Best Things to Do in Malcesine Lake Garda on a Short Visit

Nestled on the eastern shore of the lake, Malcesine is without a doubt one of the best towns to visit in the Garda area. Brimming with charm, this quaint little town has a lot to offer its visitors from stunning views of the surrounding mountains and lake to picturesque cobbled streets as well as a medieval castle.

Furthermore, Malcesine’s proximity to other well-known towns surrounding the lake makes it a convenient starting point for exploring the region’s many attractions.

As many people either visit Malcesine on a short day trip or use it as a base to visit other towns on Lake Garda, I’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Malcesine if you are short on time.

Best Lake Garda towns: Malcesine

What to do in Malcesine on a short visit

01. Walk around the Old town

Malcesine’s Old Town is a charming area to explore with narrow streets, picturesque piazzas, and historic buildings.

And when you get tired of walking around, you can take a break at one of the cozy cafes and restaurants that line the streets and simply absorb the town’s quaint atmosphere.

However, make sure you’re prepared for a day of walking by wearing comfortable shoes. Not only that, but pay attention to how thick the soles are or if they have pads inside, because like other old Italian towns, many of the historic alleys are cobbled with round river-like stones.

Not going to lie, I absolutely adore how they look, but I hate how they feel when my feet are already tired.

02. Visit Scaliger Castle

Although the Scaliger Castle of Malcesine now houses the Museum of Natural History of Lake Garda and Mount Baldo, the real highlight of any visit is the chance to ascend to the top and admire the stunning panoramic views of Lake Garda (on a really clear day, you could even see Mont Blanc!)

The cost of admission to the medieval castle is 6 euros for adults, 5 euros for both seniors and students and 3 euros for children aged between 6 and 18 years old (under 6 it’s free).

Honestly, if you only have 1 – 2 hours to spare in Malcesine, I recommend you simply visit the castle and do a quick tour of the Old Town.

However, if you have mobility issues or you’re not a fan of steep wooden stairs, you might want to either skip it or not climb all the way up. On the last bit, I’ll admit I struggled a little bit myself, partly because I was wearing a dress (naturally I didn’t want to flash anyone), but also due to my fear of heights.

Also, if by any chance you’re searching for a location for your destination wedding, know that you can get married here. In fact, during my visit, they arranged the seating for a ceremony about to take place on the terrace.

Getting married at a castle, surrounded by the beauty of Lake Garda.. doesn’t it sound like a dream?

Malcesine Castle is one of the best things to do in Malcesine Lake Garda.
Malcesine view from the top of the castle

03. Ride the cable car to Mount Baldo

If you have sufficient time in Malcesine, riding the cable car up to Mount Baldo is an activity that you shouldn’t miss.

The cable car, known as the Funivia Malcesine-Monte Baldo, is one of the most popular attractions in the area. It takes visitors up to 1,800 meters in just a few minutes, offering breathtaking views of both Lake Garda and the surrounding mountains along the way.

The cable car ride is divided into two parts, so you’ll need to change cabins at the San Michele station, which is situated approximately 580 meters high.

On the second leg of the journey (meaning from San Michele to Mount Bardo), the cabins rotate providing a unique 360° perspective which makes the trip up to the summit quite a memorable experience.

Once you reach the top, you can explore some of the many hiking trails available, take in the stunning views from the observation deck, or simply relax and enjoy a meal (I’d suggest the SKYWALK restaurant).

Malcesine Lake Garda Italy

04. Relax at the beach

For those looking to spend some time at the beach while in Malcesine, Paina Beach is a great option as it’s located very close to the town. The water gets deep rather quickly, so be careful if you decide to take a refreshing swim.

Additionally, you shouldn’t expect to find any sand here, as the beach is composed entirely of pebbles. Therefore it’s probably a good idea to bring aqua shoes to protect your feet both on the beach itself and in the water.

05. Visit Palazzo dei Capitani’s lakefront garden

The Palazzo dei Capitani is an impressive historic building located right next to the harbor of Malcesine. Built in a Venetian Gothic style, the building dates back to the 13th – 14th centuries.

One of the highlights of the Palazzo dei Capitani is its beautiful, albeit rather small, garden that offers lovely views across Lake Garda. It is the perfect spot to relax for a few minutes and enjoy the stunning scenery.

