Lake Garda holidays

Experience Lake Garda

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Lake Garda is surrounded by quaint and interesting towns. Regardless of which ones travellers end up reaching, they're bound to have a good time while seeing the sights. The lake's best-known destination, Riva del Garda, has become a major tourist hub while still managing to retain its old-town charm.

Boasting the area's highest vertical mountains, Riva del Garda produces some of the region's most spectacular views. The pedestrianised old quarter of the town is a character-filled area which is perfect for walking.

Salo, on the western coast of the lake, is one of the region's most picturesque little towns. Secluded in its own bay, Sal' has, more than other Lake Garda towns, retained its old-fashioned allure, which is evident in the regal 17th-century architecture and slow pace of life. Home to some valuable Renaissance artwork, Salo has a rich cultural heritage and offers visitors more than simply a few lazy days at the lake shore.

Gargnano is the region's most underrated town and possibly also the most beautiful. The town is less of a resort and more of a residential and working area, but therein lies its charm. Not many travellers make it to this side of the shore, which makes walking through the quiet streets and visiting the charming waterfront caf's even more of a treat.

Located in the very south of Lake Garda and famous for its plethora of delicious ice-cream flavours, Sirmione is worth a trip to the 'bottom' of the lake's shore. Once a strategic military location, Sirmione is steeped in history, which is well-preserved in the castle at the end of the peninsula. Sirmione is more expensive than other Lake Garda towns but is nevertheless an interesting place to visit.

Brenzone is a cluster of smaller, unspoilt villages that lie between Malcesine and Torri del Benaco. A superb area in which to relax and explore, there are many small, shingle beaches from which to watch local sailing boats. A port area, there are some excellent places to eat, specialising in fresh fish and seafood.

By comparison, Lazise is a much busier town, its winding streets lined with ornamental lampposts. Many of the streets find their way to charming piazzas, where the locals prefer to eat. The nearby Castle of Lazise is one of the best examples of 14th Century architecture on Lake Garda. Being inhabited, its fortifications can only be seen from outside.

Top Landmarks

Drena Castle is a mysterious and enchanting fortress which dominates the Drena coastline and dates back to the Middle Ages. Once destroyed by French troops in the 18th century, the castle has been restored and provides a window into the Lake Garda that once was. Only 15km from Riva del Garda, there is a museum which houses interesting archaeological finds and intriguing historical information.

Three kilometres north of Riva del Garda is the Parco Grotta Cascata Varone. A beautiful gorge system, housing billowing waterfalls, this site offers a break from the hustle of the lake's traditional tourist centres. Not only are there 100m high waterfalls, but walking trails, cave systems and gorgeous botanical gardens.

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani (Shrine of Italian Victories) is a must-visit for lovers of Italian history and politics. This lavish hillside estate located in Gardone Riviera, near Sal', was once home to the notorious Italian writer Gabriele d'Annunzio, who lived here until his death in 1922. The opulence of the building, which has an amphitheatre, a mausoleum and two separate waiting rooms, is something to behold.

The Piazza III Novembre in Riva del Garda is one of Lake Garda's most recognised landmarks. The square houses the town's symbol, the Revolving Angel, which sits atop the Apponale Tower. The Piazza III Novembre is a prime spot for that quintessential holiday snap, and visitors who are fit enough to climb the 165 stairs to the top will be rewarded with the best views of the town and lake.

Entertainment

The activity around Lake Garda doesn't quiet down after sunset, with several bars, pubs and discos open until 02:00. There are opportunities for a good night out in most of the towns, with live music and laughter reverberating around the lake.

If it's live music you're after, Lake Garda will not disappoint; La Cantina del Gato Borracho is a quaint wine bar in Limone sul Garda which has some of the best in town. Bardolino also has a great selection of watering holes but one, in particular, is known to leave patrons very happy. Catch dinner and a show at the Art Club Musical Theatre, which puts on everything from fabulous drag shows to raunchy strip tease.

