The 16 best sights of Lake Garda – descriptions and photos

Lake Garda in Italy: detailed guide

My family and I often go to Lake Garda, each time discovering new beautiful and interesting places. Today I’m going to tell you what must see in Garda and which towns deserve special attention.

  • Cities around Lake Garda
  • Sirmione on Lake Garda
  • Scaligers Castle in Sirmione
  • The Grotto of Catullus, the ruins of a Roman villa
  • Rabbit Island near Sirmione
  • Thermae of Sirmione
  • Where to stay in Sirmione
  • City of Desenzano del Garda and its attractions
  • Top 3 Hotels in Desenzano del Garda for my taste
  • Gardaland Park rides
  • Other amusement parks on Garda
  • Bardolino: the place of red wine and olive oil
  • Lacise is the southernmost town on the lake
  • Garda town
  • Malcesine on Lake Garda
  • Riva del Garda
  • Sightseeing in Riva del Garda
  • Arco
  • Gardone Riviera
  • Gargnano in Italy
  • Salò on Lake Garda
  • Salò sights
  • Vittoriale Museum Complex
  • Where to stay on Lake Garda
  • Villas by Lake Garda
  • Hotels with beach on Lake Garda
  • Lake Garda Excursions
  • FAQ

Lake Garda is located in Italy and is just north of the city of Verona. It is oriented to families as well as water sports enthusiasts.

It is the largest lake in Italy, stretching from the steep Alpine foothills to the northern borders of the Padana Plain. The southern shore is surrounded by beaches and low hills, while to the north the lake is fringed by mountains and steep cliffs, especially along the western shore. Thanks to the beautiful landscape, Lake Garda attracts a large number of sports enthusiasts to its shores.

The steady winds create ideal conditions for sailing and windsurfing, and the mountains constantly attract climbers, rock climbers and mountain bikers. And imagine that all this – with a magnificent view of the lake.

This advantageous location ensures a temperate climate on Lake Garda all year round – olives and lemons grow very well here.

The lake has partly a turbulent history, leaving behind several ancient Roman castles as well as other landmarks of interest to WWII enthusiasts.

Add to this the long sandy beaches and many waterfront towns on the lake, as well as the cute cafes around the marinas with luxury yachts, and you realize that on Lake Garda there is something for everyone.

It is impossible to see the beauty of the lake without a car in a short period of time, so I recommend renting a car, or take a tour of Lake Garda

I hope this list of the best sights will help you plan your trip around Lake Garda properly.

Cities around Lake Garda

It is important to understand that the length of the lake is 52 km, width – 17 km, surface area – 370 sq km and there are a large number of small towns around it. The most interesting of them we will describe in detail in this article.

You could definitely easily spend a whole week or more here without worrying that you would have nothing to do. The attractions listed below are in geographic order, starting at the southern end of the lake, then heading up the eastern shore and then down the western shore.

Sirmione on Lake Garda

The picturesque little town of Sirmione is located at the end of a long promontory that juts out into the lake from its southern shore.

Sirmione is ideal not only for families and young people, but also for those who like to immerse themselves in the beauty of old towns. We have chosen for you the best places that are really worth visiting.

Scaligers Castle in Sirmione

There is only one way to get to the center of the city – the lift bridge over the moat takes you to the courtyard of the beautiful Scaliger Castle and then into the city.

Surrounded by water the fortress was built in the 12th century by the Scaligers, the ruling family of Verona, as a defensive fortress against Milan. The castle later came under the control of the Venetian Republic.

On the lower level of the castle you can admire the remaining architectural fragments and sculptures of former eras. Be sure to climb the main tower. Despite the fact that you have to climb 146 steps, then you will be rewarded with a great panoramic view of the lake and the city of Sirmione.

Inside the castle there is a wonderful spa complex – in ancient times before the Scaligers, the Romans came here to bathe in the sulfur springs.

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On weekends Sirmione can be crowded with tourists strolling through expensive boutiques and relaxing in cafes with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

Address: Via Guglielmo Marconi, Sirmione, Brescia

The Grotto of Catullus, the ruins of a Roman villa

The Roman poet Catullus lived from 84 to 54 B.C. The view of the lake and the valley inspired him to build a splendid villa at the far end of the peninsula.

The ruins of the once luxurious house were not discovered until the 15th century. Many historians are still puzzled by the question of what exactly there was – whether it was a huge bathing complex, or an ancient resort with a full range of services.

