Last updated on April 2, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in the European Alps & North of Italy

Where to stay in Lake Garda – 9 BEST TOWNS & HOTELS

Too hard to decide where to stay in Lake Garda? No wonder, this is the largest lake in Italy, much bigger than Lake Como or Lago Maggiore.

I have been travelling to the Italian lakes since I was born, sometimes for the weekend, other times for a long stay and Lago di Garda is definitely one of my favourites, with plenty of activities but also the possibility to have an easy going break, enjoying the local wine and cuisine.

In this guide I have organised the best places to stay in Lake Garda, my favourite 9 towns with a few suggested hotels.

But let’s jump straight into it.

Map of the best area to stay in Garda Lake
Map of the best area to stay in Garda Lake

Best places to stay in Lake Garda – Key Points

Instead of an index, in this post I have organised a quick reference table where I compare the best areas to stay in Lake Garda, with all the pros and cons. Click on the town name for more info or just keep reading for the full guide.

On the mobile, swipe left and right to see all the columns.

TownProsConsAccessibilityAttractionsRestaurantsFamiliesNightlifeCharacter
SirmioneHistoric architecture, Scenic views, Thermal baths, Central locationCrowded, Expensive, Limited beaches, TrafficGood ferry connections, Challenging car accessRocca Scaligera castle, Roman ruins, Churches, Peninsula walking pathExcellentGoodModerateRich in history, picturesque
Peschiera del GardaFamily-friendly, Amusement parks, Scenic location, Quick tripsCrowded peak season, Limited nightlife, Parking challenges, HeatwavesClose to Verona, Good for public transportGardaland, Caneva Aquapark, Movieland Studios, VeronaVery goodExcellentLowVibrant, family-oriented
BardolinoCharming, Romantic, Relaxed pace, Wine and foodLimited nightlife, Few attractions, Lacks beaches, ExpensiveEasily accessible by roadPiazza Matteotti, Promenade, Vineyards, Olive grovesExcellentGoodLowRomantic, picturesque
GardaCar-free access, Central location, Ferry hub, Scenic viewsCrowded in summer, Limited budget options, Early ferries, TouristyExcellent ferry connections, Bus from VeronaLakefront promenade, Piazza Catullo, Roman ruins, Alpine viewsVery goodVery goodModerateHistoric, scenic
DesenzanoVibrant nightlife, Dining variety, Fast transport, Scenic promenadeCrowded in summer, Noisy nights, Limited budget options, Traffic jamsGood rail and road accessPiazza Malvezzi, Sirmione Road, Lakefront boardwalk, Porto VecchioExcellentNot the bestExcellentLively, cosmopolitan
Limone sul GardaScenic, Historic character, Tranquil, Lemon specialtiesSmall size, Distant location, Lacks beaches, Seasonal closuresLess accessible, Worth the journeyLemon houses, Harborfront, Church of San Pietro, Hiking trailsGoodVery goodLowQuiet, historic
Riva del GardaActive lifestyle, Alpine views, Old town charm, Lake activitiesExpensive, Crowded in summer, Limited beaches, Seasonal attractionsGood for cycling and trekking, Less centralHistoric Centre, Ponale cycling path, Sailing, WindsurfingVery goodGoodModerateAdventurous, picturesque
TorboleWatersports, Alpine views, Old town charm, Sailing cultureLimited lodging, Seasonal closure, Expensive, Small sizeAccessible by road, Focused on watersportsKite-surfing, Windsurfing, Mountain views, Lakefront promenadeGoodGoodModerateSporty, vibrant
MalcesineCharming village, Romantic alleys, Mountain access, Rich historyLimited beaches, Seasonal closures, Gets crowded, TouristyGood cable car access, Challenging road accessScaliger Castle, Cable car to Monte Baldo, Quaint lanes, Lake viewsExcellentVery goodLowRomantic, historical
The best 9 towns to stay in Garda Lake

Are you organising an itinerary of Lake Garda? You have two possibilities:

  • Use the bus and ferry and visit the towns connected by the transportation network
  • Use the car and experience the lake as well as the surrounding areas whenever you want.

Lake Garda is one of the most dramatic and scenic lakes in Europe and my suggestion is to do it by car. I usually rent a vehicle in Italy (Verona and Milan are my typical entry airports/stations) and I start my road trip from there.

I hire my cars on DiscoverCars, a website I like to describe it like the Airbnb of cars. It compares the best rental deals from local and international providers based on price and users feedback. It also offers full insurance for just 7 Euro/day, which is a great peace of mind when driving on those narrow Italian streets.

