA – Museum of Salò that regularly exhibits collections related to Italy in World War II.
Best parking: Via Leonesio Marco, 3, 25087 Salò BS
You can also find paid public parking close to the riviera along the streets of the town center.
Where to stay:
- Agriturismo Villa Bissiniga
- Hotel Salò du Parc
- Hotel Spiaggia d’Oro – Charme & Boutique
- Hotel Laurin
Honorable Mention Towns on Lake Garda
You could go to any town on Lake Garda and find stunning villas, beautiful boardwalks, and delicious cuisine. These next towns didn’t make my top five but still have unique characteristics. And, of course, embody the charming, romantic atmosphere of Lake Garda.
11. Torri del Benaco
Quaint and secluded: these are the two words that come to mind when thinking of Torri del Benaco. Torri del Benaco is a small hamlet on the eastern shores of Lake Garda and less frequented than its more popular neighbor, Malcesine. It’s perfect for couples who want a more intimate, quiet experience.
This small lakeside town stands out for its Scaliger Castle that overlooks both ends of Lake Garda.
12. Toscolana Moderna
Toscolana Moderna is a laidback Lake Garda town on its western shore with a beautiful marina and darling villas. It’s also close to Gardone Riviera, one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, and Gargnano, where Villa Feltrinelli is located – a.k.a. the villa that Mussolini used to stay at.
13. Tremosine Sul Garda
High above Lake Garda, built between the curves of the cliffs are towns like Tremosine Sul Garda. This town is extra special for the Terazza del Brivido, a platform that extends from the mountain providing a breathtaking overlook of the lake below.
14. Desenzano Sul Garda
Desenzano Sul Garda is the less touristy city on Lake Garda’s southern coast. If Sirmione is too crowded for you (which is a huge possibility as it gains Insta-fame) then consider visiting Desenzano. It’s also a great place to set off for boating and close to the beautiful Isola del Garda with gardens and a castle-like villa.
15. Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda sits at the south end of the lake and is easy to reach thanks to its train station. The town is encircled by Venetian fortified walls, which have granted it the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The town is also close to the Mincio River that flows through the countryside nearby to storybook villages like Borghetto sul Mincio.
Visiting Lake Garda: How to Get Around
Renting a car is the easiest way to reach anywhere you’d like on Lake Garda, including most of these towns. The scenic roads make it absolutely worth the road trip and will have you enjoying the journey just as much as the destination.
If renting a car isn’t an option for you, then you’ll be more limited where you can visit. You can travel by train to Lake Garda to stations at the south including Desenzano sul Garda/Sirmione station and Peschiera del Garda station.
If you are wanting to reach Riva del Garda and Torbole, you will have to take a train to the nearest station in Rovereto. Then, take a bus from Rovereto to either of the two towns.
Lake Garda is an absolute must for any trip to northern Italy.
Overall, these are the best towns on Lake Garda not to be missed when planning your trip to Italy. I hope you love them just as much as I do!
Which of these amazing towns in Lake Garda are you going to visit first?
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