Before you go on a tour of the ruins and enjoy the view of the lake in three directions, be sure to visit the small but interesting museum located at the entrance to the complex.

You can reach the Grotto of Catullus from the center of Sirmione on foot in 15 minutes or by the electric tourist train, which starts from Piazza Piatti.

To see the city from the water, I recommend booking a tour on the boat that leaves from the pier opposite the Castle of Sirmione. It is a fantastic experience.

Rabbit Island near Sirmione

One thing you should definitely do while in Sirmione is to take a boat trip to the islands near the city. About twenty minutes away by boat, you can admire the small island of San Biagio, known as “Rabbit Island.” It is a little piece of paradise, with beautiful, dense vegetation and with a large number of rabbits, the inhabitants of this place, now accustomed to the presence of man.

Thermae of Sirmione

After exploring the city, take time to relax and immerse yourself in the thermal waters. The town is also known for its Aquaria Spa, which has everything you need for quality relaxation and well-being.

Surrounded by plants in a charming park, the center offers thermal pools, aromatic showers and much more. In the evening, you can admire the beautiful sunset by dipping into the warm water pool overlooking Lake Garda.

Where to stay in Sirmione

It depends a lot on your budget, but here are the top 5 hotels, in my opinion.

    – a small hotel near the beach and the city center. The hotel has a restaurant and bar and free bike rental – is a short drive from the center, with a great view of the lake and the hotel garden. The hotel has a restaurant and pool – the hotel is right on the shore in the historic center and has stunning views. – also located in the historic center overlooking the lake, especially delicious breakfasts made by the chef – the hotel has a large pool and spa, there is a Finnish bath, Turkish hammam and whirlpool baths of all kinds.

City of Desenzano del Garda and its attractions

If you come to Lake Garda by train or by car from the A4 freeway, the town of Desenzano del Garda is the place where you can see for the first time the view of the largest lake in Italy.

Located west of Sirmione, this lively little town is nestled around a bay with piers from which small steamboats and ships sail to various towns around the lake.

In the 10th century a castle was built on top of the town, of which almost nothing remains except the tower, from which you can admire a great panorama of the lake and the surrounding towns.

The ruins of the Roman Villa, dating back to the 4th century BC, were excavated near the center of the Old Town. They have preserved beautiful mosaics.

In the central square of the Duomo is the main temple of the city – the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena, built in the style of classicism and striking in its scale.

The town of Desenzano del Garda with its many cafes and restaurants and convenient boat connections is an excellent starting point to explore Lake Garda.

Top 3 Hotels in Desenzano del Garda for my taste

    – Rooftop pool, 10 minutes from the center. Restaurant and terrace overlooking the lake. – In the center of town, 5 minutes walk from the harbor, right on the waterfront. – Outdoor pools with spectacular views of the lake

Gardaland Park rides

Several amusement and theme parks are located in the southeastern part of Lake Garda, between the towns of Peschiera del Garda and Lacise.

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The best known (in fact, one of the most famous in all of Europe) is Gardaland, a grandiose amusement complex that includes more than 35 attractions, including the Gardaland Sea-Life Aquarium.

There is also the Gardaland Hotel on the grounds, you can book it to spend time in Gardaland. This unique park has entertainment for all tastes, from children’s carousels to rides that will delight thrill-seekers. For example, the Blue Tornado roller coaster is a guaranteed nerve-racking ride through a dead loop.

In 2018, Gardaland opened Peppa Pig Land, a children’s fantasy village with various rides and activities for young children.

Other amusement parks on Garda

Not far from Gardaland is Kaneva World, a theme park dedicated to the movie world, with shows and activities based on popular movies, and the beautiful Aqua Paradise Landscape Park with palm trees, white sand beaches, pools, water slides and various water rides.

In this area, but a little further from the lake shore is the Naturo Viva Park, where you can see real African wildlife – lions, giraffes and hippos. There is also a dinosaur park with quite realistic models of prehistoric creatures.

Address: Via Derna 4, Castelnuovo del Garda

Bardolino: the place of red wine and olive oil

On the southeastern shore, rising on the gentle slopes of Monte Baldo, surrounded by olive groves and vine-covered fields, are four charming towns.

Here, boats bob in their little harbors, cute cafes line the lake shore, and frequent festivals decorate the streets and parks with colorful stalls.

Lacise – the southernmost city of the lake

The southernmost town is Lacise, with its medieval city walls and castle built in the 14th century by the Scaliger family of Verona.