Riva Del Garda in the northern end of the lake
Riva Del Garda in the northern end of the lake

My 3 best hotels in Lake Garda

Drone view of Torbole town
Drone view of Torbole town, one of the best places in Italy for wind sports

Sirmione – Best town on Lake Garda first time

  • Best place for History & Spas
  • Attractions: Rocca Scaligera castle, Roman ruins, churches, peninsula walking path

Pros

  • historic architecture,
  • scenic views,
  • thermal baths,
  • central location

Cons

  • it can be very busy,
  • expensive,
  • limited beaches,
  • traffic

Perched on a scenic peninsula extending from the southern shore of Lake Garda, Sirmione has enchanted visitors since ancient Roman times thanks to its dramatic natural beauty, historic landmarks, and therapeutic thermal springs.

Sirmione is my favourite place to stay in Lake Garda. I have been 3 times there and I always loved so much wondering through the pedestrian cobblestone lanes, with posh Liberty-style villas, ruins dating to the 1st century AD, and the iconic Rocca Scaligera moated fortress guarding the harbour since the 13th century.

With so much history and postcard-worthy sights packed into a compact pedestrian zone just 2 kilometres long, Sirmione will give you so many great spots for photography.

But its popularity comes at a price during summer’s peak travel season from June through August when streets flood with visitors queued outside gelato shops, pizzerias spill onto alleyways jammed elbow to elbow, and vehicles get stuck in seemingly endless traffic on the single road leading onto the peninsula.

As much as I love Sirmione, I always try to visit it off-season, with May and September being my suggested months. Visiting in the quieter shoulder seasons allows you to better appreciate Sirmione’s romantic charms enjoyed by the Italian elite since the 19th century Fin de Siècle era.

My tip: book your accommodation as early as possible, you may have some luck with a last-minute stay but it’s more of a rare occasion.

Here are 3 great hotels in Sirmione

Hotel Eden ($$$$$): A luxury hotel overlooking the lake with exceptional service. Modern rooms with balconies offer comfort and elegance.

Hotel Luna($$$): Elegant rooms with balconies near Lake Garda and thermal baths, offering a blend of comfort and style. Exceptional breakfast.

Hotel Giardino ($$): Set directly on the lake’s shores, this centrally located hotel charms with its 60s/70s glamour, private pier, and garden views.

The Scaligera Castle and the town of Sirmione
The Scaligera Castle and the town of Sirmione

Peschiera del Garda – Best for families

  • Best area for Families with kids & Amusement parks
  • Attractions: Gardaland, Caneva Aquapark, Movieland Studios, Verona

Pros

  • family-friendly,
  • amusement parks,
  • scenic location,
  • quick trips

Cons

  • crowded peak season,
  • limited nightlife,
  • parking challenges,
  • heatwaves

Located in the southern part of the lake, Peschiera del Garda is one of the best basecamps when travelling with children.

Its prime location less than 30 minutes from three major amusement parks keeps the thrills coming for young visitors while parents enjoy relaxing panoramic views of the lake when park energy gets spent.

By day you can plunge down waterslides surrounded by lush tropical gardens at Caneva, then head under the big top for death-defying stunt shows at MovieLand Studios.

Gardaland however towers as the main attraction, with over 40 rides and shows drawing nearly 3 million visitors annually to become Italy’s most popular theme park. Its hotels even allow staying within the magic so the fun never has to stop.

When seeking some cultural depth, it only takes a short drive to explore romantic Verona, from the Casa di Giulietta featuring the famed balcony that inspired Shakespeare to the Piazza Bra with its spectacular Roman Arena hosting events to this day.

Peschiera entertains more families than party-seekers. You will find plenty of bars and restaurants/pizzeria but not nightlife. The compact pedestrian town itself also has limited lodging options, so finding accommodation can pose challenges during the July and August high season.

My tip: Booking hotels in advance is always highly suggested, especially if travelling in July and August. However, my tip here is to reserve also your theme park tickets to bypass endless queues and better enjoy the day.

Here are 3 Lake Garda hotels in Peschiera

Relais Corte Paradiso ($$$$): A spacious 2BR Apartment inside a well-maintained estate with numerous facilities, including a seasonal outdoor pool, BBQ, and children’s playground, making it an ideal choice for families.

Aurora ApartHotel ($$$-$$$$): The 1BR apartment is spacious, modern, and well-equipped, featuring an outdoor pool and free parking. Good breakfast and prime location.

Casa Girardi ($$-$$$): Central, clean, and spacious 2BR apartment overlooking Lake Garda. Convenient access to local attractions, dining, and transportation.

