For a long time now Italy has been one of favourite holiday destinations. I have stayed in Lake Garda twice, both with and without children and have loved it both times. Check out my handy guide to Lake Garda, with tips on where to stay and what to do.
Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is extremely popular with Irish visitors. There are direct flights to Verona from Irish airports during the summer months as well as flights to nearby Milan and Bologna, so it is easily accessible. This may sound like a cliché but Lake Garda is one of those destinations that caters for everyone. It is romantic yet family orientated and quiet but full of sports activities. It is also perfectly situated to visit some of Italy’s famous cities and towns. Garda is just over two hours from Milan and Venice, and only an hour from Verona – so if you are looking for a holiday where you can get out and explore some more of Italy, then Lake Garda is for you.
If Venice or Milan seem a little too far to attempt on a day trip, Verona is most definitely not. It’s so easy to navigate and has some marvellous sights to see. The amphitheatre or Arena Di Veroni, is stunning, and is in remarkable condition. In fact I thought it was more impressive than the Colosseum in Rome! You can also visit Juliette’s house (of Romeo and Juliette), and call out to your partner from the balcony where Romeo declared his love. If on the other hand you just want to wander, Verona is a beautiful city with plenty of shops and cafes lining the medieval streets in the historic centre.
Things to do in Lake Garda
Of course Lake Garda itself has so much to offer, each village being quite different to the next. It takes approximately three hours to drive around the lake but water taxis are available to most towns and are much nicer way to explore them. The cable car ride from Malcesine to Monte Baldo is also a great way to see the lake from above. You will see many jumping off the top of the mountain with parachutes – it is a remarkable sight. If you just want to relax, there are many man made beaches to choose from, but the sandy beach of Lazise is one of the best on the Lake. Gardaland is a must visit if on holidays in Lake Garda with kids – see more on that below.
Where to stay in Lake Garda
The town of Garda is quite small, yet attracts many visitors because it is only twenty miles from Verona. If you are only staying for a short time the choice of location is very important, particularly if you want to do some sightseeing. Generally speaking try to stay south if you want to be close to Venice, Milan and Verona. Riva, although a beautiful town at the very north of the Lake, will take you a lot longer to travel to and from, when taking excursions. My favourite town in Lake Garda is Sirmione.
Sirmione is situated at the southern tip of Lake Garda, on a long peninsula that juts out from the mainland. It is stunning! The old town is dominated by a thirteenth-century almost fairytale-like castle, the Rocca Scaligera. The fortress is open to the public and is well worth the visit. If you are travelling with kids, don’t despair. My daughter Alex thought it was like Cinderella’s castle, so it appeals to both adults and children.
You can choose to stay in Sirmione, but bear in mind it will be very busy with tourists in peak season. A day trip might be a better option depending on the time of year you visit. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more relaxed village to stay in, Bardolino or Limone may suit you.
If you are travelling with kids, Pescheira would be my resort of choice. It’s southern location allows for a short airport transfer and it is also ideal for day trips to nearby cities. Its pedestrianised streets and Roman ruins make an idyllic setting, but its close proximity to Gardaland is the main attraction.
Gardaland is Italy’s largest theme park and is Europe’s third largest. It is also home to Peppa Pig Land and Legoland are opening a waterpark there in 2020. If you are staying in Garda for two weeks you may be better to buy an annual pass. This will allow you as many visits as you like, with automatic fast pass entry to most of the rides. If on the other hand one day is enough for you, order your tickets online to beat the queues. This saved us forty-five minutes queuing time in July. GardaLand is a super theme park with rides for all ages and I would highly recommend it if you are travelling with kids.
Garda is just one of the many beautiful holiday destinations Italy has to offer, but is one that I can safely recommend for everyone. Whether you want to try some fantastic water-sports, visit some stunning Italian cities or simply enjoy a peaceful lakeside setting, Lake Garda has all in abundance.