In nearby Bardolino, at the Museo del Olio d’Oliva, you can see how olives are pressed for oil. There’s also the Church of San Severo, dating back to the 8th century, which you can look inside to admire the excellent frescoes.

Garda town

The next place is the tranquil and picturesque town of Garda, which gave its name to the entire island. The historic center of Garda still retains the charm of the medieval fortress on whose site the town was built.

Between the towns of Garda and Torri del Benaco is the beautiful cypress promontory of San Vigilio with a popular (though pebbly) beach, above which rises a beautiful 16th century palace.

In the small town of Torri del Benaco there is another medieval castle of the Scaligero family, which houses an ethnographic museum.

Malcesine on Lake Garda

The town of Malcesine sits on the slope of Monte Baldo overlooking the lake. At the top of the town is Scaligero Castle, dating back to the 13th century.

Its fortress walls descend directly into the lake. The views from the castle observation deck are magnificent – you will be surrounded on all sides by mountains.

This castle is a favorite place for weddings. You can visit both the castle itself and the museum inside, dedicated to the great German classic Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Narrow streets rise up to the castle, winding through tiny squares and medieval stone buildings.

This city with its perfect landscapes always attracts many tourists. Everyone who has been here notes that walking through this area brings incomparable pleasure – convenient roads and no fuss. This is due to the fact that in the historic part of town all traffic is prohibited.

So you will enjoy wandering through the beautiful streets, have lunch in nice restaurants, and admire the paintings in the art studios.

In Malcesine you can ride the cable car. The cable car takes you higher and higher, offering spectacular views.

At the top, you can walk along the picturesque ridge of Monte Baldo on hiking trails.

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda is located at the northern end of the Lake Garda coast. The city is enclosed by mountain ranges – the Alps seem to embrace it. By the way, because of the landscape the movement of boats with motors here is strictly prohibited.

Due to such a wonderful location, Riva del Garda is called the “pearl of Lake Garda”, it is one of the most beautiful places on the lake. The city is a pretty combination of medieval old streets and sunny parks and promenades on the promenades.

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Sightseeing in Riva del Garda

The landmark of the city is the Apponale Tower, located on the square in the center of the Old Town.

From its top you could observe the actions of military opponents, and now from here you have a magnificent view of the city and its surroundings. A little lower on the tower hangs an enormous antique clock.

On the eastern shore of the lake is the ancient Municipal Palace of Rocca del Riva, another Scaliger castle built between the 12th and 15th centuries. Inside is a magnificent museum with prehistoric and later artifacts.

Garda – the largest lake in Italy

On the outskirts of Lombardy, just 1.5 hours from Milan, stands one of Italy’s natural attractions – Lake Garda. The blue waters of the lake are surrounded by the lush greenery of Italian nature and the mighty slopes of the Alpine Mountains.

Garda is the biggest lake of the country with 52 km length and 17 km width, and the water surface area – 370 km2 . The lake and the surrounding area is an ideal place for recreation, both in summer and autumn. The mild and warm climate, luxurious views and many options for leisure activities.

Geographic features.

Map-Lake of Garda in Italy

The shape of the lake, when viewed from the sky, resembles that of a Neanderthal axe. The body of water has a distinctly long, narrow “shaft” with a wide “tip” at the end. In times immemorial, glaciers descending from the peaks of the Alps gave the valley such an interesting shape. The Garda is fed by the Aril River, as well as by powerful deep springs. At its deepest point the bottom of the lake is almost 350 meters from the water surface. The unique microclimate is created by the jagged ridge of the Alpine mountains. It looks like a warm scarf, tied by the caring Mother Nature, around the picturesque length. The imposing height of the peaks, reaching into the sky for a kilometer, or even as much as two, ensures excellent windless weather in the lake region.

Where to stay

At Lake Garda you can find accommodation for all budgets. The cost of a night in an inexpensive hotel or camping starts from 50 euros per night. The average cost of a 3 or 4-star hotel is in the range from 100 to 120 euros per night.

See my picks for tips:

The name of the lake.

Such a beautiful corner of Italy at one time was very fond of the viceroys of the Roman Empire. They loved to spend their time on the shores of Benaco (lat. Benacus lacus) – “blessed lake”. Later it received the Italian name Garda. There are two versions of the name “Garda”. According to one of them, the word came from a distortion of the German “Warda”, which translated meant “watch post”. The other is that the lake was named after a town near it in the Veneto region.