The best part is that visitors can explore both the ground floor and garden for free, while the first floor is open only during concerts, conferences, or wedding ceremonies.

06. See the shortest river in Italy

The picturesque village of Cassone and Italy’s shortest river, Aril, is located just over 4 km away from Malcesine. Aril spans a mere 175 meters and quickly flows through the village before merging into Lake Garda and it’s probably one of the most unique things to see near Malcesine.

You can easily reach Cassone by walking along the lakefront promenade, which takes around 50 minutes one way, or by taking either bus 483 or 484 for 4 stops.

The village itself is also full of character, with narrow streets, colorful houses, and a beautiful harbor. I recommend you also explore the nearby church which was famously portrayed in Gustav Klimt’s “Church in Cassone” painting.

07. Climb down to tiny Posterna beach

Posterna Beach is a little-known treasure of Malcesine. Although it’s mostly rocky and lacks enough space to lay down a towel, I suggest visiting this beach if you desire to escape the crowds and enjoy the serene scenery of the lake by yourself.

Hidden away by fortified walls and large rocks, not many adventures down to see it. To get here, you should follow the narrow alley to the left of the Scaliger castle. But be warned that near the end of the walk, there are some uneven stone steps.

Malcesine harbour

08. Walk on the Via Lungolago (waterfront promenade)

Via Lungolago is a picturesque promenade that stretches along the shores of Garda, offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the lake.

It starts near the Old Town and branches out from Viale Roma and ends at the Malcesine Hospital. To do the entire walk, it will take you a bit over 15 minutes.

The promenade is also perfect for jogging or cycling, and there are benches along the way where you can sit and relax while admiring the views of Lake Garda.

09. Take a boat trip to other towns on Lake Garda

Limone Lake Garda
Limone sul Garda

A boat trip from Malcesine to Limone or Riva is an excellent way to further explore the beauty of the northern area of Lake Garda.

Both towns are just a short boat ride away and offer amazing views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. Riva is a colorful and charming small town, while Limone is known for its cobbled narrow alleys and lemon groves.

Sirmione is also an option, despite being further away (I recommend the fast boat service if you do decide to visit it for a day) and is worth the trip. In fact, I visited Malcesine for a few hours from Sirmione myself, so it’s possible.

Sirmione, Lake Garda

Regardless of which town you choose to visit, a boat trip from Malcesine is a wonderful way to take in the beauty of Lake Garda and its surroundings.

The best time to visit

Malcesine is an ideal destination for spring through fall, but if you’re looking to take a dip in the lake, summer is the best time to plan your visit.

I visited this picturesque town in mid-June and the weather was fantastic, albeit a bit too warm. However, as Malcesine is a small town, it can get quite crowded during the summer months.

So if you prefer to avoid the hustle and bustle of peak season, I recommend planning your trip for May or October instead.

How to get to Malcesine, Lake Garda

The nearest international airports to Lake Garda are located in Verona, Milan, and Venice respectively. Regardless of which airport you arrive at, you’ll need to either take public transportation or drive to reach the lake.

Here are your options on arriving in Malcesine:

  • car: While the roads leading to Malcesine are generally in good condition, they can be fairly busy at times. If this is not a concern for you, however, then renting a car is a solid option.
  • train + bus: To reach Malcesine, you can take bus 483 from Peschiera Del Garda. To get to Peschiera, you can ride the train from Milan, Verona or even Venice.
  • boat: Malcesine is connected by fast boat or ferry to several other towns including Riva, Limone sul Garda, and Sirmione. You can check the current boat schedule here.
Malcesine Lake Garda


Can you swim in Lake Garda near Malcesine?

There are a few beaches around Malcesine where you can soak some sun and take a refreshing dip.

Is Malcesine worth visiting?

Yes, Malcesine is certainly worth visiting. With its charming medieval town, impressive Castello Scaligero, scenic lake views, and delightful Italian cuisine, it offers a unique blend of history, nature, and culture that appeals to a wide variety of travelers.

Wrap up

Nestled against a picturesque mountainous backdrop and exuding a charming small-town feel, Malcesine on Lake Garda is a destination that’s worth exploring during your next trip to Italy.

But make sure to also include other towns in your Lake Garda itinerary, such as Limone, Riva or Sirmione.

Happy travels~


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