Lake Garda Italy is a bucket list destination for many people in many countries. For me Italy’s largest Lake had been a dream destination of mine for years, and finally, I’d ticked it off my list. It’s a popular hotspot in Northern Italy loved by many Italians and Europeans, with its serene water and laid back vibe.
While Italy is known for its food, stunning coastlines, and the Dolomites, Lake Garda Italy is not an area you should miss.
To learn more, keep on reading for my insightful Lake Garda Italy Guide.
More about Lake Garda
Lake Garda is an enchanting freshwater lake that boasts 26 communi. To give you an idea of just how large it is, it’s around 51.9 km in length. Don’t be intimidated by its length though it’s easily walkable or cyclable too.
While many areas of the Lake are picturesque, it’s believed that the further North you go, the prettier the views are. However, due to a short window and no car, I could only visit a select few near each other. Speaking of which, most of my travel was bus focused and walking.
The thing is, Lake Garda Italy also gets highly associated that it’s an expensive place to stay, but if you know where to stay and how to travel, it’s pretty affordable, especially if you’re on a bus, cycle, or walking. Sometimes taxis and ferry’s can be expensive, though, so do watch out!
There are a lot of holiday camps, 3 star hotels, and apartments you can rent that are within a reasonable budget.
How to get to Lake Garda
If you plan on traveling to Lake Garda Italy, one of the best ways is by car or public transportation. The easiest places to come from are Bologna, Venice, Verona, or Milan. For me, I traveled from Venice on the train arriving at one of the towns in Garda called Peschiera Del Garda.
The train was super efficient, booking using the Trainline app, leaving from Venice Maestro, arriving at Lake Garda Italy in just over 2 hours, and cost around 12 euros. Plus, once you get off the train, you can easily get a bus from its cozy train station to the area in Garda you’re staying in.
You can easily buy tickets on the Ticket Bus Verona app, and to know where to go, i.e., what bus to take, just type in the destination from Peschiera Del Garda, and it will show you timetables. Do note that the Garda buses only operate till 6 pm, so the best way to get around the Lake is by cycling, bike, or car.
Day 1 Garda, Bardolino, Lazise
If you’re limited on time and travel, you can easily get the most jam-packed three days out of Lake Garda Italy in this guide. What I suggest you do is arrive at Peschiera del Garda station and then travel from there. For most of my stay of the 72 hours, I used Lazise as a base as it’s more affordable than other towns and a scenic one too.
If you have family or are visiting a couple, Lazise might be perfect for you as it’s jam-packed with restaurants, stores, and sports offers. Similarly, it’s not far from well known theme parks like Gardaland and Canevaworld.
Anyways, on your first day, I suggest you spend a fair bit of time in a few towns. Because of that, you’ll want to reach as EARLY as possible. Plus, get your walking shoes, good sneakers, or sandals on! Today is a day where you’re going to cover some distance.
Lazise 1-2 hours
Once you’ve checked into your accommodation, pack your swimsuit, towels, and sun cream. Then, take your time to enjoy the harbor area of Lazise. You might want to walk into the cozy old town for a spot of lunch before you get on your travels. Similarly, you might want to nip to the SPAR supermarket to stock up on snacks, water, and other things before going to Garda later.
A few hours maximum of time is all you need in Lazise.
- Hotel Casanova 3*– $
- Principe Di Lazise Wellness & Hotel Spa– $$
- Quellenhof Luxury Resort Lazise -$$$
After exploring Lazise, it’s time for one of my favorite places on the Lake, Garda! To get to Garda, you’ll need to grab a bus from Lazise. The bus stop is located to the right of SPAR, and to get the tickets, you’ll need to buy them from the Ticket Bus Verona App.
When getting the bus, you’ll pass through Bardolino to reach Garda; the journey should take around 15-20 minutes, not long at all! Often a few buses are going to Garda either terminating there or going further Northbound. When you reach Garda, you’ll be brought to a bus station.
Exit the bus station, turn right, and walk down the path and you’ll slowly be brought to the coastline of Garda. What I love about the town of Garda is that even the coastal line is different; there are different shades of bright green, blues, and a lot more. In comparison to Lazise, it has a more tropical and Mediterranean vibe.