Nature and scenery

Lake Garda Italy

Lake Garda connects the three neighbouring regions of Veneto, Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige. The eastern shore of the lake, which falls on Verona, has a second name – the Riviera of Olives . The gentle Mediterranean type of climate allows for the cultivation of olive trees in the valley. The Lombardy part of the lake was named the Riviera of Lemons . Enterprising Italians have arranged on the gentle slope of the mountains lemon gardens in the form of stepped terraces. The region is famous for its winemaking, cuisine and olive oil production. The entire perimeter of the lake is surrounded by a dozen small towns, which are simply bathed in the fragrance of nature and the golden rays of the sun. The clear waters of Garda flow smoothly into the jagged line of the mountain landscape. The terracotta roofs of the houses are buried in the lush greenery of vineyards, fruit orchards and natural groves. The lake valley is filled with incredible colors when the grasses and trees are in bloom. The cocktail of the purest mountain air and divine fragrance of flowers tones you down and makes you a little dizzy!

Great European writers and artists were regulars in this wonderful place. Such names as Johann Goethe, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and James Joyce are listed in the registers of the Garda Lake lodgings. And David Herbert Lawrence mentioned in his memoirs that Lake Garda is as beautiful as the source of creation.



Sirmione-Lake Garda Italy

The town of Sirmione (Italian: Sirmione), nestled on the western shore of the lake, is a center of tourism. Initially modest in size (population 6,000) the city has grown as the region has become popular with tourists. Sirmione is home to several interesting sights and healing thermal springs.

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The huge fort that protects the city from the lake is the most imposing structure in Sirmione. Its name, Scaliger’s Castle, gives off an unwavering will and the thunder of discharging guns. The fort was built in the 13th century and served to guard the port. The crenellated walls guarding the castle are made of gray stone.

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Castle-Scaliger-Sirmione-Lake Garda

Previously, the only entrance to the interior was a drawbridge. In modern times, the veteran bridge has surrendered its powers to its stationary counterpart. The impregnable walls of the castle hide a museum dedicated to the history of the city and the fort. Other city harbor, equipped with so dense protection in Italy, not to be found. Scaliger Castle looks especially interesting at night, lit by lanterns.

Grotto of Catullus


The remains of the manor of Roman Gaius Valerius Catullus are known to the modern vacationers as the Grotte Catullo. The poet who glorified the greatness of the Roman Empire lived in the I century BC. Picturesque views of the mountains and the lake valley nourished his muse. Thanks to this, Catullus built his villa on the shore of what was then Lake Benacca. The ruins of the once luxurious house were rediscovered only in the 15th century. At that time they were badly cleared and were water grottos.

The manor house is adjoined by a large park filled with olive trees and time-darkened fragments of a large villa. A walk through such scenery is akin to a short walk back in time.

Boiola Healing Spring

Healing Spring-Boyola-Therms-Sirmione

The Boiola curing spring (Fonte Boiola) is famous for its waters that cure a host of ailments. Bubbling streams of water rich in iodine, sulphur and bromine gush out of the ground at a temperature of 70°C!

The procedures at the thermae of Boiola help people get rid of skin diseases, relieve rheumatism and chronic inflammations of the ear. However, quite healthy and satisfied travelers are invited to visit the thermal spring located on the territory of Hotel Fonte Boiola. A complex of SPA procedures, as well as extremely useful for maintaining health and beauty, will satisfy the wishes of even the most fastidious client.

Salò, another Lombardy town, is famous for its large variety of water activities. A historical attraction is the villa complex, which hosted members of the government of the Italian Social Republic as well as the Duce Mussolini personally (1942-43).

Desenzano del Garda

The town of Desenzano del Garda (Italian Desenzano del Garda) fascinates with its views of the lake. Walking through the streets of the town you can enjoy the smooth waters of Garda as if in a mirror.

Desenzano del Garda

Art lovers will find it interesting to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Magdalena. Desenzano del Garda has an excellent tourist infrastructure. You can go sailing, surfing and scuba diving. And when night falls on the city, young and energetic people will find something to do, numerous clubs and discos hospitably open their doors.

  • See a review of the best hotels in Desenzano del Garda

Limone sul Garda


A small town with the citrusy name of Limone sul Garda (Italian Limone sul Garda) also belongs to the Lemon Riviera. The western shore of Lake Garda is the northernmost point where citrus trees bear fruit and mature. The residents are big fans of the fruit they produce. Could this be the reason for their record longevity? The small town is not subject to hustle and bustle and offers its visitors delicious home-cooked meals, leisurely walks, and an almost rustic pastoral. Limone sul Garda is perfect for families, especially those traveling with children.