Enjoying the Aquapark near Peschiera
Enjoying the Aquapark near Peschiera

Bardolino – Best for couples

  • Best place for Romantic couples & Wine lovers
  • Attractions: Piazza Matteotti, promenade, vineyards, olive groves

Pros

  • charming,
  • romantic,
  • relaxed pace,
  • food and wine

Cons

  • limited nightlife,
  • few attractions,
  • lacks beaches,
  • expensive

For couples craving a dash of dolce vita on the shore of the lake, the postcard-perfect village of Bardolino overflows with Old World romance.

I visited this town for the first time with my future wife. I was suggested Bardolino by a few friends so I did not do much research on it and I did not really know what to expect.

What did I find? A compact pedestrian centre dotted with crimson blossoms, cute cafés, and candlelit trattorias that set an intimate mood from morning cappuccinos to twilight wine tastings. So beautiful and so romantic!

Compared to busier lakeside towns, Bardolino moves at a more relaxed pace with few attractions beyond its quaint cobblestone lanes and shimmering olive groves framing gorgeous vineyard views.

The main activity involves strolling hand-in-hand along the bustling lakefront promenade or getting lost together down narrow alleyways, with the 11th-century Romanesque church and its frescoed bell tower being two must-see places.

When pausing to rest weary legs, you can sample Bardolino, one of the best DOC red wines in northern Italy, at local enotecas pouring vintages from the surrounding hills dotting the horizon.

Once in town I also highly suggest joining one of the many vineyard tours and olive oil tastings. It’s going to be a great day out, especially on those busy weekends in summer when Lake Garda’s shore shore is packed.

I still remember like yesterday my first night there, enjoying the romantic charm of the village with candles flickering at intimate osterias and twinkling lights reflecting across the water.

But its sleepy character also equates to limited bars and clubs for late nights out. Other than wine and Italian fare, few unique attractions exist beyond soaking up the quaint local atmosphere.

That is why I find Bardolino to be the perfect place for couples looking for an enchanting and relaxing stay in Lake Garda.

Here are 2 romantic stays in Bardolino

Hotel Alla Riviera ($$$-$$$$): This is one of the best places to stay on Lake Garda, with a superb lakefront location and panoramic views, The heated swimming pool is a bonus

B&B Nonna Gina($$): Exceptional hospitality from the host, and prime location with complimentary parking. Beautiful lake and mountain views.

Enjoying the Bardolino wine at a nearby winery

Sipping Bardolino by Lake Garda is to taste the Italian dolce vita.

– Me

Garda – Great without a car

  • Best town without a car & scenic walks
  • Attractions: Lakefront promenade, Piazza Catullo, Roman ruins, Alpine views

Pros

  • car-free access,
  • central location,
  • ferry hub,
  • scenic views

Cons

  • very busy in peak summer,
  • limited budget options,
  • early ferries,
  • touristy

Nestled along a beautiful bay on Lake Garda’s eastern shores, the lakeside town of Garda will seduce you with its scenic setting, historic landmarks, and transportation perks allowing easy exploration without a car.

Its location directly across from Desenzano del Garda makes it accessible via regular ferry crossings, while direct buses connect Garda with Verona in just 45 minutes. This car-free convenience provides plenty of flexibility to visit Garda’s neighbouring villages or even across the lake.

Garda’s compact pedestrian centre offers pleasant wandering past gelaterias, pizzerias, and souvenir shops lining the scenic lakefront promenade. This is a popular spot for taking photos and enjoying sunset aperitivo cocktails on terraces gazing at the distant Dolomites turning pink.

Inland, you can climb the hill to Piazza Catullo to explore the ruins of a Roman villa and fortress with sweeping lake views.

As a harbour town, Garda also serves as the nautical hub with ferries crisscrossing the waters in every direction. You can easily island hop to reach colourful fishing villages like Limone sul Garda or Malcesine then catch later boats back.

With tickets bought dockside, spontaneous side trips become effortless. Just beware of early morning departures.

While Garda keeps the convenience of car-free travel, its popularity translates to summertime crowds. Book your accommodation well in advance especially if looking for budget lodging.

Here are 3 of the best Garda hotels:

Sky Pool Hotel Sole Garda ($$$-$$$$): Excellent location, modern and clean rooms, and impressive sky pool. Stunning lake views from the rooftop bar.

Pasitea($$$): Charming and immaculately clean accommodation in an excellent location, with modern amenities.

