Magnificent villas, picturesque waterfront promenades, and medieval city centers against the breathtakingly beautiful mountain panorama in the background: Lake Garda offers aesthetic pleasure to everyone. Sports enthusiasts get their money’s worth around Lake Garda. They can choose between wind or kite surfing, mountain biking, or paragliding. The area offers ideal conditions for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Holidaymakers can relax in the warm thermal baths in Simione, the healing powers that the Romans already used in the past. Nowadays, Lake Garda is by far one of the most popular destinations in Italy. If you want to visit the largest lake in Italy, but you are not yet sure where you should stay, this article is just right for you. Here are the 20 most beautiful towns on Lake Garda:
A real eye-catcher among the towns on Lake Garda is the peninsula of Sirmione. This little town with a beautiful waterfront is popular among spa lovers. It was already famous as a spa town in the Roman Empire due to its sulfurous thermal springs. All wellness fans can relax and regenerate in the Catullo Spa or the Virgilio Spa.
For history lovers, there are remains of the “Grotte di Catullo,” an old Roman villa that served as a sanatorium with a thermal bath. These remains are the most important archaeological attraction in northern Italy. Furthermore, in Sirmione, you can find many beautiful beaches and hidden roads where you can enjoy outstanding nature.
Read more: Sirmione Travel Guide
Desenzano Del Garda
The town of Desenzano on the southern shore of the lake is the largest town on Lake Garda, with around 28,000 inhabitants. The center of the town is the picturesque Piazza Malvezzi at the old port. That Piazza is an important landmark of Desenzano because it was one of the most important trade centers in Northern Italy for a long time.
Chic shops, the large marina, and elegantly restored trading houses still testify to the town’s prosperity. In the meantime, the town has become a popular shopping place for locals and tourists. Unlike many other towns on Lake Garda, Desenzano del Garda also has a vibrant nightlife with first-class bars and clubs. So if you like to party on vacation, Desenzano is the right place for you.
Read more: Things to do in Desenzano del Garda
The pretty town of Salo, with 10,000 inhabitants, is located in a sheltered bay in the southwest of the lake. Thanks to its protected position, the city is particularly attractive from a climatic point of view. The place has been very wealthy and has been designated the administrative center of the west bank several times. Chic fashion boutiques by Italian designers characterize the old town. Also, there are many good restaurants where you can enjoy first-class fish dishes.
Some popular sights in Salò are the old town of Salò, Art Nouveau Villa Laurin, the bust of the town’s father Gasparo da Salò and the cathedral. There is also a magnificent and longest lakeside promenade on Lake Garda where you can stroll with your family. Despite many tourist attractions, Salò has retained its authentic charm and is mainly visited by Italians.
Read more: Salo Lake Garda Things to do
Riva Del Garda
The place in the north of Lake Garda is often referred to as the “capital” of the lake. With 17,000 inhabitants, Riva del Garda is the second largest town on the lake. For a long time, the town has belonged to Austria, and only in 1919 was it ceded to Italy. Among other things, former fortifications that can be visited testify to the contested time. The city has been a popular health resort since the 19th century.
The mild climate, many sights, and the longest beach on the lake have attracted many tourists since then. Numerous mountain bikers also come to Riva del Garda. Due to the location at the southern end of the Alps, various transalpine routes end here. The nearby Monte Brione is a popular destination for climbers and mountaineers looking for a new adventure. There is also a mountain bike festival every year.
Read more: Things to do in Riva del Garda
The municipality of Gargnano consists of 13 small towns built up the mountain on the lake’s western shore. The main town Gargnano is right on the lake. Nowadays, this little town is by far one of the most diverse towns on Lake Garda. The hilly surrounding countryside is amazing for exciting hikes, while the lake right on your doorstep is perfect for relaxation. Gargnano has retained a particularly authentic Italian charm since the tourist boom has mostly passed the town. In the meantime, it has become a popular meeting place for younger people, mostly because of the numerous restaurants, bars, and quaint pubs in the center.