On the eastern shore of the lake is a town Malcesine (Italian – Malcesine). It is not only amazingly beautiful, but also closely connected with the life of German poet Johann Goethe. Travelers can visit the city’s museums, climb to the top of Mount Baldo with the help of a cable car. In the evenings, from the hilly area Malcesine offers a beautiful view of the Scaliger Castle, where weddings often take place. By the way, the air currents that run down the slopes of the mountains, allow fans of windsurfing and parachuting to develop perfectly.

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Gardone Riviera


Gardone Riviera is a sort of luxurious holiday destination in the valley of Lake Garda. Luxurious villas, fragrant nature, a huge botanical garden named after Andre Heller, create an indescribable atmosphere. At the time of the tsarist Russia, the rich and powerful often visited this resort.


The town of Bardolino is full of greenery. It is located on fertile land, the land favored by noble Italians for centuries. There are many villas and palaces dotting the landscape. In the city itself it is worth visiting the church dedicated to the patron saint – Nicholas the Wonderworker. Another trademark of Bardolino is red wine, the taste of which has delighted visitors for centuries.

Hotels in Bardolino on Lake Garda

Arco Castle

Castle-Arco-Lake Garda

Another historical curiosity of Lake Garda is the Castle of Arco (Italian: Castello di Arco). According to some information the castle was built around 1000 A.D. The high towers of the structure, towering like candles on a steep mountainside in the region of Trentino. Built by wealthy inhabitants of the province, Arco castle has been in the hands of many noble families, including the Scaligers. Careful restoration of this ancient fortress allowed to put in order numerous frescoes dating back to the Middle Ages.

Riva del Garda

Riva del Garda Ducks

The main attraction of the town of Riva del Garda are the ducks, which can be rightly called the true masters of the local beaches. The beaches themselves are a lawn with a very narrow strip of pebbles. This place is ideal for a measured relaxing family vacation with children.

  • You will need a review of the best hotels in Riva del Garda

Excursions in Russian

On Lake Garda, the author’s tour along the Lemon or Olive Riviera is led by Olga Mursyaeva, a guide from the ITALY FOR ME team. Depending on the program chosen by tourists, an individual tour of 8 hours includes a tasting of local wines or a visit to a cheese factory. We recommend!

How to get to Lake Garda

The closest airports to Lake Garda are in Milan Malpensa and Bergamo, Venice – Marco Polo and Treviso, Verona – Valerio Catullo Villafranca

Train stations are in the towns of Peschiera del Garda or Desenzano del Garda, located on the shores of the lake.

From Milan

Regional and high-speed trains depart several times an hour from Milano Centrale to Desenzano station. The Frecciarossa high-speed train takes only 51 minutes, and the ticket costs 26 euros. The regional train takes about an hour and a half and will cost you 9.20 euros.

Train schedule from Milan to Lake Garda

Also, three times a day in the direction of Desenzano from Milan runs the best trains in Italy – Italotreno. If you take care of the tickets in advance, you can get there for only 9.90 euros.

Italotreno train schedule from Milan to Lake Garda

  • See detailed instructions: How to get to Garda from Milan

From Treviso or Trieste

Treviso is a little closer to the lake. A rental car takes a couple of hours to reach Garda. And if you’re coming from Trieste, the drive should take about three hours.

From Verona

If you choose the point of departure of Verona, you can comfortably travel by train to the south shore of Garda to the town of Desenzano del Garda. Passengers will be able to take the regional train at Verona Central Station. The train will be in transit for 15-20 minutes and the cost of the ticket is up to 4 euros.

  • See instructions: How to get from Verona to Sirmione

To the north of the lake

To the north of the lake, for example in Riva del Garda, you can get from Rovereto by bus. The railway station of Rovereto is connected to Rome, Verona, Florence, Bologna and Milan by high-speed trains.

Cab from Verona to Sirmione to Lake Garda

Also Verona and the Garda coast are connected by bus. Routes number 162 and 163 will go along the winding serpentine for about 45-50 minutes. In doing so, passengers will be able to admire the views and get off at one of the stations: Bardolino, Garda, Lacise, Malcesine, Riva del Garda. This concludes our little stroll along the shores of Lake Garda.

We hasten to assure you that this is far from all the charms of the mountain valley. Believe me, the beauty of the Italian Alps and tender tenderness of the Gardian coast is impossible to describe in words. The cheerfulness of this hospitable region has to be experienced!

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