Casa Katy ($): Nestled just 20 meters from the water, this is one of the best value-for-money studios around Lake Garda. Cosy and lovely views

Drone view of Garda town
Drone view of Garda town

Desenzano del Garda

  • Best area for Nightlife seekers & Foodies
  • Attractions: Piazza Malvezzi, Sirmione Road, Lakefront boardwalk, Porto Vecchio

Pros

  • vibrant nightlife,
  • dining variety,
  • fast transport,
  • scenic promenade

Cons

  • crowded summer months,
  • noisy nights,
  • limited budget options,
  • traffic

Located strategically near the southwestern end of the lake, Desenzano del Garda sparks with vibrant energy from its bustling cobblestone streets lined with restaurants, bars, and clubs attracting the young crowd.

Its proximity to the A4 motorway also makes the town easily accessible for weekenders flocking from Milan and Verona seeking lakeside fun after sundown.

You will find here some unique historic landmarks like the Villa Romana di Desenzano del Garda, the Castello di Desenzano del Garda, and the grand harbour Porto Vecchio with atmospheric pedestrian zones around Piazza Malvezzi, however, Desenzano is more known for the after dinner action.

Night owls party until dawn bouncing between the array of cocktail bars, dance clubs, and live music venues packed till morning during July and August. Even finding late-night fast food or a slice of pizza gets easy with so many options still served after midnight.

Unfortunately, while the nonstop action adds excitement, it also brings plenty of visitors, perpetual traffic around the peninsula road, packed waterfront cafés, and possibly loud party seekers lasting into dawn potentially annoying those seeking sleep.

For this reason, I usually suggest a stay in Desenzano to the young crowd looking more into enjoying the night than the daily lake activities.

Here are 3 great hotels in Desenzano del Garda

MoAA – Modern Art Apartment ($$$-$$$$): Exceptional location in the heart of Desenzano with stunning views. Modern, clean, and well-equipped 1BR apartment.

Alessi Hotel Trattoria ($$$): Centrally located in Desenzano’s old town, near the lake. Comfortable rooms, friendly staff, excellent food, and beautiful views.

2BCentral ($): Welcoming host and convenient pickup service. The 1BR apartment is well-equipped, clean, spacious, ideally located and with a cozy breakfast garden.

Desenzano del Garda
Desenzano del Garda

Limone sul Garda

  • Best place for tranquillity
  • Attractions: Lemon houses, harborfront, church of San Pietro, hiking trails

Pros

  • scenic,
  • historic character,
  • tranquil vibe,
  • lemon specialties

Cons

  • small size,
  • distant location,
  • lacks beaches,
  • seasonal closures

Nestled cliffside in the north of the western shore of Lake Garda, the charming village of Limone sul Garda lives up to its sunny name with vibrant yellow houses blooming amid jasmine and olive groves.

Its terraced lemon orchards cascading down steep slopes towards sparkling azure waters inspire wanderlust as a postcard comes to life.

Beyond the alluring scenery, Limone’s narrow cobblestone lanes winding past 16th-century palazzi will take you back in time with glimpses of ancient frescoes, wrought-iron balconies, and potted lemon trees gracing tiny courtyards.

The village’s humble scale and hillside intimacy contrast the summer crowds swarming larger resort towns for a more authentic Lake Garda experience accented with local lemon-infused cuisine and Limoncello aperitifs.

On the negative side, Limone’s secluded hillside location beyond the tourist trail also translates to distant drives to any other lake attractions. The rocky coastline leaves also little hope for a sandy beach.

Here are my 2 recommended hotels in Limone

Garni Gianmartin ($$$-$$$$): Spacious accommodations with stunning views. Exceptional staff and superb breakfast right on the lake.

Hotel Coste($$-$$$): Between gardens and olive groves, with an outdoor pool and a homely atmosphere. Children’s play area and recreational facilities like a bowling green and table tennis.

A lemon garden in Limone sul Garda
A lemon garden in Limone sul Garda

Riva del Garda

  • Best place for Active travellers & Nature lovers
  • Attractions: Historic Centre, Ponale cycling path, sailing, windsurfing

Pros

  • active lifestyle,
  • Alpine views,
  • old town charm,
  • lake activities

Cons

  • expensive,
  • very busy in summer,
  • limited beaches,
  • seasonal attractions

Set along serene northern stretches of Lake Garda, the scenic resort town of Riva del Garda attracts active travellers with its stunning subalpine scenery rimming sparkling blue waters. Its maze of pedestrian lanes threading beneath pastel-hued medieval towers contrasts the busy windsurfers zigzagging across offshore gusts for an intoxicating fusion of adrenaline and dolce vita.

On land, Riva shines as a hub for outdoor adventures any season from miles of cycling paths like the thrilling cliffside Ponale route to nonexhaustive networks of hiking trails traversing olive groves and vineyard hills.