Surfers also like to come there. Due to the sheltered location in the middle of the mountains, the place is ideal for beginner surfers. Thanks to its location between the mountains of the “Alto Garda Bresciano” National Park, Gargnano also has an enjoyable, mild, Mediterranean climate. Even though Gargnano is small, it has some interesting attractions. There is Palazzo Bettoni, which is the largest palace on Lake Garda. Equally worth seeing are the two churches of San Francesco and San Martino and the port of Gargnano.
The picturesque town on the lake’s eastern shore is one of Lake Garda’s most popular travel destinations. Due to its location where the two main winds of the lake meet, Malcesine is also very popular with surfers and sailors. This beautiful town is known for its colorful little houses and old, narrow streets.
There is a mighty Scaliger castle in the town’s background, which lies on a rock and offers a beautiful view over the lake. In Malcesine, you can use a cable car that leads up to Monte Baldo mountain. From there, many hikers and mountain bikers start their tours on the “downhill routes.” This place is also popular as a starting point for paragliders.
Read more: Things to do in Malcesine
Limone Sul Garda
The former fishing village Limone Sul Garda is located on the west shore of Lake Garda. It is one of the most visited places around the lake. The reasons for that are the winding and flowery alleys, the terraced layout of the village, and surrounding olive groves and lemon trees. Since the place has a beautiful beach, you can spend there a wonderful vacation with the whole family.
Due to the sheltered location in the middle of the mountains, there is little or no rainfall in the summer. Therefore you can safely leave your umbrella at home. The spa resort is also worth a visit, especially if you want to relax. Even though the town is often a bit crowded, there are also quieter alleys off the main streets.
The town with the same name as the lake has been considered a “pearl of the lake” since Roman times. It captivates with its winding old town center, magnificent palaces, and a beautiful waterfront that leads to Bardolino’s neighboring town.
From the waterfront, you can admire a breathtaking sunset, for which Garda is famous. The nature around the town is lush and Mediterranean. There are a lot of beautiful cypresses, olive trees, and Orleans. The place is a popular tourist destination because it has the best beaches in Lake Garda.
Bardolino is located in the center of a well-known wine region of the same name. The “red Bardolino” or the rosé “Chiaretto” wines from the region are very popular. There are many vineyards and olive groves around the town. You can get the wine on every corner and can also pack them perfectly as a souvenir. Bardolino has around 7,000 inhabitants and lots of beaches that line up along the town center.
Furthermore, many boutiques, restaurants, bars, and discotheques attract many Italians from the surrounding towns. The waterfront is also particularly beautiful, where you can take great walks along the lake to the neighboring towns of Garda or Lazise. Among the most popular tourist attractions in Bardolino are the small church of San Zeno, the Piazza Matteotti and the winery Azienda Agricola Conti Guerrieri-Rizzardi.
Lazise belongs to Verona’s province and is one of the smaller towns on Lake Garda. The medieval town center is surrounded by well-preserved walls, through which three large town gates lead to the car-free center. Besides, Lazise is known for its narrow streets, picturesque corners, such as Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, and a small harbor. Outside of the town, there is also a magnificent Scaliger castle open for tourists.
Lazise is one of the most popular travel destinations on the so-called Olive Riviera and is also a very popular family place. There are numerous campsites in the area as well as the two amusement parks, “Gardaland” and “Canevaworld.”
Arco is about five kilometers north of Lake Garda. This historic place was the winter seat of the Austrian imperial court in the 19th century. Even today, splendid Art Nouveau villas testify to the stately times. The ruins of Arco Castle, perched on a rock above the town, are also impressive. Due to its location, surrounded by mountains, and the proximity to the lake, Arco is a climatic health resort.
The mild climate also favors the flourishing of many exotic plants and trees, so there are even impressive sequoias in the parks. Arco is also popular with athletes because numerous climbers and mountain bikers set off on their tours. The “Rock Master,” a popular international climbing competition, is a well-visited event held every September.
The former small fishing village in the north of the lake has only around 900 inhabitants. Nevertheless, the place is known far beyond the national borders today because Torbole is one of Europe’s best surfing areas. Due to Lake Garda’s northern shore location, there are perfect and constant winds that are ideal for windsurfing.
In Torbole, you will find amazing surf centers and hotels with their own board rental. Many mountain bikers and climbers also like to come there. With all these athletes and young people, there is a youthful atmosphere, which can also be felt in the numerous pubs and discos in the evening.