For a chance to dance, visit one of the many discos around the lake. Bardolino is the place to go for tourists looking to get their feet moving, with Central Bardolino housing the Primo Life Club, which has three dance floors, and The Hollywood Club, which has been in operation since 1986 and provides some of the best entertainment in the town.

For visitors who are not interested in the nightlife that Lake Garda has to offer, there are several other activities which provide lots of entertainment. In the summer especially, there is a broad range of festivals which cater for many different tastes. From the Garda Jazz Festival in Riva del Garda, which takes place in June, to the August Art Festival in Toscolano, there is something for everyone.

Dining Out

Delicious, authentic Italian cuisine can be enjoyed almost anywhere around Lake Garda.

While many restaurants feature upscale Italian cuisine and gourmet menus, average priced eateries with lake views are also available in the likes of Nago-Torbole and Gargnano. Pizzerias are prevalent and popular.

Italian breakfasts are light and sweet while lunches are typically much larger and considered more important than dinners, which are equally delicious. Tourists should expect most establishments to be closed for at least two hours during the middle of the day.

Try a coffee with a cornetto (a pastry filled with chocolate or jam) in the morning, risotto or a hearty ribollita (vegetable soup using ingredients leftover from an earlier meal) for lunch and end off with a delicious pici (hand-rolled pasta served with a vegetable and meat sauce). Italian gelato (ice-cream) is the best after-dinner sweet, with some gelato shops holding up to 50 unique flavours.

Coffee is popular country-wide and local bars and cafes specialise a range of varieties. There also several native alcoholic beverages which are worth a try including Italian beers like Peroni and Moretti, and local brews like Limoncello, made from lemon peels and Grappa, a spirit produced from grape skins.

Beach

Because the beaches are on the shore of a lake, travellers should not expect pure white sands and crystal clear waters. That said, Lazise Beach comes quite close to this description and is probably the best beach in the Lake Garda region. The lake makes for a refreshing swim but for a real beach experience, tourists should try one of Italy's southern coasts.  

Romance

Italy is one of the world's most romantic destinations, and Lake Garda is no exception. Slow sunset cruises against the backdrop of the breathtaking Dolomite Mountains can be easily arranged. Better yet, why not cruise to nearby Verona, the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and arguably the most romantic place in the country?

Family

For those travelling with children, Gardaland, just to the north of Lake Garda, will save the day. The country's largest theme park, Gardaland has a variety of fun activities and games which are suitable for the entire family. Most exciting are the many exhilarating rollercoaster rides like the super-fast Blue Tornado. Kids are guaranteed to be entertained for the entire day.

Adventure

Adventure-seekers should take advantage of the lake, which is perfect for water sports like sailing and windsurfing. There are a few clubs which operate in the area that can assist is kick-starting a water adventure. The plethora of cliff faces also provides a perfect opportunity for rock climbing. The faces of Veneto and Trentino have proven to be most popular.

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Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

The official language in Italy is Italian, which is spoken in the Lake Garda area. Most locals also have a good working knowledge of English and some are fluent in German as a result of the large German tourist population which frequents the region annually. In some parts of the Dolomite region, which is just north of Lake Garda, there are areas where German is spoken as the first language. This is a result of the area previously being part of Austria; an association that only ceased to be in 1919. However, it is worthwhile investing in an Italian phrasebook or language guide, which can be particularly useful in hotels, restaurants and shops. There is a good number of tourist information offices in Lake Garda.

Currency

The national currency is the Euro, with 1 Euro split into 100 cents. Lake Garda is a tourist hub, which means that ATMs can be easily located. Banks typically offer the best exchange rates, while post offices also feature competitive rates. Official exchange offices, or cambio, are a convenient option as they stay open longer than banks and post offices. Banks tend to open between 8:30 am and 1:30pm, at which time they will close for an hour. Afternoon opening hours tend to be between 2:30pm and 3:30pm. Credit and debit cards are used widely in Lake Garda, with most hotels, shops and restaurants accepting VISA, Maestro and Mastercard.