A visit to the bone-white outer walls of the 15th-century fortress Bastione di Riva standing vigil over the old town port is a great half-day adventure, especially when you need some resting on your legs.

Yet Riva’s popularity among adventure travellers also translates to swelling seasonal crowds that peak during summer heat waves. And limited sandy beaches often get eclipsed by rocky shores catering more to boardsports than sunbathers seeking lounge space.

So while the dramatic mountain backdrop promises exhilarating activities galore, expectations should align more with an extreme sports training ground than a lazy lakeside resort.

Costs here also trend higher than in Garda’s southern villages, which is probably one of the biggest cons of a stay in Riva del Garda.

But if you are eager to balance cycling, sailing, canyon jumping, or climbing between unwinding in atmospheric trattorias, Riva del Garda’s dynamic landscape overflows with possibilities.

Here are 3 of the best hotels in Riva del Garda

Du Lac Et Du Parc Grand Resort ($$$$): Stunning views of Lake Garda, immaculate rooms, and expansive grounds. Huge breakfast variety and an excellent location. Wellness facilities and pools for relaxation

GARDAINN Martini ($$-$$$): Spacious and clean apartments located in a prime area. Free parking and WiFi.

Appartamento Riva Del Garda ($$): Cozy 1BR apartment in a prime location, with toys for kids and a well-stocked minibar with reasonable prices. Free WiFi and parking. Great for both short and longer stays.

Riva Del Garda in the northern end of the lake

Torbole

  • Best place for watersports and adventure
  • Attractions: Kitesurfing, windsurfing, wing foiling, mountain views, lakefront promenade

Pros

  • watersports,
  • Alpine views,
  • old town charm,
  • sailing culture

Cons

  • limited lodging,
  • seasonal closure,
  • expensive,
  • small size

Perched along transparent waters on the northernmost edge of the lake, the lively village of Torbole serves as an adventure basecamp for thrill-seekers drawn to gusty winds fanning the Alpine-framed harbour.

Its consistent breezes and moderate climate nurture one of Europe’s top destinations for windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing against dramatic Dolomite peaks.

While many visitors come to harness Torbole’s winds across the waves, its pretty pedestrian lanes shaded by lemon trees hold their own old-world appeal when surfing is over.

Local bars and restaurants spilling out onto the lakefront promenade foster a festive sailing culture, where comparing morning catches gets replaced by sunset Spritzes toasting another memorable Garda day.

Just note that Torbole’s prime watersports conditions also mean hotels book up fast during high summer. And its protected geographic location leaves little room for sprawling resort complexes beyond cozy family-run pensions.

Here are 2 of the best hotels in

Windsurfer’s Suite Hotel ($$$-$$$$): Perfectly located for quick access to town and stunning lake views. Free parking and WiFi.

Casa 32 ($$$): Modern facilities and superb cleanliness, this 2BR property offers stunning mountain views and a well-equipped kitchen.

The beaches of Torbole that will get busy later in the day with wind activities
The beaches of Torbole that will get busy later in the day with wind activities

Malcesine

  • Best place for mountain access and romantic stays
  • Attractions: Scaliger Castle, cable car to Monte Baldo, quaint lanes, lake views

Pros

  • charming village,
  • romantic alleys,
  • mountain access,
  • rich history

Cons

  • limited beaches,
  • seasonal closures,
  • touristy

Dramatically situated between steely cliffs and Lake Garda waters lies the postcard-perfect hamlet of Malcesine, constantly named one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.

Beyond its picture-perfect harbour kissing the foothills of Monte Baldo, Malcesine’s labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets weave past medieval palazzi and Gothic-style archways that transport visitors back centuries with every turn.

Yet gondolas whisking passengers up to mountain trails over 2,000 metres above sea level contrast old-world ambience with the call of Dolomite adventures in the crisp mountain air high above romantic village rooftops.

Neighboring Riva del Garda and Torbole might claim watersports renown, but no Lake Garda locale blends intimate European charisma with high-altitude thrills like Malcesine.

Beyond the slopes, I suggest checking out the great views of the lake from Scaliger Castle, strolling seaside promenades for an evening gelato, or simply getting lost wandering the ancient lanes.

Here are 2 great places to stay if you’re in Malcesine

Ambienthotel Luna Rossa ($$$): Outstanding location just 50 meters from Lake Garda and near Malcesine’s charming medieval center. Lovely pool and garden.

Casa Cressotti ($$-$$$): Traditional Italian decor, modern amenities, and clean and comfortable apartments (1BR or 2BR).

The lovely Malcesine
The lovely Malcesine
Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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