Tignale is a small town with only 1200 inhabitants located on the western shore of Lake Garda. The town is not so popular among tourists, so it is perfect for those who are looking for a peaceful vacation, untouched nature, and lots of fresh air. Tignale is formed by a series of villages located from up to 1600 meters of altitude to the shores of the lake.
Therefore, there are a lot of hiking trails with amazing panoramic views. The most popular tourist attraction in the town is the sanctuary of Montecastello with attractive frescoes. It is located a little below the peak of Monte Cas on a spur of rock sheer above the lake.
Gardone Riviera is the birthplace of tourism on Lake Garda. The first hotel on Lake Garda was built here in the year 1880. Since then, thousands of tourists have been arriving here year after year. Especially wealthy people love to come to Gardone Riviera because it is still one of the fashionable corners of Lake Garda.
Strictly speaking, Gardone can be divided into two parts. Gardone Riviera is an eclectic district with chic hotel complexes directly on the lake. The town center is called Gardone Sopra and impresses with its colorful houses, charming squares, and densely overgrown balconies. Around Gardone, you will find hilly countryside, which is great for sports enthusiasts and those who love active holidays.
Brenzone is another beautiful little town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. It is located very close to the mountain Monte Baldo, so it attracts especially passionate climbers and mountaineers looking for a new outdoor adventure.
Otherwise, Brenzone is ideal for those seeking a peaceful vacation. The town is still undiscovered by mass tourism so that you can relax sitting around the olive groves or exploring charming alleys.
Torri del Benaco
Torri del Benaco is a beautiful medieval village on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. This charming place is home to the Scaliger Castle, which now houses an ethnographic museum. The 18th-century magnificent castle is something you should see while being on Lake Garda.
The hilly surroundings are ideal for taking a few extensive hikes. Or grab a bike and explore the area that way. A few small stores in town and a few restaurants will take care of your physical well-being. And on the beach, you can relax under the Italian sun.
Moniga del Garda
For the next top destination, head to the southwestern shore of Lake Garda, where you will be amazed by the pretty old town called Moniga del Garda. It is surrounded by olive groves and has beautiful pebble beaches. The main tourist attraction in the town is the 16th-century Moniga Castle.
The massive fortress served as a defense against the Huns in the past. Nowadays, it is home to a dreamy residential settlement. If you want an active but still relaxing vacation, you should get on a bike in Moniga del Garda and cycle through vineyards, olive groves, fields, and meadows.
Manerba del Garda
Manerba del Garda is a small town on the west shore of Lake Garda in the province of Brescia. It is considered to have the most beautiful shore on the entire Lake Garda. Manerba del Garda is also popular for its wine production. Furthermore, it is a perfect summer destination with up to 300 sunny days a year and little or no rain.
The main sight in town is the Fortress of Manerba, one of the most important medieval fortresses of Lake Garda. Also worth a visit are the Archaeological Museum and the churches rich with frescos.
Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda is a picturesque village on Lake Garda with an imposing fortress. Although Peschiera del Garda is one of the two towns on Lake Garda with its own railroad station, mass tourism has not yet come here. The former fishing village shines with a wonderful old town, picturesque alleys, and canals that run through the entire town. Some of the attractions you should see are the church Madonna del Frassino and the cathedral San Martino.
Thanks to its relatively flat coasts, Peschiera del Garda is one of the best places for a beach vacation with the whole family. Even the youngest vacationers can splash around in the water and build sandcastles without any worries. The most popular beaches in Peschiera are Braccobaldo Beach, which is not free, and Lido Cappuccini, which is free of charge.
Tremosine Sul Garda
Tremosine Sul Garda consists of 18 villages that fall vertically on the west shore of Lake Garda. It was officially named one of the most beautiful villages in Italy in the year 2009. Tremosine is a real paradise for passionate hikers and mountain bikers, with its position high above the lake.
Besides, you can practice outdoor activities like canyoning, sailing, horse riding. After a few hours of sports, you should take a cooldown on the beach of Tremosine. This beach has everything a real vacationer’s heart desires, from surf school to beach bar to children’s playground.