Located in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is known for its crystal clear water. When we started looking to book our holiday to Italy, Lake Garda was on our top 3 locations and having now come back from our very relaxing break I can totally see why it is one of the most popular holiday locations in Europe. I was completely mesmerised by the beauty of mountains and the lake blending in and yet standing out.I am putting together a quick guide to Lake Garda along with some 'Lake Garda tips' because it is genuinely a must visit location if you are planning on going to Italy.
HOW TO GET THERE
We flew to Verona from London as Verona is the nearest airport to Lake Garda, we then took a bus to get to our destination in Lake Garda.
Lake Garda Travel Tip
I would highly recommend taking the public transport, i.e. a bus as it is much cheaper (about 1/10th) than a taxi and you get the local feel and vibe of the place. Buses leave from the airport and you can buy tickets on the bus itself, they'll drop you off at the location nearest to your resort, you can walk down to your resort from the bus stop as everything is dotted around the lake so not a long walk.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE GARDA
There are several little villages/cities around the lake that make a good base to look for hotels. Malcesine, Bardolino, Torbole, Riva are some of the most popular Lake Garda cities. We stayed at the Du Lac et Du Parc resort in Riva Del garda which is right at the Northern tip of the lake. It is a busy and bustling part of Lake Garda and has several shops and restaurants around it. The resort itself is beautiful and excellent if you are travelling with kids or pets. They have 2 outdoor pools and one indoor swimming pool, beautifully landscaped gardens, comfortable and clean rooms, grand breakfast and excellent staff. I had done a lot of research for hotels and this one was definitely one of the best options without being over the top pricey. It is very well located as there are bus stops right outside the hotel and shops and restaurants as soon as you walk out of the resort.
THINGS TO DO IN LAKE GARDA
Take a Trip to Malcesine
Malcesine is one of the most picturesque villages I've ever visited. Located on the Eastern shore of the lake, it's brimming with Italian architecture, beautiful restaurants and shops and highly rated hotels. The easiest way to get to Malcesine from Riva Del Garda is taking a bus, it will cost you around 10 Euros and the ride is very pleasant. You can also hire bikes to ride around but if you've reasonably glamed up for dinner by the lake then you probably don't want to get on a bike. 🙂
Cable Car to Monte Baldo
I would definitely recommend taking the cable car to the top of the mountain, Monte Baldo to get the best view of the lake and around. It's very reasonably priced at €22 per person and it is totally worth it. There are cafes at the top of the mountain and the views are obviously breathtaking.
Lake Garda Travel Tip
If you want to avoid the queues up to the cable cars, and don't intend to spend a very long time up at the top then early mornings (between 8:00-10:00 am) and late afternoon (between 15:30 -16:00) is the best time to visit.You still get plenty of time to explore and walk around without having to spend an hour in the queue.
Scaliger Castle, Malcesine
This is Malcesine's most prominent attraction and is believed to have been built in the 13th century. It is a must visit location as again the views are beautiful. The tickets are under €10 per person and usually there aren't big queues. It is a very popular wedding venue and five years ago Lee's best friend got married there in the castle. You will see a lot of wedding photoshoots going on in the beautiful streets around the castle.
Palazzo Dei Capitani
Located on the lake shore, we noticed this place on our first night in Malcesine when we were having dinner in an adjacent restaurant and saw tourists visiting the Palazzo. Although it's believed to have been reduced to a simple shell possibly in an earthquake or fire, the building still holds its period charm.
Torbole was walking distance from our resort in Riva Del Garda. It is one of the most popular locations for wind surfing and sailing in Garda. As we were not particularly interested in doing either (with baby Ella haha) we decided to explore the Gelaterias and restaurants and I can tell you it was totally worth it. It is a pretty little village with narrow streets and colourful shutters in true Italian style.
We were in Lake Garda for 5 days which wasn't long enough to explore Garda Land, Limone by ferry and Isola del Garda which are also the popular attractions. May be that's reason enough to go back.:)
WHERE TO EAT
There are so many restaurants in the little villages it can definitely be a bit overwhelming to pick one out of so many. We picked places that had a lake front or were in the quiet, pretty little alley ways. Food isn't very expensive in Lake Garda specially if you venture into the town rather than eating at the resort you are staying in. An average meal and drinks for two persons will cost you roughly around €40. Here's the few places I would like to recommend:
Ristorante Pizzeria Garden
Excellent views, the food was delicious, the service was great and we got some complimentary lemoncello shots in the end.
Ristorante Italia Da Nikolas
Absolutely stunning location, you have the view of the lake and mountains on one side and Palazzo Dei Capitani on the other side. Service, food and prices are all a 10 on 10.
This will have to be my favourite restaurant. We had the best foof we've had in Italy. The lasagne (both vegetarian and meat) was delicious and the servers are so friendly. if you do go there, definitely try their house wine and of course the lasagne.
SHOPPING IN LAKE GARDA
Don't think I can ever end a travel post without talking about the shopping opportunities of the place.Whether Versace, Armani or Dolce & Gabbana - everyone knows that the heart of the world of fashion beats in Italy. Shopping in the little towns on Lake Garda is amazing specially because the shops remain open till later in the evening (unlike the UK). There are weekly markets, small boutiques and designer outlets that offer a wide choice of products and styles.
Fashion wise I loved a lot designer pieces in boutiques but they were a little over my holiday shopping budget so I decided to settle for bright coloured china instead.
I would also highly recommend buying some original Italian pasta, olive oil, lemoncello and lemon fragranced soaps as souvenirs.
I hope you've enjoyed reading my mini Lake Garda guide book, and I also hope I've convinced you to visit Lake Garda, if you do go or have been there before please do feel free to share your experience in the comments below.