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Ultimate Lake Garda travel guide for couples | Visit Italy

Ultimate Lake Garda travel guide for couples | Visit Italy

lake garda italy travel guide woman looking best view

Last Updated on October 16, 2023 by Eve Dawes

Lake Garda For Couples
Everything you need to know | Where to stay, what to see, where to eat and drink, what to book and what to miss!

Lake Garda travel guide for couples: Lake Garda was our last stop in Italy and I chose Lake Garda over Lake Como as I’d already been to Como. I absolutely love Como, it’s so scenic and elegant but we try not to go back to the same places as there are so many places to see. Lake Garda is supposed to be quieter and less touristy but honestly, I found it to be the opposite. Having now seen both I definitely prefer Como for many reasons which I’ll get into in this Lake Garda for couples travel guide. Including getting around Lake Garda, Lake Garda ferries, where to eat, what to see and Lazise travel tips.

Lake Garda Travel guide sat Lazise Italy sunset

This Lake Garda travel guide isn’t sponsored and all opinions are my own but it does contain affiliate links which don’t affect the price in anyway.

Lake Garda Travel Guide

This Lake Garda travel guide is more about Lake Garda for couples than families as it was my husband and I that went for some rest, relaxation and good food.

How to get to Lake Garda & Lazise

We were coming from Venice by train which is an easy, 2 hour direct journey and gets you in Peschiera del Garda at the Southern point of the lake. The easiest way to get to your accommodation from here is via taxi. You don’t need to book, you just have to wait for one and have a little patience.

Lake Garda Travel Guide | How to Get Around Lake Garda

You need to plan for getting around Lake Garda as it takes time as Lake Garda is huge and getting around is a slow process. Think 4 hours plus by fast boat to go from South to North. So allow plenty of time for travel and don’t try and cram too much into one day or you could end up stuck somewhere overnight.

How to use the Buses in Lake Garda

We didn’t use the buses for getting around Lake Garda as we were warned that they took hours and tend to run late. Instead we used the Lake Garda ferries.

  • West Lake Garda buses run between Desenzano del Garda train station and Riva del Garda. 2 hours, up to 6 times daily.

  • East Lake Garda Italy buses: hourly services run from Riva del Garda – Peschiera del Garda train station (1½ hours). SIA Operates the Riva del Garda–Brescia (3 hours, 4 times daily) route. Trentino Trasporti Buses go from Riva del Garda-Arco (20 min) & Trento (1 hour, departures every 2 hours).

Buses are much cheaper than the boats and you can use them to visit any of the towns on the east side of the lake.

How to get around Lake Garda on the Ferries

We found getting around easiest on the Lake Garda ferries. It’s still a slow process but at least it’s scenic.

best View Lake Garda Italy Malcesine from ferryView of Malcesine, Lake Garda Italy from the ferry

The Lake Garda ferries are probably the fastest and most scenic way to get around. Although not as scenic or colorful as Como. It’s still time consuming getting around, so chose just a few places you want to go to.

Shops and restaurants by the harbors tend to be more expensive (but are still reasonable) and we ate mainly here for the views versus going into the heart of the town which is cheaper. We didn’t do any shopping as we found the shops to be really touristy wherever we went and our suitcases were already full from shopping in Venice. Make sure to take advantages of the duty free rebates at the airport.

The Lake Garda ferries are an affordable way to get around and probably the most convenient. It’s worth paying the extra for the fast ferries if you’re going directly and not hopping from town to town which is difficult to do due to the ferry schedule anyway. A 1-day, unlimited-use ticket is available for the whole lake or either the North or South part but can only be used on the slow boats. You’ll need to pay a supplement to use the fast boats.

LAKE GARDA FERRIES TIP: Get to the Lake Garda ferries as early as possible as they get full. Especially the last ones of the day and many people aren’t going to be able to get on! Not quite sure what they do then, probably a very expensive taxi ride!

Walking around Lake Garda

Sometimes it’s quicker to go by foot than boat, especially with the ferry schedules so check the walking paths in your area. Many run along the lake making for a scenic route. E.g. you can walk from Garda to Bardolino in 45 minutes along the lake path or Bardolino to Cisano in 15 minutes, then to Lazise is another hour.

If you go in the opposite direction, you can walk from Garda to Torri del Benaco in 2 hours. Another option is to rent a bike or borrow one from your hotel and take the lake path or roads.

Remember to pack your sneakers or comfy shoes if you want to walk the lake paths or do any of the scenic hikes on the North Shore. Forget your wedges and heels, there’s way too many cobble stones, hills, and walking for that! We were averaging 7+ miles a day here. Excuse my ugly shoes! I got through 2 pairs of shoes this vacation from all of the walking, including splitting the thick soles on these in half!

