There's so much to see on a holiday to Garda, an ever-popular town on the eastern shore of the lake, dotted with age-old cypress trees, pavement cafés and waterfront villas.
Taking it easy
Garda's tree-lined promenade stretches along the water's edge for over a mile and is the centre of town life. Filled with gelaterias and cafés, it makes for a pleasant stroll to the historic Punta San Vigilio villa, or along the shore to Bardolino. Look closely and you might spot the peninsular of Sirmione on the lake’s southern edge.
This medieval town is made up of cobbled, pedestrianised streets that liven up at night, when the music and street entertainers get going. This is the best time for a lakeside stroll, as the locals come out to see and be seen on their traditional passeggiata, or early evening walk. Stop for a spritz or a beer at one of the lakefront bars as you go.
Out and about
• Lakeside promenade
• Lake bathing
• Boat trips
• Lakeside cycle paths
• Tennis courts
• Local museums
Things to See and Do in Garda
La Cavalla Beach
The promenade stretches to the water's edge in the town centre, so it’s a short stroll in either direction to the nearby beaches. La Cavalla beach is along the promenade towards Bardolino and, as it’s close by and safe from traffic, it’s great for families. The beach itself is pebbled but loungers are available to rent. And with no gradual entry into the water, it’s a few steps down or a jump right in. There are bars and restaurants there, too, to buy refreshments throughout the day.
Walking to the end of the promenade in the direction of Torri del Benaco, you’ll find the Lido Garda Beach Café. They’ve imported sand for a softer and comfier day at the beach, and there are loungers to rent. The Beach Café often has music playing, and prepares great cocktails. Light lunches and snacks are available throughout the day.
Mermaid Bay beach
Baia della Sirene, or Mermaid Bay, is found on the exclusive Punta San Vigilio peninsula – less than a 3km walk, bus, taxi or cycle from Garda. It's a relaxing pebble beach with a beach club, entertainment, childcare and food stalls, perfect for a full day by the lake. The entrance fee includes use of the car park, deck chairs, showers and toilets.
On Friday mornings, head down to the bustling market along the lakefront promenade. While prices aren’t as low as you may expect for a market, the quality of the goods in generally really good. Buy some traditional Italian pottery, leather goods or gifts to take home. The market travels from town to town throughout the week, so if Friday doesn’t work for you, you can find it in another lakeside town another day.
Garda town has several small shops and lovely boutiques selling a range of items. To get Murano glass without travelling to Venice, the beautiful store Murano has a large collection of glass items. For more of a shopping centre experience, take a trip to Grand Affi Shopping Centre, a 9km drive west from Garda. It’s a covered, air-conditioned mall with a range of stores and a hypermarket.
Garda has a few shops offering top-range products, or you can make a day of shopping and visit Verona. Via Mazzini is the most famous shopping street in the city. The marble walkway, lined with top Italian designers including Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, begins at the Verona amphitheatre.
Most shops in the town stay open later into the evening. Go for an evening browse, ice cream in hand, or head along the promenade and gaze over the twinkling lights reflected in the lake. It’s hard to choose just one bar to have a refreshing spritz by the waterfront - take a stroll and find your favourite.
With Garda being the capital of the lake, and one of the largest lakeside towns, there’s usually a lively atmosphere. Bars often host live music – Papillon Music Bar and Taitù have a great atmosphere and live music each week. At times throughout the season, festivals and firework displays take place in Garda and the nearby town of Bardolino – including the annual Bardolino wine festivals in June and September.
Garda restaurants mainly centre on Italian and European cuisines, with a focus on meat and fish. You’ll find lots on the lakefront, but there are some great hidden spots inland too. And most lakeside bars offer nibbles with an aperitivo, to get your tastebuds tingling.
Local favourites at La Bussola
In the heart of Garda's old town, La Bussola is a great place to sample some local favourites. With a charming hidden garden at the rear, or street side tables in the old town, you're guaranteed a great atmosphere. The steak and the tagliata both come righly recommended.
Fresh fish at Hotel Ristorante Miralago
With great views of Lake Garda, Hotel Ristorante Miralago is a large restaurant with an extensive fish menu. You can order generous seafood platters, or if you prefer something to yourself, the paella is a favourite.
A warm welcome at DiVino
On the edge of town is DiVino, ideal for special occasions or for a last-night-of-the-holiday meal. The owner Aldo is extremely welcoming, and is happy to recommend wine to go with your tasting menu or à la carte dishes. Everything is professionally presented and delicious.
The tree-lined promenade allows for leisurely walks along the water’s edge. If you head further into town you’ll be greeted by pedestrianised, cobbled streets that truly encompass the Mediterranean atmosphere.
Taking a ferry across the lake means you can relax and enjoy the views. You can pick up the ferry from Garda’s lakefront promenade and reach towns like Limone in 3 and a half hours, or Peschiera in 1 hour.
The nearest train station to Garda is Peschiera, which can be reached by bus in 30 minutes. From there, you can get a train to Venice in 1 hour and 30 minutes or the beautiful city of Verona in only 20 minutes.
Buses to various towns around the lake run from Garda’s bus station on the Corsa Italia. There’s also a free bus service that operates around Garda town from 9am - 12pm and again from 4-7.30pm. The route begins from opposite the Hotel Terminus and makes its way around town towards the Hotel Poiano.
Perhaps the most well known town on the lake, Garda is the ideal place to explore on foot. The highlight is the lakeside promenade, which is lined with restaurants and shops on one side, and sparkling blue waters on the other. The path stretches 3km to Bardolino, a lovely walk to take at your own pace. Another 5km will take you to the town of Lazise. If you’ve got a bit more energy, and want to see more incredible views, you can walk to Punta San Vigilio, where Winston Churchill once painted, or climb to La Rocca.
Make your way to the lakeside promenade and turn left, following the path along the shore. The 3km stroll usually takes around 45 minutes and is gentle enough for all. On the way, you can admire the stunning views across the water, all the way over to Sirmione. At the end, reward yourself with a cool ice cream from Cristallos Gelateria. To get back to Garda, you can walk the same path or catch the ferry.
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