Visas

Italy is a signatory to the Schengen Agreement, in which 26 separate European Nations have abolished their internal borders with other member countries. As a result, Italy is open to citizens of all Schengen states. Citizens of EU countries which have not signed the agreement, including the UK, are also granted access to the country without a visa and for an unlimited period. However, it can still be worth carrying a passport, credit card and driving license in the event of needing to hire certain things, such as car-hire. Non-EU citizens need a visa to enter as a tourist for up to 90 days.

Climate

Mild and temperate, Lake Garda’s climate varies from season to season. The sub-Mediterranean climate means that summers can reach temperatures of between 24°C and 30°C, while the cooler months drop to between 12°C and 18°C, which still isn’t to be sniffed at!

The Lake itself can be subjected to strong high-altitude mountain winds, but these only serve to make the area a mecca for water sports like wind surfing.

Main Airports

Most flights into Italy go through the capital, Rome, which houses the main air gateway into the nation, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport. However, there are several airports close to Lake Garda, which makes entering the region far simpler. Lake Garda is halfway between Venice and Milan, making Malpensa Airport and Venice Marco Polo Airport viable options.

Flight Options

There is significant competition between airlines, which means that value for money on international flights to Italy is virtually guaranteed. Alitalia is the national airline but there are other, smaller carriers such as Air One and Meridiana which offer lower prices. British Airways has direct flights from London Gatwick and Manchester to Milan while Ryanair flies between East Midlands and Milan-Bergamo. Other options include EasyJet, which flies from London airports to Venice Marco Polo.

Travel Advice

Lake Garda is extremely popular, so booking well in advance during the peak season (July to September) is a good idea. Even though the competition between airlines ensures reasonable airfares, prices inevitably rise with the temperatures during summer. Travel in winter (November to April) to catch the best deals on accommodation.

Other Transport Options

For visitors from the UK, car, train and bus are reliable options for reaching Italy. Eurostar links London with Paris, from where trains run to Milan. Travellers already in Italy can reach the Lake District by taking a regional bus from Verona. The APTV bus company runs daily, comfortable buses between the two locations.

Getting Around

The ferry system is the preferred mode of travel for visitors to Lake Garda, but renting a bicycle during peak season is also a good idea. While local buses in the district are not as fast as the ferries, they are nevertheless clean, efficient and comfortable. For more in-depth sightseeing, hiring a car is a good option as the roads are in perfect condition.

Bus

The bus system is not as fast as the ferry network but is a comfortable and convenient way of reaching the towns dotted along Lake Garda. Each town has a bus stop which is within range of most hotels. Three major companies operate Lake Garda routes, Azienda Trasporti Verona, Trentino Trasporti and Brescia Trasporti.

Car

Lake Garda's road network is well-developed and connects all of the towns which hug the lake's shores. If entering from an airport near Lake Garda, cars can be rented from one of the many international car rental companies like Budget, Europcar and Avis. There is a small surcharge for hiring cars at airports. Many companies have pick-up and drop-off offices in Lake Garda as well, if collecting a car from an airport is not an option.

LAKE GARDA`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MAP

FACTS

  1. There are some small islands on Lake Garda, which can be visited by boat. One of the islands holds the remains of a monastery founded by St Francis of Assisi.
  2. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy.
  3. The carpione is a rare species of fish that is endemic to Lake Garda.
  4. The lake saw the Battle of Lake Benacus, in which the Romans defeated the Alamanni in 268AD.
  5. The name 'Garda' comes from the Old German and means 'place of observation'.
  6. Lake Garda's waters are formed from a glacier that melted over 1,5million years ago.
  7. The lake covers 369.98 square kilometres.

FACTS

  1. There are some small islands on Lake Garda, which can be visited by boat. One of the islands holds the remains of a monastery founded by St Francis of Assisi.
  2. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy.
  3. The carpione is a rare species of fish that is endemic to Lake Garda.
  4. The lake saw the Battle of Lake Benacus, in which the Romans defeated the Alamanni in 268AD.
  5. The name 'Garda' comes from the Old German and means 'place of observation'.
  6. Lake Garda's waters are formed from a glacier that melted over 1,5million years ago.
  7. The lake covers 369.98 square kilometres.

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