Lake Garda Travel Guide to Hotels | Where’s the Best Place to Stay in Lake Garda Italy?

When looking for a place to stay in Lake Garda it helps to know what you like and whether you’re looking for Lake Garda for couples or families. As well as where’s most convenient to where you’re coming from as the lake is large and slow to get around.

The North shore was part of Austria until WWI and so has more of a Northern European flair with high peaks and is known for its outdoor sports, climbing, hiking, and kite surfing.

best hotel Lake Garda Hotel Corte Valier Lazise sunset drinks balcony views
Hotel Corte Valier, Lazise, Lake Garda sunset drinks and balcony views

In contrast, the South shore feels more Mediterranean which we tend to prefer. The lake is wider and the climate warmer, away from the Northern breezes. Both areas are beautiful to explore on foot but it’s easier in the South as its flatter and than the hiking up North.

Lazise Travel Tips Lake Garda

We chose to stay in the town of Lazise on the South Eastern shore as it was close to the train station (15-20 minute taxi ride) and Verona. It also looked like one of the most scenic towns and the hotel we chose looked like one of the best on Lake Garda for couples. It has a lakefront path dotted with cute sidewalk bars and restaurants, the 6 towers of Castello Scaligero, a charming old town centre and small harbor.

Read more about Lazise below.

Best hotel in Lazise | Hotel Corte Valier, Lazise Lake Garda

When planning your Lazise travel, definitely have a look in the hotel we stayed at. We chose Hotel Corte Valier, Lazise as it was one of the more modern luxury options, looked one of the best hotels on Lake Garda for couples and had a lakefront location with a pool overlooking the lake.

It was also walking distance to the town center and offered an extensive breakfast buffet. Don’t skip their croissant stuffing machine! Nutella stuffed croissants and a lake view maybe one of my favorite ways to start the day. Especially if some bubbles are involved too.

Lazise Travel Tip: Book a lake view room with a private balcony for sunset drinks. But be sure to wear mosquito repellent around sunset. There’s not a lot of them, but if you’re anything like me and attract them it’s better to be safe than itchy.

Towns to Visit in Lake Garda Italy

These towns were all on my list but because it takes so long to get from one to the other we didn’t visit all of them. You can visit different towns by local ferry from leisurely steamers to speedy hydrofoils or you can drive but there can be a lot of traffic during the summer months. Market days differ from town to town, so if you’re interested in those ask your concierge which days they’re where. We also weren’t interested in any of the family attractions like the amusement park or water park.

Lazise Travel Tips, Lake Garda

How to get to Lazise Lake Garda

If you’re arriving into Peschiera del Garda Train station or planning on going to Gardaland with your kids (Ronchi in the town of Castelnuovo del Garda), Movieland (Lasize), or Caneva world aquapark (Pacengo) the most popular amusement parks in this area, or Venice or Verona then Lazise is a great option. It’s a historical small town full of narrow alleys, shops, restaurants, and hotels.

Lazise Lake Garda Italy travel blogger Eve Dawes sunhat

Lake Garda Travel Guide to Dining

Where’s the Best Place for Dinner on Lake Garda

It’s easiest to do dinner in the town you’re staying in as the ferries stop early. If you’re looking for a romantic restaurant in Lazise, I mean, you’re in Italy after all, we dined at both Ristorante Classique and Vecchia Dogana Ristorante. Both are great options for a romantic dinner on Lake Garda for couples.

Ristorante Classique feels more elegant and is upstairs; if you make a reservation which I definitely recommend as it’s very popular. Try to request a table with a lake view. The bison carpaccio with truffle and parmesan was phenomenal, I honestly can’t remember what I had for my main as I left it too long to write this blog (sorry!) and a bottle of wine was involved. What I do remember is leaving full and content.

Vecchia Dogana feels more authentic and is quieter. It’s located down a small alley with a slither of a lake view. It would have been good but I mis-ordered and chose the seafood platter which was all raw except for the 1 king prawn! I normally love sushi but this was not that.

On the walk back to Hotel Corte Valier we found a lakefront bar which was always buzzing and attracted a hip crowd of all ages. It’s not listed on TripAdvisor or maps but if you walk North away from the harbor along the lake path Lagolungo Vittorio Cavazocca Mazzanti (could they have made a longer street name) you can’t miss it. Especially on evenings when they have live music.

Lake Garda Travel Guide By Town

Our favorite towns on Lake Garda, where to visit, where to skip, where to eat and what to do.

