Lake Garda is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. The vicinity of the biggest lake of the country offers a lot of things to do for al kinds of leisurely activities for watersporters, nature lovers and culture enthusiasts. Especially for this last group, a visit to any random village in the area will make them fall in love with it. We packed our gear and went on a quest to find 7 awesome things to do around Lake Garda.
Lake Garda in northern Italy
Like mentioned before is Lake Garda, with its 370km² surface, Italy’s largest lake. Around here you can get yourself immersed with la dolce vita, ‘the Italian life’. Enjoy the, Italian cuisine, awesome wines or a nice Aperol Spritz, one of Italy’s most famous drinks. Stroll through the narrow streets, admire at the colorful houses and gaze over the vineyards and the immense lake at sunset. Not surprisingly this is one of the best holiday destinations in Europe. With so much to do in so little time (as vacations are usually too short), we made you a list to narrow down the things to do around Lake Garda.
We went by car, but it’s also possible to fly to Lake Garda. The best way to reach the lake is to fly to Milan. Want to spend some time in Milan as well? Read about the best tips for how to spend 24 hours in Milan.
Lake Garda is home to lots of pittoreske villages. Too many to choose from. In this article you’ll find our seven most favorite.
It’s one of the most popular places around Lake Garda. It has a car free city center which gives it a nice, relaxing vibe. Bardolino is also famous for its wine. We’re no wine drinkers, so we’ll leave it to the pros to give you information about it.
The city center revolves around the Piazza Matteotti, which looks more like a wide street instead of a square. One of the most important places of interest of Bardolino is the Santi Nicole e Severo Church. You can visit it for free, but be sure not to be too underdressed. There are lots of things to do in and around Bardolino, so spending a night over there isn’t the worst of ideas. Compare accommodations in Bardoline here.
Sirmione: Castello Rocco Scaligera
On the southbank of Lake Garda you’ll find Sirmione. Perhaps what’s most unique about this village is its location. The peninsula Sirmione is on is a thin arm that stretches onto the lake with the ‘Pear of Lake Garda’ at the end. Just behind the gate that gives access to ‘The Pearl’, Castello Rocco Scaligera is build. This castle was built in the 15th century and it can be visited for a fee. After you have passed the castle on the right, it’s time to enter the cute little village.
The buildings are beautiful and it’s not hard to imagine what is must have been in the Middle Ages. It would be a lot easier though if the entire village wasn’t exploited by shop and restaurant owners. Everywhere you look are store signs and banners. Ok, fair enough. Everyone has to make a living, but the amount of tourists here is staggering. We were there during peak season, so it’s probably better otherwise. If you’re planning to stay overnight, take a look at Hotel Sirmione. We spotted it when we entered the city gate. It looks out over the lake and has a perfect location just outside the busy streets. Let us know how it was!
Just beyond the old town of Sirmione, at the edge of the Peninsula lies Grotte di Catullo, which are the ruins of a Roman villa. The ancient structure is open for visitors and they also have a museum.
Pecheira: Venice of Lake Garda
The fortified town of Peichera doesn’t seem like much when approaching the gate, but once you enter Lake Garda’s own ‘Venice’, you immediately see its beauty. Like in other villages along Lake Garda’s coast, Old Pecheira also has cute cobblestone alleys and streets. What is special over here is the large canal that runs through the town. A few gorgeous bridges cross the water and the quays are littered with terraces to have a cool drink. Most terraces can be found along the Viale Cordigero. Like in Venice, it’s possible to book a gondola to explore the area. The experience is about the same, but the price is way lower:)
Between Pachengo and Bardolino lies Lazise. With its adorable harbour and pittoreske streets and boutique shops, this village is to fall in love with. Along the water are numerous terraces and just outside the harbour you can take the ferry to other places around Lake Garda. One of the big upsides of Lazise is that the center is mainly car free. Roam the alleys and streets without having to be afraid to be run over. Another highlight in Lazise is Chiesa di San Nicolò, a 12th century church.
Like other towns on the Lake Garda’s shore, Gardone Riviera also has some interesting old buildings. This town, however, is not as old as the other ancient buildings mentioned before. Gardone Riviera was mainly built in the 19th century. The town actually consists of two combined towns: Gardone Sopra, uphill and Gardone Sotto, on the shore. If you’re a nature lover and want to know what to do around Lake Garda, Gardone Riviera is the place for you. Because of its favorable climate, a lot of vegetation grows here. Pay a visit to Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller, a botanical garden and see for yourself how beautiful it is over here. If you’re into it, you can visit the former house and museum of Gabriele d’Annunzio. Who? Right.. If you’re into poetry, this might be a cool thing to visit since d’Annunzio was a poet.
One of the lesser known and also the smallest village in this list is Pachengo. A truly genuine Italian village; large church in the middle, a circle of small cafes around it and houses as a third ring. It will take you about ten minutes to see the whole village. Unless you spend an hour on one of the terraces to have a drink. Beware that not many people over here speak English.
Another gem along Lake Garda is Salò. The town suffered a large earthquake in 1901, but luckily they restored everything in its glory. The cathedral is its biggest attraction, but Saló is also a shopping haven.
Do you have villages to add to this list? Leave them in the comments! Thanks!
Also read: Chioggia, Italy’s Little Venice