What to do in Garda?
If you wish, you can perhaps visit some restaurants or bars to chill and enjoy the serene scenery around you. However, in my opinion, you can catch a lot more of the beauty of the Lake if you walk slightly around the cove of Garda.
You’ll want to go along past the harbor into the next cove, where you’re brought to cute cobblestone beaches. Here on the cobblestones, you’ll find many Europeans kicking it back and basking in the sun. These beaches you come across embrace the exact beauty of the Lake. You can just lay your towel, lie down and have peace without being charged or nagged for fake Gucci sunglasses like in other European areas.
Enjoy your time there, and spend around 3-4 hours.
After a good few hours in Garda, it’s now time to check out Bardolino. You can easily get to Bardolino by bus or by walk. Now, if you’re feeling energetic like I did, I’d recommend walking! The reason being is that you’ll see the coastline and vibe change as you enter this stunning down. On average, it should take around 45minutes-1 hour, all based on your walking pace.
Bardolino is more of a classy town that is quite upmarket and costlier than other towns, but it is a must visit. If you’re a fan of wine, then you’ll want to try the local wine Bardolino, it’s an Italian Red Wine produced in the morainic hills.
Similarly, if you like winetasting, you might want to spend less time in Garda or skip it and book a trip to one of the vineyards for tastings. You can visit the following vineyards:
These are just a few out of many, so take your time to choose. Plus, because Lake Garda Italy is a popular tourist destination for Europeans and families, you’ll want to book in advance.
When walking around Bardellino, you’ll want to take in its charm and essence. As it’s a more refined and expensive town, you may want to fit in with the locals and dress up smart. Don’t worry about not having money in this town; if you want to eat, there’s something for everyone.
There are plenty of restaurants to choose from in this town, from Italian, Thai, Turkish, and even German. If you have kids, you might want a quick bite to eat at the famous chain, Speckstube. It’s not the fanciest or mouthwatering place, but after a few days of overindulging in Italian food, it was a cheap and meat filled meal.
If you want to eat in Bardolino, here are some other restaurant suggestions you might want to try:
Following your dinner, enjoy the vibe of Bardellino and even watch the sunset on the Lake. If you’re tired, you can catch a bus back (as long as it’s before 6), grab a cab back (ask a local) or walk back to Lazise.
Again, if you’re bloated from all those carbs, walking back is a good option. But you have to be patient! It’s around 1 hour 30 minutes, but it took me 3 hours as I stopped watching the stars over the Lake a lot.
Once you reach Lazise, put your head to rest for the evening.
Day 2 Malcesine
Wake up. Day 2 is upon us!
Today you’re going to go to Malcesine, a stunning quaint little town with lots of things to do; a day trip is enough (unless you’re visiting with your car). To reach Malcesine, you’ll want to use the same bus station you got to Garda, but buy the tickets in advance! To know the times and bus number, type in Lazise to Malcesine on Google Maps for a better idea.
Be amazed by the bus journey as you’ll see the scenery around the lake start to change every 10 minutes.
The bus journey to Malcesine should take around 45-60 minutes, and normally it’s the 164 bus. I recommend you go straight to the shore area of Malcesine so you can get a greater glimpse of its sparkling blue waters.
When you’ve spent a bit of time walking around, I’d recommend going to The Scaliger Castle. This medieval fortress dates back to the first millennium and has a lot of history behind it. Don’t be surprised if you see any weddings or events happening there too.
Inside is a marine museum with some interesting facts about the wildlife in Lake Garda and an epic viewpoint. Simply climb up the bell tower and check out Guarda from the top of the fort. The prices of this castle may be subject to change due to seasonal times, and the best way to find out and get tickets is by getting them at the entrance.
After visiting the castle, you might want to grab a bite to eat before the rest of your plans. My favorite lunch joint, while I was in Malcesine was eating at Osteria Alla Rosa. It’s a gorgeous Instagram worthy cafe with vineyards growing above your head in its outdoor space.
Compared to other places, it’s a bit more pricey but, in my opinion, worth the money. For two people, it came to around €60, but we got quite a bit. I savored the local prosecco, which was the best prosecco I’d ever tasted! I kind of regret asking the name of the prosecco now. Alongside this, my partner and I ate jumbo prawns, lasagne, and spaghetti tagliatelle. It’s safe to say out of my travels in Northern Italy; this was my best meal to date.
