On a holiday to Malcesine, you'll explore a picturesque town and ancient harbour with breathtaking views of the Monte Baldo Mountain, plus the most romantic of the four Scaligeri Castles.
Castles and cable cars
One of the prettiest towns on Lake Garda, Malcesine is known for its iconic castle and the rotating Monte Baldo cable car.
Steeped in history
Malcesine’s steep, stone-paved streets fan up from an ancient harbour and are filled with pavement cafés, ice cream parlours and boutique shops – plenty of ways to spend a lazy day. And the ever-popular cable car is a must. Jump on at Malcesine and you’ll be whisked up to the Monte Baldo Mountain, which has the most stunning views over Lake Garda.
View from the top
Nestling on the eastern shore of the lake, the ancient town of Malcesine was once a sleepy fishing village, protected by the stone walls of the Scaligeri Castle. Head to the top of the town to go through the castle’s arched entrance and you’ll find lots of interesting rooms to explore. While there, you can also climb the stone stairs to the top of the tower to see across the rooftops of Malcesine and over the lake.
Out and about
• Lake bathing
• Open-air concerts
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Things to See and Do in Malcesine
The beach of Paina
The closest and one of the most popular beaches in Malcesine is located only 100m from the town centre and to the north of the castle. The beach of Paina is a free pebble beach with facilities including a swim raft, lifeguard service, beach volleyball nets and a sports field. There’s loungers to rent, and, if you get peckish, the nearby bars and restaurants offer a great selection.
The 'Bay of Dreams'
At the southern end of Malcesine is the commune of Val di Sogno – this translates into English as the valley (or bay) of dreams. Tall cypress trees, green vegetation, and peaceful in a protected bay. This free pebble beach is popular with wind surfers and sailors, so it’s great to watch them out on the lake. At the beach there’s sun loungers and parasols available to rent, and the nearby cafes and restaurants are great to grab drinks and lunch.
Fancy a dip?
Off the coast of Malcesine is known as the deepest section of the lake at over 300+m. This does mean that the lake waters in the north are a little chillier than the south by approximately 6°C. Also, for getting in and out of the lake, the pebbles can be a little uncomfortable under foot. For this reason, we recommend taking lake shoes with you.
You’ll be sure to find a few bargains at the weekly market. Every Saturday morning from 8am, the market arrives in the town centre car park, outside the town hall (Municipio). Everything from traditional Italian pottery, clothing, leather goods, gifts and souvenirs are available for a reasonable price. It may not be as cheap as you’d expect a market to be, but the products are generally really high quality.
Malcesine has many shops and boutiques throughout the town offering everything from typical Italian clothing, gifts and souvenirs to local artwork. The shops in the town generally close in the middle of the day for a siesta – this is usually between 12.30pm and 3pm, but stay open later in the evenings.
While some shops in Malcesine offer some higher end brands and products, to get more of a choice, take a trip to one of the nearby cities. Verona, Milan and Venice are all home to Italian designers such as Gucci, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana. See the glitz and the glamour, and treat yourself.
In true Italian style, take a wander down to the harbour for a drink in the evening. There’s several cafes and bars surrounding the harbour to get a spritz and watch the world go by. Many ice cream parlours also stay open as late as the bars – perfect for a wander by the water. After a good bar on the lake? – Oasi on the lakefront has a great atmosphere and tasty cocktails.
Fancy a lively evening of culture and entertainment, book to see an opera at the Malcesine Castle during the summer months. Having fast become an extremely popular event in the town, it’s a wonderful introduction to Italian opera with a great atmosphere. Malcesine often hosts firework displays on the water, too. Make sure you find out what’s happening while you’re there.
Malcesine’s little harbour is lined with cafés – great for people watching beside the lake. But if you’re looking for something with a little more atmosphere, the sociable piazzas are filled with bars and restaurants and occasional live entertainment.
Award-winning choices at Al Gondolieri
The award-winning food at Al Gondolieri is great as an evening treat. They serve beautifully presented pastas, steaks, fish and desserts, and the popular choices include courgette gnocchi with shrimp and the octopus carpaccio with smoked salmon.
Al fresco dining at the popular Speck Stube
A few kilometres out of town, but well worth the effort is Speck Stube, delightful if you're looking for something a bit different. This fun German-style eatery has a great atmosphere with big wooden benches for al fresco eating, whether it’s roast chicken or ribs and chunky chips.
Authentic Italian with a stunning view at Al Bacio
Overlooking the lake is the Al Bacio Restaurant, which has beautiful views of Limone's mountains. The menu is small, consisting of traditional Italian dishes, but everything is creatively prepared. And watching the sunset from here is a real treat.
Stroll around the ancient harbour with its abundance of pavement cafés and shops, or explore the town of Malcesine by making your way around the steep cobbled streets that fan up from the waterfront.
There are ferry services from Malcesine to Limone, Riva and all resorts down to Desenzano. Ferries to Riva leave every hour and take 20 minutes. Ferries to the southern part of the lake come less frequently, but once you’re on the boat you can get to Sirmione in just under 4 hours.
The nearest stations to Malcesine are Peschiera and Desenzano. You can catch a bus along the lakeside road to the stations, though this may take some time. From the stations the east-west train line connects Lake Garda to Venice, Verona and even Milan.
The main bus station is located on the Via Gardesana. You can take the public bus north towards Riva or south towards Bardolino and Peschiera. There’s also a tourist bus that operates around Malcesine, Cassone and Navene. It operates once an hour between 8am and 3pm and again between 4pm and 1am.
The only lift on Lake Garda is the Monte Baldo cable car in Malcesine. It operates throughout the summer between 8am and 6pm, and once it reaches a certain height it begins to rotate, giving passengers 360º views of the gorgeous mountains and stunning lake below.
Start here with the Monte Baldo cable car – even the ride up is a fantastic experience. At the top, walk left along the ridge, then turn back for a wonderful view of Malcesine. There are plenty of other walking trails up here, so pick your pace and head off to explore. The walk up to the iconic castle is also not one to be missed. Malcesine itself is a warren of hills, steps and pebbled streets, so it’s not the best base for those with limited mobility.
This gentle route starts with a ride up the fantastic Monte Baldo cable car – the journey takes about 20 minutes, and you should try to get there early to avoid the queues. At the summit, look for the blue footpath, marked 651. Head left towards La Capannia restaurant and you’ll get dazzling 360° views of the alpine foothills of Brescia Trentino and Veneto. Trail 19 will take you back to the cable car station.
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