Top 5 Best Towns on Lake Garda to Visit

If you’re planning a trip to beautiful Lake Garda anytime soon, then you’re probably wondering what are the best towns to visit in the area.

While I spent a lot of time researching the different options before my own trip there, you don’t have to do the same. Just read on to find out the top 5 best towns on Lake Garda that are worth a visit.

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01. Sirmione

Sirmione, Lake Garda
Sirmione as seen from Scaligero Castle

Sirmione is arguably the most famous and picturesque town on the shores of Lake Garda.

Shaped as a narrow peninsula that extends out into the clear waters of Garda, this beautiful destination is perfect for either a relaxing vacation or a more action-oriented trip.

Some of the best things to do in Sirmione, Lake Garda are:

  • visiting the Scaligero Castle (also known as the Sinking Castle)
  • wandering around the charming Old Town
  • hitting the beach
  • visiting the Grotto of Catullus
  • watching the sunset
  • going to the local thermal baths
  • eating many gelatos
  • taking a boat trip around the peninsula
Sirmione Lake Garda
Scaligero Castle

While you can visit Sirmione as a day trip, if you are planning to spend a few days near the lake, then my recommendation is to base yourself here.

Staying overnight will allow you to see Sirmione in a totally different light when the crowds disperse. In addition, it’s really easy to visit other towns on Lake Garda by boat, which was very important to me.

My fiance and I spent 4 nights at Hotel Grifone, right next to Scaligero Castle. We booked a room with a terrace and while it was not by any means luxurious (yet it was comfortable and clean), we definitely had a 5-star view.

We also really loved the breakfast that was included in the room rate and the location where it was served.

Grifone Hotel in Sirmione - view
The view from our hotel room balcony

Contrary to some information that you might stumble upon online, Sirmione doesn’t have a train station!

So traveling here might be a tad bit more complicated because of this. But just read my post on how to get to Sirmione from different airports and you should be just fine.

02. Malcesine

Malcesine seen from Scaliger Castle’s tower

Located in the northern part of Lake Garda, on its eastern shore, picture-perfect Malcesine was my second favorite town to visit in the area, after Sirmione. Here are some of the best things to do during your visit to Malcesine:

  • climbing at the top of the Scaliger Castle of Malcesine
  • taking the cable car up Monte Baldo
  • strolling around the town
  • visiting the garden of the Palazzo dei Capitani
  • hiking
  • doing watersports
  • relaxing at the beach

To get to Malcesine from other towns around Lake Garda, you can either use the boat or the bus. If you are staying in Sirmione and want to take the water route you can opt for either a fast service as well as a regular ferry.

03. Limone sul Garda

Limone Lake Garda
Limone sul Garda

The charming small town of Limone sul Garda is also situated in the northern part of the lake (but on its western shore) and is well-known for its lemon groves (hence the name).

But aside from all things lemon, you’ll also find here picturesque cobblestone streets, great viewpoints, and a nice array of bars and restaurants. Here are some of the best things to do in Limone sul Garda:

  • getting lost on its charming streets
  • visiting an old lemon grove
  • cycling on Ciclopista del Garda
  • relaxing at the beach
  • shopping for lemon-derived products

As Limone is basically sitting right across the lake from Malcesine, we visited both on the same trip to the northern part of the lake and it was a great choice.

Now, Riva is also located close by and while technically it’s possible to see all three towns on the same day if you are traveling by fast boat, my recommendation is to stick to only two and leave the 3rd one for another day.

Otherwise, you’ll practically have no time to explore any of the locations.

Ciclopista del Garda, Limone sul Garda
Ciclopista del Garda

TIP: If you have enough days to split them between Sirmione and Limone or you simply choose to stay here, hire a bike and cycle to Riva on Ciclopista del Garda.

You’ll be able to visit another picturesque town and also do something a bit out of the ordinary. Not to mention the views along the way are simply amazing.

However, do be aware that to get to Riva, you’ll also be required to bike on the road along cars as the separate cycle/pedestrian path doesn’t reach the town. If you’re not comfortable with that, then it’s better to do what we did: walk. You can then visit Riva by boat.

It takes around 35 to 40 minutes to reach the suspended portion of the pathway (which is the most spectacular part of course) on foot, from Limone.

04. Riva del Garda

Best towns on Lake Garda: Riva
Riva del Garda

Picturesque Riva is the northernmost town on Lake Garda. Surrounded by tall mountains, it offers amazing views and it’s worth a visit for those alone. But there are also other things to do on a visit to Riva del Garda. Here are a few:

  • strolling along the waterfront promenade
  • wandering around the old town
  • taking the panoramic elevator to the ruins of Bastione di Riva
  • doing watersports, particularly windsurfing
  • hiking
  • visiting MAG Museo Alto Garda, which is located inside a medieval castle
  • relaxing at the beach
  • hiking up to St. Barbara Chapel for a great view over the town (the trail requires some effort though)

TIP: Since Riva del Garda is located so far up north on the lake, you could even squeeze in a nice day trip to the Dolomites and/or to the famous Lake Braies, given that you spend at least one night in the town and you rent a car.

If you don’t want to drive, there’s also the option of booking a tour (it is also available from the southern towns if you can handle the early hours at which it starts).

05. Desenzano del Garda

Desenzano panorama from the castle

Desenzano del Garda is a cute small town, just a short ferry ride (approx. 20 minutes) away from Sirmione. Less busy and considerably cheaper, it can be a very good alternative as a base from where you can visit other Lake Garda towns. Here are the best things to do in Desenzano:

  • visiting the Castle of Desenzano
  • taking a walk along the lake promenade (called Lungolago di Desenzano)
  • walking around the historic center
  • hitting the beach
  • visiting the ruins of the Roman Villa

In contrast with Sirmione, Desenzano has a train station, so it’s a bit easier to reach. It also has good boat connections with other Lake Garda towns.

Other things to know

What is the best month to visit Lake Garda?

June is the best month to visit Lake Garda for a variety of activities; it’s warm enough for a refreshing swim, but not too hot for sightseeing and the crowds are not as bad as in July and August.

What is the prettiest town on Lake Garda?

With its beautiful old center and the Scaligero Castle (also known as the Sinking Castle) guarding its entrance, Sirmione is hands down the prettiest and the most visited town on Lake Garda.

Is Lake Garda expensive?

I gotta admit, I didn’t find Lake Garda to be cheap. However, it still felt less expensive than the more popular Lake Como.

What is the best town to stay in on Lake Garda?

Even though Sirmione is the most popular and busy town on Lake Garda, it’s still the best town to stay in when visiting Lake Garda, in my opinion. Besides, its vibe changes in the evening, when the crowds leave.

What is the least touristy town on Lake Garda?

Desenzano del Garda is one of the less touristy towns on Lake Garda. And since it’s so close to the popular Sirmione (20 minutes by ferry), it can be a good alternative as a base for visiting the lake region.

I hope this short guide on the best Lake Garda towns helped you decide which ones to visit during your trip to Northern Italy.

And before you go, don’t forget to check out my other Italy content as well.

Happy travels~


2 thoughts on “Top 5 Best Towns on Lake Garda to Visit”

  1. A hike to chiesetta Santa Barbara should be on your list for Riva del Garda. Now it takes time and you need to be reasonably fit, but the view is spectacular.

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