Malcesine Travel Tips | The Jewel of Lake Garda

This was our favorite town on Lake Garda Italy and deserving of its name as the Jewel of the lake. If you only visit one town I’d suggest going here and booking the cable car in advance! You can ride the cable car ‘Funivia Malcesine’ to the top of Mount Baldo for a birds eye view of the lake’s expanse. If you don’t book in advance you’re looking at a 2.5+ hour wait time which you won’t have time for if you’re on the Lake Garda ferry schedule. It’s a good activity on Lake Garda for couples and families.

Lake garda for couples Panoramic view top Castello Scaligero

To save time we went to Castello Scaligero and climbed the tower there which also has magnificent views. Just beware of the loud bells on the hour! Some of the steps are steep and narrow so if you have health issues it may not be the best to go up the tower, but if you don’t it’s well worth going up there.

I wish we’d just done Malcesine on this day and booked the cable car in advance rather than trying to cram in Limone Sul Garda on the same day which we could’ve skipped.

lake garda travel guide things do Views top Castle Scaliger Malscine

The best place to eat in Malcesine Porte Vecchio

You have to eat at La Pace Ristorante Porte Vecchio! This restaurant couldn’t be closer to the lake and has amazing views, service and some of the best mussels and Tiramisu we’ve ever had plus it’s incredibly reasonably priced. Oh and the Limoncello is a must drink as well.

lake garda Italy things see historic narrow street malcesine

Things to do in Limone sul Garda Italy

I wish we’d just spent the whole day in Malescine and not gone to Limone Sul Gard. It’s sold as a picturesque cozy old town with a waterfront promenade with lots of restaurants, cafes, and little shops. Yes, you can easily combine a visit to Limone (Lombardy) with Malcesine or Riva via ferry as it’s a short distance and doesn’t take long.

Lake Garda travel guide Limone sul garda shopping

However in reality we found it to be super busy, tacky, touristy and in our opinion not worth the time. Plus, it takes longer than you think as the ferries don’t run that often. I also went for a hunt for Benacus Gin which I’d seen on Instagram but no one had heard of it.

Limone Sul Garda Lake Garda for couples travel blogger pink flowers old street

I was such a tourist this day and had found this cute lemon print dress I thought would be perfect for Limone Sul Garda. Which meant I took every opportunity to snap photos with as many lemons as possible because there really wasn’t much else to do here, besides bar hop while waiting for the return ferry.

Sirmione Lake Garda Travel Guide

We took the ferry and got to Sirmione early in the morning. You could also go late in the afternoon but the last ferry is at 6:27pm. Mainly to avoid the crowds as it gets really busy and already was when we arrived.

Lake Garda romantic couple Rocca Scaligera Castle Sirmione Italy

The 13th century Rocca Scaligera Castle is a great spot to stop and take photos (we got to use our selfie stick again), as well as the Church of San Pietro, Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and Grotte di Catullo (peninsula).

To get to Grotte, you can either walk from downtown, it takes about 10 minutes, or go by a little electric train that leaves from the Baths 9.30am-6.30pm. We went up to the peninsula but unless you go in the Grotte (8 Euro per person) there really aren’t any views and unfortunately we didn’t have the time as we were trying to make the next ferry.

Lake Garda for couples travel tip: If you’re looking for a relaxing spa option, check out Aquaria Thermal Spa. The spa has 2 large thermal pools that are 37*C, set outdoors picturesquely on the shore. You need to book in advance for treatments e.g. thermal massages & mud baths or you can just turn up for a dip in pools. Bring your swimsuit and they’ll provide you with a swimming cap, towel and bathrobe. We didn’t bother as it just looked like swimming pools and a hotel. I’d been expecting natural thermal lakes as everywhere described them as lakes not pools.

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Desenzano Del Garda, Lake Garda Italy Travel Guide

This quieter town’s easy to get to from Sirmione as it’s on the south shore. We stopped by quickly for lunch after visiting Sirmione as it’s easy to get to from there. We could’ve skipped Desenzano and just stayed in Sirmione for lunch but I have this fear I’m going to miss the best parts and want to see everything. There’s several restaurants to your right when you get off of the ferry on a little water inlet. The last ferry back to Lasize from here is 3:30pm.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening back in Lasize relaxing, drinking, eating, and watching the world go by. There are a few beaches in Desenzano which are all rather small. Apparently the best equipped beach here is Desenzanino Seaside Resort with a bar, sunbeds and deck chairs, located just outside the historic center but we didn’t have time to go. The local market takes place every Tuesday morning along the street overlooking the lake in the heart of downtown.

