With stunning cobalt waters, picturesque towns, and a charming landscape, Lake Garda has been a popular summer destination since the classical era. Today it has the laid-back feel of a Mediterranean resort, with olive and lemon cultivations and pristine beaches for long lunches.
Take a sightseeing cruise to see Lake Garda’s most famous sites.
Lake Garda is a captivating beauty that attracts lovers of peace and serenity as well as active travellers and families. Its micro-climate allows lush Mediterranean vegetation to flourish around it while the lake’s famous winds make for a sailing and water sports paradise in summer.
The region was first settled more than 5,000 years ago and remains home to prehistoric, antique and medieval towns that sit along the lakeshore, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore their historic centres by foot or take in the views from the mountains that rise steeply above them.
The best time to visit Lake Garda is from June to September or December to February. During these months, the weather is warm but not uncomfortably hot and there are still plenty of things to do and see. You can also find bargains on food, leather products and other souvenirs at the weekly street markets held in most Lake Garda towns.
Things to Do
With a temperate climate that allows olives and lemons to thrive far north of their normal range, and a turbulent history that’s left well-fortified castles, Roman remains, and sites of interest for World War II buffs, Lake Garda has something for everyone. Add long sandy beaches, a clutch of towns with lakeside promenades and cafes surrounding postcard marinas, and a lifestyle focused on la dolce vita, and you’ve got a winner.
Take a boat ride to see Lake Garda’s dramatic fjord-like northern end and marvel at its mountain scenery. At the top, visit the eccentric former residence of Gabriele D’Annunzio—a poet and war hero—to tour his palatial villa and massive park complete with an amphitheatre, naval ship, and mausoleum.
For foodies, there are plenty of great restaurants around the lakes as well as local markets to stock up on the makings for a picnic. And for some fun, head to Gardaland, a huge theme park with rides and attractions, including the world’s largest water slide.
A large selection of hotels dot Lake Garda, from upscale designer resorts to charming old inns. Rooms here often have stunning views over the serene water or craggy mountains, and many are set among flowering terraces and pine forests.
Our luxury picks include the Hotel Lido Palace, an imposing Art Nouveau mansion with dreamy lake-view rooms, and the Splendido Bay Luxury Spa Resort, where you can enjoy a range of state-of-the-art treatments. Meanwhile, an agriturismo like Locanda Alla Fassa doubles as a much-loved restaurant and offers the chance to stay for an overnight break.
Backpackers can find a hostel that’s also a hotel on the edge of a medieval castle, like the stylish Garda Lake Hostel. Its rooms come with a view and a terrace bar, and you can sample a glass of locally produced wine from the property’s vineyards. The town of Malcesine is a good base for hiking, with gentle loops through wildflower-filled meadows or more adventurous treks along the craggy cliffs.
The food around Lake Garda reflects the culinary traditions of three northern Italian regions. You’ll find dishes that showcase fresh lake fish, local cheeses, and prized truffles as well as the lush produce of the Lombardy-Veneto hinterland and the Alpine peaks of Trentino.
The restaurants range from modern and right on the lake to rustic and inland among the vines, but all feature exceptional chefs and wait staff. Expect a feast of antipasto, bruschetta, pasta, pizza, meat dishes, and scrumptious deserts.
Some must-try items include carne salada — lean, seasoned beef rolled in coarse salt and aromatics like rosemary, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and juniper berries. Also try Luganega sausage, a long pork sausage typical for the region, served split open and grilled with polenta or forest mushrooms. Risotto al tastasal, made with sausage meat, is another regional specialty. And don’t miss a glass of local Bardolino or Garda Chiaretto red wine. It goes perfectly with the richness of the cuisine.gardasee