Bold statement, I know.
You can also try this restaurant or others too if you choose.
Once your stomach is satisfied, you should definitely get the Mount Baldo cable car. Make sure you leave enough time in the afternoon as the last cable car stops between 5:00-6:30 pm, depending on the season.
You can get tickets at the ticket office, and you should check their cost with them as they have different rates available based on the person. Do note, due to regulations, they require you to wear a mask on the cable car, and it’s most likely they’ll as you to purchase one from them.
The cable car is modern but a bit cramped; therefore, they’ll try to get as many people on it up to around 25 at a time! It’s a standing one too, but the views of Garda are pretty spectacular, taking you to the top of Mount Baldo at 1800 meters.
Once at the top of Mount Baldo, you can do many things. Whether you want to grab a beer, snack, or even sunbathe in one of its cool mountain cafes, you can. But if you’re an outdoors lover like myself, you might want to take a short hike across the mountain and see the beautiful terrains.
If only I had more time, I’d extend my trip in Lake Garda and go exploring, as this mountain serves as a gateway for many well known hiking routes. You can even see the Dolomites in the distance from the top of this cable car. This is also a great spot for scenic photos too from the top.
Spend some time on the top, but remember to leave enough time for the cable car to get to the bottom. Once at the bottom, you’ll want to get a cab back or catch the second last bus before 6. The stop is just on the opposite side of the road to the left of SPAR. I say second last because some of the buses are delayed and come from the North of Garda.
It should be the same 164 bus to get back to Lazise.
Once you’ve reached Lazise, enjoy the sunset over Garda that evening. If you wish, have a few sundowners and dinner in the town too.
Restaurants in Lazise
- George’s Fish and Chips -$$
- Gem’s brew pub– $$
- La Taverna del Borgo– $$$
Day 3- Sirmione
On your last day, I suggest you check out Sirmione before taking your journey onward. In a car or bus, Sirmione takes around 45 minutes- 1 hour and 15 minutes of travel time. Do note you might have to change transport at Peschiera station.
Simone is a must see sight on the Lake, which is in the south after Peschiera Del Garda. Here in this town, you can visit its thermal baths and medieval castle, which is arguably the most impressive on Lake Rocca Scaligera.
Spend your time exploring the castle and then grab some lunch at a quaint cafe in Sirmione or head back for lunch in Peschiera del Garda.
Unfortunately, as I haven’t really eaten in these towns, I can’t suggest to you the best restaurants.
Overall, Lake Garda, Italy is one of the must see sights in Northern Italy. Compared to well known cities like Verona, Venice, Milan, and Turin, this provides a different travel experience. Whether you’re going with your family, partner, friends, or even on your own, there’s something for everyone. I cannot wait to get back out there on this gorgeous Lake; it’s one of my favorites in all of Europe.
Do you prefer lakes or beaches when traveling? Let me know your opinion below.
Other Similar Questions
How many days is enough in Lake Garda?
If you’re traveling by car 2-3 days should be enough to see most of Lake Garda. Otherwise, if you’re using public transport, walking, or cycling, you might want to take up to a week of vacation. There’s a lot to do in Lake Garda, Italy!
Which is better Lake Como or Lake Garda?
Lake Garda, Italy, and Lake Como have their own charm. If you’re looking for a more laid back vibe with castles, fortresses, and ancient sites, then Lake Garda. Whereas if you want to go somewhere more touristy with villas, check out Lake Como.
Where to stay in Lake Garda Italy?
There are a lot of different towns and communi you can stay in Lake Garda, Italy. Two of the most well known areas are Sirmione and Malescine. But, if you plan on staying in these, book accommodation in advance!
How to travel around Lake Garda Italy?
Lake Garda, Italy, is best explored by car, motorbike, scooter, or bicycle. If you plan on getting a public bus, you’re capped for time, and walking is just too tiring as the Lake is around 370km long, which will take days!
When is the best time to visit Lake Garda?
Lake Garda, Italy, is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. The peak and best times to go for weather are in September and late June. If you go before June in May, the water might be colder.