Isola del Garda

You can only visit here via tour. I wanted to go but we didn’t have enough time, we’d have needed a week to do everything I wanted to do. It’s open from March to October when the Borghese Cavazza family opens their home for guided tours. The tour includes the park, the beautiful Italian and English gardens and two rooms inside the elegant neo-gothic Venetian style villa currently still lived in by the owners.

The best things to do in Gardone Riviera (Brescia) | Lake Garda travel guide

Gardone Riviera is a small tourist resort on the western shore of Lake Garda thats easy to get to as it’s on most of the ferry routes.

2 places worth seeing here are Il Vittoriale degli Italiani up by the historic center of Gardone Sopra which is a short walk up the hill with little restaurants, courtyards, stairs and flowers. The Vittoriale has panoramic views of Lake Garda and the large Liberty-style villa (house, gardens, war museum) is open all year (closed on Mondays). It was home to the Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio until his death in 1938. D’Annunzio was buried here and his tomb dominates the nationalist memorials here.

The other place is the botanical gardens. Heller Garden (Giardino Hruska Botanico) with stunning exotic flora, intriguing art, and quaint bridges surrounded by charming bamboo gardens.

Riva del Garda (North Lake Garda)

Riva is for the outdoorsy of you, you can walk to Cascata del Varone, a splendid waterfall and into an immense gorge. Cascata del Varone is signposted about 3K NW centre of Riva. Another site up here to see is the Marmitte dei Giganti rock formations (potholes).

Arco (North Shore Shore)

Discover fairytale castles sprouting from mountain promontories in the Dolomite foothills at Arco. Arco castle was carefully restored in 1986 allowing the discovery and recovery of some frescoes depicting knights and court ladies of medieval times.

There’s also Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace, Palazzo Marchetti, and Palazzo dei Panni to visit. Arco has long been known primarily as a ‘winter health resort city’ and still offers spas such as Garda Thermae.

Madonna Della Corona

Madonna della Corona sanctuary, is a spectacular church built in the rocky mountain overlooking the valley. It’s another spot South East of the lake that I was dying to see from the photos I’d seen.

However, it’s not actually on the lake but a 27km drive or taxi ride from Lazise and since my husbands not really into churches and we didn’t hire a car we didn’t go. I still suggest looking it up and deciding if you want to go. If you do, send me your pics so I can live it through your eyes if you make it there!

How to get to Verona from Lake Garda

You can take a half day or day trip to Verona from Lake Garda. Which is easiest to get to if you’re staying on the South or East shore. This was high up on my list (as home to Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet) but by the time we got to Lake Garda we just wanted to relax as we’d already been bouncing around so much from place to place.

Check out Viator Tours for the best options. They often email you a discount code for another tour in the same area after you book the first. So if you’re planning on booking more than 1 tour, book 1 and then wait a day or 2 before booking the 2nd in case they email you.

Should I visit Lake Como or Lake Garda?

Lake Como is more elegant and upscale, it’s also slightly less touristy and busy as it’s harder to get to from Venice or Verona and more expensive. However, the North of Lake Garda is quieter too as it’s harder to get to and more rugged. If you’re thinking about Lake Como or Lake Garda for couples my preference is Como if your budget allows.

If you’re looking for a family vacation, roman ruins and castles Lake Garda is probably your best bet. However, if you’re looking for more refined villas, hotels, romance, landscaped gardens and shorelines Lake Como is probably a better choice.

When is the best time of year to visit Lake Garda

Lake Garda (or Benaco), the largest Italian lake, are fortunate to have a temperate microclimate which is great for agriculture. However, the winters are cold and the Summers are hot and sunny (although there’s often thunderstorms).

We live in Vegas, so we enjoy the heat. In Summer, June to August, the highs around Lake Garda can get as hot as 35 °C (95 °F) with a mild-moderate breeze. Making the best times to visit Lake Garda spring and early summer (mid-April to mid-June and September).

If you’re not traveling with children the best time for couples to visit Lake Garda is either just before or after the school summer holidays to avoid a lot of the crowds but still get the summer weather. If you can go before the American school holidays to avoid even more people even better.

What’s the weather like in Lake Garda

Lake Garda 10 day weather forecast

Is Lake Garda Expensive?

Like most places, it’s really up to you and there’s something for everyone and most budgets. Lake Garda Italy is huge and there’s everything from camping, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels. As well as a huge variety of places to eat.

We found most cafes and even waterfront restaurants really reasonably priced, especially after coming from the Gritti Palace, Venice and our Michelin Star Restaurant experience at Borgo San Jacopo in Florence (well worth the splurge).

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